Stratégie Transmedia vs. Activisme Fan : le cas de The Hunger Games

Récemment, j’ai co-édité avec Benjamin Derhy Kurtz un ouvrage collectif aux éditions Routledge, intitulé The Rise of Tranxtexts : Challenges and Opportunities. Il rassemble des chapitres de Henry Jenkins, Geoffrey Long, Louisa Stein, Paul Booth, Matt Hills, entre autres, qui analysent les évolutions de la notion de Transmedia du point de vue de la production et de la réception. Les détails sur l’ouvrage sont disponibles ici

Vous pouvez également découvrir l’entretien mené par Henry Jenkins sur ce projet avec Benjamin et moi-même

Ici, je vous propose la version 1 de mon chapitre en anglais (la version avant la publication donc) sur les liens entre le marketing Transmedia de The Hunger Games et l’activisme fan en réponse à la glamorisation de la promotion ou comment les fans se réapproprient la narration et les valeurs portées par les livres pour mener des actions sociales?

The Hunger Games, a trilogy of young adult novels by Susanne Collins adapted into a blockbuster movie franchise by Lionsgate, features a dystopian world in which a dictator named President Snow rules over 12 downtrodden districts from his own opulent district, The Capitol. Every year, as a reminder of their defeat by The Capitol in a long-ago war, each of the 12 districts has to send two young tributes, a boy and a girl, to fight to the death in an arena until only one is left alive. These Hunger Games are broadcast 24/7 by The Capitol, with all of the subjects in the 12 other districts forced to watch. When one girl, Katniss Everdeen, wins the Hunger Games but defies the rules by refusing to kill her fellow competitor Peeta, she becomes a symbol of rebellion, inspiring others to rise up against the repression of the dictatorship.

Lionsgate adapted the trilogy into movies aimed at a young audience and focused on the rising of Katniss as the symbol of rebellion and the love triangle she forms with fellow gamer Peeta and her childhood sweetheart Gale. However, the films have some differences mainly because Lionsgate wanted a PG13 rating for the release of the movies, targeted a larger audience this way. Indeed, the books are much more violent in their depiction of the Hunger Games, of the dictatorship and of the social inequalities between Panem and the districts. The movies tend to focus more on the love triangle, mirroring the Twilight’s one, and tend to lessen the political messages engraved in the books.

This chapter analyses the promotional campaign for Lionsgate’s movies, how that campaign was received by the fans of Collins’ novels, and how those fans “took back the narratives” and focused their energy towards something more meaningful to them. We will dive into the transmedia logics of the promotional campaign, studying the evolution of the ancillary interactive websites and the multiple tie-ins which aim at augmenting the storyworld of the movie, then look at how fans, particularly activists from The Harry Potter Alliance, try to “counter” this glamorous marketing strategy and use the narrative to propose civil actions.

A New Media Ecosystem

Strategies of transmedia storytelling are widely used today around TV series and movies, mainly blockbusters, to present an immersive and enlarged experience to audiences and fans. Even if this strategy has a new name (Jenkins, ), it is a well-established and time-proven tactic, as demonstrated by such franchises as Star Wars and its “expanded universe.” The Star Wars franchise first developed around the original movie trilogy (and, later, its prequels) through video games referencing planets or alien tribes, novels and comic books deepening main or supporting characters, animated TV series like The Clone Wars closing the gap between episode 2 and episode 3, or TV series entering the world of the Ewoks or the droids. All of these media platforms were complemented by various merchandise (figurines, board games, costumes, lightsabers) and theme park attractions, enhancing the universe and storyworld of the movie franchise.

However, various mutations led to the creation of a new media ecosystem and a newly wide use of transmedia strategies. The first mutation is a technological one, with the implementation of new technologies in production strategies. A great majority of TV shows and movies are marketed today with an online interactive website presenting plots, characters, behind-the-scene footage and trailers or exclusive videos. In 2007, NBC launched an interactive platform, NBC 360, for its sci-fi show Heroes. The network created exclusive transmedia content to enhance the storyworld of the show and to immerse its audience deeper into the Heroes universe, an approach Jennifer Gillian calls “must-click TV”. According to Gillian, “the must-click TV programming model assumes that the franchise content available through different mediums must click together seamlessly to form part of interlocking pieces of a whole experience (e.g., Heroes Evolutions), one that is structured to encourage viewers to make emotional investments that will ideally lead to economic investments” (Gillian, 2011: 4). This transmedia model contains all the elements of the narrative strategy: an “augmented storytelling” (Bourdaa, 2012), an economic value, a unified immersive experience and a solid fan-base.

