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There are makeup and nail polish lines and Subway sandwich tie-ins and an entire fake magazine dedicated to its fancy clothes. So of course The Hunger Games was going to wind up with a theme park, no matter how cringingly out-of-step with the book's messages that might actually be.
According to Variety Lionsgate, which produces the massive film franchise based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling books, is considering the possibility of Hunger Games theme parks in two "territories"-- whether that means individual lands within Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park or actual countries, I have no idea. The information comes from Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer during a conference call with investors, who have reason to feel pretty good right now. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is coming to theaters on November 22 and is expected to break box office records; more expensive than the first Hunger Games but still a pretty reasonably priced blockbuster, Catching Fire is practically a guaranteed moneymaker, the kind of thing that inspires a whole lot of merchandising pipe dreams, theme parks included.
Set aside what would actually be in a Hunger Games theme park, and how on earth they plan on recreating the Arena without having guests sign a million waivers and padding every single attendee in bubble wrap. We seem to have finally reached a point where we really have to talk about the merchandising that surrounds this movie, and how impressively Lionsgate has acted like politicians throughout his whole thing, promoting the movie's themes of self-sacrifice and rebellion out of one side of their mouth while monetizing the shit out it on the other side. I cringed when, before the release of the first movie, Lionsgate teamed with nail polish manufacturer China Glaze to make "Colors from the Capitol," with hues like " " commemorating the soulless people of the Capitol who watch children fight to the death for fun. But that was really only the beginning-- next came the Capitol Couture clothing line, the Cover Girl tie-ins, and even posters for the movie like this one, promoting the makeup and fashion of a character who has no interest in either.
If the marketing for The Hunger Games were true to the spirit of Katniss, it would be all about instructional manuals on how to hunt and kill your own squirrels, cookbooks about making the most of your meager rations, and a single-page fashion spread that says "Tie your hair up in a braid and get on with your day." But it's not even just about our heroine-- the entire arc of the Hunger Games trilogy is about rejecting the fashion and spectacle that distracts people from the horrors of real life. There is a brutal, unavoidable irony in the idea of people decked out in Capitol Couture clothing going to see Catching Fire in a movie theater, a place that still doesn't quite feel safe after 2012's mass shooting in Colorado. It is absurd to show audiences a movie about the heroic, rules-defying and resilient Katniss, then sell them a thousand-dollar Mockingjay pin-- just like Katniss's, for a price she could never afford. It's as if, in marketing tie-ins around Harry Potter, everything was intended to make you feel like the Dursleys or the Malfoys. It's like making Star Wars toys and assuming every kid wants to pretend they're on the Death Star.
Would a Hunger Games theme park be awesome? Sure! I want to know what it's like to walk through the Hob, or to watch the TV ceremonies before the games, or to be chased down by some of the terrifying stuff the Gamesmakers come up with. But if that queasiness when buying an $80 fake wand from Ollivander's at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter feels weird, just wait until you belly up for Greasy Sae's soup at the Hob and it's $14, plus extra if it comes in a commemorative bowl. The Hunger Games books only get more rebellious and less interested in niceties as they go along-- but the franchise has another directive entirely.