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You’ll Have to Kill a Child but at Least You’ll Look Good Doing It

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.


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17 Responses to “You’ll Have to Kill a Child but at Least You’ll Look Good Doing It”

  1. Kat Johnson says:

    I totally agree! I have already seen the film and I think that promoting this image is wrong, the film shows that the capital is a bad place but these people seem to act just the same. Brilliant article!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Not sure if I agree. I understood the symbolism and similarities to our own society in the first Hunger Games movie, but I also loved the looks of the citizens of the Capitol. Colourful hair and makeup appeals to me; does that make me a bad person? I also know people who like certain bad guys from books, movies and TV shows because they’re cool, interesting, attractive, or whatever. Are they necessarily evil, too? We don’t think poorly of Paradise Lost and its readers even though the most interesting and sympathetic character is Satan, do we?

    This makeup line isn’t going to turn people into monsters. I don’t see how it’s worse than perfume ads that suggest BDSM or rape themes.

    • Will says:

      If liking the colorful makeup means you don’t care about the exploitation and misery of millions then yes, it makes you a bad person. Of course, the book is fictional, but it is odd to parallel it in such an incredible manner. The promoters seem to be totally unaware and definitely don’t care about the message of the book. I’d also say that the Capitol citizens are not particularly interesting as far as bad guys go. They’re too nonsensical and unaware. They are cartoons. Perhaps it’s only me, but I’ve never found them interesting or cool or attractive. They’re less than henchmen. President Snow is an interesting bad guy, but he is acutely aware of how he maintains power and what Katniss is doing to undermine him. He also does not dress or act like your typical Capitol citizen. Why would somebody want to emulate the general capitol citizenry?

      • Cheryl says:

        About your first sentence, I really hope you’re joking. Do you believe that every single person who wears makeup is indifferent to human suffering? Even people who buy and wear THIS makeup might not be heartless. Maybe they don’t see the irony, or they believe that symbolism is irrelevant, or they express their kind-heartedness in other aspects of life rather than their cosmetics choices.

        I didn’t particularly like any of the bad guys in The Hunger Games. Maybe they aren’t well-developed, interesting characters. I haven’t read the books, so I can’t say for sure. I just liked the vision of so many people (in the Capitol) all with colourful hair, makeup and clothing. I wish the world was more colourful because I like colours. Have you ever been to an anime convention? It’s almost worth the ticket price just to see the multitude of amazing-looking costumes.

        I don’t know about CoverGirl’s company policies regarding ethics, but the problem with this line of makeup is primarily symbolic. If CoverGirl used ethically-obtained, environmentally-friendly ingredients, donated a lot of money to charity, and prohibited animal product testing, I would buy their makeup instead of that of a company that doesn’t have any company ethics. Not saying I think CoverGirl is better than any other company, just saying that real company policies trump crappy symbolism.

        • Oh my god @ these comments says:

          Cheryl, about your first paragraph, I really hope you’re joking. Talk about missing the point – “I’m not a horrible person! Even though I continue to sweep very real issues produced by the consumer society we live in under the rug I donate to charity, volunteer at my pet shelter, buy pink ribbon products (lol the irony) and I’m nice and kind to everyone I meet so everything balances out!” For the record, that’s exactly the attitude that in part allows for all the inequalities and exploitation in the world to fester and grow. That’s the point.

          And being ignorant of something or not “seeing the irony or symbolism”(?!) doesn’t excuse or cancels your culpability in it. Also please realize that, of course, liking colourful make-up in and of itself doesn’t make you heartless and I’m not advocating that you stop wearing this make-up or make-up in general. It’s a legitimate form of self-expression and that’s fine. It’s the fact that you would arguing for putting your own aesthetic appeals first over seriously considering the exploitation and suffering of millions that is gross and it’s even worse that instead of understanding that you’ve just decided to turn it into “liking all the colourful things in the world doesn’t mean I’m heartless!”

          • Rachel says:

            Um. How is Cheryl putting her own aesthetics above millions of suffering people? I mean any more than anyone living in any Western society who buys stuff. Do you know everything she buys and uses? Do you know how all her decisions stack up to yours in terms of global equality?

            Yes, I get the symbolism and the fact that the situations in the books are maybe only slight (if at all) exaggerations of real life social injustices. As much as we hate to admit it, we all probably play into this every day even though we don’t want to. Improving those situations is a long, slow process that takes research, intention, and discipline. It involves knowledge about sourcing, fair trade, and so many other things that many of us only know very small amounts about, if we care to know at all. It takes REAL actions in REAL life. Do you know all the sourcing information about every single thing that you buy?? I sure don’t, but it’s something I’d like to work on learning.