The third mutation is participatory, building on both Jenkins’ “convergence culture” (Jenkins, 2006) and on fan culture. Following Jenkins’ seminal work on Star Trek fandoms, fans are described as active producers socially involved in “communities of practices” (Baym, 1999). American scholars have studied the impact of new technologies on fans’ media practices and analysed how fans use such technologies to work together, produce content and create new meanings (Pearson, 2010 ; Ross, 2008 ; Booth, 2010). In France, young scholars analyze fandoms from a specific activity such as the creation of fan fiction (François, 2009) or offer a typology of fan activities (Bourdaa, 2014). They also envision fans as a virtual community empowered by their use of new technologies (Martin, 2010; Peyron, 2013). Other scholars study a particular object, such as TV shows, in order to understand a shift in the reception practices and draw some specific patterns in fans’ reception (Combes, 2010; Bourdaa, 2012). Other studies analyze the use of fandom-generated content as an advertising tool, discussing the role of fandom as an advertising diffuser (Lozano Delmar, Hernández-Santaolalla and Ramos, 2013). As Paul Booth argues, “fans typically utilize their technological capacities, their communal intelligence, their individual knowledge base, and their social interaction skills to investigate and explore media” (Booth, 2010: 20), in what Mittell calls “forensic fandom”.

All Glamour No Roughness: the Transmedia Promotion Campaign

Jenkins coined the expression “transmedia storytelling” following Marsha Kinder’s take on the Transmedia superstructures she described in her book in 1991. Henry Jenkins used The Matrix Trilogy as a case study to explain the strategy. By creating a whole storyworld on multiple media platforms, The Matrix trilogy goes far beyond the movie screen and unfolds across an series of short animated films, comics, in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and in video games, encouraging fans to engage with all the different platforms to fully explore and enjoy the story. As Jenkins explains, such transmedia storytelling “represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” (2006: 95-96).

Thus transmedia storytelling diffuses a dense message across different media formats. In crafting a definition for the Producers’ Guild of America, Jeff Gomez stated that a transmedia franchise should ideally require at least three distinctive media platforms to create a whole narrative. Transmedia storytelling is also a narrative strategy, designed to give background and/or foreground stories on different media such as television, comic books, websites, books, or social networks. This strategy is amplified by the use of new technologies and interactive devices and also by fans seeking new ways to connect and interact with their favorite series. This enables fans to be more participatory as they consume, share, and spread what they like, often via word of mouth through online communities, fan sites, and/or social networks.

Frank Rose puts the audience and particularly fans at the center of this transmedia strategy when he defines his concept of “deep media” in The Art of Immersion. For Rose, deep media “puts the focus on the goal: to enable members of the audience (for want of a better term) to delve into a story at any level of depth they like, to immerse themselves in it”[i]. Like Jenkins, Rose underlines the importance of new technologies in the creation and development of these interactive and immersive processes, praising the adaptive skills of the creative and cultural industries in a changing media ecosystem. However, Rose’s book focuses on the experiences of the audiences and for him, deep media is clearly about how to make audiences engage in an interactive story, and any deep media experience must include the audiences in this process.

Lionsgate uses such a strategy in a marketing way to promote each movie opus of the franchise. This specific strategy leans on what Brian Clark (jokingly) called the West Coast transmedia strategy, because it is often produced by and for some Hollywood franchises. Clark stated that “the West Coast transmedia tradition…thinks more in terms of franchises, it has struggles with the relationships with the owners of the industry, and starts from the perspective that creators won’t own the IP they are creating. They want to fix the studio system, or recreate a new kind of studio”. Moreover, there is a strong economical appeal for the studio to use this transmedia strategy: they can build momentum from a franchise that has already a solid fan base and a storyworld to expand. Johnson, quoting Jenkins, states that franchises have been one of the main foundations in that they offer a way in which media industries work in synergy (Johnson, 2009), sharing the IP and building together a whole narrative universe.

