by Lilinaz Evans, Georgia Luckhurst, and Melissa Campbell
Most people reading this have probably seen all the build-up for the new film in the The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. The film comes out Friday the 22nd in the US, and in order to promote it, Lionsgate has teamed up with CoverGirl to release the Capitol Collection, a makeup line that allows Hunger Games fans to steal the makeup looks of the Capitol, the protagonists and Katniss’s number one allies in the book series.
Haha wait, just kidding! The Capitol is actually a source of pain, oppression, and fear for Katniss, her family, her friends, and the people of Panem. The Capitol are the enemy: its citizens are vapid, selfish, exploitative, narcissistic and worst of all apathetic; they don’t care about where their new dress comes from or who is making their dinner or how many children died making their new emerald necklace; they live in such excess that they purge between meals at parties while the people who sourced that food are starving in the fields; they literally place bets on the deaths of children! We really feel like we can’t drive that one home enough. Like, they just make kids kill each other on live TV and then the kids who survive grow up to be sold into sex slavery or to abuse alcohol as a coping mechanism or to be so PTSD-stricken that they can’t even talk anymore. We know what you’re thinking right now: “damn, that sounds sweet, I want to be just like the people in the Captiol.” Right? No? Yeah, us either. But that’s what CoverGirl and Lionsgate seem to think.
At its core, The Hunger Games is a book about the trauma of hyper-consumption–but when it comes to traumatizer vs. traumatized, CoverGirl’s Capitol Collection falls squarely on the side of “traumatizer.” The makeup line comes with a lookbook that will help you “get the looks of the Districts” and is so unaware and self-absorbed that it kind of feels like it has to be a joke. The only time anyone from the Districts looks anything like something in that lookbook is when children are brought to the Capitol and dolled up to be paraded around on live TV as though they were props instead of humans (because of course, to the Capitol, they are props). Then two days later they take the makeup off and kill each other and probably die themselves while their families look on, horrified and defeated. FASHION!!!
But of course, the reason that this line even exists is because we, as a culture, are actually pretty close (metaphorically anyway) to the Capitol. Consumption at any expense is pretty par for the course here, and the people who grow our food and make our clothes aren’t really in much better shape than the people of the Districts. Our culture really, really values outward appearance and it insists that girls about Katniss’s age should be less into leading a revolution and more into getting the right look. The Capitol Collection encourages girls to identify not with rebellion and justice, but with superficiality and self-interest. We think that is not only ridiculous, but scary and super dangerous. So OF COURSE we’re taking action!
We’ve started a blog, Captiol Cuties, where we can call out and spoof the marketing around this film and remind people what it actually means to be a citizen of the Captiol–that is, to be a totally self-absorbed jerkface who is responsible, directly or indirectly, for the pain and suffering of millions. It’s pretty simple: use whatever crazy makeup, wigs, hairpieces, or anything else you have lying around to create your best Capitol Look. Then write up a caption describing your life as a Capitol citizen (maybe your mom is a gamemaker; maybe you’re stoked that your lipstick stayed on through three purges at Caeser Flickerman’s party; maybe you’re just sick of how drab those Tributes look once they hit they arena; maybe something else entirely!) and then submit it to our blog. Once it’s posted, tweet at @CoverGirl letting them know how you feel about this line. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CapitolCOVERGIRL!
Even Suzanne Collins knows that this kind of marketing is literally exactly what the Capitol does and would do: “The stunning image of Katniss in her wedding dress that we use to sell tickets is just the kind of thing the Capitol would use to rev up its audience for the Quarter Quell.” Yes, yes, exactly! Except unlike Suzanne Collins, we don’t think this marketing serves the message of the book at all. Instead, it reproduces all of the things that the book is critiquing: beauty and consumption at any cost.