Crossing the (Fashion) Line

We are unabashedly in love with The Hunger Games, so try to be positive about all the movie news that comes out. Sometimes we manage, sometimes we don’t.

But this. We can’t. WE CANNOT. WE HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO “CAN”.

We get it. We just don't get why.

We get it. We just don’t get why.

Lionsgate has teamed up with online luxury fashion website Net-A-Porter to sell the upcoming “Capitol Couture by Trish Summerville” fashion line. Yup, Capitol themed advertising has officially gone way too freaking far.

Let’s say this: Trish Summerville is a ridiculously talented Costume Designer. From what we’ve seen so far, she’s improved the overall look of the series by 1000% percent, added wonderfully nuanced meanings behind many outfits, and made the Capitol actually look like we imagined it in the books. We love what she’s done and we’re glad other people do too! We FANGIRL her. She deserves recognition. She deserves a freaking Academy Award!

But then… No matter what Buzzfeed says, this writer is of the opinion that Capitol Couture is not really getting the message of the movies (or even advertising the movies) to existing fans or potential newcomers. The advertising campaign seems to have gotten really caught up in the positive initial reactions to the first Capitol Couture issue and it’s forgotten an important message of the series: Reckless consumerism is the most basic form of evil.

At first, Capitol Couture was a fun addition to overall Hunger Games advertising. They feature the fashion designers that fashionistas love, get us involved in the alternate universe a bit, and are generally awesome to look at. Pretty things are pretty. Yet The Hunger Games isn’t about the Capitol. To us, Mockingjay Pin backpacks and District 12 Hot Topic t-shirts feel more acceptable than Capitol Couture makeup and designer brands, because at least Mockingjay Pins and District 12 have significant, positive influences in the series.

Futuristic awesome. Contemporary awkward.

We like the futuristic look, but not for general sales purposes.

Nobody in the Capitol is concerned with The Hunger Games or the devastation in the districts because they are so caught up in the glamorized consumerism and entertainment that their lives consists of. Yes, WE KNOW… “But we ARE the Capitol! We’re the consumers! We love our outrageous entertainment!” To that, we argue that fans of the series are often seen making the effort to be more self-aware than we’re given credit for. Think of all the charities fans have committed to in the name of The Hunger Games, the stunning artwork, and all the intelligent discussion of book themes including war, gender stereotypes, politics, class disparity, and PTSD, etc. That’s just scratching the surface, really! Not to say we’ll never buy new shoes or go to a concert, but we’re not so caught up in ourselves as to act as if issues bigger than our own don’t matter.

By presenting us with what will probably be a luxury (aka “too expensive for your average gal”) fashion line, it feels like Lionsgate is saying that they really don’t care what they’re selling or what the message of the story really is, as long as we CONSUME. Because the more of us they convince that we are the Capitol– whom we remind you are the ignorant, counter-productive followers of a corrupt society– the more we buy into their bottom line.

They’re not selling the movie or its message to us. They’re just selling.

We’re curious to see what the fashion line will look like, for sure! How will it blend Capitol and everyday wear? The clothes will probably be beautiful. We may even want to buy some but… again, we can’t. Both because we’re poor and because it just feels wrong.

Thankfully, The Capitol Won’t Be In Style For Mockingjay,

The Girl With The Pearl

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17 comments

  1. (Caution: Tess is going to put on her Katniss boots and shoot some arrows in this comment!) Thank you for this GWTP. Personally, I thought the marketing went too far from the moment the capitol nail polishes hit the scene. WHY are we glorifying capitol fashion and lifestyle? With notable exceptions, they represent the worst of humanity. And our current society’s emphasis on consumerism puts us dangerously close to being THEM–some would say we are already there, and I’d be hard pressed to argue that point. I especially find the headline on this ad “See the Future” laughable, but not in a funny way. Is the future of THG what we want? The power of THG trilogy is that it shows the real face behind the glamor of consumerism and despotism. But selling us capitol couture, and especially with this kind of marketing, totally masks that face.

