The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film from the Hunger Games adaptation, hits theaters nationwide this month. Given the series' aggressive and elaborate marketing campaign, it’s pretty hard to miss.
So, when I saw the giant banner featuring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen plastered in a Hot Topic storefront, it didn’t surprise me one bit. The sign lured in shoppers with the promise of a FREE GIFT with $25 purchase so I naturally entered and was immediately greeted by a table piled with merchandise and little signs urging me to get my “gear” ready for the movie’s opening day. The Hot Topic was filled with Hunger Games t-shirts, Hunger Games tank tops, Hunger Games sweatshirts, Hunger Games blankets, Hunger Games bracelets, Hunger Games pillowcases, Hunger Games trading cards, and shiny Hunger Games earrings. Most strangely of all, though, was the fact that the actual Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, was nowhere to be found.
Now let’s be clear: overt efforts to turn profits and capitalize on books-turned-films are not a new concept (SEE: Harry Potter empire!). However, the Hunger Games is different from other lucrative book franchises, as its main character is a strong-willed and explicitly anti-authoritarian rebel who is specifically fighting the oppressive policies that go hand-in-hand with consumerism and the exploitation that results from a minority's luxurious lifestyles.
For those unaware of the Hunger Games’ back-story, the novel’s protagonist, Katniss, is a teenage girl living in Panem, a dystopian nation whose intense thirst for capitalism and consumption has led them to war and a subsequently highly policed state with severe divides between the rich and poor. In Catching Fire, Katniss becomes known as “the fire that can spark a rebellion” and is looked up to by people throughout the country who hope she will help overthrow the exploitive Capitol.
Although Katniss isn’t fully comfortable with the role she’s been given, she is also vocal about her disdain for the Capitol and its people who lavish luxury on themselves while the rest of Panem suffers. The whole series ridicules the Capitol-dwellers’ garish costumes, gluttonous foods, and the cruel entertainment they receive from watching the Hunger Games. So it’s hard not to shake my head at how cheaply made Hunger Games tie-in products have swept onto the shelves of American malls.
Cover Girl has perhaps the most cringe-worthy Hunger Games merchandise. In advance of Catching Fire, Cover Girl released a line of makeup to help women all over get the “look” of any district with the Capitol Beauty Studio collection.
What would Katniss Everdeen, a girl who had never shaved her legs or underarms upon entering the games, say about a line of Capitol makeup? Cover Girl wouldn’t want to know. Over-the-top makeup is scoffed at in the book series and, even in the films, characters who go to great lengths to change their bodies are presented as grotesque phonies.
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It seems unlikely that any of the ladies of Panem would be worrying about the amount of glitter on their brows when they’re crying and so hungry that the son of a baker tosses them burnt bread to survive.
Of course, it's naive to believe that a movie studio will make a blockbuster film without cashing in on all merchandise opportunities. But doesn't the Cover Girl campaign strike anyone as crass? What does Suzanne Collins have to say about it the marketing of her anti-consumerist series?
When emailed by Variety, Collins said, “I’m thrilled with the work Tim Palen and his marketing team have done on the film. It’s appropriately disturbing and thought-provoking how the campaign promotes Catching Fire while simultaneously promoting the Capitol’s punitive forms of entertainment. The stunning image of Katniss in her wedding dress that we use to sell tickets is just the kind of thing the Capitol would use to rev up its audience for the Quarter Quell [the name of the games in Catching Fire]. That dualistic approach is very much in keeping with the books.”
So essentially, it’s all just a joke, people. The people behind the marketing campaign of Catching Fire are just pretending to be like the Capitol! They don’t actually want to spend a bunch of money on elaborate and costly operations in hopes of making a shit-ton of money in return! They’re just really pumped about the anti-capitalistic themes in the novel and want to make an example out of how not to be an example. Phew. And if you get tired of trying to read the book or watch the movie, you can always just make up your own tales of rebellion with an Official Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen Barbie doll.