Impact on our own life stories

The audience is very much positioned by the narrative, as all audiences, by all narratives. The Hunger Games gives little room to question the system in place that perpetuates the fear and the compliance and the yearly sanctioned murders of innocent children. We question the media and the control of the technology and the blurred lines between what is real and what is not.

There are certain things lost with the visual representation of the film that depicts the text narrative. In the film, the other tributes, especially the careers lose the identity as victims of this diseased culture. They are, instead ‘others’, so it is acceptable to our sensibilities that these children have lost their lives. They are exaggerated, evil, mean-spirited, cruel – all characterizations of the worst and we are caught rooting for their end.

The story of the Avox girl and the realization that Katniss has of her place within society, the other tools that are in place to demand complacency is not explored in the visual as it is in the text. This is a story that humanizes Katniss, makes her feel for someone who has been punished by the Capitol. These are elements that are removed from the film. It goes to question whether the spirit of the message claimed by Collins is sacrificed for the ability to perpetuate entertainment value instead.


With the abilities we have today, to share ourselves, to strive for the authentic self, to present our identities, our digital selves through internet platforms, our own bodies, our preferences we can broadcast on our profiles, our walls, our lifestyles, it is interesting to muse about what these items we take from The Hunger Games narrative illustrate of our culture, of our ideologies, of ourselves.

artwork or digital wallpaper or timeline post

artwork or digital wallpaper or timeline post

Easy to post on your wall, on your timeline, in your profile. The public relations statement used to remind a poor and starving District that they are sending two children to a duel to the death and although there is a possibility, and the odds may tilt to their District, there will be loss, there will be only one returning, if at all.
Or perhaps it’s a sign that things are possible, even when the odds are stacked against you, if you know the game, if you choose right, if greater things are meant to come – if Katniss could create her own way out, than favour is possible for you as well, for you have the sign and you know what it means and now, it is a part of the fabric that keeps you warm and nourished always.

wearing her arrow helps make it real

wearing her arrow helps make it real

The bow and arrow sets Katniss apart, gains her attention and saves her life as well as the lives of her family members. It is a connection to her father. And now, it is her connection to you, as you proudly wear her strength, her ferociousness, her ability to survive. And that all comes from a moulded piece of metal, right?Available in many colours, so not only is Katniss represented, but your personality can be as well….the consumerism drives on.

phone case, carry it always

phone case, carry it always

Districts are stripped of technology, besides the images that the Capitol label as ‘must watch’. Our Smartphones connect us to everything. They allow us to be categorized, tracked, sorted, profiled and commodified. All things that the narrative warns against. And we decorate this technology with the most memorable statement from the text and the movie.

oh, Effie. artwork or timeline post

oh, Effie.
artwork or timeline post

Effie Trinket, the mouthpiece from the Capitol, sent to choose and usher the children from District 12 to their most certain death. She is suffered by her meagre pool to take from, as District 12 so seldom wins. But, she remains poised and upbeat, troubled by those without manners. The above statement could be seen as a commentary on the understanding that although you are taking children to the place where their lives will end, as you have so many times before, your excitement is raised because a piece of wood is damaged. I fear that the reality of this statement is lost because of the humour it carries in Elizabeth Banks’ delivery. It is curious to  dig into the story one would wish to tell, the connection that is meant to be made by hanging this on the wall or posting it to your timeline and what message it is intended to send to the others who see it. I would hope it’s more than just the humour and the horror is remembered as well.

greeting card

greeting card

Katniss volunteers out of obligation to her sister, a desire to protect her life, save some of her innocence. She feels it is her responsible to rescue her sister from the inevitable loss of Prim’s life and sacrifice herself in place of her sister. Your own devotion, willingness to sacrifice and unconditional love can now be sent through the mail, consumed and understood by the masses in four simple words.



This artwork allows the displayer to forever visualize one of the most poignant and meaningful scenes in the narrative. Katniss is no longer a pawn in a game, no longer a mere form of entertainment. She gains humanity, along with Rue. She has meaning, she has value. She deserves mercy and thanks and most certainly consideration. She reminds those watching that she has value, that Rue has value, that these children are sacrificed for the sake of entertainment. What else is being sacrificed? What else has been lost?

It is also big business to be on the soundtrack of a blockbuster, especially as a title track of a franchise film. Just as Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years will always bring to mind Twilight, Taylor Swift’s Safe and Sound will forever touch on the loss of Rue, the importance of childhood, the safety that came in death and the problem with it all. Playing this song will always serve to create an emotional and visceral connection to the film, the story and the characters.

cookies as sponsorship

cookies as sponsorship

Sponsorship means survival. It means a parachute with a tiny piece of hope for survival. It is the ability of sponsors to feel like they are part of the excitement, like they can somehow influence the outcome. And now, we can make our own parachute cookies.



PhysEd class will never be that of life and death. It is a far stretch to link the exertion needed to compete and conquer in the area as anything like that which is needed to pass P.E. Another way to capitalize on the franchise, another method to connect members of the culture and consumers of the narrative. Again, considering the fact that the text comments on the tyrannical power of those in charge against those who are not, the ability to control the media, to surveil the lives of whomever they chose and the yearly ceremonial assassination of twenty three children, all in the name of fear, all in the name of entertainment – it’s a scary parallel. To think about the inequality that exists for real, the tongue-in-cheek message that this shirt is looking to communicate is real in some places in the world. There are regions in the world we live in where the less fortunate die, the powerless face fear tactics to keep them in line. Children are sacrificed and are mutilated and we can mark our identity with a shirt like this. It’s just something to consider and wonder whether the message of caution is more important than the motion of capitalism or vice versa.


greeting card

greeting card

Much like the previous greeting card, a message that resonates within popular culture can be communicated in four words, no further explanation needed.


It is important as we create these selves that we display for others to consume, as we reflect that which we consume we understand and actually identify with the images, the music and the items we use to represent ourselves. Otherwise, there is nothing real to connect to, nothing real to build from, nothing real between us and little reason to buy in to the new shapes and meanings of the identity we are presenting as self.