As a teaser, 100 days before the release of The Hunger Games in theatres, Lionsgate hid 100 puzzle pieces on 100 different websites, inviting fans into a small scavenger hunt. Fans tracked them down and pieced them together to reveal a new poster for promoting the movie. With this interactive game of hide and seek, Lionsgate bet on the fact that fans love playing detective and finding clues scattered across the Internet.

Lionsgate continued this strategy with the creation of an interactive website centred on the exploration of The Capitol, which would soon serve as a main platform for the strategy and where all the elements would come together. This choice can be explained by the fact that The Hunger Games is told from the perspective of the heroine Katniss Everdeen, and she only visits The Capitol for one day and one night on her way to the training centre in the first book and film. Lionsgate wanted to give a new perspective on something the readers haven’t really explored yet. As Melanie Kohnen explains: “In order to create this investment, official transmedia has to offer material about the world of THG that appears new and exciting to fans; at the same time, this material cannot give away too many details about the film itself. This is particularly crucial for a book adaptation because many fans are familiar with the story and are most interested in seeing how this story has been translated to the screen. In addition, official transmedia cannot stray too far from ‘canon’” (Kohnen, 2012). When fans first entered the interactive website (, they had to create an account. After doing so they were given a virtual ID card with their District, virtually becoming an official citizen of Panem with direct access to the Citizen Information Terminal. Users could explore the website and discover information on the various districts and on The Capitol via Facebook accounts. These accounts offered official news from the 12 Districts, their culture, and their inhabitants in order to immerse fans and potential spectators into the world of The Hunger Games. A 360° view from the train station where Katniss and Peeta first arrive in The Capitol allowed fans to take a look at the richness of the place. The users took the place of the characters and discovered the Capitol from their perspectives, allowing a mise-en-scene of the splendours and marvels of the world’s people and places. Moreover, users could access and read an online magazine, Capitol Couture, written by fashion journalists from the Capitol. This glossy and glamorous magazine, in the form of a Tumblr, offered insights on people from the rich city, their fashion habits and their tastes.

This first attempt at a transmedia campaign for The Hunger Games had a double purpose. First, Lionsgate wanted fans of the books to discover new aspects of the storyworld and literally enter the Capitol and meet the people living in the city. Then, they tried to bring some new fans into the franchise by making it all glossy and glamorous, showing the beautiful face of the Capitol.

In the time gap between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the second movie, Lionsgate continued developing its strategy, keeping the fans in the storyworld and promoting the second movie at the same time. This strategy followed the narration of the movies, but still used the same interactive platform, social accounts and Tumblr. The plot of Catching Fire is focused on the 75th Hunger Games, called the Quarter Quells. For these special games, President Snow changed the rules and ordered that tributes from each district were harvested from the past winners of the games, leaving Peeta and Katniss with no other choice than to go back in the Arena and fight again for their lives. The Capital Couture Tumblr was still active, and used as a propaganda tool supporting the oppressive regime of the Capitol. Lionsgate revealed glossy portraits of the characters, ready to compete in the Quarter Quells. Alongside Katniss and Peeta, as well as returning characters Haymich, Effie and Caesar Flickerman, fans were introduced to past winners from the 11 other districts who would compete in the Arena. The glamour displayed in the pictures conveyed the luxury of the Capitol and the control President Snow sought to keep over the masses.

At the same time, Lionsgate also launched a fashion line inspired by The Hunger Games, which it advertised in magazines and giant billboards across the United States. This strategy was also relayed on Twitter using the hashtags #capitolstyle or #ohsocapitol and on the Instagram official account of The Hunger Games. The clothes were created by the costume designer from the movie, adding a sense of reality to the strategy. Every Friday the Capital Couture magazine showed new fashion clothes or perfumes with the tagline: “Be fabulous. Be Capitol. Be seen”. Lionsgate even included an interactive element asking fans to send a picture of themselves that they could publish on the Tumblr.

