Once upon a time, we innocently went about our lives, casually looking forward to a movie coming to the multiplex near us. We made it a date, we bought popcorn, we got to our seat early, so as not to have to sit in the very first row (or so to secure those seats, depending on personal preference). We sat through the previews, we sat, breathlessly or not, through the film, we might even have sat through the credits. And then we went home, or to a nearby venue, and discussed the film, and maybe thought about it the next day, or even a week later, depending on how good it was and the ways in which it affected us. And then, sooner rather than later, we moved on to the next film.
Things are different now. Not to say things were so simple then; move-makers have generally promoted the movies they spend millions of dollars on in hopes of recouping those costs and maybe even finding they have a monumental hit on their hands. Hype was always a part of the moviegoing experience, but it wasn't always so blatantly so, perhaps. The Hunger Games seems to embody a perfect storm of much-anticipated cinema plus the power of fandom plus the power of the Internet, equalling a level of hype heretofore unprecedented. As much as you bring up examples—Twilight and the Harry Potter franchises come to mind—there was no "Bella diet" or "Goblet of Fire workout challenge." There weren't the articles after articles discussing what the movie might be, how it might be marketed, how it was marketed, whom it is and/or was being marketed to, and then, inevitably even the articles bemoaning the hype (see: this). It's as if in awaiting the much-awaited film we all sort of lost our minds. It's all we can talk about, and until we're talking about the movie itself, we'll talk about what we expect of it. We'll pre-order our tickets for the premiere -- March 23! -- which we may or may not have done a month ago. We'll re-read the books (this is acceptable). We'll follow along on the Internet, from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr to YouTube and so on. We'll watch the trailers and read the teasers and participate in the forums but also, we'll plan the Hunger Games dinner parties, do the Hunger Games workouts, diet like the Hunger Games, dress like the Hunger Games participants (or members of the Capitol, complete with IDs and everything) -- or possibly worse, plan any of the aforementioned as part of our Hunger Games media blitz. We are powerless to resist the machine. We'll co-opt others into our fold without even knowing it. Perhaps this has happened to you...
On the plus side, The Hunger Games has given us jaded adults a chance to be truly excited about something, something that, in the long run, has virtually no impact on our actual lives. It's pure enjoyment, something we don't get all that often in this crazy world. And maybe it will even get us out of the house, instead of sitting in front of our computers day in and day out, to watch something on the big screen. On the minus side are the marketing-centric "how the sausage is made" reveals, which serve to remind the cynical reader that she's just as much a part of this "game" as everyone else as they simultaneously pat the marketers on the back for a game well played. As Brooks Barnes writes in The New York Times, "The dark art of movie promotion increasingly lives on the Web, where studios are playing a wilier game, using social media and a blizzard of other inexpensive yet effective online techniques to pull off what may be the marketer’s ultimate trick: persuading fans to persuade each other."
It all makes a movie poster look rather sweet.
Knowing that, a Hunger Games-steeped fan might even go so far as to make a comparison between the movie's intended audience and Katniss and her cohorts themselves -- we also are just part of the system, if not of one so dark and dire as the one depicted in the series. Movie fans won't have to fight to the death, at least, we hope not... but if the sold-out shows are any indication, there may be some elbow-jabbing for armrest territory. Some of us may be fed on lamb stew prior to the show.
Is the hype a bit much? Absolutely. Can the movie survive it? Probably. Will we go see it anyway? Obviously. Because the thing is, whether it's good publicity or bad publicity, the odds are pretty much always in favor of hype. At the same time, prepare yourself for the impending backlash to a movie that may make $90 million in its opening weekend. It's what Katniss would do, or so we'd like to imagine.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.