A cultural tug of war is brewing between conservatives and liberals over the message of “The Hunger Games.”
Are the popular teen novels and films a leftist call for the downtrodden to rise up against the rich? Or an Orwellian take on the dangers of Big Government?
On one side of the argument is the Harry Potter Alliance, a group that aims to push a progressive agenda by politicizing popular young-adult novels and their fans.
For the New York-based nonprofit, “The Hunger Games” trilogy is more than the gripping tale of a brave teenage girl fighting for her life in a dystopian society — it’s a call for progressive social change.
The alliance launched its “Odds in Our Favor” campaign Nov. 21, the day before the release of the second “Hunger Games” movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. The drive is aimed at pushing what the organization calls the movie’s central theme: income inequality.
That interpretation may come as a shock to fans focused on the love triangle involving Katniss, Peeta and Gale. It certainly comes as a surprise to conservative fans of the books and films, who say the Harry Potter Alliance is willfully ignoring the real antagonist of “The Hunger Games” series, namely the fictional world's totalitarian government.
“To look at the ‘Hunger Games’ and not see that the people running the government are the evil ones is deliberate blindness,” said Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the conservative Media Research Center.
Andrew Slack, executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance, isn’t buying the Orwellian subtext, and he also has problems with the advertising blitz that announced the coming of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” calling it “a slick, glossy spectacle.”
“‘The Odds in Our Favor’ campaign works to ‘hack’ the multimillion-dollar media campaign promoting the movie to make sure the central message of the story doesn’t get lost: the economic inequality of the movie isn’t a fiction for millions of Americans today,” the alliance said in a press release.
The campaign urges supporters to launch volunteer projects that address “the 12 districts of economic inequality,” which include “health-care access, homelessness, voting access, unemployment and food security.”
“Like it or not, ‘The Hunger Games’ are real,” says the narrator of a video accompanying the launch.
“The left tries to structure every narrative as the one they want, and they get away with it because they have greater access to the media, and in some cases, they’re involved with the creation of the media,” Mr. Gainor said.
The Harry Potter Alliance sometimes sounds like “Occupy Hogwarts” in its quest for economic justice, citing figures such as “the top 1 percent control 40 percent of our nation’s wealth” and “only 6 percent of workers have jobs protected by unions.”
Supporters are asked to go online and post photos of themselves giving the revolution’s three-finger salute. Hundreds of fans, including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, have done so, according to the press release.