Capitol Control: The Irony of the Hunger Games Movie Mania

Happy Hunger Games! Do you have your ticket to see a midnight showing of the movie tonight? A bunch of us at Bitch do, and I for one am beyond psyched. (Check back tomorrow for our review!) I’ve watched the trailers, listened to the soundtrack, and even have my outfit planned—based on the Ironing Board Collective’s End of Days style predictions, of course. I have to wonder though, is it wrong to want so badly to see the Games?

Considering that the book series—and presumably the film—is about a not-so-distant dystopian future where the government controls its citizens and makes mandatory the watching of a game where kids battle one another to the death, at what point does this must-see movie mania get just a little too ironic?

Take, for example, the marketing of this movie. Yes, it’s a blockbuster film version of a wildly popular YA series, so it’s no surprise that Lionsgate pulled out all the stops to get us to want to see it. Which we do. But not content to just jam puzzle pieces all over the Internet, Lionsgate has also assumed the role of the Capitol in the film’s campaign.

screen shot of the Capitol seal from the film's websitescreen shot of the capitol logo from the film's website


The official websites for the film end with .pn instead of .com, because they represent Panem. “Citizens” who visit the sites are asked to register with the Capitol to be assigned a district and an ID. Messages from the Capitol appear under every link, reminding citizens that “ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY” and to “BE INFORMED ABOUT TRACKER JACKER ACTIVITY IN YOUR AREA.” Clicking on some of the links provided will take you to the Capitol Couture site for all your fashion needs, or to a virtual Capitol tour where citizens are not yet authorized to view certain areas. The promotional sites do such a great job capturing the sinister allure of the Capitol that it’s easy to forget that THE CAPITOL IS THE ENEMY! OH NO WHY AM I PAYING MONEY TO WATCH THE HUNGER GAMES?!

Only adding to the Orwellian mystique is the fact that Lionsgate refused to show any footage of the actual Hunger Games in any of the trailers or leaked footage from the film. It’s all buildup: the reaping, the training—check out the OFFICIAL CAPITOL TV YOUTUBE CHANNEL if you need convincing. In order to see the Hunger Games, you have to buy a ticket. From the Capitol (well, Lionsgate assuming the role of the Capitol). I’ll repeat: You have to give your money to the Capitol to watch the Games. Holy Panem, people!

screen shot from the Capitol Control Room Tour

The Control Room. During this part, the tour guide said EVEN YOU ARE BEING MONITORED AS WE SPEAK.

Of course, all of these materials are from Lionsgate and are ostensibly a part of the movie itself. We know that the $10 we’ll spend to see this film isn’t actually going to wind up in the pocket of President Snow’s sanguine sharkskin jacket, and some of this stuff—while troubling if you think too hard about it—is kinda fun. Don’t we want to feel like citizens of Panem watching the Games? Isn’t getting caught up in the story part of the experience?

Maybe, maybe not. But the branding of the Hunger Games that’s happening outside the world of .pn URLs is arguably much darker. From Post-Cornucopia Bloodbath lotion to a “kill or be killed” baby tribute hat; from Capitol Colours nail polish to a pair of underwear that has “May the odds be ever in your favor” printed on the ass, many products have taken the subversive spirit of the series and created something that’s just the opposite. Hell, you can even wear dresses inspired by the Day of the Reaping.

pink briefs that read may the odds be ever in your favor on the butt

For some reason I don’t think Katniss would approve.

So what are we CITIZENS OF PANEM moviegoers to do? Should we avoid the film because its capitalist (Capitol-ist?) agenda is counter to that of the series? Should we jump in with both Laquan Smith-clad feet because it’s more fun that way? I don’t have the answers, but I will be front and center at the movie tonight. Will you?

Related Reading: The Rebel Warrior and the Boy with the Bread: Gale, Peeta, and Masculinity in the Hunger Games, The Hunger Games Film Whitens Its Warrior

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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8 Comments Have Been Posted

I think criticizing Lionsgate

I think criticizing Lionsgate for underwear made by some random person on misses the mark.

