The Hunger Games: When Symbolism Transcends Fiction

hunger games

Today we bring you a guest post co-written by two PR professionals from LevickErin Flior, Vice President of Digital Communications and David Robinson, Fellow.

It’s a rare and mystifying event when cultural phenomenon happens. Since Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 release, audiences across the globe are again thrown into the dystopian world of Panem. However, it seems that scenes and symbols from the Hunger Games are blending with our world.

PR tactics in the movie

Throughout the series, and more prevalent in the latest installment, characters are media savvy. Before contestants or TV personalities appear on television, they are repeatedly drilled in talking points and key message themes similar to any politician running for office here in the U.S., and this comes before the hours of hair, makeup, and costume design.

The corrupt government in Panem relies heavily on propaganda videos to dispense fear mongering among the rest of the districts. During the Hunger Games through twitter-like updates, viewers are notified the instant a game contestant is no longer competing. Daily recaps of the day’s events are reviewed in a detestable Nightly News/Sports Center hybrid.

And that’s just the antagonists.

The leaders of the rebellion may not have the same resources, but they get their message broadcast by hacking the government’s television signals. During their time of oppression, rebel leaders have picked up a few tactics and now use them to craft their own messages. These key ingredients are the recipe for rebellion and ultimately, war.

Hunger Games’ real-life PR team

The real-life PR team of the Hunger Games franchise has been nothing short of excellent in advance of the third installment. Before the release of the latest installment, a twitter account was setup for the government of Panem. In a series of mock tweets, Panem’s government strongly seeks to reassert control over its citizens.

In addition to that, mock posters, PSAs, and even pirate transmissions from the rebels are distributed through the account as well. The marketing team has also setup a mock website where fans of the series can share the promotional material with their friends, making it a highly marketable and widely discussed. Check the Instagram and Pintrest feeds for Katniss Everdeen Halloween costumes. Hunger Games apps, toys, and even sponsorships are prevalent. Every bit of the fictitious world is slowly seeping into our reality.


The movie “is aiming at $150 million in domestic ticket sales” on opening weekend. This should be attainable given that over 4,000 theatres will show it multiple times on a daily basis. With that great of a reach, it’s clear that the Hunger Games PR team knows their demographic, but the way this is playing out is interesting.

In Thailand, chief Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control over the country. Among other things, he has inserted himself as prime minister and declared martial law. Protestors used the release of Mockingjay to demonstrate their frustration with their government. During an event were Prayuth presented, five protestors flashed the three-fingered hand gesture made popular in the series, and were immediately dragged away by the police. As if on cue, Prayut said from the stage, ”Anybody (else) want to protest?” The hand gesture, which ultimately stands for unity in the series, is now banned and subsequently, the movie is no longer being shown in certain cities.

Our society is moving ever-closer to blending the line between fiction and reality. Through trial and error, PR teams continually research best practices for connecting with their audience. Sometimes results are pitiful, coming off as too contrived. Other times, as in the case of the Hunger Games and other storied franchises, the results are a true cultural phenomenon.

To the companies hoping to add their names to this prestigious list I say, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”