Gutierrez, Peter. Death by Media: The Hunger Games and Teen Authenticity (Part 2). March 22, 2012. Link.


KATNISS: The Girl on Fire

katnissinterviewKatniss, a girl who finds herself in the forest, who had her childhood taken long before the reaping and throws herself on the sacrificial block for the desperate love of her sister becomes the celebratory commodity of the 74th Hunger Games. She is thrust into the limelight and a circus of publicity that is a masterful mix of sentimentality and terrible exploitation (Alleva).

Children are not able to embrace their identity as we would perceive children to be able to do. They are the possible saviours of their families, waiting for the reaping, adding their names to the lottery for the benefit of feeding their families. Katniss is different. She is set apart from her peers because of the time she spent with her father in the forrest. The knowledge and tools gained from her father transforms into the role of protector and provider of her family after her father is lost. She makes the sacrifices necessary for the survival of her family. Her behaviour at the reaping is not surprising. Her rebellious nature has been natural to her identity:

When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. (6)

It is this rebellion that lives within her that makes Katniss different from the other Tributes, different from the other children. It is here that there is a spark that can be ignited to connect others, to show them that change is coming and fire is spreading. Peeta, who is more aware of how to play the game the Capitol expects them to play is always trying to protect Katniss, in her stubbornness, and lack of education of how the colonization has made the rules and why they must first conform to them . She is, however aware of the gaze.

I’ve been right not to cry. The station is swarming with reporters with their insect like cameras trained directly on my face. But I’ve had a lot of practice at wiping my face clean of emotions and I do this now. I catch a glimpse of myself on the television screen on the wall that’s airing my arrival live and feel gratified that I appear almost bored. (40)

It is Katniss’ father who first gave her identity, as he told her, ‘as long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve’, which is meant to be literal, referring to the plant she was named for, but it also speaks to Katniss’ ability to know herself, to lean on that which provides her with an identity, a tool that others lack because of the way in which they are forced to live. It is this ability to stand out that Katniss can use the celebrity that is thrust upon her to motivate an entire body of people who are ready for change but stripped of the ability to seek it out. This gives Katniss a tremendous amount of power. This is power that the Capitol, especially the game makers and President Snow does not want her to have. She is using their game and using their tactics against them. She is aware that she is watched, that she is broadcast and she has practice of self editing and understands the ability she has to control what others see. It is this new power that draws others to her.

Katniss is aware that there is a division between what she is on the stage and what she is in the arena. She is aware that there is a shift in her power. She can be presented as a captivating figure, one to be admired, but that is changed and stripped in the arena as she becomes a source of entertainment because of the body that controls the video feed (Ming Tan). She must simultaneously be seen as worthy of love and desire in order to attract sponsors and young and harmless in order to avoid the wrath of the Capitol, both identities juxtaposed to reflect a real need of survival.

As she tries to defy the Capitol as she decorates Rue in her own show of a funeral, Katniss realizes that the power still lays with the Capitol and with their ability to edit the images as they see fit. They will not be able to ignore the image of Rue’s body being removed from the arena, but they need not show those watching the ritual Katniss performs. Her next opportunity for defiance is one that Capital cannot ignore, “Both she and Peeta play to the audience and outwit Snow by threatening to swallow poisoned berries. Katniss’s memories of her family and her father punctuate her time in the arena and contributee to her growing sense of social and personal justice” (Muller).


The need for an understanding of humanity, especially a humanity that exists beyond what we immediately recognize as such is just as important as the questioning of the ‘reality’ that the media we consume today is delivering to us. As Katniss arrives in the Capitol there is a disconnect between her and her prep team – neither immediately seeing the other as ‘human.


The Capitol prep team on Katniss: “The three step back and admire their work. Excellent! You almost look like a human being now! says Flavious, and they all laugh” (62).
Katniss on her prep team: “I know I should be embarrassed, but they’re so unlike people that I’m no more self-conscious that if a trio of oddly coloured birds were pecking around my feet” (62).

This divide is part of what allows the horror of The Games to continue. The people don’t view the tributes as they are, people – to be valued and honoured and protected. As those from the Capitol vacation in old arenas, reliving the entertainment and becoming part of the action, consuming the atrocities into their real lives, so will we, as plans to develop a Hunger Games theme park more forward. And this, in the name of profit. In the book, it was in the name of power, in today’s society profit and power are synonymous.


Katniss will never have the ability to be whole, as she has been part of a society that sends its children off to their deaths. She has the ability, however to heal, as she provides the catalyst, the spark, the inspiration to change. She is saved through the entire narrative of moral depravity. The premise of the Games, and the way the winner wins, decides that the victor is a killer. It is no stretch to believe they are ruthless, survivalists and strong. Katniss’ journey in the Games does not depict her as such. The audience is not forced to feel ethical question with any of the kills Katniss is responsible for. As she drops the wasp nest on the band of assassins below her, we struggle to feel anything beyond relief for those who perish. As she takes down the boy who slays Rue with the arrow, we are proud of her for defending her ally. As she kills Cato, she takes pity on him and rather, ends his suffering. How could she have ever killed Thresh? – as he spared her and came from the District that embraced her with the gift of bread following Rue’s death. Or Foxface? – who was scared and alone and just a scavenger. She was excused of all of these acts. We are all spared the questions that would have come if we had been paired with a girl who could kill people as she killed animals. We are excused because of the horror that the Games and the Capitol inflict upon themselves, with the oppression, with the surveillance, with the want for visual violence.


The captivating nature of Katniss is seen first in both Peeta and Haymitch. Peeta understands how to present her and Haymitch knows how to employ the manipulation. They see this power in a different way than Katniss who is operating in desperation and strictly with her survival instincts, we must, as she must, see Katniss through the eyes of others. It is Peeta who aids in this elevation of her as a commodity, with their relationship, now as a thing to be emulated, fawned over, consumed, as Peeta can be genuine and authentic as the cameras roll on – he has more faith in Katniss than he does in himself (a sad fact that he mirrors from his own mother) and Haymitch understands the shallowness, the material nature and the way to the pockets and the favour of the sponsors. Katniss does not merely elevate herself, she is working with a team who sees something in her and pushes her to fulfill her legacy as leader of a much needed rebellion.