This second installment of the transmedia campaign for the second movie also achieved two main objectives. The first one was to introduce new characters to the storyworld, the past winners of the games. The second one was to further blur the line between reality and fiction by promoting and launching a fashion style from the Capitol, inspired by what people wear in the luxury city. A participatory element was also introduced in this segment of the strategy in order to please fans’ interest in engaging with the storyworld. As Grant McCraken states: “media producers must accommodate consumer demands to participate or they will run the risk of losing the most active and passionate consumers to some other media interest that is more tolerant: “Corporations must decide whether they are, literally, in or out. Will they make themselves an island or will they enter the mix? Making themselves an island may have certain short-term financial benefits, but the long-term costs can be substantial” (Jenkins, 2006: 138).

To promote the third movie, Mockingjay Part 1, Lionsgate built up on this momentum and launched a new phase of the transmedia campaign. This third part of the transmedia strategy put the emphasis on interactivity, participation and immersion in the storyworld by focusing on the propaganda of the Capitol and the rise of the rebellion. During the games of the Quarter Quells, the competitors from some districts helped Katniss escaped death to make her the symbol of the rebellion. In the process, Peeta is captured by President Snow, tortured and brainwashed into becoming a symbol of the dictatorship. The third movie deals with the fight against President Snow, the rise of the rebellion in the Districts and the rebirth of District 13 where all the rebels and their leader Katniss are hidden. The interactive website was again the main platform for the dictatorship’s propaganda. On the platform, President Snow broadcast information via Capitol TV, dressed in white (to not-so-subtly show the purity of his intentions) and seated on a throne with Peeta and Johanna, the tributes captured at the end of the second film, on each of his sides. Fans who had registered for the first step and received a citizen ID could receive the message in their mailbox. Peeta and Johanna become poster boy and girl for the Capitol on the website, all dressed in white. However, just as in the movie, this time the marketing campaign reflected the rebellion also becoming more organized. In September 2014, symbols of the Mockingjay began popping up in various cities around the world. For example, in France, symbols were tagged in the subway, in crop fields and on the beach in Normandy. In the United States, they were posted on giant Billboards in Washington, DC, stating that the rebellion was ready to fight President Snow. Moreover, to invite fans into the process, Lionsgate created a mobile application, called “Our Leader The Mockingjay”. Fans could digitally tag landmarks with the District 13 logo and the symbol, then post the result online to share with the community. They could also comment on the other tags and find other rebels in their area. Finally they could access messages from District 13, and be updated on the evolution of the rebellion. To immerse fans in the universe, the app allowed a virtual visit of District 13, with a map of the rooms, some schematic sections of the locations and finally a 3D visualization of the hovercraft of the rebels.

As of this writing, the fourth and final movie has yet to be released, and in preparation for it Lionsgate has just launched a new feature of its transmedia campaign. The promotion for Mockingjay Part 2 is entirely focused on the rebellion. For this part of the campaign, the rebels have managed to hack The Capitol’s website, changing the url name to The propaganda is reversed here, and the rebels broadcast video messages of Katniss in her new outfit leading an army of soldiers dressed in white. They also present the “pillars of Panem”, heroes ready to fight the Capitol and lead the rebellion. They also encourage fans to join the resistance and help Katniss and her friends by sharing the news and spreading the world on social networks.

Lionsgate’s transmedia marketing campaign has some interesting aspects regarding the link between the ancillary content and Jenkins’ definition. When it started, the distribution company put the emphasis on the luxury of the Capitol, giving fans the opportunity to discover a new place, new people and the main city of Panem. The main platform then became a tool and a medium of propaganda from the Capitol, showing all the glamour from the dictatorship. The third phase changed the point of view and introduced the rebels and their fight. The Capitol finally disappeared in the last phase. This evolution from glamour to rebellion follows the narration from the books and the movies. Each step of the campaign encouraged fans to participate and dive into the storyworld, taking the side of the rebels and following the main character, Katniss, in her path. They build on what Javier Lozano has coined “fanadvertising, an emergent form of advertising communication developed by the fans of a cultural product” (Lozano Delmar, Hernandez, Ramos, 2013). The use of fan-generated content is thus seen “as an advertising tool and discuss the role of the fans as producer of ad content” (Bourdaa, Lozano, 2015). Lionsgate bet on the notion of “spreadable media” (Jenkins, Ford, Green, 2013) or, as Jenkins says, “if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead”, meaning that canon or fanon content is circulated by fans sharing them within their communities or via social networks. To illustrate this participation in a transmedia context, Paul Booth introduces the notion of the Digi-Gratis economy, “which implies a reward economy and a gift economy for the fans. This new economy promotes social relationships in a digital world and amounts to connecting the production and consumption of media content on an equal footing » (Bourdaa, 2012). Fans collaborate, participate and share official and fan-generated content and are rewarded with exclusive content and the pleasure of being part of a community.

