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.
This 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.