The Hunger Games: Accidental Statement of Protest?

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In Bangkok, Thailand, students are being arrested for raising their hands in the air to flash Katniss’ three–finger “freedom” salute.

That’s right, the Katniss who’s the fictional heroine of the popular dystopian sci–fi “Hunger Games” movie series. The world has changed over the last few decades in a very big way, but some are apparently unaware of it or undisturbed by the stunning ramifications.

Advanced surveillance technology is endangering not only personal privacy, but also any possibility of political organizing being kept secret from government power. So even the most democratic nations are now faced with Big Brother seeing, hearing, and knowing everything. Drones and other military tech advances have meant a reconceptualization of warfare making resistance by those who have taken stands against their governments or ruling forces a difficult undertaking. Potential political leaders can be snuffed by drone strikes before anyone knows their names. Governments snooping on text messages can stop demonstrations before they happen. Still, the need to protest remains, leading us to ask—what form is left to us?

We still have the movies.

Putting on a Guy Fawkes mask or raising the “Katniss salute” are now actual political statements.

What many see as the planet’s politically leaderless void is now being filled by our movie hero champions. Fictional movie characters are delivering those heartfelt speeches about freedom and love of humanity that move us and inspire us, while the words of our actual political leaders, for many, continue to evoke only vague hopes of a better tomorrow. There may be a breath of hope in this—but the sword of movie propaganda cuts both ways. Movies are entertainments produced by corporations for profit. “Politically correct” messages are usually imparted only accidentally. The politics of “Katniss” will be determined at the box office by what her fans are willing to hear. Let’s hope her fans demand the studio not attempt to “soften” of her character so she can remain the female “Spartacus”—a Roman slave who lead an infamous revolt and a very cool movie.

The words of movie heroes are now igniting real passion in the hearts of people in Thailand, moving them to take a symbolic action: raising three fingers into the air. If this goes against government wishes and leads to arrests being made then these protesters will go to jail for referencing a fictional story from a movie.

In China, the premiere of Mockingjay, Part 1 has been delayed. A movie about a rebellion to overthrow a fictional oppressive government is quashed by a government perhaps fearful of the example Katniss and her comrades might put into the heads of audiences in China. But in a familiar pattern of banning content, China potentially makes the movie (which millions will see anyway on illegal downloads) all that more powerful as a symbolic torch for freedom.

Popular culture seems to have created a worldwide narrative of “freedom,” though it’s still as vague and hazy as the fictional sources it’s being extracted from to find its final shape. At the end of the day Katniss is a fictional character living in a fabricated world conceived of by her creator Suzanne Collins.

She is not taking real action, not facing consequences for marching in the streets, she may be the spark that lights the kindling—but the kindling has to be there to light. The heart of revolution lies in the people. Fictional characters don’t create social change, people do.

Your Thoughts

  1. Have you seen the Katniss three finger salute used by people at your work, at your school or in the streets? Do you have a clear sense of its meaning?

  2. What fictional story, character or role has inspired you to political action in your own community?

  3. As an artist, have you used symbolic images to substitute for grand ideas such as freedom or social equality on the one hand or repression and fundamentalism on the other?

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KatnissPig's avatar
She rocks this world!!
chinchongcha's avatar
The epilogue from Thailand.
Nothing changed from this protest.
Gaining freedom by only show the sign from the popular movie is just a fashion.
The trending is vanished like nothing happen.
omzig89's avatar
1. I have a sense of its meaning in the story. The feeling that the hand gesture symbolizes and how that evolves is told well in the series. In an anthropology/sociology view, it is a means of organizing groups: a kind of "gang sign" (for a noble cause).

2. The story behind Tamil moves like Indian, Citizen, Thamizhan, Anbe Sivam, etc. made an impression on me as a kid that civilization is a really difficult (magnificent) thing to build and society has a huge cost of effort in upkeep. India is not far long in Independence, so we're particularly nationalistic in trying to hold together our diverse, billion+ people, retain heritage while keeping up with the times, and develop stability to endure the coming ages.