“Taking Back the Narrative”: Fans and Activism in the Hunger Games Storyworld

As Jenkins has stated and as we analyzed in the first section of this chapter, “fans are consummators who produce, readers who write and spectators who participate” (Jenkins, 1992; 2015), emphasizing the active role of fans and their creativity. I have broken down the activities of fandoms and fans into five categories, with fans engaging in one or more categories depending on their degree of involvement in the fandom.

The first category is the making of social bonds and links. In a study I conducted on fans of TV series Battlestar Galactica, fans told me that they joined the fandom and the community to have a sense of belonging, and to share the same experience (Bourdaa, 2012). Of course, the social links are obvious in conventions where fans meet “for real” and share their passion – often using cosplay – to convey their love for one show, comic or movie. But social networks such as Twitter help fans enlarge the social links they create. As Wohn and Na argue, “Social network sites (SNSs) allow television viewers to once again enjoy the communal experience of group viewing without being physically together… Viewers are sharing their viewing experiences real–time through computer–mediated communication, which creates a pseudo–communal viewing experience even though they are not collocated. » (Wohn, Na, 2011).

The second type of fan activity is linked to fansubbing, allowing fans to become cultural mediators. Fansubbing is a teamwork within the fandom with specific roles played by the fans: uploader, translator, timer, reader. It is rooted in Japan during the early 1980’s, when anime circulated among fans from outside of Japan and had to be translated. Fansubbers mainly act as mediators as they make cultural productions available in different countries, share them with subtitles and translate national cultural habits. Hye-Kyung Lee noted that “these practices differ from simple copying and sharing of music files in the sense that they necessitate cultural consumers assuming active roles as mediators and distributors”. Lee continued, saying: “Fan-translation and distribution of cultural commodities contributes to the bottom-up spread of culture across geographical and linguistic borders” (Lee, 2012).

The third kind of activity is represented by the principle of “collective intelligence” (Levy, 1994). Fans create wikis or website to aggregate all their findings on the storyworld. In his essay on the LostPedia, the wiki for the TV series Lost, Mittell argues “Lostpedia’s core function is as a shared archive of data, culling information from the show, its brand extensions, and its cultural references to make sense of the show’s mysteries and narrative web” (Mittell, 2009), putting the emphasis on the collaborative work and thinking of the community.

The fourth category of activity is the most obvious one given Jenkins’ characteristics of fans, since it has to do with creativity. Many fans are content producers and give new meanings to texts through creating fan art, fan fiction or putting Tumblr blogs online (Bennett, 2014 ; François, 2012 ; Ross, 2008 ; Booth, 2010). This creativity is widely enhanced by the paradox between fascination and frustration that fans feel towards their object of passion.

The fifth and final category is the one that most interests us in the remainder of this essay: activism. This category is at the intersection of cultural and political participation and implies a heightened level of civic engagement, especially among young fans who use the property as a tribune to express their topical opinions. According to Brough and Shrethova, “Fan groups may organize around real-world issues through extended engagement with and appropriation of popular culture content. Fan activism can thus also be understood as fan-driven efforts to address civic or political issues through engagement with and strategic deployment of popular culture content” (Brough, Shrethova, 2012). For Jenkins, “fan activism” refers to forms of civic engagement and political participation that emerge from within fan culture itself, often in response to the shared interests of fans often conducted through the infrastructure of existing fan practices and relationships, and often framed through metaphors drawn from popular and participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2012).

