Thailand Adopts 'Hunger Games' Salute In Real-Life Protest Because Allegory Matters

More than perhaps any other current franchise aside from X-Men , The Hunger Games series has always come along with debate over the degree to which the themes present in the story could be applied to the real world. And The Hunger Games has, in many ways, already been brought into the fray of modern political discourse — but never quite as heavily and outright as The Hunger Games ' current role in Thailand's anti-coup struggles. That role is physically embodied in District 12's famous three-fingered salute, adopted by protestors as a symbol of unity and strength.

In The Hunger Games, the three-fingered salute pops up during crucial moments in the story: When Katniss is first reaped into the games all of District 12 raises the salute to her, her first glimpse at the unifying force that a shared history of pain can empower a people with. Later, in the games, Katniss herself raises the salute after (really old spoiler alert) Rue's death, a sign that she is fed up with the Capitol's system of violence and oppression. That one comes back to her in Catching Fire, when she stands in Rue's District and the crowd of people (above) raise the salute to her, a symbol of the budding rebellion.

In Thailand, where a May 22 coup has resulted in nationwide curfews — 10pm, later moved to midnight, according to The Hollywood Reporter — and "a banning of public gatherings of more than five people," the salute has taken on real-world weight in the anti-coup protests. As THR's Patrick Brzeski writes:

Thai protest groups writing on Facebook have said the gesture represents "freedom, equality, and brotherhood" — the essential principles of democracy in Thailand — while acknowledging that it is inspired by the fictional resistance movement led by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in the global hit young-adult film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In the movie, set in a dystopian future, youths from a rural underclass are forced to engage in televised blood sport to entertain the elites in the capital city. The show is also meant to demonstrate the power of the imperial class' authoritarian rule.

In fact, the symbol has become such a symbol of the Thai resistance that Thailand's military rulers said Tuesday that they will arrest protestors seen using the salute. Col. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, who USA Today describes as a spokesperson for the junta, said in a statement to the Associated Press that "if it is an obvious form of resistance, then we have to control it so it doesn't cause any disorder in the country."

Political activists and fans of The Hunger Games alike will find that language familiar.

We've spoken in the past about the potential in channeling the politics we find in mass storytelling into real-world action. Harry Potter fans have long been doing this with The Harry Potter Alliance, translating fictional allegory into non-fictional change. As The Mary Sue pointed out, Anonymous adopted the masks seen in V For Vendetta as part of their political message. For a world so focused on the franchise, why not funnel that energy and attention into the real-world narratives that wind up shaping those stories in the first place?

It certainly makes for a powerful image, and one far more in fitting with the books themes than a potential theme park.

Images: Lionsgate; Tumblr