            The fact is, real-world acts of compassion and aid are what do the real good, not bitching at people on the internet. People aren’t any more responsible for the suffering in the world just because they come on here and say, “Hey, I actually thought the Capitol citizens looked pretty neat.” I also thought their costumes and makeup were very creative and often appealing. I thought their attitudes and behavior were horrific and disgusting. Emulating their behavior is bad. Emulating their makeup is not necessarily bad.

            That being said, I do think it’s pretty ignorant and shallow on the part of CoverGirl to directly link a makeup line with some of the most self-centered, evil, unthinking people in modern fiction. You want to market a line of extra-colorful, extra-fanciful cosmetics? Awesome! Market it as fantasy-themed, or sci-fi, carnival, rainbow, or whatever else. Don’t promote thinking/acting like Capitol citizens.

  3. […] force behind this franchise that they need to reread the books.  And Spark Movement is doing just that.  Check out our tumblr and post where we tell Lionsgate exactly what we think about their money […]

  4. Beth says:

    Ummm… I think this might be taking the whole thing just a little too seriously guys.

  5. JD says:

    I agree that they might be marketing their make-up collection with the wrong words. However, just because people in real life want to look like the tributes or people from the Capitol does not mean they identify with self-interest and superficiality; perhaps they want to be like Cinna, a Capitol citizen who identified with the rebellion.

  6. Sam says:

    I’m on the fence with this. One of the messages to the audience from THG is the districts are the ones working tirelessly to fuel the excessive lifestyle of the residents of the Capitol – a message that translates into our world today. Whether or not we each choose to see this imbalance in our world is really up to us but more often than not we do nothing about it. Just like the citizens of the Capitol. If we were to think about the injustice suffered by the people who made all of our clothes, our phones, laptops, computers etc. we would never let such things be sold so widely. But we do. There’s a few campaigns against it here and there but it still happens and we ignore it. So for this range of Capitol inspired fashion accessories to be released doesn’t really surprise me when I actually think about it. I think the shocking bit is that it is brushing dangerously close to the truth (and making it look fashionable) and not letting us ignore it very easily. By all means I do not condone this kind of imbalance at all but I am definitely not going to be hypocritical and say Capitol Couture shocks me because it’s not actually that much different from the real world, give or take a few frills of taffeta. Saying that, I won’t be buying any items from any THG promotional range, even if I wanted to, because I don’t have any money to spare!

  7. Will says:

    “they live in such excess that they purge between meals at parties while the people who sourced that food are starving in the fields” is a not very good statement.
    i mean, i get the point they’re trying to make but that’s a common phrase used to shame people with eating disorders. 
mental illnesses & EDs are not “selfish and vapid”
    they’re coping mechanisms

    • Rachel says:

      “They live in such excess that they purge between meals at parties while the people who sourced that food are starving in the fields” is a spot-on statement, actually. There is a scene in one of the books (don’t remember which) in which this exact thing happens. They are doing it on purpose simply so they can indulge themselves more, it has nothing to do with eating disorders.

  8. Sam says:

    “Maybe they don’t see the irony, or they believe that symbolism is irrelevant, or they express their kind-heartedness in other aspects of life rather than their cosmetics choices.”

    I’m sorry about my English – my explanation wasnt very clear – but I am pretty much in agreement with you, hence I am on the fence about it all. I think it really depends on the person.

  9. Gina says:

    You’ve got to be kidding me. The authors of this article are just looking for reasons to be offended. It’s MAKEUP. Wearing the make up does not make you a “traumatizer,” nor or we “close to [being] the Capitol.” Do we watch children kill each other for sport? Do we drink something to make us throw up so that we can go back and eat more? Are we utterly vapid and devoid of purpose? My response is emphatically no.

    Can we not enjoy some colorful makeup and call it a day? Sheesh.

  10. My Blog says:

    […] force behind this franchise that they need to reread the books.  And Spark Movement is doing just that.  Check out our tumblr and posts where we tell Lionsgate exactly what we think about their money […]

  11. […] may remember CoverGirl from our recent Capitol Cuties campaign, but today I wanted to talk about Covergirl’s newest ad campaign #GirlsCan. Here, in the campaign […]

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