Such fan activism is best exemplified by the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit organization created by fans of Harry Potter to fight for political causes and empower young fans. This approach was coined “cultural acupuncture” by Andrew Slack, co-founder of the Harry Potter Alliance. As Slack explained in an article he wrote in the Huffington Post: “Cultural acupuncture is finding where the psychological energy is in the culture, and moving that energy towards creating a healthier world… We activists may not have the same money as Nike and McDonald’s, but we have a message that actually means something… What we do not have is the luxury of keeping the issues we cover seemingly boring, technocratic, and inaccessible. With cultural acupuncture, we will usher in an era of activism that is fun, imaginative, and sexy, yet truly effective » (Slack, 2010 ).

Of course social networks and the Internet allow fans to better organize and make their voice heard, as Paul DeGeorge, co-founder of the Alliance, reminds us:

“Social media is critical to our operation and it’s aligned with our central philosophy of meeting people where they’re at. We use the existing passion and enthusiasm that Harry Potter fans have for these stories and channel it to productive outlets for social good” (Paul DeGeorge in Bourdaa, 2014). After the original Harry Potter film series concluded, the Alliance joined fans of The Hunger Games to launch a new activism campaign linked to the dystopian narrative. The main objective was to put the core values of the Hunger Games narrative at the centre of the engagement, which were largely lost in Lionsgate’s official marketing campaign: social inequalities, poverty, exploitation and (perhaps ironically) the fight against hunger.

For the release of the first movie, the HP Alliance and fans of The Hunger Games joined the non-profit organization Oxfam to fight hunger in Africa. To make their campaign more visible, they created a special hashtag #HungerIsNotAGame to share and circulate their actions. However, Lionsgate put an end to this action by invoking copyright infringement laws, as fans used the name of and the universe of the franchise.

These fan communities mobilized themselves again for the release of the second movie, Catching Fire. Fans saw in Katniss’ rise as a symbol of rebellion a similar opportunity to take action and develop their own engagement in society. Lionsgate’s official marketing campaign predictably glamorized the characters and focused on selling tickets and merchandise, which dissatisfied activist fans. As these fans explained on their website, “The release of the Catching Fire film represents a perfect opportunity to establish a dialogue between our own problems and set the wheels in motion for positive change. Instead, Catching Fire is being used as an opportunity to sell makeup and fast-food sandwiches” (

These fans went on to counter Lionsgate’s marketing campaign by launching their own campaign designed to take back the narrative and use it to fight against discrimination and inequality. In the first stage of their action, activist fans created a Tumblr entitled “Odds in Our Favor”. The Alliance identified Tumblr “as the central hub for this nomadic fandom » (Bourdaa, 2014). They took the tagline of The Capitol during the harvest and reversed it, employing the possessive pronoun “our”, thus stating that the narrative is theirs to use. This first step allowed fans to publicize their actions. They then asked other fans to take “selfies” with the three-finger salute, the symbol of the rebels in the movies, and then share those pictures on Tumblr and Twitter using the hashtag #JoinTheResistance. Fans were also encouraged to talk about the movement at movie premieres, giving people a cut model of the salute and leading them to the Tumblr.

After this first phase of recruitment and publicization, the Alliance launched the second phase with a second Tumblr entitled “We Are the Districts”, a clear reference to the oppressed districts in the storyworld. This Tumblr represents the main elements of the activist campaign. To stick to the narrative of the storyworld, the Tumblr was divided into 12 sections, echoing the 12 districts of Panem: access to healthcare, to households, to education, gender equalities, environment, violence… Thanks to this Tumblr, fans were invigorated to act upon their engagement. After choosing a cause to defend, fans were then given precise, concrete action plans to follow, which were written by dedicated fans in the Alliance.

For the release of the third film, Mockingjay Part 1, the HP Alliance and fans of The Hunger Games asked other fans to tell their own stories of oppression using #MyHungerGames. The resulting outpouring of fan testimonies put the audience at the center of the narrative and implied that The Hunger Games is much more than the luxury, glamour, and beauty highlighted by Lionsgate’s official campaign.

