The Hunger Games symposium discusses the messages behind the cultural phenomenon

Osei Alleyne encouraged the devoted fans of The Hunger Games who gathered May 23 at Temple University Center City to “put your three-sign up.”

They all responded appropriately by mimicking the sign of defiance and unity that Katniss Everdeen, the main character in the hit book and film, uses to communicate with the people of Panem. The audience enjoyed taking its turn flashing the symbol they saw as a sign of their hero taking power from her oppressive government.

photos by Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University

Then Alleyne, an anthropology PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, showed the photo of Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists during a medal ceremony in Mexico City in 1968. The similarity was immediately apparent.

“Put your three-sign up again,” said Alleyne. “It feels a bit different, doesn’t it?”

This moment of connection between the themes of The Hunger Games and the real world was one of many revealed at “Our the Odds in Our Favor?: The Hunger Games on Fame, Fashion and the Future of Humanity,” a symposium co-hosted by Center for Media and Information Literacy at Temple’s School of Media and Communication  and the Center for Media and Destiny.

The Hunger Games is already true,” said Associate Professor Barry Vacker, MSP.

Alleyne and Vacker were joined by Assistant Professor Sherri Hope Culver, MSP, as well as Leah Wilson, editor of The Girl Who Was On Fire and Angela Cirucci, MMC, an adjunct professor at Lincoln University.

During her turn at the podium, Cirucci compared Katniss to Kim Kardashian. She said both have to appeal to the public for success, both need to keep their sponsors happy and both keep their relationships – whether real or staged – in the spotlight.

Culver said The Hunger Games is so popular because people sense something familiar in the story – “a comfortable, secure, paradigm-affirming familiarity” of the worst things we watch on the news and reality television.

As director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy, Culver is well-versed in the relationship children have with media. She takes pause when she hears that young girls aspire to be Katniss.

“They picture themselves as the teen hero; the savior of their towns,” she said, an ignore the horrors of her fight to the death. “As a mom, I’m simply concerned.”

But she admits that the element of danger is vital to the story’s success. “Danger is actually an attraction in itself. So we read and we watch.”


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