If SDCC proved nothing else, it was that the The Hunger Games marketing team really know their stuff. After releasing a new (kinda weird) video message from District 13, fans were treated to a first look at a new website hosted by the Revolution. With a stylish look and many interactive features, the site really pulls you into the world of Panem.
And isn't that just what the marketing for these films has been doing all along? It's all become very meta: in [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1](tag:446261) we saw Katniss become embroiled in the Revolution's propaganda campaign. Instead of the action and spectacle of the arena, or frontline fighting in the battle against the Capitol, Mockingjay Part 1 mostly dealt with the idea of marketing rebellion, igniting hope and inspiring people to fight (and die) in Katniss' name. Symbolism is crucial, image even more so. It was aggravating, as a viewer, to watch Katniss become a symbol of herself, especially as she is such a down to earth person. This is one of the cleverest themes of the films: instead of becoming a leader or a warrior, Katniss becomes a walking advert for the Revolution. Until [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2](tag:449866), of course.
This idea has spilled over into the real world. Lionsgate have incorporated propaganda into their marketing, giving us posters straight from the Capitol or messages from the rebels calling upon us to fight. They are literally roleplaying, and it's fantastic.
In the run up to [The Hunger Games: Catching Fire](tag:303520), Lionsgate released adverts for "Capitol Couture" makeup. Before [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1](tag:446261), the Capitol's own website launched, along with posters saluting the districts and video shorts from popular youtubers joining in the roleplay game. The result was a social media frenzy, as the campaigns went viral. It's getting to the point where the real world feels like just a small part of The Hunger Games' universe. I'm half expecting to be called upon to join the revolution myself! But has Lionsgate gone too far in their campaigns? Has The Hunger Games become a parody of itself?
Capitol and Hollywood: one and the same
When we examine Suzanne Collins' aims in writing The Hunger Games books, it seems almost antithetical that they should get a blockbusting Hollywood adaptation. Her plots criticise media frenzies, using Hollywood-like sensationalisation in her creation of the Capitol. Spectacle is shown to be a tool of oppression, as the Hunger Games participants are embroiled in a terrifying exaggeration of our own celebrity culture.
Would a low budget independent movie adaptation been better able to hold a mirror up to Hollywood in the way that Collins intended? Or does the marketing and media reaction to The Hunger Games Franchise just make her messages clearer?
Of course, because The Hunger Games is a Hollywood production, some of Collins' ideals have already been sacrificed. Take the casting of Katniss: although in the books she is described as having olive skin (and there are heavy hints that she's Native American), only white actresses were allowed to audition for the role. Then there's the erasure of disabled characters. The Avoxes, who have their tongues cut out for disobeying the Capitol, are reduced to background decoration in the films (although they may have a crucial role to play in the next movie!). And although both Peeta and Katniss are disabled by the games (Peeta loses a leg and Katniss is partially deafened) they are completely able bodied in the films.
Then there's the media reaction to the films, which mostly focuses on the supposed love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. While this is present, the important features of the story (such as the criticism of media feeding frenzies, and the exposure of systematic oppression) largely get ignored. "Team Peeta or team Gale?" the actors are constantly asked. I for one would love to hear Jennifer Lawrence's ideas on the disturbing nature of the Games and what they say about our obsession with reality TV and violence... But that's beside the point.
Join the revolution!
All analysis aside, in their choice to embrace and exploit the main themes of The Hunger Games in marketing it, Lionsgate have propelled themselves from a relatively obscure studio to a Hollywood giant. We are almost totally immersed in the world of Panem, and doesn't that just make you feel uncomfortable? It's ironic that the very culture that Collins is critiquing only enhances her messages. And it just makes us want to see Mockingjay Part 2 more!