And we are captured, just like the fictional audience, by the trope of the YA genre, the underlying love story, the quiet relationship between two seemingly star-crossed youths. It’s what makes us devote ourselves to these characters, what excites the Capitol, what distracts Snow and what gathers the momentum needed to capture enough of the moment to change the course of history for the Districts that have suffered too long.


Alleva, Richard. Sentimentalized Barbarity: The Hunger Games. Link. April 23, 2012

Brown, Adam and Tony Chalkley. “Beautiful, Unethical, Dangerous: Screening Surveillance and Maintaining Insecurities”. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture. Link

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, New York. 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02352-8

Ming Tan, Susan Shau. “Burn with us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games.” The Lion and the Unicorn 37.1 (2013): 54-73

Muller, Vivienne. “Virtually Real: Suzanne Collins’s the Hunger Games Trilogy. Link

Capitol and District

As much as The Hunger Games is a young adult dystopian novel, it has strong themes of political commentary. This is an American novel, and the world has dissolved into areas that America once occupied, into 12 Districts kept separate from each other by the party in power, the government, the ruling body, the ones with the riches, wealth and power, The Capitol. The story is modelled so that we can parallel the Capitol after today’s America. The districts, however are not part of the America we know today. Instead, they are the developing countries that are exploited by countries like America, for their industry and exports (Dystopia Today). This is part of what makes this dystopian piece so relatable, so successful, because there are definite areas of connection that can be bridged into today’s society. We can see what Collins is saying, where she is going, where she hopes we go as well.

The irony comes when the audience is set up to hate the Capitol, to wish for its collapse. Following the political commentary, The Capitol is as Western Culture is, and the audience rallies for the rebellion against it. It goes to consider that we are more interested in the entertainment that can come from this kind of commentary rather than the reality that we currently live in. The Hunger Games illustrates an extreme culture where teens are slaughtered and people starve, and a superpower pulls the strings. How different is that than the world we live in today except that the greed and influence of the developed world (the world we live in) is at the centre of it all this time.

The media we connect with in the dystopian genre illustrates our fears for us. With the entertaining element, it’s harder, or easier, depending on your perspective to separate what is real and should be taken seriously from what is pure fiction and elaboration.

With the scare of the calendar crisis of 2012, we saw the popularity of Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow; When diseases are flooding the news channels, we see the rising of World War Z, I Am Legend, The Walking Dead, and when we have a societal social disconnect and values of human life and worth seem to drop, financial ruin and economic downturn, the loss of a living wage, we see the popularity of The Hunger Games and Divergent. It lends weight to the meaning and need for literature and digital means of delivering narratives. Under the entertainment is a message for humanity, a comment on concern and a warning about considering the thoughts we have and the direction we find ourselves headed.


The Capitol owns the media, and dictates the required watching to the Districts. Thus, they own the knowledge by choosing the video splices, the sound bites and the visual representations being sent for consumption by the Districts. As John Mayer sings, “when they own the information, they can bend it all they want.” It is important to remember that nothing, except the death of the children, in the games is real. The footage is edited to show the story the Capitol wishes to show (the narrative that best instills fear and horror and compliance), the weather is created and controlled by technology used by the Gamemakers, the battleground, likewise, the rules can change at anytime with genetically manipulated insects and beasts sent in by those in power (Brown and Chalkley). The Games are a tool used to create fear, to insist upon compliance and most importantly, President Snow depends on The Games to serve as a distraction. Instead of focussing on the economic inequality, the horrific conditions and the allowance of power thrust upon them in their ruin, The Districts remember that they were wrong to fight and they will forever pay with the slaughter of their beloved children. It is a commentary that “This kind of masking exists in most developed countries which have access to powerful technologies” (Muller).

The Districts willingly sacrifice for the missteps they have been convinced of taking in the past (Gutierrez). This is commonly understood and accepted in the powerless in today’s societies. It is not normal for new generations to succeed far beyond those who came before them. Long-stood ideologies are so difficult to break because they are so long and so tightly woven into the framework of what cultures are built upon. The Districts struggle because they work with the limited resources they have, the are oppressed by the selected information pumped to them by those with the power over them. It makes sense that things are as they are and continue to be because that is how we are accustomed to social constructions to work around us, albeit not necessarily to the extremes of being randomly chosen to die and expected to smile for the camera as it happens.

Gale tells Katniss that they just want a good show. He knows the value of entertainment and the horrific reality that the entertainment value has blurred the reality of the slaughter of children and that the people of the Capitol, as they are separated and elevated from the Districts watch for the show and the spectacle as the Districts watch because they must, watch with loss, watch with remembrance that they must never try to change what is for the horror in store would be unbearable.

Although the narrative explicitly shows the culture that embraces it all that is distasteful about themselves, it also shows the way to redemption.

Gale offers a different perspective. The Games are not only entertainment for the Capitol, they are punishment and reproduction of fear and heart brake and abuse and domination over the Districts. He offers a different perspective, certainly one that the audience could consider to combat injustices in the world today. What if we don’t watch? What if we don’t consume? What if there is no one to produce the spectacle for? The argument then becomes when we understand the wrongdoings, what are we going to do about it? Katniss has the cynical viewpoint that they won’t stop watching and the cycle will continue. They won’t stop watching because they are wrapped up in the routine of the ideology and the countdown to the reaping and the grieving of the loss. Instead of seeing it as a deserved punishment that comes without the right to retaliate, there is power in coming together and insisting on an end to the slaughter. President Snow knows this, that is why the Districts are kept separate, that is why hope is to be contained. That is why fear is a common tactic in current political agendas. And that is why change can be do hard to see, debilitating to fight for and feel so incredible risky.


Effie poses for her role as PR magistrate and smiles for the camera, embracing her job to sell this catastrophe as an exciting media event and Katniss despairs in what lies ahead.


