Rise of the Mockingjay: From Ferguson to Hong Kong

Amy H. Sturgis,

Release Date
November 18, 2014


Civil Liberties

In the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen becomes the Mockingjay–a symbol of hope and rebellion for the people of Panem. In today’s world, where new technology enables government surveillance and censorship, citizens are able to fight back by using that same technology to organize and rebel against abuse of power. Both in the fictional dystopia of the Hunger Games and the real, near-dystopian rights violations faced by people across the world today, the ideas of freedom catch fire, spreading faster than governments can stamp them out.

Our Cages and Labyrinths [article]: Jeffrey Tucker explores dystopian themes in modern pop culture
Is Katniss a Modern-Day Spartacus?: Watch Amy Sturgis discuss the ancient sources behind the Hunger Games books
Thai Protesters Use Hunger Games Salute [article]: Thai protesters flash ‘Hunger Games’ salute to register quiet dissent
When Dystopian Fiction Became Reality TV [article]: Are we desensitized to dystopian worlds because we live in one?
Environmental Activists Use Hunger Games Banner [article]: Environmental activists are accused of a terrorism hoax after they unfurl a glitter-covered Hunger Games banner.

What is a Mockingjay? It’s a symbol of defiance, of turning the tools of the oppressors back against them, of liberty finding a way. In the Hunger Games novels and films, the Mockingjay is also the role Katniss Everdeen assumes when she takes a stand against the oppressive capital. She becomes not only a rebel, but also a very visible symbol of rebellion–a means of uniting the people of the districts against the regime that has controlled and abused them for so long. In so doing, Katniss Everdeen, the Mockingjay, teaches us something about our contemporary times, and the irrepressible spirit of freedom.
Our world now shares key similarities with the dystopian future described in the Hunger Games. Like the fictional nation of Panem, oppressive states today also seek to surveil citizens, manipulate or repress information, and manage public opinion. We take it for granted, even in so-called “free” societies, that our movements are filmed and our conversations monitored, and that leaders and their administrations practice sophisticated spin-control to influence public perceptions.
But technology is a two-way street. In assuming the role of the Mockingjay, Katniss answers the Capital’s tyranny and propaganda with a publicity campaign of her own designed to gain visibility for and convey the message of resistance.
Today’s struggles for freedom are played out, like Katniss’s, before a live audience, over television and social media. As one activist tweeted during the Egyptian uprising of 2011, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”
When coups occur and elections are thwarted, when free speech is forbidden and civil disobedience is met with violence, when leaders say one thing to the world community while their soldiers or police do the opposite, we can witness such events in real time, and we can respond.
Katniss’s example urges us to be citizens and audience members who think critically, who ask questions and reason for ourselves and don’t believe everything we see or are told– who stand up for our rights, rather than crouch down in fear. Whether it’s Ukraine or Hong Kong, Syria or Ferguson, Missouri,  the Capital can’t hide from the cameras.
It’s no wonder that the three-fingered salute of the Mockingjay, introduced by the Hunger Games books and movies, now is appearing across the globe as a symbol of protest. From Bangkok in Thailand to Tucson, Arizona in the United States, ideas such as freedom catch fire. So do symbols like the Mockingjay.
I have a lot more to say about the Hunger Games series and how it reflects current issues today. Please click here to sign up for my free Learn Liberty Academy online program.