Did you hear a giant sort of WHOOSH-BOOOOOM!!!! sound just now?
That was the sound of irony flying over the collective heads of China Glaze and sixteen million teenage fangirls. Some of whom are probably our own students.
I didn’t comment on this before because it seemed like circumstances were conspiring against the release of this collection, rendering commentary unnecessary. Sadly, those circs turned out to be based not on common sense, but on a lawsuit, now resolved. So it’s back on.
If you haven’t read The Hunger Games, let me give you the basic backstory. In a kind of unholy union between “The Lottery” and Survivor, two teenagers (a boy and a girl, natch, as required since the days of the Minotaur) from each of twelve districts are chosen by lottery each year to participate as “tributes” in a fight-to-the-death survival game, which is forcibly televised live to every TV screen in Panem (the dystopian future version of America). The yearly ritual is a reminder to the outlying districts of Panem that the Capitol, against which they had at one time revolted in civil war, is their master and can not only take their people on a whim and have them kill one another, but require them by law to watch and celebrate it. Katniss Everdeen, our heroine, is one of the tributes from District 12, a mining community in what is currently the general region of Appalachia, and the first book of the trilogy describes her selection, grooming for the Games, and experience in the Game arena.
Here is where the head-banging comes in.
One of the main themes of the book is that people killing one another is presented as reality “entertainment.” Before they go into the arena, all of the candidates have to make appearances on TV for interviews and processions and ceremonies. This is partly because the Games are a media sensation (that people are forced to watch, remember) and partially because the wealthy people of the Capitol might want to either a) wager on, or b) invest in, some of the tributes. If, during day 3 of the games, a tribute is suffering from a wound that has become infected, a wealthy outsider watching at home might be moved to spend some exorbitant amount of money to provide that tribute with antibiotics. Anyway, in order to present the tributes in ways that will be most likely to get people to bet on or invest in them, there is a whole flock of stylists and coaches whose job it is to dress, groom, style, and coach the tributes as they participate in a week’s worth of pageantry (which will, of course, end in bloody death for 23 of the 24 participants, but oh, let’s not let that tiresome little detail stop us from ooohing! and aaaahing! over the dresses! and the hair! and oh! did you hear her story, so sad!).
Let me summarize that as follows: There is a whole industry that exists to prettify the calves for slaughter. The tributes are forcibly taken, fattened up and made beautiful, and then shoved into a wilderness in which they must kill one another, and the whole thing is required “entertainment” viewing for the citizens of Panem. What the tributes wear, and how they look, makes or breaks the careers of stylists, who devise elaborate gowns and/or costumes for the various events of the pre-Games pageantry. The elements of those styles — products used, cuts of gowns, etc. — are, presumably, made available for purchase so that wealthy Capitol clients can have “the same gown that Katniss wore in the interview.” So, in effect, the products used to make the fatted calves ready for slaughter are available for purchase — which serves as a monetary endorsement of the whole endeavor.
Does anyone see the irony in China Glaze then putting out a line of nail polishes associated with the film? So now we too can endorse the slaughter by oohing! and aahing! over nail polishes that symbolize the adornment of the fatted calf, while we pay for movie tickets that target our own sense of the macabre-as-entertainment. How is this NOT life imitating art? Am I the only one who is incredulous, appalled, and horrified? How can they have missed THE ENTIRE POINT?!!?!??!?!
Says the press release (according to hollywoodreporter.com):
“China Glaze has developed 12 shades of nail polish, each associated with a respective district and ‘allowing citizens to show their solidarity and support for a favorite tribute.’
‘What will you be wearing to the opening ceremonies?’ the ad reads.”
No, no, NO! “Allowing citizens to show their solidarity and support for a favorite tribute”? “What will you be wearing to the opening ceremonies”? Do you not see, people, that you are becoming citizens of the Capitol, who adorn themselves in commercially-available colors representing the tributes from subservient districts who are about to be made to kill one another?
Is such a point lost on the vast majority of idiots and fangirls who will flock to buy this collection, squeeing about how much they love the film while tripping along, tra-la-la, with nary a thought about the irony and incongruity of such a pairing? Based on the squeeing I’ve already seen on beauty blogs, the answer to that is an unqualified “yes.” Honestly, it is one of those far-too-frequent events that make me lose my faith in the human race.
Shame on you, China Glaze. What’s next — Hunger Games Barbie?
Oh, and a note about the lawsuit: while the details are hard to uncover (no doubt due to nondisclosure agreements), the colors that first appeared in preview images last fall are the same colors that appear now, but the names have been changed. I hope that this is a result of the author, Suzanne Collins, trying her damnedest to prevent her works about marketing suffering as beauty/entertainment being marketed as vehicles for beauty/entertainment.
Original colors/names, as seen all over the interwebz a few months ago:
There’s more to say, especially about the changing of the names, but I’ll end here. Otherwise I’d go on for pages, and no one wants that.