The movie lived up to the hype as an out-of-the-blocks blockbuster with a $155 million opening weekend, making it the most successful non-sequel debut ever. The first “Twilight” movie’s $69.6 million weekend opener pales in comparison. Everyone is talking about “The Hunger Games” –- the first of the three-part franchise based on The New York Times bestselling books by Suzanne Collins. The trilogy is the literary heir apparent to both “Twilight” and “Harry Potter,” not to mention “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
So what can this genre-bending teen fiction series teach us about social media?
In a word: plenty. In fact it’s the quintessential social media metaphor. Just as Katniss Everdeen is the reluctant catalyst for a revolution, “The Hunger Games” is an unwitting microcosm of social networking.
There are cameras everywhere, recording the slightest nuance of Katniss and the other Hunger Games tributes, selected to represent their districts in a fight-to-the-death, gladiator-style reality show. The world is tuned in and watching the real-time smack down as it plays out in a climate-controlled, simulated ecosystem, designed to test the mettle of the child warriors while providing a titillating viewer experience. It’s a mashup of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and web-enabled TV with live-streaming video 24/7. There’s also the ominous threat of Big Brother lurking at every turn, so be careful what you say, do, tweet, post …
And what of our insatiable appetite for blood, gore and romance in real time?
We get that from our Twitter stream on a daily basis. Our feed is literally our IV to world news, politics, sports, natural disasters and flour attacks on D-List celebrities. And it’s real, right? We don’t want anything inauthentic or contrived. Never mind that the spontaneous wildfire that forces Katniss to flee is computer generated and controlled by the Gamemakers, just like the pack of vicious mutant dogs. We want to feel, experience and empathize as part of a shared community. The annual Hunger Games are digital voyeurism for the corrupt Capitol residents as well as the denizens of the downtrodden districts, who look like extras from “Grapes of Wrath.” Henry Fonda would have been right at home in District 12.
The Hunger Games are authentic, unscripted drama. That’s social media, right?
Just as sponsors pick favorites from among the tributes to gift with balms and bread, advertisers reward influential bloggers and tweeters with endorsements. It’s how the games are played.
And like our heroine and hero, Katniss and Peeta, social media is still pure, still well intentioned and naive. Grassroots movements like Occupy Wall Street take hold and flourish on social networks. The sparks of real-life revolutions in Egypt and Libya were ignited via Twitter and Facebook, just as the tiny flames of revolution are flickering at the end of the first “Hunger Games” book and movie. Something is up. The Girl on Fire is an unstoppable force. The collective consciousness has been raised. The masses are mobilizing, one person at a time. Change is in the air, tweeted by the Mockingjays. It’s ambient around us. As we teeter on the verge of viral combustion, may the odds be ever in your favor.