When the second installment of the The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, was released, the consumer market exploded. Dozens of figurines, t- shirts, iconic Mockingjay pins, party favors, tote bags, mugs, and more sprung up across the country. Magazine articles sprouted up with headlines screaming in large, bold letters about exclusive interviews with the main cast members, including Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) , Liam Hensworth (Peeta Mellark), and Josh Hutcherson (Gale Hawthorne), the infamous members of the love triangle the media has come to dote on.
One of the most common things asked in these interviews, is on the rivalry that the media has fed upon between ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale.’
However, this discussion of the love triangle (which, in reality, barely exists within the first movie and is touched upon briefly in the first half of the second), is not what the movies overall take away was designed to be. In one memorable scene of Catching Fire, Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta, “From now on your job is to be a distraction so people forget what the real problems are.” The huge market of The Hunger Games apparel, the discussion of who Katniss ought to choose, are all distractions from the main point of the film. The media’s response and hype of the movie has most accurately paralleled that of the capitol- focusing on the love story and not of what is really going on.
I wish that there would be more discussion from these magazines about the social commentary that the movie is fixating on in regard to class. How the elite are getting rich at the expense and exploitation of the poor, as is seen today in the US. In Catching Fire, those who live in the capitol, symbolizing the upper middle through upper class, have tonics they take to make themselves sick so they may eat even more food, while Katniss and Peeta come from an area where starvation is a common experience. In 2012, according to Feeding America, 46.5 million people in the US were in poverty, with 49 million living in food insecure households. The experience of many living in the nation of Panema parallels that of living within the US.
Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow in Catching Fire, wants to see people take action. In an interview with The Guardian, he states, “I hope that they will take action because it’s getting drastic in this nation.” He goes on to discuss the prevalent issues of racism, hunger, tax dodging, and many other issues that need to be addressed. “Hopefully,” he states, “they will see this film and the next film and the next film and then maybe organize. Stand up.”
Donald Sutherland as President Snow in Catching Fire, image found from Hypeable.
Ultimately, I believe that Catching Fire is a great film and has the potential to be revolutionary. It targets the young adult population and calls out to them about issues that are occurring today within the United States. It takes gender roles and flips them on their head, as Katniss is seen as a symbol of strength, her sister Prim is the no- nonsense doctor, Johanna turns her anger and confidence into one of her greatest attributes, Cinna as a parental figure to Katniss. And it is because of these men and women and these messages that am frustrated with the media and how they have portrayed the stories within Catching Fire. There is the potential to pull out so much more than choosing between who Katniss ought to date- but, as Haymitch stated in the movie, this is a distraction.