Hunger is Not a Game
Fans of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian franchise The Hunger Games sure have a ferocious appetite. The film adaptation of the novels, which premiered this week across the world, is currently sweeping box office records.
The Hunger Games is about a post-apocalyptic world in the fictional country of Panem (once North America). Each year, The Capitol, a rich metropolis holding absolute power and keeping millions in poverty, holds The Hunger Games, in which one teen boy and one teen girl from each of the 12 districts are selected to compete in a televised battle until only one survives.
Pretty far-fetched, right? Making them fight, just to stay alive? Keeping millions of people perpetually hungry and unable to get themselves out of poverty? Hang on, some of that sounds awfully familiar. Rising food prices have led to riots worldwide over the last few years. Make the ‘millions’ one billion and you’re somewhere near the truth. That’s not so much fiction as reality.
Oxfam and GROW has teamed up with fan-focus project Imagine Better, from the Harry Potter Alliance, who have created a new campaign about the injustices in the food system, Hunger is Not a Game. At the midnight premiere screenings of the film in the US, fans were asked to sign up to the campaign and to create a community within a community among Hunger Games fans by tweeting about real-life hunger, with the hashtag #notagame.
So what is it that motivates fans to be activists? The Harry Potter and Twilight franchises have proved that fans of the Young Adult novels that are part of the fasting-growing literary genre are quite an extraordinary bunch of people. Communities of fans are already culturally active; they create conversations online about the stories they love, organise events, use social media to make their favourite characters trend. They are already using the tools of online activism.
Not only are these groups of fans hugely dedicated to the stories, they really care about making social change and will go out of their way to help a cause they believe in, in the name of the characters they love. Not that surprising I suppose, when you think about the issues YA novels tackle; things like poverty and hardship (The Hunger Games) and being an outsider (Harry Potter). These are real-life things, not just fantasy. Through the Harry Potter Alliance, Potterphiles have sent $123,000 (£77,275) worth of relief supplies to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, donated more than 88,000 books across the world, raised awareness about important issues like net neutrality and taken on Maine’s 2009 ballot that sought to repeal same sex marriage.
If you saw #KONY2012 trending on Twitter earlier this month, you might be aware that one of the reasons the video was seen by 30 million people in just 48 hours (making it the fastest viral ever) is because the group behind it, Invisible Children, targeted celebrities with very powerful fans in order to get their message out. Two forces to be reckoned with; the Beliebers and the Little Monsters (Justin Bieber’s and Lady Gaga’s fans respectively). The fans were outraged by the tale of Joseph Kony and they made some noise about it. LOTS of it.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Oxfam has connected with fans (hello, you!). We already know that fans care. Because you’re reading this blog! Just looking at the vast numbers of you that tweeted #lovefoodhateinjustice and had your pictures taken at the Coldplay gigs last year, it’s clear to see that if your favourite band, film franchise or book talks about issues important to you, you’re going to want to talk about them as well. After all, it’s through stories that we express ourselves.
The Harry Potter Alliance: Hunger is Not a Game
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