curiosityid's avatar
When I was in the theater watching Mockingjay, the scene that moved me the most was when Katniss was in the hospital, seeing the wounded there. When the people all around her gave her the three finger salute, I saw in the row directly in front of me about six kids saluting as well. Now, the salute means so much more to me than before. At one point, it was just a fandom reference. Now it is a political statement. I'm not afraid to use it. It means freedom.
Snarrk's avatar
1. It was only a joke, but it may have been circulating camp leatherneck for about a week after a small incident the marines didn't like...
2. Les Miserables-Viktor Hugo. Not entirely fiction, but a powerful story that inspires on several points in politics, amongst other things. Made a good musical too ;)
3. The Cake is a Lie. (graffiti OP)
DieHardMusicMan9125's avatar
fire is catching... it has already begun!
Odikay's avatar
I strongly recommened the audio book if you want to escape to this iconic and energizing world! It was an experience I will never forget!
MariaXD1792's avatar
she changed my life too!!! she is like my idol!!!!!!!!!!!
drawingshadows's avatar
Roseprincess1's avatar
good drawings. 
but i dont like the books or movies sorry. 
i dont DO dystopian fiction. 
StormleafofRiverClan's avatar
these pictures are awesome
TheAngelsWrathSaga's avatar
Robert Sheckley aught to sue for intellectual plagiarism.
Winter-Daughter's avatar
This drawings are so beautiful! Just like the movie!
Legonie's avatar
i really like, that they use the actual scout salut as sign of peace :) it´s awsome, that people are inspired trough the movies to stand up!
HeyItzJenine's avatar
I have seen a lot of people at my school use the three finger salute to represent the movie and I have draw many social equality related things, but haven't published them. I sketch them whenever I'm angry at the government or the world :P I use the rainbow for gay rights and a gun for violence related things.
OllyHymnia's avatar
I'm a social justice blogger, and the Hunger Games trilogy - among other recent works - has very clear and direct correlation to current world events, and certainly has inspired some of my work, from a journalistic standpoint as well as a creative one. I do not consider myself a political ideologist as much as I do an advocate for the ending of oppression, poverty, racism, violence, sexism, colonialist attitudes, and war, although fighting against these things has as much to do with politics as ideology - after all, one can't really effect change in a problematic political system that permits these things without participating in political process. 

From my Facebook yesterday (I was in the midst of watching the film adaptation of Catching Fire before going to see Mockingjay this week):

"I am in the midst of watching Catching Fire...It cuts me to see how much this film and its mother text have in common with what is happening right now - in Ferguson, in Hong Kong, in Mexico, and other places around the world where people are being oppressed and punished not only for fighting back, but simply for not supporting their oppressors enough.

"Bonus points: too many citizens are also watching those fighting back be murdered for fun."

The Mockingjay salute has come to represent - at least to me - a sign of solidarity and strength in standing against oppression and violence. I think that this is a fairly common perception of it, although certainly it means different things to different people. I have seen this salute used, and I myself have used it. Sometimes the simplest gestures can be the most powerful. 

ArcV09's avatar
Everyone knows that books are created for a purpose, each one, wether it is textbook, or a biography, or Divergent and Hunger Games. Books of fiction are entertainment and a love of the world. Who knew this would happen only because of the rebellion Katniss caused after attempting to commit suicide with Peeta. Suzanne let's hope we don't find you on the news tommorow talking about the book.
catherine91011's avatar
1. I've got the clear sense of its meaning, and yes, I have seen people using this sign - not much but there were some of them.
2. I don't like politics, just as someone here said, and even if I don't agree with what the politics are doing, for as long as it doesn't hurt people I suppose I would stay out of it.
3. I did, and I like doing this. It's the easiest way to express what I want to express.
ps.: Thank you SO much for adding my work here <3
ps2.:I'm soooo sorry for my english -.- ;_;
jabberwockymissi's avatar
Your English is great! :)
rezberri's avatar
These paintings are just, amazing *_*
Horseprincess123's avatar
perhaps seen as a kind of protest, but the sunflower movement went a bit overboard though in my opinion. occupying the legislative chamber and wrecking everything? not acceptable.
CrocodileLove's avatar
1. I saw it when I watched Catching Fire on the cinema. When it finished, small groups starting making the salute and omg it was awesome. It means support without a violence meaning.
2. I don't like politics, so I try to stay out of those things.
3. I don't remember if I used those ideas, but I've used symbolic images several times, and it's a way I truly love to express complicated ideas.

Btw, amazing artworks~!
PoppingBubble's avatar
1. No, but I've heard of it
2. Jake Sully (James Camerons 'Avatar').  After the movie, amongst other things,  I wanted to start to do volunteer enviroment and wildlife conservation working in problem areas across the world.
3. No, but I have some Ideas.
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