It’s peculiar to see how The Hunger Games has evolved into a media event, just like the media events that are cast in such a negative light in the text. The visual narrative has the attention of the nation, and will arguably continue to do so until after the final movie is released onto DVD or for streaming on Apple TV.

It is important to consider some of the factors that helped to create the frenzy that catapulted this narrative into popular culture. The relativity of a bleak look at the world was rational, as the book was released as bailouts were being contemplated, stocks were crashing, people were losing their jobs and upward mobility seemed to be halting everywhere. The book shows a possible result. This is how the districts live. As Katniss says (6) “District Twelve. Where you can starve to death in safety.” It wasn’t hard to see aspects of the message this book characterizes as depressive happenings, hopeless images and negative attention was filling up the news screens. What the book offers, however, is the consideration that “media [is] depicted as cutting us off from the deepest parts of human existence itself” (Gutierrez). We struggle with this in the world today. The power of the internet, the power of the political structures the control the media and ‘news’. It is not difficult to see how media coverage has changed over the past decade. It is not difficult to understand when ‘reality tv’ and the huge wave popularity that buoys these programs is a real element of entertainment or reality or maybe something else.

modification of the scene commodifying the reaping, manipulating the intention and considering the power this scene can invoke when an uprising is coming

modification of the scene commodifying the reaping, manipulating the intention and considering the power this scene can invoke when an uprising is coming

Going back to what Gale said, we must understand what is real and what is not real. And, if it is real, we must understand whether we should be watching, whether we should be supporting that which we are watching, and if we shouldn’t, if something doesn’t feel right, we must stop. We must rebel. We must change the power structure from within, as there may not be a ‘they’, instead, there is an ‘us’ and we can stop watching.

We must question what the camera and director narratives are shaping for us. We must remember that we are not in control of what we are shown, and there is a loss of power in that. When we are also led through material by a ‘host’ or another ‘watcher’ (remember Caesar Flickerman), they have the power to direct our attention, to appeal to our emotions and to make important decisions for us. We must be aware. We like Caesar, he presents himself to be like us, he acts like he cares, he asks the questions we want him to ask (at least that’s what he makes us think). It’s all part of the package that we are given and is all meant to keep us watching (Gutierrez).


Brown, Adam and Tony Chalkley. “Beautiful, Unethical, Dangerous: Screening Surveillance and Maintaining Insecurities”. Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture. Link

Dystopia Today. Blog: The Listening

Gutierrez, Peter. Death by Media: The Hunger Games and Teen Authenticity. March 20, 2012

Muller, Vivienne. “Virtually Real: Suzanne Collins’s the Hunger Games Trilogy. Link

A Meme means you made it

A meme is a piece of media used to transfer cultural ideas through the internet. Thus, when memes exist about an entity, the popular culture is paying attention. It is therefore interesting to examine some of the memes that can be found surrounding The Hunger Games.


Jennifer Lawrence is portrayed in the media as ‘real’, genuine and a little bit clumsy. She famously tripped walking up the stairs before she could accept her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook. Of course, this meme is just a funny way to look at Lawrence’s real life klutziness, which actually makes her more human and relatable to her admirers, it blurs the lines between Jennifer Lawrence and Katniss Everdeen, a character she plays. So indeed, it’s good for a giggle, but plays into the danger that Collins comments on through her work – that there is a problem when the real blends with the fake, when we have trouble noticing the difference. The irony, when understanding this meme critically, is not lost.


This meme continues on the real vs. make believe theme. The truth behind it is that we are all excited for The Hunger Games. Crowds gathered for the releases of the books, they eagerly anticipate the releases of the movies. They populate fan sites, chatrooms, create memes, artwork, jewellery. This meme, though meant as a commentary on the story, on our culture, in a light way, it is interesting again, when critical thought is applied. The districts do not excite for The Games. They are a time of sadness, of loss, of tragedy. The Capitol excites, for they do not equate the spectacle with the loss of real children. They do not feel the pain, for they do not go without throughout the entire year. They do not wonder how they will eat, depend on their children to survive. They have the power, the wealth, the ability to see the tragedy for the entertainment it should not be. And this is the power that President Snow exploits. So, as we devour the novels, love the characterizations, become involved in the plot devices and clamour for our movie tickets, who do we most emulate? And what does that say about us? It has made Suzanne Collins’ work that which helps define our culture, but does that definition show us in a light we should be proud of? That’s a lot to extrapolate from the dinosaur above.


This one plays on the importance of the literature that shapes current culture. These are the books that will anthropologically represent these years in western culture. This is the meme that will shame you for what you like, what you connect with and what the stories say about you. Arguably, the writing itself is best in Rowling’s work, next, in Collins’, last in Meyer’s. There is no argument that each of these franchises captivated the popular movement. They sold. They got kids reading, they filled the seats of movie theatres. These stories meant something to people, and have thus been developed and reflected in material and visual culture. Though yes, Bella may have just been ‘the girl who died’ or ‘the girl who sparkled’, she still found herself, just as Harry and Katniss did. Although her story may not have had the depth of the other two series’, her journey had meaning, and that meaning is consumed by the masses. It’s unfair to shame those who connected, because finding who we are is an important journey that anyone should be privileged enough to complete.