  2. I think Lionsgate relies on Capitol Couture a little too much for my taste. Why in reality is going to by such fashions? I understand they’re trying to “sell” something—but it’s not the “something” that we who have read the books and understood them should be getting from them. It relies on the Capitol a lot. I like how creative Lionsgate is, but they spend more time in the in-world of The Hunger Games than they do in the actual world (our reality). You wouldn’t even see someone like “See The Future” in the districts, only in the Capitol, probably.

    I get that it’s just a movie or book, but it touches on reality heavily throughout each book. A depraved world, murder, an overruling government that is unfair and cruel, consumerism. I know that it’s fine if a person wants to buy Capitol nail polish because said person isn’t supporting the Capitol’s in-world tyranny or supporting the televised deaths of children for entertainment—but it does seem strange. Lionsgate is doing precisely what the books are saying is wrong and bad and we shouldn’t do. They’re promoting the “pretty” side instead of the harshness of the districts. The Victory Tour poster, Capitol Couture, Capitol Portraits, etc. But we don’t get much promotion of the districts at all. The story is about the districts finding freedom from the Capitol’s wickedness, not about how glamorous it is to be a Capitol citizen watching and cheering on the Games.

  3. Thank you for putting into words something I’ve recently thought as well, and also, for tackling the usual apology fans make for the Capitol-POV marketing, the “Let’s face it, we ARE the Capitol” argument that I’ve seen used to shut down discussion before (somewhere around nail-polish-gate). Not everyone in the USA, or the “First World” in general, is fixated on mindless consumerism and ignoring important socio-political issues of the day. (I admit I USED to watch a lot of reality TV, but seeing how messed up the lives of most people who star in them are, eventually turned me off — the Gosselin debacle basically did it for me.)

    That being said, the movie trailers, which are meant for the general audience, are definitely from the District/rebel perspective, so it does seem the Capitol Couture marketing is meant for the die-hard fan, which makes you wonder what LG thinks about the fandom.

    That being said, I actually like the Capitol-POV marketing that is not “Capitol Couture”, such as the Capitol Portraits and the Victory Tour posters, because they are actually chock-full of subversive elements and foreshadowing, and invites us to look beyond the surface and see that something is not quite right, much like how Katniss comes to realize that something is not quite right with the Capitol’s “District 13 footage”. The problem with CC is that whoever’s running that marketing campaign seems totally immersed in Capitol-ness, and you wonder if they’ve read ahead to MJ and found out that being a Capitol citizen winds up really not being that great once a giant war starts…

    1. “…wonder if they’ve read ahead to MJ…” Nice Satsuma. 🙂 I’m picturing some exec screaming at a lackey creative: “NOW you tell me?!?”

  4. Yes, thank you for this post. I was concerned when they announced Capitol Cover Girl and this high end clothing line has made me more upset. The Capitol Couture tumblr is an interesting form of world building that I like, but when you add actual merchandise to buy, it crosses a line. I think it’s gross and strays from what the books are about and why we love the books.

    The marketing campaign has been so Capitol-centric and it’s really turning me off. I hope the focus shifts soon to the story and characters we love.

  5. For the reasons you listed, I have some mixed emotions about all this. But I’ll play devil’s advocate.

    I am so sick of T-shirts! I have way too many, I don’t want to spend more than $10 on a *t-shirt*, and I don’t really care to wear Katniss’s face on my chest. I’m excited by the fact that there will be something new and different to offer that shows you’re a fan without screaming it. Plus there might be some items I can wear to work or going out. Though, I’m not excited about the high price-point the clothes are likely to be at, as I think it’s a barrier to the people who might actually want them.

    I don’t find a clothing line offensive.The books never said fashion or consumerism or wealth or entertainment are bad in and of themselves. The problems was that the Capitol citizens allow these things to distract them from real problems, and that they ignore (and exploit) the less fortunate to achieve said things. It’s sort of a “greed is the root of all evil, not money.” Fashion, consumerism, and entertainment are tools, but are neutral and are even used for the rebel’s causes in the books. Cinna being a prime example. The books even points out that just because someone is part of the Capitol does not mean they are evil (Katniss’s prep team) and the danger in blanket assumptions/accusations (Gale).

