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Could Reality TV lead us to The Hunger Games?

Spoiler Alert!

For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Hunger Games is the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem. The Capitol is the all-powerful government that controls the 12 districts that make up Panem and hosts the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death as punishment for District 13′s rebellion (which is non-existent… or so we think) and to show that not even children are above the Capitol’s power. The story follows Katniss Everdeen, District 12 tribute, throughout her journey to and in the Hunger Games. Also from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, who boldly claims his love for Katniss upon entering the Hunger Games.

I could go into more detail, but I do want people to be able to read and enjoy the book. What I wanted to point out is the blatantly obvious similarities between the Hunger Games and popular reality TV shows. Now I’m not saying that eventually we are going to start letting people kill each other on live TV, but I am saying that what we consider entertainment now is slowly progressing towards the unethical practices that are displayed in the book. There are 3 major similarities that stood out to me right away:

1. You have to look pretty for people to like you

Katniss Everdeen, along with the other tributes, was assigned a personal fashion team and stylist before being presented in the Hunger Games arena. The full body makeovers they receive are supposed to make the tributes look more appealing to their audience and potential sponsors (who can purchase essential items that can be delivered to them during the Hunger Games).  Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Every year countless hopefuls on shows like American Idol are told they have a great voice, but need to look better to win over viewers (sponsors) that will give their vote (essential item) to them in order for them to succeed throughout the competition. For example, Carrie Underwood’s transformation from down south country girl to Hollywood beauty:

2. When things start to get boring, torture people

In reality shows like Big Brother when nothing is happening the show is dull and people won’t watch it. To fix this, the latest season of Big Brother put a twist on the games announcing that there is a “saboteur” among them. The saboteur could be any one and contestants are forced to watch their backs at all times. This kind of sudden twist is also seen in the Hunger Games when tributes are not fighting and there aren’t any deaths. For example, the gamemakers throw in tracker jackers (genetically altered wasps whose venom causes people to go mad) to keep the tributes on their toes.

3. A “showmance” guarantees audience approval

A “showmance” is a fancy word to describe a fake reality TV romance.  In order to stay alive, Katniss and Peeta (although his feelings were real), formed a relationship sham in order to help both of them while in the Hunger Games by pleasing the crowd. No one wanted to see the two “star crossed lovers” kill each other, which gained them sponsors and ultimately allowed both of them to miraculously survive the Hunger Games. “Showmances” occur regularly on reality TV shows, such as Jeff and Jordan from Big Brother 11. Although these two used their fake romance to last in the competition (Jordan won the 1/2 million dollar prize), they actually started dating after the season ended (sounds a lot like how Katniss and Peeta end up).

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Girls Gone Viral

The viral video. If you are clumsy and do something embarrassing/funny that just so happens to get caught on tape, uploaded to YouTube, and watched by millions of people, the viral video is NOT your best friend. For example, Scarlett Takes a Tumble:

On the other hand, a creative viral video made by a PR Firm to promote a product or service is an extremely effective social media marketing technique to reach mainly a younger demographic. This demographic receives most of their information through social media and blogs. Whether or not a video goes viral reveals whether the demographic is engaged in the consumer product. Project Zimzala, the local non-profit I volunteer for targets young people who don’t usually participate in fund-raising events and has recently decided to promote our upcoming event trough a viral video (it should be pretty witty, I will post it as soon as it’s made!). This goes to show that viral video campaigns are increasing in popularity because of their effectiveness in raising a company’s/organization’s visibility among their target audiences.

 

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