Continuing with the shaming between fandoms, this is the Hunger Games fans trying to flex superiority over the fans of Twilight. A major marketing tool was the ‘Team Edward’ vs. ‘Team Jacob’. It was recreated with Gale and Peeta, but without the same passion. This is a commentary also about the relationships that come in and out of focus in the story. Following along a trope of the YA genre, there has to be a love story.  We find that in Katniss and Peeta, and Katniss and Gale. The Capitol lifts Katniss up because she is fussed over by Peeta. Knowing that one or both of them will die does not seem to bother those of the Capitol, their appetites are whet with the entertainment of it all. Focussing on the relationship is a perverted diversion of what is really happening. It is subject to manipulation by Haymitch, and by Peeta, who arguable plays the game much better than Katniss ever could have alone. It’s telling that culture places the relationship as something to swoon over, much like those of the Capitol, much like President Snow later in the series. It puts us in line with those of the Capitol. Perhaps this meme is a reminder of where we should position ourselves.

tumblr_m7gyphR7Dl1qf4h75o1_250This is a sarcastic look at President Snow’s legacy. It eludes to the rebellion as to be expected, however, his plan has suppressed a rebellion for almost 75 years. The message is that of course a rebellion will happen, it must because of the enormity of the horror this powerful man inflicts. It’s important to look at this as a commentary on our handling of those in power. We are often held down by those with more power, more ability to decide, more influence to affect action. And there are elements in our real history that have dictated wrongdoing and no one with the confidence, ability or faith to rebel against it. Consider the equality that exists in the real world today. Living wages are a distant memory, those who have don’t share and those who go without will continue to do so until something changes. Katniss led the charge to change the horrors of Panem, who will lead the masses in the world today?


This meme reminds us that Collins had real places in mind, and real suffering to build from as she wrote The Hunger Games. There is great suffering that happens in the world. Children die for nothing. People starve because no one has the ability, the knowledge or the tools to change it. It is important to remember that although this narrative is fiction, there are traces of truth in the pages and on the screen. It is important to remember that as the bombs go off in Gaza, as the coffins return from the middle east, as the streets house those without means to find shelter, these stories don’t end when we no longer see them. We must remember our place in the narrative of the world and the power we have and either use or neglect to use when we are in a position to. It is essential to understand the impact of suffering and just because it doesn’t seem to touch us directly does not mean that it couldn’t and does not mean that it doesn’t matter to those it engulfs.


Not a meme, but a comic serving to illustrate the above point. We need less ‘constructed reality’, we need less opulence. We need more Rues, Katnisses, Peetas, Gales, and Cinnas. The power is always fought best from within and there are those who can get there and change it if we see them, give them the tools and let them make the changes needed.


Rue and a Sacrificed Childhood


Rue is a sacrificial character. She is arguably one of the most important characters in the text, in the movie, in the culture that has risen from the narrative.

As family: Rue connects Katniss to her sister. Too young to be subjected to the horror of The Games. It is Rue who shows us the mothering instincts in Katniss, her ability to care, a break from a selfish need to simply survive, but a sentimental bond with Rue to keep the child safe. Because Katniss loves her, we love her too. Katniss’ connection and appreciation of Rue is explained, “..I want her. Because she’s a survivor, and I trust her, and why not admit it? She reminds me of Prim” (Collins, 201).

As saviour: Rue saves Katniss, more than once. First, against the career pack about to kill her, pointing out the tracker jackers. Next, soothing the wounds Katniss endures because of her own inability to outrun the wasp-like creatures she unleashes. Their bond is reflected in the feelings and emotion Katniss displays upon the death of the beloved Rue. Not only does this grant her solidarity after the games from neighbouring districts, but from Thresh, who gives Katniss a by in respect for the great kindness she showed his district-mate, Rue. Rue dies so Katniss can continue to fight. She perishes so others may gain freedom and a voice and so others’ lives can improve and Katniss has the sense to create a visual that will stir the pain in others to realize that what is happening is real and tragic and must be stopped, “I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do of force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I” (Collins, 236-7).

As innocent: Rue is as young as you can be to be called upon as Tribute, just as Prim would have been. We ache for her, we would fight for her, as other sympathetics would. She works with Katniss to create the sounds and the symbol of the rebellion. Her sacrifice takes her life, saving her innocence from a world unfit for her. Her legacy lives on, carried on the shoulders of Katniss, “Good and safe, I say as I pass under its branch. We don’t have to worry about her now. Good and safe” (Collins, 238).

As watcher: “How long has she been here? The whole time probably. Still and unobserved as the action unfolded beneath her” (Collins, 184). As the tributes negotiate their survival, others watch from their television broadcast positions. As the career pack watches Katniss, she watches them. Above the gaze of it all is Rue,  undetected and waiting to see.


Rue represents the innocence and the value of all the children within The Hunger Games. Her appearance and characteristics magnify the meaning behind the children and their role in the society of the story. It doesn’t matter who the children are, they are there for the entertainment of the Capitol.

Katniss personifies the adult – providing food for her family, attempts to create some function in her mother, the protection of her younger sister. Her childhood was taken long before Prim’s name was drawn at the reaping.

The journey of the children in the districts is not about a coming of age, but rather, growing up comes with great possibility of fear, death and suffering. The Games turns children into assets, into commodities. Adults are forced to offer their children as sacrifice to the Capitol, to the Games, in payment for an uprising that they will continue to be oppressed, and starved and suffered for. The system in which the districts exist is corrupted, perverse and repeated each year at The Reaping. Survival and death are linked (Ming Tan). The loss of humanity that is stripped from the children is regained as Katniss decorates Rue’s body to send her away with dignity and love.

Katniss - clear, in focus, a disconnect from any identity she may have had, she is now female tribute for District 12.

Katniss – clear, in focus, a disconnect from any identity she may have had, she is now female tribute for District 12.

Children cannot be seen as adored or cherished in the districts as they are tools used for the survival of the family. Katniss sees this shift in her own district during the Reaping:

“To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim…So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest part of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says they do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong” (Collins, 23-24).

It is in this moment that the adults are shocked, in this moment they are aware of the complacent manner they have been watching their children as they are chosen to die.

Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love” (Collins, 24).

After her volunteering, Katniss belongs to the people. She belongs to her district now, as their female representative in the Games. They are an extension of the district, their chance of luck of survival, their chance for a victor. As she prepares for the Games, she is presented as a commodity – one that gains the attention and curiosity of the people of the Capitol – those who objectify and see her as a means to their entertainment. To Haymitch, she is a thing that he may be able to mould into a win. To the other tributes, she is a thing that must be destroyed. Upon winning, she is a symbol of hope, of change, of rebellion. To president Snow she is a problem that must be contained, an entity that he would like destroyed.

