While we’ve all thought about what Panem district we’d belong to from time to time (either personality or geography-wise), nobody ever really considers the Capitol.
It’s the corrupt area. The evil place. We’d never be like them.
Or would we?
It’s hard to think about, but our society may be more like the Capitol than we’d care to admit. In fact, it seems like we’re becoming more alike to the Capitol as time goes on.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
The existence and workings of the districts and the Capitol are social commentary on what our world is like today and what it can become if certain choices are made. And yet, though we’re all aware of this and know just how flawed and materialistic the Capitol is, it’s hard to ignore the fact that we’re not exactly moving away from being like the Capitol.
Because The Hunger Games uses elements of our world to make the series’ many social injustices and violence desensitization feel real, we can use the world and laws of Panem to shine the light right back on the injustices and hazards within our own society.
While The Hunger Games is, first and foremost, a fiction series meant to be read for entertainment, it is its realistic elements and cautionary lessons that allow it to transcend the boundaries of typical entertainment and become social commentary.
The film adaptations have done a relatively great job keeping that in mind and maintaining the realism that makes the series so powerful. Though we do see the movies as a form of entertainment (as the Capitol does the Hunger Games), there are so many other layers to them that make them more than that. There have, however, been a few missteps in terms of bringing the books to the screen.
While most of the marketing and merchandising for the series has been spot-on and effective, the CoverGirl makeup and China Glaze nail polish lines were majorly misguided. Marketing and selling merchandise that supports the rebels and the districts celebrates their identities, ideals, and pride in where they come from.
It’s a whole other ball game to celebrate and promote the lifestyle of the materialistic and oppressive Capitol while ignoring the struggles of the less fortunate. Not only that, but to transform the cultures of the districts into high fashion (ignoring the fact that the lives of district peoples are anything but glamorous) and then sell it to the general public as if we were Capitol citizens.
While nobody we know actually bought any of the items (but a few people on our Facebook timelines seemed to have swooned over them), the lines’ successes have set a merchandising precedent as these sorts of collections from really well-known brands are rolling out for major pop culture properties, the most recent being Star Wars.
This kind of merchandise just doesn’t jive with the themes and messages in the Hunger Games series. The interesting thing here is the divide in ideology on behalf of the series’ marketing and merchandising departments.
For Mockingjay – Part 1, the marketing team released a line of ironic and on-the-nose promotional posters that showcased district representatives in their true elements. Yet, the style was a sort of “oppression couture” in that the subjects were worn and beaten down (some even amputees) but they were posed in a way that normal high fashion models would be. This series of posters was a direct attack on the Capitol’s rose-tinted view of the districts and pointed out its glorification of oppression.
In comparison, the makeup and nail polish lines (created by the merchandising team) don’t supply the consumer or Hunger Games fan with any sort of social commentary. They are simply an un-ironic cash grab.
Another eerily Capitol-like marketing strategy? Creating potential spinoffs for the world of Panem.
The main plotline of Catching Fire is the Quarter Quell, where President Snow changes the rules and decides to pull tributes from the existing pool of victors. From a pool of beloved public figures. Essentially, President Snow creates a sort of spinoff Hunger Games event for the Quarter Quell.
Replace “President Snow” with “Lionsgate” and you have the potential spinoffs. Lionsgate considering spinoffs is essentially them just milking the story and our feelings toward these characters for all they’re worth. Cashing in on our passion, even if that means more tales of children killing children or putting beloved supporting characters in pain or peril.
On one hand, we’d love to know more about our favorite side characters, but we’re also uncomfortable with the idea of spinoffs because they feel like a cash grab. Since the idea of spinoffs have circulated before the ideas for what the spinoffs would be about, it’s obvious that they’re almost completely motivated by capital rather than creativity (which is 100% a Capitol-like move).
Furthermore, one of the more popular complaints about Mockingjay is the absence of the Hunger Games itself. Given that a lot of audiences wanted to see more of the Hunger Games (which is problematic to begin with), the chances of potential spinoff movies excluding the Hunger Games are slim to none, which means that the movies would include the violence for entertainment’s sake. For the sake of selling more tickets.
Speaking of Capitol-like moves, a Hunger Games theme park is happening. A theme park based on the horrible tradition of youths slaughtering youths for sport, entertainment, and fear of the government is actually going to come to fruition. And in two locations.
Creating a theme park that’s based on the horrific lives of those less fortunate trivializes everything that they go through. It also ignores any and all social commentary by doing the opposite of what the series stands for. While the books shine the light on the dangers of the desensitization of violence, the idea of a Hunger Games theme park essentially glorifies it and turns it into pure entertainment.
After all, the main function of a theme park is entertainment. While the same can be argued for movies and literature (including The Hunger Games), these types of entertainment tell important stories and convey loaded messages. Theme parks can’t and don’t do that. (Especially when they have rides based off of Capitol hovercrafts and bullet trains.)
Somewhere down the line, we as Hunger Games fans gave Lionsgate the impression that a theme park would be a profitable form of entertainment, which sounds like a very Capitol-like move.
But what could cause Lionsgate to view us as a Capitol-like society? What could we have done (or not done) to align ourselves more closely with the Capitol than we’d like? At some point, we must have given the studio the impression that we care more about the look of the films and the moving pieces of the Hunger Games than the themes of the series. Maybe we harped too much on the “shaky cam” aesthetic of the first film or on the lack of a Hunger Games in the final book.
Or, could it be that the way we react to the larger world around us (outside of The Hunger Games) impacts Lionsgate’s impression of us? Perhaps Lionsgate treats us similar to the Capitol due to our own desensitization to world crises (as well as our materialism and consumerism, evidenced by how much we love merchandise).
Last year, during the pre-Grand Jury decision march in Ferguson, one of the most memorable and powerful images was that of the phrase “If we burn, you burn with us” scrawled across a public landmark. At that moment, people in Ferguson felt a connection to the oppression and poor treatment of the rebels in The Hunger Games. So much so that they felt that Katniss’ rebellious mantra was most representative of their situation, therefore prompting serious introspection as to just how many similarities our society has with Panem.
How does that make us similar to the Capitol, though? How do we know that we’re not more comparable to the districts? The easiest way to distinguish that is to look at how we view and interact with tragedies and the plight of the oppressed, under-privileged, and less fortunate.
Were we not similar to the Capitol, stories like that of Ferguson, Mizzou, and the Syrian refugees would remain at the forefront of our brains long after the events take place. Their plight wouldn’t be something we would watch on the news for five minutes and then forget about after turning of the television and moving on with our lives.
While we’re in no way at the level of the Capitol’s materialism, selfishness, and cruelty, it’s easy to see that we have more in common with them than we may have thought. With each passing day, we’re growing more and more desensitized to violence and the struggles of the less privileged. However, by first acknowledging our society’s similarities to the Capitol, we can take measures to prevent an outcome where we’re desensitized to violence and oppression.