Life Imitates Art

One of the mantras that writers live by is that they should ground their story in reality. ‘Write what you know.’ I’m not completely certain that this is correct and I have been mulling a story from last November that seems to suggest the complete opposite.

Now I’m going to talk about the Hunger Games. This trilogy follows the problems within a dystopian future. The Hunger Games is an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12–18 from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle to the death. (If this plot seems familiar, it’s probably because the Greek Story of Theseus and the Minotaur starts roughly the same way.)

During the Hunger Games, Katniss befriends a 12-year-old girl from another district, Rue. After Rue dies, Katniss surrounds her body with flowers and gives a three-finger salute which becomes a symbol of revolution in the novel and later the movie.

A powerful graphic image on the movie screen.

The pro-democracy protesters in Thailand adopted this salute as a symbol of their movement. Naturally, the military junta responded. They canceled the release of the third of the Hunger Games in the country in November. Five Thai students who flashed the salute at Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha have been detained. Army officials later confirmed that the students were taken to a military camp and were detained for “attitude adjustment”.

This is not the first time a salute has been linked with resistance. A raised fist has been featured in movements as diverse as Feminism, Black Power, and the Union Movement. However, that symbol goes back to Assyrian depictions of the goddess Ishtar.

We learn from reading fiction. We learn from watching movies about fictional people. In Thailand, they found a symbol, a salute to express their needs. Life imitates art.


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