I happened by the local convenience store this morning, and as I was leaving I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a poster for The Hunger Games. It depicted a young woman, bow and arrow in hand, striking a Katniss Everdeen pose and taking aim at some target beyond the frame of the picture. The heroic pose looked virtually identical to one used to promote The Hunger Games, just so…
Across the poster was the slogan “Get Your Hope On!” But a closer look revealed that it was a poster for the national lottery, Lotto Max.
I was quite taken aback by the sheer chutzpah of it. Apparently, the poster is a still from a TV advertisement I’ve never seen (I don’t own a television), but which someone has described online. I thought it was a stunning example of co-optation.
The Hunger Games is a pretty powerful critique of class society, of the same themes you find in the aforementioned High-Rise and Snowpiercer movies. Here the underclasses exist solely for the use and amusement of the privileged overclass of Panem. Along comes a heroine, Katniss Everdeen, who embodies the promise of liberation from Panem’s tyranny and the hope of transcendence for the disenfranchised underclasses.
Panem is “The System”, pretty much the image of Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”. It is the realised state of ennui expressed by him in There is No Natural Religion: “If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic Character, the Philosophic and Experimental would soon be at the Ratio of all things; and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.” The President of Panem, Snow, is also very akin to Blake’s despotic Zoa “Urizen”.
The co-optation of Everdeen’s mythic image for selling lottery tickets serves to blunt and deflect the whole meaning of The Hunger Games. And yet, how revealing it is that “hope” of transcendence of the “same dull round” that is Panem lies in winning the lottery! Hope for liberation from the tedium, the ennui, the malaise of modernity, the state of being a “cog in the machine” and the “daily grind” of the “mill o’ the gods” lies not in a questioning that might lead to transforming the system, or attaining “the truth that sets free”, but now lies in the nearly hopeless hope of winning the lottery.
Of course, to win the lottery, you need to buy tickets. And to buy tickets, you need income, and to get income to buy the tickets you must continue to function as a cog in the machine. “Get your hope on!” Such hope is largely chimerical, and makes no sense as a hope except in the context of the seemingly hopeless. The one “shot at happiness” that is available to you, that lies beyond “Panem”, as it were, is pretty much a false hope. But that false hope protects the System from doubt and scrutiny about its value for life or its promise of happiness.
This is pretty crafty, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that gambling and lotteries increased in popularity parallel with privatisation and the austerity fraud along with the rehabilitation of financial and economic speculation that were, at one time, considered crimes. Everybody now speculates.