Unintended Consequences: Hunger Games Hurts Television?

Forgive me the morning ‘grin and giggle’ here, but I had to chuckle at the Reuters report that ‘“Hunger Games” success spells trouble for TV ads.’ What’s so funny?

The books in the Panem Saga have teevee programming right in their target sites. Television is a means of the power holders and their Gamesmakers to bend and shape the thinking and will of the Capitol’s citizens and the enslaved Districts. If anything, the attacks are over-the-top in portraying the hijacking quality of screened images; no one, it seems, has the ability to resist the ‘Propos’ produced by either side so control of the air waves becomes the means to victory almost as much as armed conflict in the Mockingjay Rebellion,

The first movie, however, largely hijacked the hijacking, anti-teevee message of the books, which, sadly, had to be expected when the Gamesmakers are asked to make a film about the evils of Gamesmakers. Even many serious readers of the books have been hijacked by the movie’s counter-narrative message that it is government, not movie/teevee makers, that are the wrong-doers (in the cinematic Catching Fire look for Plutarch Heavensbee  joining the rebels in order to revenge the martyr Seneca Crane…), which, sadly, only makes the author’s point about the dangers of the medium.

Now we learn that the movie’s novel means of promoting itself = through fandom online promotions and word of mouth buzz rather than through saturation television advertising — may strike a real financial blow to the industry that even the books’ satirical acid couldn’t have hoped to work.

You see, the Teevee Beast lives on revenues from commercials, and, especially in the summer when outdoor activities lower television watching, in large part on movie advertisements for the blockbuster films aimed at children not in school.

If studios are attentive to their bottom lines (which they absolutely are in insisting on Return On Investment in marketing money, if not so much in making movies people want to see), this could starve the Beast and speed the decline of larger broadcast media versus online entertainment. Again, forgive me for finding it funny that the movie, which hijacked the anti-television message of the novels, could be the delivery system for a sword thrust into the Teevee Monster’s vitals.

Your comments and corrections, as always, are coveted. Hat tip, RevGeorge!


  1. I disagree; everyone I saw the movie with was disgusted with the Gamemakers and Seneca Crane. They were clearly antagonists along with Snow and seen as being quite sick. I can’t imagine sympathizing with them. Crane’s death inspires a tinge of regret but nothing compared to the Games (3 total?) he helped orchestrate.
    I would also say that the portrayal of the Gamemakers clearly indicates a cruel misuse of technology and gets the viewer thinking about the dangers of technology. We see this amazing touch screen type technology (along with genetic and environmental manipulation) being used to torture and kill. I can’t see how anyone could see the portrayal of the Gamemakers as positive in any way, shape or form.

  2. Gotta agree with Kelli here. The movie didn’t portray the Gamemakers as martyrs in my opinion. But aside from that, even if it had erroneously suggested that the media makers were resisting the government (which is a message we only begin to explore properly in “Mockingjay”, with Animal Farm twists) that doesn’t mean that the books were only about media messages. The Orwellian resonances of the book existed long before any movie adaptation could have ‘hijacked’ anyone’s interpretations. I am very surprised that you insist that it’s a hijacking to see the books as exploring the interplay between propaganda, oppression, and surveillance in a post-Orwellian sense, combining critique of both government and media/business power.

  3. Readers who disagree with these views can be found here and here.

    I gotta disagree with you both, Sarah and Kelli, but thank you for joining the conversation! From your view, of course, the loss of teevee revenue was not ironic but natural, even cause and effect?

  4. John, I’m not sure that something so far reaching can be attributed to the success of any movie (unfortunately, because people want entertainment, not a challenge to live and be better). I think the conclusions that the Reuters article comes to are at least a little faulty in that I think that the movie had the buzz and excitement because of the books, not because of the online marketing (which is set up as the alternative to TV marketing, which is what the article says is declining). Though I do see some truth in their claims because I prefer watching 2-3 minute long trailers online (I guess that’s part of online marketing?), which have time to set up the story and get you emotionally invested, versus TV trailers, which are too short, too cheesy and too clumsy. On another note I know that lots of people have been getting rid of their satellite/cable in favor of Netflix, hulu, etc. and that’s been going on for a long time.

