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.
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.
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.
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