She becomes an item to be consumed (Ming Tan). Consumer culture is projected back in visual form.

Those citizens of the Capitol have lost the ability to separate what is real from what is not. This is reflected in their appearances, their modifications, their thrill in the deaths and spectacles made of children. They are artificial. There is a disconnect and misunderstanding of humanity between those of the districts and those of the Capitol. Thus, it becomes impossible to connect with the innocence of childhood lost for the sake of entertainment.


As the audience connects with Rue, they connect with the children in the arena. Their losses are universal and painful and these connections help to restore humanity to the districts. It is because of the gestures of Katniss that this is allowed to prosper. As much as she lost before the games, and considering her appearance in the Games is a result of a volunteering to save a sister of certain death, she is playing on a different level with a different perspective from the other Tributes. It is difficult to see some of the other district’s children as innocent or pure. Cato and Clove, who are ‘career’ tributes, come from districts that have embraced the value of their children and train them to win, even though two winners are not possible. District 2 accepts the loss that will come as manageable with a win that seems more likely. When the connection is made, however, that they are all children. They all bear the weight of the survival of their own districts upon their own backs, their journeys within the arena are horrific, tragic and unfair. The terror that they face, when compared to the elation of the Capitol creates a meaningful distaste for those who are unable to recognize what is real, compared to those forced to live it each day. This serves to bond us with all the tributes, to fear for their loss and to hope, right along with those left to survive in the districts, that order can be restored, children will cease being consumed and they will once again be protected, precious and pure.



Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, New York. 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02352-8

Ming Tan, Susan Shau. “Burn with us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games.” The Lion and the Unicorn 37.1 (2013): 54-73

They are who they represent


- Greek Aphorism think ancient Greece....Gladiators...Tributes...Hunger Games

– Greek Aphorism
think ancient Greece….Gladiators…Tributes…Hunger Games

It is youthful actors who are the visual and characteristic embodiments of the characters that Suzanne Collins brights to life in the pages of her Hunger Games Trilogy. These actors make the decision to bring the characteristics to the screen, to immortalize the story by way of film, to give a piece of themselves, moments of their lives and take on the lasting effects forever. It is the problem that comes from an inability of those watching, those who have a stake in the narrative, who derive meaning from Collins’ words, who live and breathe and embrace those characters. The relationships that are formed are not real. The people who portray the characters are real, and they give up themselves to become that which is not true, and for some, the results last throughout their entire, lives, some their entire careers.


Jennifer Lawrence / Katniss Everdeen. As an actor with critical acclaim for Winter’s Bone before being cast in The Hunger Games was entitled to public recognition before filming began. Now, she is Katniss. Even though she has won awards for other roles, in the age group that often rules the box office, she is the girl on fire. Did she realize what would happen before she became her character? She could have watched the same thing happen to Kristen Stewart as she became Bella Swan. Walking down the street, instead of being recognized as who she really is, she can be called by a name of a fictional character. We blur the lines between what is real and what is not. Katniss Everdeen is not a real person. Jennifer Lawrence is. There is hope, in time that she will be seen as the person she is, not the person she played in one of the largest grossing franchise films and novels in history.

1266_6164_1Sht_Peeta_ab01_gryJosh Hutcherson / Peeta Mellark. Although a successful child actor, it wasn’t until landing this role that mass public recognition occurred. And from now, until most likely years following the release and judgement of the final Hunger Games movie, he will hear the name “Peeta” shouted or whispered in his presence. Will he mind embodying the character that plays a part in saving Katniss from others, saves Katniss from herself, keeps her safe for us and for himself? Perhaps not. The role has opened more doors and provided more roles and caused more notice.


Amandla Stenberg / Rue. Besides one other small part in a smaller movie, Stenberg’s first major appearance on film is as Rue, the doomed female tribute who aids Katniss and is sacrificed in song and flowers in the area. Not only does this child appear for mass consumption in this film, she was at the centre of racial backlash because of what she looks like and the decisions of casting directors. She will forever be Rue, at least in this piece. But she is not Rue at all. For Rue is not real, but Stenberg will carry the character and all the weight that comes with her forever.

The depiction of her likeness is also interesting to note. In comparison with the other characters whose likenesses are shown on the movie posters, Rue is thoughtful, her gaze downcast. Others are looking forward, standing ready. Rue is gaining our sympathy before we watch her perish. She is connecting to our sentimentality before the movie begins. She is beautiful and thoughtful and wise – and this is an actor who was hired to characterize her, to portray her, to be our visual representation. And for that, Amandla and Rue will forever be one. But who will we see as more real?


This blurring of identities comes at a higher price for the youth of the blockbusters. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow) are less likely to be called by the names of those who they represent on the screen. They are not the characters who the audience is meant to build lasting connections with. They have bodies of work that demonstrate their range. We have seen them before in different roles at different times. This is not their first time at or in the show. There are reasons that big franchises will make the choice to cast unknowns into the roles that will change the trajectory of their careers and forever imprint on their identity. We embrace them as the characters we have imagined and connected with and wish to connect with further. We value them not exactly for who they are, but for who they are to us. Consider the choice of Lenny Kravitz. An rockstar bad-ass. Do we not want to see Cinna as a little bit of that as well? The purveyor of design and fashion and the one task with getting the audience’s attention. Kravitz’s persona lends credit to the fiction he is meant to portray and connects the audience with Cinna without anything more than an mention.


Under Our Skin

We have embraced The Hunger Games as a meaningful element to the story of our culture. So much so, that we name our children with inspiration from the characters created from Suzanne Collins. So much so that we mark our skin with elements from the story. We accept these pieces of a story so fully that we connect with them to help us tell our own stories.

In 2012, The Hunger Games was overtaking the names made popular by Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Babies were being born to the names of Rue and Cato. Today, Katniss is gaining popularity along with the names inspired by The Game of Thrones. Before that, the characters J.K. Rowling brought to life were becoming real live people living in our homes.

