It’s always interesting to see what pop culture symbolism is adopted when it comes to politics. The Joker mask was recently adopted in protests in Hong Kong last year. The iconic silent three-finger gesture from The Hunger Games is being used during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Thailand. It’s become a symbol of defiance within the nation. The protestors are demanding reform of the Thai monarchy and an end to corruption. They have entered into the ninth month of protests against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
This isn’t the first time the gesture has been used in the nation and not the only pop culture references regularly being spotted.
The three fingers first caught on in 2014 after a military coup overthrew the Thai government. There was an attempt to ban the gesture in response which failed. In 2019 a general election was held based on a controversial military-drafted constitution.
The symbol was so popular, the opposition party, Future Forward, adopted it. That party won 80 seats in the parliament in 2019 making it the third-largest party. The party was dissolved earlier this year when one of its leaders was ruled to have illegally donated money to the cause after calling it a loan.
Protestors have also dressed up as references to Harry Potter and Japanese anime like Hamtaro and Naruto.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn has taken on comparisons to the Harry Potter villain Voldemort, “He Who Must Not Be Named”, because it is illegal to insult, defame, or threaten the king.
The three fingers has symbolism as the protestors have three demands:
- The Dissolution of parliament
- End the intimidation of the people
- Draft a new constitution
From Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, the salute is a way to say goodbye, as a sign of respect and admiration, and becomes an act of defiance and solidarity against tyranny as the story progresses. It has historical significance and was used during the French Revolution to symbolize the trinity of freedom, fraternity, and equality.
The salute has also been used in the before mentioned pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year. Those protests along with the Thai protests and, Taiwan protests have been led by youth and been dubbed the “Milk Tea Alliance.” Other popular adopted pop-culture symbolism is the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta which has been used during Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring protests as well as being used by hacktivist group Anonymous.