Anyone who has watched The Hunger Games—and that's millions upon millions of people—is familiar with the series' symbol of political dissent: three fingers held up, with the thumb and pinky folded. Now, Thai citizens protesting the recent military coup, too, have taken up that gesture, citing inspiration from Katniss and her fictional friends.
Already, scores of those proffering the salute during weekend street protests have been dragged off by troops, in scenes eerily reminiscent of the Suzanne Collins novels and movie franchise, which depict a dystopian future society ruled by the totalitarian Panem regime.
And over the weekend, the sight of unarmed and peaceful protesters being detained for flashing three fingers — including a woman dragged into a taxi by plainclothes police in tourist-thronged central Bangkok — did little to assuage fears of what the military may have in store.
In the dystopian world of the Hunger Games, that gesture is enough to warrant execution on the spot. Thailand's junta officials, Time reports, are reserving the right to jail people who raise their hand in the salute and contemplating whether they should make it an officially illegal gesture.
Although the three-finger salute has come to mean something to large groups of people thanks to the popularity of the Hunger Games, as the writer Jonathan Jones points out on the Guardian, the Hunger Games is a franchise designed to make money, not "a manual for changing the world." Here's Jones:
When the best political imagery available comes from a corny series of paranoid science fiction films that are retro-1970s science fiction at best, and vacuous adolescent fantasy at worst, there is something missing. The Thai protesters' resort to the world of The Hunger Games for a subversive symbol is reminiscent of Occupy's use of the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta. It seems that films and comics, rather than conventional political ideologies, are the texts from which modern radicalism takes its imagery.
Adopting the contentious gesture, though, seems to have finally earned Thailand's protesters international media attention, which was lacking in the first two weeks since the coup.