As with any fan activity, fan activism is first organized in a community or fandom and then spreads into the public sphere through the circulation of content in social networks. Fans’ mobilization for social and political actions show a great coordination and collaboration among fans in the community, but also a will to take back the narrative and use it as a vector for social change. Thus, such fans display a high potential for political engagement and rising up to defend causes whose meaning is underlined in the fiction. Therefore, it is important to consider such fan activism as a potential lever for action, creativity and production within a larger community, and, as Paul DeGeorge suggests, an opportunity to find and empower new young activists: “Henry Jenkins’ research has also shown that many of the young people involved in HPA weren’t politically engaged before. They are using new media in innovative ways, but are often cut off from the political process. Our work has helped create a political and civic identity for young people that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives” (Bourdaa, 2014).

Conclusion: Transmedia Marketing vs. Civic Engagement

This analysis of the whole Hunger Games strategy, both the official marketing campaign from Lionsgate and the fan-generated one from the Harry Potter Alliance, shows that transmedia techniques can be used by fans to create even more highly-engaging, powerful and meaningful counter-campaigns.

For The Hunger Games, Lionsgate first put luxury and glamour at the center of its strategy with the release of the Capitol Couture magazine, a glossy journal focused on the Capitol’s products and fashion. With each subsequent campaign, Lionsgate put more and more emphasis on the rebellion, remembering that the story is about the fight against repression and dictatorship. They included fans in this experience, first making them detectives and then creators of content – but as digital labor, or “fanadvertising”, in the service of selling more tickets and merchandise.

More civic-minded fans rebelled, seeking to “take back the narrative” of the books and its true values and to put more political and social action into motion. These fans took action, using what they consider the true theme of The Hunger Games to support actual social, cultural and political causes, empowering in the process young fans and giving them a way to express themselves. These civic actions were sometimes repressed in some countries like the three-finger salute in Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand for example. Opponents of the military regime in those countries used the gesture as a symbol of silent resistance and freedom of expression. One opponent tweeted : “Dear #HungerGames. We’ve taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction ». Once again, fiction slides towards reality and opponents to a dictatorship saw the opportunity in The Hunger Games values to make a statement and stand for what they believe in. Unfortunately, the military and the regimes condemned these actions and arrested any people doing the salute in rallies.

The civic engagements related to The Hunger Games is another example of fans taking actions socially and politically in the real world using the values of the texts. As I stated before, fans of Harry Potter already took initiatives with the creation of the Harry Potter Alliance, or as they call themselves The Dumbledore Army. Their goal is to “change the world by making activism accessible through the power of story”[1]. They did campaigns to fight for education, marriage and immigration equality during the 2012 presidential campaign (EqualityFTW 2012), for net neutrality, or to donate books for underprivileged and underserved readers (AccioBooks). They have three ongoing actions: positive fandoms, fans work are faire use and HP10 to celebrate 10 years of existence. They use the movies and the books to take a stand socially and politically in a media and political environment which do not give interest to young people:

« One of the roles that we’ve been serving has been to help validate fandom. To an outsider perspective, fans may seem geeky or socially awkward. But really, it’s just a community of people with a shared passion and enthusiasm. So when we’re able to give that community positive and meaningful projects to engage with, it can help to validate their enthusiasm on both a personal way and in a public way. Henry Jenkins’ research has also shown that many of the young people involved in HPA weren’t politically engaged before. They are using new media in innovative ways, but are often cut off from the political process. Our work has helped create a political and civic identity for young people that they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. » (G. DePaul in Bourdaa, 2014).

Young adults novels and movies are not the only vehicles for such activism as fans of superheroes use their icons socially and politically. For example, fans took Superman as an example of an immigrant on the American soil to fight against immigrants’ discrimination. WonderWoman is a symbol of feminism.

Media texts are powerful weapon for fans to make a statement in real life, to organize themselves as a group of activists and to take actions for causes they belive in. Fighting against the marketing campaigns, they “take back the narratives” in their own hands.

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Une réflexion sur « Stratégie Transmedia vs. Activisme Fan : le cas de The Hunger Games »

  1. Chère carnetière, cher carnetier,
    Nous avons particulièrement apprécié votre billet. Pour que la communauté puisse plus aisément le découvrir, nous avons décidé de le mettre en Une d’Hypothèses.
    Bien cordialement,
    L’équipe d’

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