Are we naming our children because we hope the emulate the characteristics these writers have given them? Are we such big fans, we wish to speak the names of their characters to our own offspring? Are we so taken with the wave of popularity soaking our culture that we want to be a part of that momentum in one of the most meaningful ways we think we can? A story must have some real staying power, some real voice and some deep human connection to make these changes in our world. This reminds us of the power of literature, the importance of story telling and the impacts these narratives have upon the people they are told to.


And for the people who don’t have children to name, or are unwilling to form their children’s identity around a character embraced by the masses, there are other options to forever bear their allegiance. As tattoos become more mainstream and are accepted as popular methods to express ourselves and express who we are through the images we mark our skin with, there is meaning to consider linked to the tattoos inspired by Collins’ work that mark skin of readers and watchers everywhere.


The Mockingjay

One of the most popular reproductions are images of the Mockingjay. A symbol of the story – of rebellion, of hope, of power of the people who come together and fight. The Mockingjay is a means of communication between Rue and Katniss. A connection between allies and friends. The Mockingjay is represented on the pin Katniss brings with her into the games – found in the Hob in the movie, given as a gift in the book. The image is used throughout the series, and is therefore a popular choice of those who wish to materialize and show visual representation of their connection with the narrative on their body.

May the odds be ever in your favour

May the odds be ever in your favor

Effie Trinket joyfully announces, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!” (19). This phrase has been adopted as a battle cry in the world outside the pages of the story. The understanding, of course, is that in The Games, the odds are never in your favour. One in twelve are not in the favour of the one. Without the odds in her favour, Katniss prevails and brings Peeta with her. She changes the rules. The words are not only the propaganda of the Capitol, they are the beginning of the hope that is the message behind the power and the ability of the districts to take back their humanity, take back their lives, take back their freedom. It is speaking to an individual’s life story, hoping that the odds are always in their favour, always in your favour — a deeper expression of hope for fairness and without it, the ability to escape the gaze of oppression and the strength to find success in overcoming.

Real or not real?

Real or not real?

This visual is a commentary on the worry expressed by Collins regarding the desensitization of audiences. What is real and what is not? The Games are real for those involved, and the families and the friends in the districts. They are real for the coaches who have been there and who are usually sending their tributes to their deaths. They are not so real to those in the Capitol who relish in the costume, the answers that Cesar Flickerman turns into soundbites. They are not so read for the people watching on their televisions because, as Collins described, “there is real life occurring that doesn’t end when the commercials roll”.

The ‘real’ comes from a conversation between Katniss and Peeta as they try to separate their relationship for the cameras and their true feelings for each other. It is amplified by the emotional connection established by the power and the humanity their relationship brings to and between those around them, those watching them, those sympathizing with them. Their relationship, they grapple with what is real and what is not, as the watchers grapple with the happenings, that are real, even when we aren’t watching and unreal when we are unable to emphasize enough to demand change.


These are forever elements we bring from different forms of the same narrative and allow these elements to touch us in a permanent way. These are ways that the narrative will continue to touch the lives of those using the narrative to emulate their own life stories. This allows the story to carry forward, encourages more connection, more story telling and more of the themes presented within the story to (hopefully) be explained and carry meaning for the lifetime of those involved in the meaning, those mirroring the fandom.



Sources used in this post:

Child, Ben. Katniss tipped to be among most popular baby names in 2014. The Guardian. Link

Garrison, Cassandra. Hunger Games pop culture influence 2012 baby names. Metro. Link

Pantozzi, Jill. Which Hunger Games Character Topped a 2012 list of Popular Baby Names? The Mary Sue. Link



Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, New York. 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02352-8

President Snow

“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion” (Collins, 18)

In the book, President Snow is not described as Donald Sutherland looks. On page 71, ” The president, a small, thin man with paper-white hair, gives the official welcome from a balcony above us” – noting his positioning is important. The book handles this character differently than he is handled on screen. The symbolism of him and what he wields is similar, but there is more of his influence, more of his voice in the movie portrayal by Sutherland. We hear him more, while in contrast, we get more of him in the following books of the trilogy.

President Snow is the face behind the message of oppression. He is the symbol of violence and of fear. It is more difficult to hear him in the novel because it is told from Katniss’ point of view. The change, coming in the form of the movie, is that the audience has the opportunity to connect with other characters and, through camera angles, expressions and directorial techniques, elements outside of Katniss’ feelings can be illustrated with feeling, with compassion with understanding. The movie gives us more of Snow’s actual voice, his power, his ruthlessness. It is less up to the audience to imagine, as it is in the text, and more apparent as we see it on screen.

We hear his (Sutherland’s) voice in the movie as it provides the background noise for the propaganda promoting The Games:

War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.

The Capitol has more of a presence in the movie, we understand the thinkings of President Snow in a more explicit way. He is there, rather than just mentioned and thought about, as he is in the first book.

President Snow is the character who represents the power in this narrative. He is the controller, the puppet master. He is the oppressor. President Snow represents the wealth and the insecurities of the Capitol. He leans on his power and his influence to protect what he has – the opulence, the freedom, the opportunities. He wields this power by controlling the districts, separating them, dictating their knowledge, injecting them with fear and boundaries. Warnings through peacekeepers, the avow characters (those who have come out of line and been silences forever), and of course, through The Games. Important to seem secure in his rule, Snow recognizes that his fortress is not without spaces of weakness. He fears organization, he warns against too much hope.


Snow instructs his head Gamemaker to contain the spark of hope that Katniss has managed to produce. There is the fear that it will spread through the districts. There is the fact, that as Seneca Crane does not contain the spark to the liking of Snow, he is forced to take his life. The ultimate punishment for something Snow considers the worst element against the power structure he resides over.

