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Commentary Entertainment

The internet’s new hot boy of the month took an blond and evil turn

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Fire up your time machines, hike up your fishnets and dust off your old Tumblr account — 2012 is making a comeback! Along with eclectic fashion and angsty music, one of the most prevalent pop culture phenomenons of the 2010s is stepping back into the spotlight: “The Hunger Games” franchise.

In 2020, Suzanne Collins, author of “The Hunger Games” series, surprised the world by releasing a prequel to her beloved books: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The book follows the formative years of President Coriolanus Snow, a character who had, up until this point in the franchise, been painted as a terrible villain. The Coriolanus Snow shown in the prequel was very much still that villain, still terrible and twisted, but with a hint of vulnerability afforded to him by his youth. None of that would matter, however, when the movie trailer dropped.

Morals melted away as swiftly as snow in the hot spring sun when Tom Blyth, the actor who would portray the young president in the film, strode into frame. Six feet tall with a chiseled face and a dashing smile, Blyth was what could only be described as Hollywood pretty. Predictably, the crowd went wild.

As footage of the movie began to appear on social media, fan-fever reached an all time high. Seemingly overnight, edits of the character were plastered all over every corner of the internet, accompanied by captions proclaiming “I know he’s bad, but…”

The hysteria over Blyth’s portrayal of such an insidious character begs an interesting question: Does the attractiveness of a character — whether implied or actualized — affect the delivery of the message the media conveys? I would be inclined to say yes, and especially in this case.

Another recent example comes in the form of the Barbie movie, which hit theaters in July 2023. The movie is all about female empowerment, and yet the message that advertisers chose to capitalize on was “I am Kenough?” Mind-boggling, truly baffling.

The complete glossing over of the film’s message seems to have even carried over into awards season. Jokes were made at the expense of the female cast at the Golden Globes, and Ryan Gosling picked up an Oscar nomination for his role as Ken, while Margot Robbie, who starred opposite him as Barbie, did not receive a nomination, nor did Greta Gerwig, the film’s director.

Anyways, “The Hunger Games” is a brilliant social criticism, portraying a world that, while a little far-fetched, is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. However, the finer aspects of this criticism appear to be lost on most readers in favor of romantic subplots and the flashy fashion of the Capitol — because evil goes down a lot smoother when it’s beautiful. The viewer won’t even know what hit them until the end credits start rolling.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the issue of President Snow. Would moviegoers have come away from “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” with a different feeling in their chests if Snow hadn’t been so Hollywood attractive? Once again, I say the answer is yes. Snow being attractive was part of the trap. Nobody wants to watch an ugly movie about ugly things if there isn’t some tantalizing appeal, and in this case, that appeal came in the form of the main character.

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