The Hunger Games is a billion-dollar industry with three books, four movies and millions of fans to go along with it. The Hunger Games is centered around a girl named Katniss who volunteered as tribute for her younger sister in “the hunger games”, falls in love with two boys, and fights to make their government equal. Katniss’s journey has created a massive following that includes fans, critics, and haters. The Hunger Games industry has fans who would do anything to become a part of ‘The Capital’, the main city in The Hunger Games world, and they have made a profit off their fans devotion. The Hunger Games aims to send the message of courage, equality, and girl power, however many viewers have interpreted this message differently. This following has led to people choosing teams, thinking what would Katniss do, and a discussion of what is morally/religiously right.
The dominant/hegemonic message of The Hunger Games is to show, through Katniss, that anyone can make a difference in the world through undying courage and igniting a passion in people to take action. The novels were originally aimed for young adults, but with the help of the films the fandom expanded from children to parents who have followed the journey with immense enthusiasm. Hunger Game fans even decided that they needed their own name, through the use of a Facebook poll they decided to start calling themselves “Tributes” which refers to Katniss volunteering as tribute to enter the games, which is a fight till the death between the twelve districts.
The “tributes” see The Hunger Games as an inspiring story which many people can relate to their own life, from helping children stand up to bullies to people deciding who to vote for. In Stuart Hall’s essay Encoding/Decoding the dominant reading is, “When the viewer takes the connoted meaning…and decodes the message in terms of the reference code in which it has been encoded, we might say that the viewer is operating inside the dominant code. This is the ideal-typical case of ‘perfectly transparent communication’—or as close as we are likely to come to it ‘for all practical purposes’” (59). The tributes have taken the message and even expanded on what The Hunger Games means to them personally. They took the message precisely how the producers intended.
The negotiated message is from people who still follow Katniss’s story, but they question if what she is doing is truly right. The negotiated message asks the question “What Would Katniss Do” in Kessock’s article WWKD: The Moral and Ethical Issues of the Hunger Games she discusses “The major ethical question of The Hunger Games series comes down to the Games themselves. Our heroine Katniss is forced to consider the fact that she will have to kill her fellow Tribunes before a television audience to return to her family alive. The question of when killing is justified has plagued society forever, and Katniss is presented with killing children to ensure her own survival.” They discuss how Katniss is forced to become a reluctant fighter, she still makes decisions which seem questionable when putting themselves in these specific instances. In Hall’s article he says “Negotiated codes operate through what we might call particular or situated logics: and these logics are sustained by their differential and unequal relation to the discourses and logics of power” (p. 60). These viewers have interrupted the message in a way the producers were unprepared for, they did not think people would question what Katniss did, but instead be inspired by her bravery to make those tough decisions.
The final viewpoint is held mostly by parents who see the novels and films as intended for children and scoff at the idea of allowing their children to watch anything like this. As Hall discusses the oppositional viewpoint “detotalizes the message in the preferred code in order to retotalize the message within some alternative framework of reference” (p. 61). In Murdochs’s article the comments that follow our parents who describe The Hunger Games as unchristian to watch because “I mean come on, are we supposed to believe that its Christian to watch people be brutally murdered for entertainment…the Hunger Games is TOTALLY pagan and evil.” Instead of finding Katniss’s life being inspiring and full of courage these viewers found it to be against their religion. The Hunger Games is number three on most frequently challenged books from both parents and teachers. Another argument that people made against The Hunger Games is that the films hired a lot of black actors, this was due to Suzanne Collins, the author, who described them as black in the novels. Collins wanted to spread the message of equality, but instead people were upset over many main characters being colored.
Regardless of how you interpret the text, the franchise knows how to advertise The Hunger Games and how to do it through their fans. The Hunger Games franchise used their fans as free labor, an argument which DeKosnick describes the fandom as “not devotion, or rather that is not only devotion but also antagonism, and that fans feel they must labor – that is, dedicate time, attention, creativity, intellect, and energy to commodities- to make those things be what they want them to be” (p. 102). This can be seen in the campaign called TheCapitol.pn which allowed fans to register for a district, they did so through Facebook. Fans with ID passes could later compete on Twitter to be elected “mayor” of one of the twelve districts in the book. They used hashtags such as #WhatsMyDistrict and #HungerGames100 to get fans active and involved on both twitter and Facebook. The users got more points the more things they shared from the official Facebook and Twitter of The Hunger Games sites. This spread onto other people’s timelines which was free advertising for the franchise. According to Sandra Ilar “this challenge made The Hunger Games trend worldwide on Twitter within minutes” and “The different hashtags helped Lionsgate to locate fan conversations, follow their reactions and join them like a third part” (p. 17).
In conclusion, The Hunger Games fandom continues today even after the conclusion of both of the films. Whether people believe that Katniss is an idol, has no morals, or is the devil it is clear that the company has profited off of their views either way. The Hunger Games is a perfect example of how technology can be used to spread advertisements worldwide, with the help of their fandom.
(Apr. 19, 2014). CAPITOL RULES: CULTURAL HEGEMONY AND THE HUNGER GAMES. Gender, Race and Popular Culture Blog. Retrieved from: https://queensgenderstudies125.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/capitol-rules-cultural-hegemony-and-the-hunger-games/
Chen, S. (Jun. 15, 2011). Hunger Games Fans, We Have A Name. MTV. Retrieved from: http://www.mtv.com/news/2805536/hunger-games-fans-nickname-poll/
Hall, S. (1980). Encoding/Decoding. Centre for Cultural Studies.
Ilar, S. (2014). The Hunger Games Viral Marketing Campaign. A Study of Viral Marketing and Fan Labor. Stockholmes Universitet. Retrieved from: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:732925/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Kessock, S. (Mar. 26, 2012). WWKD: The Moral and Ethical Issues of The Hunger Games. Tor.Com. Retrieved from: https://www.tor.com/2012/03/26/wwkd-the-moral-and-ethical-issues-of-the-hunger-games/
Murdoch, C. (Apr. 09, 2012). Parents Really, Really want to ban The Hunger Games Trilogy. Jezbel. Retrieved from: http://jezebel.com/5900511/parents-really-really-want-to-ban-the-hunger-games-books