November 27, 2013

(Lionsgate / Murray Close / Associated Press)

I wish I could say that “for the most part, ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ marketing tie-ins have been clever and self-aware.” The film itself toes an interesting line — so much of the Capital’s Creepy Pre-Revolutionary France Meets Ancient Rome Meets Runway-Only aesthetic is just on the bleeding edge where you can’t tell if it’s Brilliant Fashion or Something You Can’t Walk In That Demonstrates That Our Civilization Has Passed The Point Of No Return. The film’s use of couture places it in an uncanny valley between fiction and reality — who actually tries for product placement in a dystopian movie about children fighting to the death? Is society broken?

This would be interesting enough to ponder. But then we come to the tie-ins.

Half the fun of tie-ins is seeing if they completely invalidate the message of the movie (remember when the Lorax went from school to school hawking Mazdas?) or just make you want to groan and hide your head in your hands, murmuring, “Did they even WATCH it?” to yourself in a disconsolate tone.

I haven’t been able to look at Subway because I have been averting my eyes from anywhere I might see an image that reminds me of the dismal performance of our football team, but fortunately the Internet was vigilant and noticed that they have a tie-in line of spicy sandwiches — the Catching Fire Fiery Footlong collection. On principle I never oppose sandwiches, but who thought this through? “Everyone in these districts is starving, including our protagonist! I know — let’s make a tie-in line of our famous Grotesquely Large sandwiches!” The Hunger Games — sponsored by Pepsi!

And then there’s the Covergirl “Capitol Collection” — makeup, complete with a fun “lookbook” of District-inspired looks. This is awkward enough without the looks all being filtered through the lens of the creepy decadent Capitol. This is like having Covergirl produce a fun tie-in line of Imperial Stormtrooper helmets to go with the release of a Star Wars movie.

This could be fun and self-aware and somewhat cheeky. Or it could be — what it is.
Just like a coal mine, in among the coal is a bit of canary yellow,” comments Dotti, the Covergirl Makeup Artist, on the District 12 page. Even if it’s trying to be self-aware, the result is a deeply awkward series of “looks” inspired by each of the twelve districts, assuming all the districts resemble a sexy robot mime without eyebrows.

The Internet is already taking up arms. There’s a parody series on Tumblr. This is why we can’t have nice tie-in merchandise to our dystopia movies, everyone!

“Just like a coal mine.” That’s — capital. Er, make that “capitol.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.