It’s interesting that when looking further beyond the movie, the artistic element that Snow’s words have taken. The irony of it is that Snow does not see this hope as a positive thing. He sees a necessity in a reminder of hope – the fact that there is one child who remains, as the other eleven are slaughtered. He sells this as hope to the districts. It’s a lottery, an almost impossible hope. Out of context, however, designers have introduced his words from the script into artistic representations.

tumblr_myh4aeInPh1s8mb3mo1_2506e1fa9d3f00e565c01e3f54f3bed0c61These words are part of a speech that do not appear in the pages of the text. They are a message that was added to the movie script. Now, we can use a snippet of Snow’s message to Crane (before he has him killed, when he disappoints him), to decorate our lives. We act out of hope or out of fear, from a place of love or a place of despair. These words have been made pretty so they can be pasted onto our timelines, mounted on our walls, cut out for our fridges or manipulated as computer wallpaper. The irony is that these are the words Snow threatens his people with. He is so opposed of offering hope that death is the result when the possibility of hope becomes too high. What does this say when in popular culture the end of his speech is forgotten. The context of his message is forgotten? Perhaps it gives power to the knowledge that hope is the power that the districts have over the Capitol. And it is that hope, that power that culture wishes to embrace, perverting the message that Snow actually intended.



Her intentions were clear

The annual Hunger Games themselves are a power tool used as a reminder of who is in charge and what will happen to citizens who don’t capitulate. —Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games grants rare interviews, but when she does sit down to answer questions, she implores readers, students, those captivated by her story of Katniss and the Capital to understand the lines between what is real and what is not – what is actual violence, war and suffering and what is constructed to emulate such, for our entertainment. In an interview in 2008, Collins stated one of her goals,

…the socio-political overtones of The Hunger Games were very intentionally created to characterize current and past world events, including the use of hunger as a weapon to control populations. Tyrannical governments have also used the techniques of geographical containment of certain populations, as well as the nearly complete elimination of the rights of the individual (Blasingame).

Collins has great concerns for the desensitization of an audience. The disconnect that happens between what is real and what is being blurred for our entertainment. There is a loss of empathy, of humanity, of meaningful connection and compassion.

In an interview with Scholastic, Collins describes The Hunger Games as reality TV. She talks about the thrill the audience has when “watching people being humiliated or brought to tears or suffering physically…when [the audience] see[s] real tragedy playing out on the news, it doesn’t have the impact it should. It all just blurs into one program” (Hudson). The book Collins’ has gained international fame from, the story that has played a role in shaping popular culture is a commentary of the trouble that has come from the desensitization of humanity. It’s interesting to consider why those who have read it and share it, like it. What are they connecting to? Is is Katniss fighting the power? It is the absurdity of the Capital? Are readers simply devouring the story because it has become a spectacle in Holloywood? It is essential that the tools are there for youth especially to be guided to understand the connections between what is now and what is in the pages of this narrative. Certainly, the story that happens in Panem with these characters is fictional. The embracing of the novel, however says something about how we all are living today. Connection and understanding is necessary to propel an inanimate thing into a beacon of representation of a time period in the world.

By relating to Katniss, there is an opportunity for understanding. Although the children playing in The Games are real, are hurting, are dying, are losing their innocence and their lives at the hands of other children focused only on survival, the people in the capital have commodified the entire experience. They pay for those they like to benefit during the games, they cheer for the doomed beings as they are dehumanized through material representation of the districts that actively oppress them. As Collins eludes to in her Scholastic interview,

“It’s not something fabricated, it’s not a game. It’s [their] life” (Hudson).

Although she is most certainly against it, Collins knows her characters, most certainly her heroine must be moulded to play the game. She must become the spectacle that is expected, in order to gain attention, favour, help. And as much as Katniss despises the capital, barely recognizes the humanity of the people, she is caught up as well. In the book (70), “The pounding music, the cheers, the admiration work their way into my blood, and I can’t suppress my excitement. Cinna has given me a great advantage. No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name.”  Even our heroine is losing herself, glossing the reality that this performance is to gain popularity for a crowd preparing to watch her die. A fact that will be real only to her, only to those close to Katniss, not to the crowd who is captivated by the character, the girl on fire that Cinna has created.

Consider reality television. The ‘characters’ that are supposed to be representative of what’s real, what’s applicable, what’s relatable to the lives of the masses. These are real people who have their shame, their heartache, their discomfort amplified for other’s entertainment. Sure, we may feel something for these images on screen for a moment, in the moment, but they are contained in a box that is forgotten when the channel is turned or a new URL is clicked. Are they real? Must we invest in them? DO WE CARE? Or do we appreciate the distraction?

These problems in society must be shifted from within their structures. The value we place on them must be changed, or the capitalist framework will wear on. Power must be shifted from within and without an understanding that something is wrong, and a greater acceptance that the balance is off, it is bound to get worse, more oppression is to be expected, the colonization of those without by those with is bound to continue.

As Collins said: “Even though [Katniss’] is an extreme case, I think all of us have to work to figure out what’s going on. It’s hard to get the truth and then to put it in a larger perspective” (Hudson).


It’s important, as we go on, to analyze the impact this narrative, these characters have had and continue to have on popular culture. To understand the elements that have made the story so recognizable, so relatable, so beloved and what that may say about the people who have made it so.


Sources used in post:
Blasingame J, Collins S. An Interview with Suzanne Collins. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. May 2009; 52 (8): 726-727.

Hudson, Hannah Trierweiler. Q&A with Hunger Games Author Suzanne Collins. Scholastic.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, New York. 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02352-8

Proposal complete

I have completed the proposal for this site, and although I’ve already started to research and have set up a folder for collecting secondary image sources to help boost interest and add dimension, technically I haven’t truly started. If what I’m saying (a proposal for a little blog site?!>) seems a little bit confusing, it’s explained a little bit better here.

We are going to explore popular culture outside the pages of The Hunger Games (specifically the first book of the trilogy) over the next month with this blog. If you’re here already, I’m glad – check back and help me with the conversation. Without being focussed on controversy, there may be some difficult theories to explore. Without being focused on simply a presentation of the neat and collectible items that have been designed and presented for he masses to judge and accumulate, but with a critical and [hopefully] academic perspective, the hope is to spark some interest, commentary and maybe even debate.

Make sure you come back!

This is the text I will be referring to, in case there are specific page references (there will be, I'm sure)

This is the text I will be referring to, in case there are specific page references (there will be, I’m sure)