    I don’t think that anyone is saying that the lessons we learn from THG are being implemented en masse anywhere (maybe in classrooms that teach the book, but that’s a small example), if that’s what you mean by cause and effect. I don’t think the article was coming from that angle. I would say that if it is happening, it would be happening on an individual level. At least that’s how I’ve experienced both the book and the movie which I will explain in some detail with the following paragraphs. First, I read the book “The Hunger Games and the Gospel” which was great and showed how similar our world (today) is to Panem. A lot of the suggestions for change are indeed very challenging (though worthwhile!). But when I talk to others about these ideas, it’s so far out of their comfort zone. They want to blame someone else. They don’t want to face the fact that something they do every day could be hurting someone else. And that’s without mentioning war and military actions. So I think people might understand the messages, and even appreciate them- but it’s very hard to change behavior. How many times will we learn about slave labor and abusive practices in the manufacture of our chocolate, clothes and electronics and feel intense sadness for it? but will we ever make concrete efforts to contributing to the end of these practices? No, because we’re comfortable (a la Capital) and the suffering of those who provide for us (like the Districts) is of little concern in the long run. Maybe for 5 minutes we will care, but in an hour our minds will be elsewhere. People will nod and say that they agree, but go on doing the same things. However I DO want to make changes, and while it’s a slow process for me right now it is something I think about a lot. Hopefully thought becomes action.

    Second, It’s going to take a lot to get people to get sick of TV. I myself am not a fan of most reality shows and instead I prefer dramas and comedies. After reading THG and seeing the movie I definitely cannot see reality TV and news coverage (especially of wars) the same way ever again. For me that is definitely a concrete change that I don’t think will fade with time. The interplay of real vs. not real is something that I think I will be pondering for a long time.

    Third, another thing for me is that I see the movie as a “re-sensitization to violence,” versus the so common desensitization to violence. So many movies and TV shows make violence seem so common and without consequence so to watch a movie like THG where the violence has weight, and is emotionally devastating, is important to me. When a tribute dies, even if they were vicious and willing to participate in the games, you still feel the ton of bricks hitting you when you see them die. This is how we should react to violence. It should bother us. It might be necessary for the story but we should never be comfortable with it. However, most movies with violence trivialize, glorify or normalize it. It’s much easier to do those things than to recognize it for what it is. To give you an example, I watched Inception again last night. In the movie, the characters shoot and kill “projections” which look just like real people. They don’t hesitate, and there are no consequences to doing this. No, it isn’t “real” (or is it? Nobody asks about the dead projections, so how do we know that they don’t have any kind of real existence?) and the projections are shooting right back at them, but when contrasted with THG it is indeed shocking to see people shooting at and killing people that look and act like real people without even pausing to consider what they are doing, even though they only exist within the dream. Don’t get me wrong, I think Inception is a great film and I enjoy it conceptually but it is hard to swallow that people so readily accept violence like that, and then bristle at the violence in THG that is clearly shown as horrifying with serious and lasting consequences. I’m planning to see the Avengers next weekend and I’m afraid that there’ll be just as many deaths but no time taken to consider the weight of the loss of the victims.
    It seems like that’s how the people in the Capitol watched the Hunger Games – cheering for the action but caring very little about the deaths and the intensely damaged souls of the “victors” (those that either choose to or are forced to act violently). However, in the movie, we don’t see it that way and for that I appreciate the great care taken. This is another example of the book and movie being successful for me- as with reality TV and news coverage, I don’t think I’ll ever watch movies the same way again.

    Sorry this is so long. I feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg though! I haven’t even mentioned the value of family and love over power among a myriad of other great themes that have stuck with me from both the book and movie. I hope it helps demonstrate another point of view. I know you feel differently, and that’s OK. Everybody reacts to things differently. I loved (and still love!) the Lord of the Rings movies and learned to live with the big changes (Faramir in TTT, Frodo sending Sam home, etc.) so to have a movie adaptation of The Hunger Games be so faithful to the book is absolutely wonderful for me. No, I don’t think it got everything right but I love all of the things they did get right and I think there are more things right than wrong. I know that you do not agree but I just wanted to express my opinion. 🙂

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