In the past week the movie adaptation of the second book in Susan Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, was released. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the trilogy (and I've already seen the movie twice) however I think it's very important to focus on what the movie is actually about (and no, it's not the love triangle). For those of you who haven't come across the trilogy, it offers a view of America in the not too distant future, a society with the Capitol at the centre and districts surrounding it. In punishment for District 13 rebelling, the remaining 12 districts are forced to send two of their children into the Hunger Games, a fight to the death with a lone victor, every year. Those who struggle to get by can actually place their children's name in the Reaping for additional money. For the rest of the year the districts are places of gruelling manual labour, poverty and starvation while the Capitol live a life so luxurious they throw up just to eat more at their parties. Aside from the protagonist's love life the Hunger Games actually has a lot to say about economic inequality in modern day America and the rest of the World.
Some of you on Facebook with "nerdy" friends (I'm an unashamed nerd, and mean that as a compliment) may have noticed their faces have begun to disappear from their profile pictures in lieu of the three finger salute. This is part of a campaign by the Harry Potter Alliance which aims to take the publicity and hype around the movie, and highlight what it actually means. They are a wonderful charity that take 'fandom' things such as Harry Potter, and use their messages and fans to effect real world change. A recent example is their "Equality for the Win" campaign which aimed to highlight discrimination suffered by LGBTQ+ persons. Now, I wouldn't quite link the wealthy of the Western world to being exactly like the Capitol, and neither can one say the Hunger Games is advocating the tearing down of western democracy. However I concede that the Hunger Games is an important warning, a vision of the not too distant future if inequality and poverty persists as it does. This is the message of the Hunger Games.
This is why I have a real issue with the blatant branding of the franchise. As usual, there is merchandise such as replicas of the Mockingjay pin worn by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the movies. One would expect from a popular series. However I think cosmetic branding and even Subway launching two "Girl on Fire" jalapeno-based sandwiches here in the UK is too far. The message of the Hunger Games has nothing to do with make-up or beauty, Katniss is more comfortable with a bow and arrow than a mascara brush. The only time she wears make up is when stylists from the Capitol put it on her, this particular branding is so disturbing purely because the Hunger Games is being used to sell the very stuff of the Capitol. To my mind, using a novel that features countless starving and terrified families to sell sandwiches is crass, but hey as long as somebody is making more money out of it.
I apologise if this piece comes across as overly didactic or polemic, or I come across as a corporation and government hating leftie. This is not how I think in the slightest, however I understand and appreciate what the Hunger Games is trying to say and the HPA's campaign, and the blatant merchandising and crass use of the Hunger Games to sell us things is frankly disturbing.