In 2012, after the release of the first Hunger Games film, a disturbing trend emerged: official Hunger Games-themed tie-in merchandise that you could buy to feel more a part of the story, or something. That trend continues with the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Witness, for instance, the CoverGirl's "Capitol Collection" of mascaras, lip gloss, and other cosmetics. Or high-end chocolatier Vosges' character-themed chocolate bars (resulting in the unintentionally hilarious consequence of letting you "eat-a Peeta"). Or Subway's "Fiery Footlong" sandwiches, including a sweepstakes in which you can win your own "victory tour."
Or the (let it not be so) rumored theme park, at which children presumably will not be reaped and placed in the arena for a fight to the death to keep the people cowering in fear. Presumably.
I'm not just frustrated, I'm appalled: all this tie-in merchandise declaws the story of The Hunger Games, in much the same way that the actual affluent Capitol in the books declaws the seriousness of the "real" Hunger Games—a forced gladiatorial battle between teenagers—by staging flashy weeks-long television specials around it in order to distract from the horror of juvenile carnage by making it entertaining.
The movies (gratefully) violently counteract any attempt we might make to see them as fun escapism. To see The Hunger Games is not to be entertained. The films' greatest redemptive feature is their pervasive sadness, from the faces of every character to the musical score to the bleak sets. Even during the biggest, most lavish celebrations at the Capitol, we know the ones who are enjoying themselves are ...