“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” opened recently worldwide to the biggest boxoffice numbers of the year, but the protest filled dystopian film has had a much larger impact beyond its economic figures.
The three-finger salute that “Hunger Games” protagonist Katniss Everdeen uses to symbolize her solidarity with the beaten down masses of the nation of Panem has become used as a real symbol of protest for the citizens of Thailand during an ongoing period of political instability.
According to the BBC, Thailand has been on shaky political ground for many years, but a military coup that took place in May was the catalyst for the recent protests.
According to the New York Times, the salute had been used immediately following the military coup to the point where the new government warned that raising it could lead to arrest. As the release for the film neared, the government made good on its threats.
During a speech by the head of the new government, students wearing T-shirts that said “we don’t want the coup” gave the Hunger Games salute and were detained by police.
Other incidents of the symbol being used leading to arrest have happened around the country as in Bangkok where students were arrested.
The New York Times also reports that the film has also been pulled from theaters for fear of political backlash.
When asked by reporters about the use of the symbol, one of the detained students, Natchacha Kongudom said “The three-finger sign is a sign to show that I am calling for my basic right to live my life.”
Francis Lawrence, director of multiple films in the series, had mixed feelings on the use of the salute in real life political situations.
“Part of it is sort of thrilling that something that happens in the movie can become a symbol for people, for freedom or protest,” Lawrence said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald. “But when kids started getting arrested for it (then that) takes the thrill out of it and it becomes much more dangerous and it makes the feeling much more complex. When people are getting arrested for doing something from your movie, it’s troubling.”
Meanwhile, the film has also had political relevancy in the United States. In the hours before Ferguson, Missouri and the nation received the grand jury’s verdict in the possible indictment of Darren Wilson, graffiti was found on an arch in a neighboring community that quoted the film.
According to Salon, graffiti was found in the neighboring town of Shaw that said “if we burn, you burn with us,” a quote from Mockingjay.