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The Hunger Games: How decadent! Let’s get cupcakes!

22 Mar

I first encountered The Hunger Games several years ago while serving as a judge for the YA Lit Track’s costume contest at Dragon*Con. An excellent young costumer showed up at Katniss, and I thought she was an elf.  While I recall the costume well and know we gave her at least one award for it, I didn’t get around to reading the book until my recent flight from Warsaw to Hanoi.

Planes are for sleeping, especially since I usually don’t have time to sleep the night before I travel, so it says something that I stayed up to read it.  It’s a quick read, but for me it was a hard book, because no matter how visceral I often found it, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters except perhaps Cinna (who is definitely my favorite, I suspect has more secrets to reveal in the later books which are currently beyond my reach), Rue, and the silent Foxface, who fought for her life the way I always played dodgeball.

But as someone who experiences fiction through identification, the book mostly sort of left me at a loss.  I didn’t identify with Katniss or the boys, and I didn’t care about the romance, true or false; I only cared about whether Peeta was a Slytherin.

But what I have cared about, passionately, since before I even read the book, is the film’s marketing campaign, which makes us all residents of the Capitol, because it’s not us, and it’s not our children.  It’s savvy — insert the audience as the audience, and a little cruel — do we feel like not nice people by virtue of being outside the story? Do we pause to consider that, just like in historical reenactment, none of us would probably be any of the fictional privileged we’re being positioned as?  And do we care as long a we can buy the limited edition nail polish celebrating this season’s Capitol fashions?

Of course, I love it.  And I love it not just as an indictment of our worse natures and our fame culture (who wouldn’t, for example, find Celebrity Apprentice more riveting (or at least finally mildly interesting) if immediately after “You’re Fired!” there was cannibalism?). I also love it as a statement of the obvious: sometimes in fiction it’s fun to be the bad guy.  If you’re a resident of the Capitol, what’s your life like?  Sex in the City with a lot of hot pink eyeliner and a little bit of blood? How decadent! Let’s get cupcakes! Do you like my new wig?

But even through all that (and if you follow my Tumblr you know that good marketing is one of my turn ons), what keeps lingering for me about The Hunger Games is the exquisite nature of some of Suzanne Collins’s phrases.

From the first time it appears on the page the girl who was on fire almost made me weep for the cadence of it, but also for the past tense of it.  Chosen and chosen and chosen again, and Katniss even wins, or at least survives.  But I feel like in that phrase is the book’s greatest warning about ordeal and spectacle: even illusions will change you; and even if you survive, everything ends.

I’ve been assured that the next book in the series is all about the stuff that really gets me going: fame and the construction of it, and I wonder if little girls in the Capitol write RPF about Katniss and Peeta, or if terrible pop songs come out about it all in that world — sort of like how the vampire Lestat has a crappy band (and speaking of the construction of fame, there’s something I need to revisit). I think about how every dress Jennifer Lawrence wears when promoting the film is flame colored; as we ponder whose fame is really being constructed in light of that, I find myself just wanting to whisper sweet nothings at another blurry fourth wall.

Of course, what I’ve said here is probably all ridiculous and trivial in the light of the second and third books, which I won’t manage to get my hands on until probably mid-April.  But I probably will get to see the film in India (after some obligatory and eagerly awaited Bollywood), which excites me beyond measure. With the largest film industry in the world (someone once told me that Bollywood has made more films about the life of Alexander the Great than all the films ever made in Hollywood combined; no idea if it’s true, but it’s my favorite piece of possibly accurate information ever), it seems like a perfect place to see a movie where we’re not just in the audience, but cast as it.

Meanwhile, I can’t believe I thought Katniss was an elf.

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13 Responses to “The Hunger Games: How decadent! Let’s get cupcakes!”

  1. Rae Votta March 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    There’s actually an aspect that puts the viewers in the districts too. You get assigned and can join FB groups and talk about your district there. I love it (I’m District 8, fyi) but I also love the Capital side of things with the fashion, etc.

    • RM March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      I can’t believe I finally have a good reason to use Facebook and this is it.

      • Rae Votta March 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

        I never join marketing things on FB but I loved this one so much. I need to sit and analyze what about it appeal to me so much, because when I craft ideas for companies I almost always know I would not fall for my own ideas. 😉

  2. so thinky March 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m just getting started on The Hunger Games, so I can’t offer anything interesting–but I too am always fascinated by the marketing machine for these sorts of things, and I do expect this film will be quite a big deal. The FB marketing concept sounds really inventive: I’m off to check it out.

  3. Alice March 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    I read the first Hunger games book two days ago and it blew me away. I really liked the marketing aspects in the book. The concept is pretty much the same as Battle Royale, except you have to put on a good show too.

  4. rikibeth (@rikibeth) March 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I will never admit that the vampire Lestat’s band isn’t awesome. Someday I will get someone to make me the mashup of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and Bowie’s “Within You” from the Labyrinth soundtrack that is exactly what one of the songs in the book sounds like.

    I HAVE NO SHAME.

  5. Maggie Brazeau (@missysedai) March 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I’m taking 10 teenagers – well, one 20 year-old and 9 teenagers – to the midnight showing tonight. Some of us are dressing, even our group’s most shy 16 year-old boy, who is wearing an elegant suit and gold eyeliner and channeling Cinna.

    The first book was assigned to the 16 year-olds last year, and it spread through their posse like…well, like fire. It’s all they wanted to talk about, so I read it too, and then read the next two. Plot holes? Yup? Compelling as hell? HELLZ YES.

    If you have a Kindle and have it with you, I will happily send you the next two books.

  6. Christian A. Young March 23, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    I literally finished the book about 10 minutes ago. It’s been on my stack for ages and the film coming out basically pushed me to dig in fast. It’s interesting to hear about the marketing campaign because I’ve largely missed it, but reading the book I was struck by how familiar the Capitol should be for a lot of us in modern-day North America.

    The FB thing puts me in D9, which…well, if they’re going by geography, I figured it’d be that or on the edge of D11. I’m actually a bit sad it’s not 11 — Rue and Thresh kicked my ass — but…well, yeah.

    I anticipate additional book purchases in my near future.

  7. gin March 23, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    The best part of reading this was how much I nodded along, AND how I was wearing limited edition Hunger Games nailpolish as I did. (And I’m not even a huge fan of the franchise, which is a funny thing to say considering I just got back from the midnight release!)

  8. bwwbrooks March 23, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I started reading the first book yesterday. I was actually going to Live-Tweet my reactions after every chapter, just because that seemed like an appropriately Capitol thing to do, but I’ve been reading too fast to tweet.

    #TeamHaymitch

  9. Miz Odd March 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of Mark Reads The Hunger Games. http://markreads.net/reviews/tag/mark-reads-the-hunger-games/

    • papillonx March 25, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

      Seconded! I love everything Mark has ever written. I recommend Mark Reads Harry Potter too, of course. Flawless.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Catching Fire and the most unsettling sandwich advertising campaign ever | Letters from Titan - November 30, 2013

    […] 2012, the thing that most excited me about the then forthcoming film of The Hunger Games was the associated product tie-in advertising […]

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