Over the course of the The Hunger Games, heroine Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movies) becomes a symbol of rebellion, and eventually the figurehead of a full-scale revolution in the dystopian nation of Panem. Now it appears that this fictional character from a fictional future has become the very real inspiration for a group of protesters in Thailand.
Throughout the three books of The Hunger Games, Katniss and company flash a three-fingered salute as a sign of solidarity. It doesn’t always go that well, as on multiple occasions citizens who give that signal wind up dead for their actions. THR reports that groups in Bangkok have adopted the gesture as they protest the military’s recent takeover of Thailand’s civilian government. Citizens have gathered in flash-mob-style groups, waving anti-coup signs and holding their arms aloft like Katniss and friends.
According to posts on Facebook, the motion represents “freedom, equality, and brotherhood.” Others have said, “Raising three fingers has become a symbol in calling for fundamental political rights.” And just like it got people in trouble in The Hunger Games, this show of defiance has led to real-world repercussions in Thailand. The military junta has said that they will arrest groups who have been warned to put their arms down but refuse.
On May 22, the Thai military took power, putting a strict curfew in effect — though it has since been lifted in some areas, so as not to negatively impact tourism — and banning public gatherings of more than five people. They’ve also restricted local media, warning journalists not to be openly critical of the coup, as well as hamstringing outside media outlets like CNN and the BBC, and even taking HBO and the Disney Channel off the air. There is even a threat to clamp down on social media like Facebook and Twitter, because they are being used as tools to organize anti-coup activities.
A spokesman for the junta, Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, told the AP, “We know it comes from the movie, and let’s say it represents resistance against the authorities…If a single individual raises three fingers in the air, we are not going to arrest him or her…But if it is a political gathering of five people or more, then we will have to take some action. If it persists, then we will have to make an arrest.”
If you read this and immediately think that this could easily be the beginning of larger curtailing of civil rights, you’re not the only one. Many people have noted that this sounds like the top of a slippery slope that could ultimately get much worse. In fact, a handful of peaceful anti-coup protesters have already been arrested.
This isn’t the first time symbols from movies have inspired, or at least played into, real-life rebellions. The Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta has been used by Anonymous, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys has popped up from time to time, and the Empire from Star Wars gets called upon anytime protesters want to point the finger at an omnipresent, oppressive system.