Everyone who has read The Hunger Games can clearly see that the media and propaganda is a huge part of the story. In the text we see the media in all sorts of places. The media surrounds the entire Hunger Games and makes it something that people want to watch. The media also acts to keep the districts in line with the aggravated hype created with the Hunger Games. Media is incredibly influential in real life, and is exemplified fictionally in The Hunger Games.
One of the main examples of the influence of the media in the story that comes to my mind is the portrayal of Katniss and Peeta’s romance that is broadcasted nationwide. Peeta originally introduced his love interest as a tactic to survive in the Hunger Games, which shows how he used the media to his advantage. In turn, the media used the story of the lovers to their own advantage, to capture the nation’s attention. Everyone loves a good romance; it’s why our own nation is enamored with shows like The Bachelor. In the book it is no different, and Katniss and Peeta get all sorts of attention. Therefore, I’m sure there would’ve been advertisements and propaganda created around them which was not specifically addressed in the novel.
The star-crossed lover story line came to bite the Capitol (and therefore the media) in the butt later, however, when Katniss and Peeta were the only two remaining people in the arena, and they were about to kill themselves instead of each other. This was an act of defiance against the Capitol, and was portrayed in the media to all of Panem. In this way, Katniss and Peeta unwittingly used the media to their own advantage. They used it to win the Hunger Games, and ultimately to spark the rebellion of the districts.
Last week, we discussed dysptopias in detail – various definitions, comparing dystopian novels to other genres, and their usage in Young Adult literature. One topic that was explored in various posts was the idea that one individual’s dystopia could be another’s utopia. Propaganda is defined as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”(1) In the same sense, we’ve seen how propaganda has been used to promote the false ideals of a selective utopia to those who bear the brunt of the dystopian aspects.
One of the best examples of such propaganda is presented during the Reaping in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The scene starts by describing the selection of a “courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing” the District in the Hunger Games. Right from the start, the speech attempts to influence the districts towards the idea that participating in the Games is a prestigious role, that results in wealth and glory. Even the name of the event could be considered an attempt to disguise its gruesome reality as a show of power by the Capitol. They take the children of the districts and force them to fight to the death for entertainment, and there isn’t anything the people can do to stop it. Obviously, this feeble attempt at propaganda has little success among the districts, however it is supplied with a second message by showing the people the ruins of District 13 year after year. This has the effect of reminding the people that the Games were a direct result of the Districts defying the Capitols power during the so-called “Dark Days”. We only see the video played in District 12, however when viewed on a larger scale, it actually could be considered a very clever work of propaganda. For the Districts, it reminds the people of the power of the government, as well as the consequences of defied the established order. On the other hand, for the brainwashed individuals of the Capitol, who have grown up knowing only the glory of the Games and the Capitol, it functions as a tool to convince them that they were in a time of peace and prosperity, as opposed to the Dark Days, which is portrayed as a direct result of the ungracious districts rebelling against the faultless Capitol. We can see how the meaning and implications of the video is different depending on whether it’s viewed by a struggling, fearful citizen of the districts or a pampered member of the Capitol who lives in comfort and prosperity.
The marketing campaigns for The Hunger Games movie actually presents a shockingly similar view to the propaganda in the film itself. Making use of electronic communication more commonly used by the younger generation that made up their target audience, the producers primarily advertised on social media as a cheap, but effectual method of reaching the public. However, due to worries about marketing a battlefield for children as a young adult movie, they carefully didn’t release any footage of the actual Games, as well as avoided any mention of the concept of children killing other children, directing the advertisements towards the fact that “only one wins”. (2) It’s amazing to think that propaganda so similar that is so obvious in the movie, can go unnoticed by the general populace.
1. “Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda
2. “How ‘Hunger Games’ Built Up Must-See Fever”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/business/media/how-hunger-games-built-up-must-see-fever.html
Propaganda has been used for ages to convince people to believe in something. Propaganda can be and has been used as a tool for the government to convince people to follow their lead. In The Hunger Games, The Capitol uses a wide variety of propaganda to get the districts to remain under their control. For example, one way the capitol got the districts to go along with The Hunger Games is by making it a mandatory and a necessary way for a lot of families to get food and keep from starving. If The Hunger Games did not exist families would not be able to trade entries for tesserae.
Although the games are already mandatory, The Capitol ensures the persistence of the games by making it impossible to ignore. Speaking of making it impossible to ignore, the main form of propaganda that The Capitol uses is electronic media. The Capitol makes sure every household has a television even when they might need something else more. Katniss and her family almost starve after her dad dies, but they also always had a television to watch the games. The reason everyone has a television is so the capitol can make everyone watch the games even if they do not want to.
In addition, by giving everyone a television The Capitol can control the information that the districts receive. They can send messages out that they want the districts to hear and they can withhold information that they don’t want the districts to hear. Just like how in our society we mainly rely on digital media to deliver all our information, Panem relies on digital media to deliver all of their information. The power of this propaganda can be seen when Katniss arrives in the capitol and knows nothing about what is going on in the other districts other than what they specialize in. She later learns about the violence that has been occurring in District 11, and couldn’t believe that a district could be any worse off that District 12.
Overall, The Capitol uses media propaganda to provide the districts with only the information that they want to provide. This withholding and changing of information allows The Capitol to keep the districts under their control.