If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, you’re familiar with the three fingered salute from District 12. The gesture appeared in the story by Suzanne Collins in the first book and film after Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for the Hunger Games. Katniss explains the meaning of the sign in the book:
“It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means goodbye to someone you love.”
The residents of District 12 send Katniss off with that sign and she later performs the salute in front of all of Panem while on screen during the games after another tribute’s death. That moment sparked an uprising in District 11 where the dead tribute, Rue, was from. In Catching Fire (the second book/film) when Katniss and Peeta visited District 11 during their victory tour, the citizens made the sign and the man who did it first was shot.
Photo by Manik Sethisuwan
The sign became associated with rebellion in the series, and now, residents of Thailand are using the gesture as a symbol of peaceful protest against the May 22nd Thai military coup. Time reports that some using the salute have been dragged away by troops which is uncomfortably like the scene in fictional District 11.
In an opinion piece on The Bangkok Post, Atiya Achakulwisut writes that protestors are using the symbol to get the word out: “They are creating signs of resistance which pique people’s interest and look good on Facebook and Instagram. They try to draw attention from members of the press, especially foreign media, so that they an expose the junta as being heavy-handed and totalitarian in its lining up of thousands of armed soldiers to fight small groups of peaceful protesters.”
If the sign from The Hunger Games is indeed being used for that purpose, the protestors are successful. Branding their actions with a recognizable symbol from a popular pop culture franchise is effective, and it just so happens that District 12’s salute is suited for their cause.