Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I thought the first film was too poorly shot, had some lousy supporting turns, and didn’t offer a deep enough exploration of its subject matter. Catching Fire fixed virtually all of that and my opinion has only improved with subsequent mental revisits. While I might write a separate article detailing why I like it so much, I want to bring to your attention the ancillary aspects that are actually just fucking gross.
I have no problem with marketing in and of itself. You got to sell your product and there are trained, intelligent people who exist to sell things. This could be good or bad, depending on what they’re selling and how they’re selling. With Catching Fire, we have both: what Lionsgate, the studio bankrolling and distributing the film, is selling is really good. But how it’s selling it is disgusting and contradictory of the very themes of the material.
My eyebrow raised first when I started seeing advertisements for the movie’s soundtrack, which features Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and Christina Aguilera. Glancing down the track list, I saw a bevy of pop bands, most of whom had just gained their fame. The soundtrack feels like a cash-in on popular names in a cynical attempt to synergize those names with a popular movie without looking for music that really fits the tone and themes of the movie. I felt that Lionsgate either didn’t know or care what it was doing with this.
But the soundtrack isn’t what set off the alarms in my brain. This piece by Devin Faraci at Badass Digest illuminated me on how flip Lionsgate is about its property. It threw an extravagant, lavish party to celebrate a movie that is about overthrowing the rich. Faraci aptly states that “cognitive dissonance doesn’t even begin to describe [it]” in his article.
What we have here is a case of art and commerce benefiting each other as they simultaneously contradict each other. That’s the dissonance. The film about overthrowing the rich is making rich people richer, and the extravagant marketing budget is making a genuinely good film, made by genuinely talented and passionate artists, more ingrained in the public consciousness. For a simply “good movie,” that’s expected and necessary. But for an excellent one starring a female lead, that’s reason to celebrate.
I’m not surprised a corporation would celebrate the guaranteed sell that is Catching Fire, but this still bugs the shit out of me. This is a movie about the desolation of the poor and how the rich uses clever messaging and popular culture to distract society from its problems. I don’t know Lionsgate executives see this themselves, but I’m getting blurry vision already.