    All that said, I do agree that the marketing of this is off and feels like it’s endorsing indulgence. I don’t have a problem with a the clothing line, I have a problem with the fact that they are encouraging Capitol behavior.

    Sorry for the LONG post(rant), I just get tired of hearing the whole “fashion is Capitol so it’s evil” argument.

    1. Oh, we don’t buy the Hot Topic t-shirts either, but we think those would be a better way to express your love for the fandom than to buy from some luxury fashion line that visually has nothing to do with The Hunger Games.

      Mass consumerism and greed are in many ways synonymous. The Capitol is concerned with getting what they want, usually in the form of stuff, no matter what it means for the Districts. They are willing to impoverish and almost enslave others to be on trend and at least at one point (perhaps many years before Katniss first goes there), they willing turn their heads away from the districts in order to live in such luxury . A Capitol Couture line glamorizes what those people stand for.

      Also, if you poke about the site a little more, you’ll see that we don’t think fashion is evil ay all. One of our writers in particular, The There Eyes, is quite a fashion addict! Whenever there’s a new still, we almost always analyze the outfits. Some of it is Capitol and we love it, but there’s also lots of brilliant fashion representing the districts as well.

      1. I’ve been reading the blog for a while and I know you guys don’t generalize, I had just been on other sites where the comments were all “fashion=Capitol=evil,” and I just sort of unloaded. Sorry.

        But mostly I agree with you, this marketing makes fans feel uncomfortable, probably won’t reel in anyone new, and doesn’t actually promote the story at all.

  6. I have to agree with this 110%. Personally, the focus on fashion and the likes is too over the top for me lately. It’s great to look at and have all the victors/tributes featured, but I honestly was hoping of more marketing along the line of last year. And yes, I am in part saying this because I was involved so much last year and there’s nothing we (Recruiters and Mayors) get to do this year. Hunger Games Explorer and Capitol Couture are both a great addition, but I do miss the whole “District citizenship” aspect tremendously. Encouraging people to tweet so we got our DIPs and what not. The puzzle hunt, which mind you, was on 100 days before the movie came out.
    Now we’re already down to 70+ days until CF hits theaters and there is nothing more to get excited about than fashion. And, of course, the occasional update on THGExplorer, which I must admit, I am missing all the time since there’s no relay of the news on Twitter and/or Facebook.

    1. I agree 100%! I wasn’t even involved in the fandom pre-THG movie, but it does seem that the marketing for that movie was much more interactive and interesting in terms of world-building. I’d have thought that with the Victory Tour aspect of CF, the LG marketing people would have jumped on the chance to get the Districts involved again. Also, considering how both trailers have really played up the revolutionary themes, having the rebels make a showing on-line (much as they do on the wonderful Panem Propaganda fansite) and essentially throw buckets of paint at the Capitol-centered marketing, would have been really interesting!

      I think good marketing doesn’t just invite consumers to passively consume what’s thrown at them, it actually gets them actively involved in the marketing activity, and ideally turns them into volunteer marketers themselves. So far, the CF marketing has kept the consumer in the passive role, not the active, which is disappointing.

      I also agree with people who have stated that this fashion campaign really does nothing to pull in other people into the fanbase. While the “face it, we ARE the Capitol” argument isn’t totally inaccurate, very few fans actually identify with the Capitol, even if the average fan’s lifestyle is closer to the Capitol than a District citizen. They actually identify with those in the districts and the rebels, especially the young teenage fans who tend to see themselves as oppressed by authority figures anyway. CF marketing seems to be totally ignoring this demographic, at least so far.

  7. Finally someone who actually sees the problem with all of this. It’s a complete contradiction of the message the books are trying to portray. I don’t like the whole clothing line/ makeup thing because it’s exactly what the Capitol buys from the hard labour and suffering of the districts.

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