Hold on to Your Hats (or Wig, Effie); It’s the Capitol Couture Website

by Elizabeth on January 30, 2012

While it’s unlikely that I will possibly be able to keep up with every single new development as the Hunger Games film release date draws near (March 23), I hope I can make a few comments on some of the more fascinating/horrifying/just plain bizarre news and hoopla that we’ll see over the next couple of months (for, we hope, more sanity and thoughtfulness, watch for our upcoming review of our favorite Hunger Games posts). One new item has certainly caught my interest: the launch of the new Capitol Couture website. Join me after the jump for some conversation about why this flashy-splashy website is intriguing, thought-provoking, and (I hope) a big joke.

As with the Capitol website, which places visitors in Districts, with Mayors and Tribute fan clubs, this new Capitol Couture site was launched over several days with teaser links and hints about the needed password (#lookyourbest). Once it actually emerged, the site appeared to be a full-on Capitol fashion magazine, with catty little snippets about how “cute” Katniss was in her volunteering in Prim’s place, tips on how to have a first-class Effie-style manicure, and features on REAL fashion celebrities grafted into the Capitol world. For example, the actual designer Alexander McQueen is credited as the inspiration for Effie’s ridiculous high-heeled gold peep-toe booties, and one panel asks who will be sporting the Mugler outfit in the picture. My first thought was that this must be a very clever joke, showing how our obsession with labels and designer names could easily mutate into the horrific world of Panem, while at once showing how ridiculous some of our actual fashion trends really are (skullcap neckmanes? For real?). Honestly, if this is what is considered beautiful on the red carpet, that’s pretty funny.

I am also a hopeless costume nut, so I am very intrigued by the way in which the film Gamemakers have created an amazing visual palette for the Capitol and its people. In fact, Elizabeth Banks, who plays Effie (and who campaigned mightily for the role since she loved the books, so she’s okay with me) describes her style (for which she really did have her eyebrows bleached) as “Marie Anotinette.” So she clearly gets the underlying message, here–Let them eat Lamb Stew!

Sadly, though, I think the website, for all its potential for social criticism, is really just to attract viewers who actually want to imitate the Capitol look (considering that Elizabeth Banks was relieved any filming day that she got to wear gloves instead of the nutty Effie manicure, I can’t see the Effie nail look as really catching on, but stranger fashion trends have happened.)

It really is interesting to see some of the articles written from the standpoint of Collins’s characters, even those whom we find despicable, as Cinna guesses. Whoever is writing Effie’s articles certainly has what Katniss calls her “maniacally upbeat” tone down pat. It is also interesting to see how a character like Seneca Crane (who isn’t actually named until Catching Fire) can develop more fully when freed from the confines of the novel’s first-person point-of-view (I actually used this in class as an example of how any point of view is both limiting and useful). It is also important, particularly for those of us who are fighting gag reflex from just skimming the site, to remember that the Capitol citizens are not evil; in fact, as our Stellar Four friends remind us, this site may help us remember that much of the rebellion’s fire–literal and figurative–comes from Cinna, Mr. Capitol Fashion himself.

I also hope that the site, as silly as frivolous as it may seem, may actually serve Collins’s purpose: to reveal our own tendencies to be like Katniss’s prep team of ditzy, likable flakes who are so swept up in the trendy, the cute, the fashionable that we often lose sight of the realities of life for most of the world. Perhaps we will laugh at our selves and our trends, and realize our own flaws(okay, I do think too much about my nail polish colors).

Sadly, since I can’t even get the local movie theater to see how super it would be to partner with the local food bank for a big drive during the movie (like letting people get a discount for bringing canned goods, or something), I am not hopeful. I don’t mean to cast myself as the little boy screaming: “The Emperor is naked!” but I have a feeling that most visitors who come to the site are not noticing the social commentary, or even looking at the great expressions on the District 12 delegation in the clip that showcases Effie’s whole ensemble. They just want to get a pair of those shoes.

Comments? Questions? Critiques of my accessory choices?
Thanks to Stellar Four for the heads-up on your post!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Ellen February 2, 2012 at 10:31 am

I confess that I find watching Hollywood ‘do’ the Capitol and its artificial glitter absolutely fascinating. To be perfectly honest, even though my serious side realized that it was satire, I secretly loved, loved, loved the whole Katniss makeover part of Hunger Games! At the risk of sounding like one of the kids, OMG I can’t wait to see the Girl on Fire dress!!! ;)

Jane B February 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I just went and had my first look at the website, and it’s certainly something else. I experienced the same kind of morbid fascination as I did when I was reading the Capitol scenes in the book. Because really, there’s a part of me that really enjoys the zany, fun, over-the-top Capitol styles. Of course, in the context of the books, the wackiness becomes grotesque when juxtaposed with the suffering of the Districts.

Just like the media and corporations of our own world, the Capitol has figured out that if it distracts the people at home with trivialities like Effie’s fashion choices, they won’t pay attention to what’s going on outside the city, and therefore won’t cause trouble. And the people there, like so many people here, are all too willing to go along, so that they won’t have to think too hard about the horrors around them. I often wish that my biggest worry were the color of my shoes.

I found the whole phenomenon of the Capitol to be a very powerful device in the novels, particularly the first one. It makes everything else that happens three times as creepy as it would be otherwise.

Kathleen February 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

This photo of Effie bears a resemblance to Johnny Depp’s makeup as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.

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