Marketing in general

Thanks for your comment! I realize that Lionsgate didn't make that pair of pink underwear, but I still see the underwear (and the nail polish, and the baby hats, and so on) as part of the greater marketing of this film, which is what I'm talking about here.

Hope that helps!

Slightly OT

So, I <i>want</i> to like The Ironing Board Collective. Or maybe I just feel like I should like them, cuz they're queer! and Michelle Tea! and yadayadayada.
But they are all thin folks who almost exclusively post other thin folks, and then in the link above, they actually say this:
<cite>Try a Norwegian Rain raincoat! Or something similar, since Norwegian Rain is a menswear company and so might not have XXS</cite>

Seriously?! Because all women are an XXS in menswear?!

Meh and ugh all around. I'm not at all anti-thin, but c'mon now...

On topic: the publicity is so meta and creepy and awesome and I'm totally into it in a weird way.

IBC too thin

Hi Slightly OT,

I appreciate your critique of IBC's focus on thin. This is actually something I've been thinking about a lot so I'm hoping that maybe you can help. The problem, at least on my end, is not that I only think of thin items/post thin people because I'm thin, my problem is that I've had a really hard time finding fashion images of non-thin people and I don't know blogs to pull from. I think about this with nearly every post and have tried various ways of searching for images, but haven't been able to find much, or at least not within the fashion categories that I often write about.

Obviously, this is partly a problem of my own ignorance, since I don't shop for sizes that aren't my own and therefore am not as much on the lookout, but it's also a general problem of representation on the Internet. As for the Norwegian Rain thing... that wasn't an assumption about weight. They're made for huge men-- like tall and broad. They're massive. So most women would need an xxs just to keep the things from dragging the ground.

What would be helpful is if readers like you, readers who would like to see their body types represented more, would send links, resources, etc. especially for more high-end fashion stuff, since we tend to write about that more than say vintage or diy. We're not body type fascists, but we're also not doing this full time, so any advice is always welcome.


An Addendum

I would just like to note that I'm not suggesting it's your responsibility to educate anyone, but that readers often send us links to their favorite sites, products, etc. So if you have something in mind that you'd like to see or see more of, send it along.

I actually think that what is

I actually think that what is being done in terms of advertising/promotions could be very interesting and subversive. The books capatlize on our desire for gory entertainment while countering the idea of mindless viewership. Whether or not the franchise in this case is intentionally being subversive remains unknown, but it is possible that they are trying to capture how easy it is to be sucked into harmful modes of thinking. If this is the case, it’s actually a brilliant idea, but I think it misses the mark in the same way the books did: a great majority of the audience doesn’t get it. So many readers of the trilogy do not understand what these books are about or why they were written – they don’t read for underlying text, whether it’s their age, or just not being a sophisticated reader (which, it would seem, the majority of people are not). Some people read them just for the love triangle, or just for the overall story and not for the reasons that they were actually written. This means that for the majority of the target audience (and probably much of the adult audience), the message is being lost, and this is truly unfortunate.

Perhaps the ploy behind this marketing scheme is to make it more obvious that we are in fact Capitol Citizens... something which seems to have gone over the head of the majority of readers who think these books have nothing to do with us. But I think that mania has simply taken over and people just want to be a part of this world for a night. Sadly, most of us have missed the point that we actually are the bad guys, and not just in this artificially created Panem. People are suffering to fulfill our petty desires in the real world. It’s unfortunate that the makers (apparently) have to be more explicit to get their point across, if they are trying to make this point at all.

The rest of it I’m not sure about even though it’s fun to see what those people on Etsy have come up with, but I did make myself a District 9 t-shirt, and yes, I will be at the midnight showing... ;)

Having a "Paranoia" RPG moment:

"The promotional sites do such a great job capturing the sinister allure of the Capitol that it's easy to forget that THE CAPITOL IS THE ENEMY! OH NO WHY AM I PAYING MONEY TO WATCH THE HUNGER GAMES?!"

The Computer is your friend. Trust the Computer!

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