This entire week, throughout the Class, Race, and Gender readings and our class discussion, I have had a song stuck in my head: “The Hanging Tree” melody from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. I first heard this song when I went to see the film and the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, sings a verse or two of “The Hanging Tree” to convey her pain and anger with the senseless murders of her neighbors, friends, and other innocents of her nation.
Within a week of the movie’s release, a “rebel remix” of “The Hanging Tree” popped up on the radio. I was immediately affronted by the “jazzed-up” version’s insensitivity to the somber and depressing moment in the film and proceeded to switch stations whenever it came on. In our Class, Race, and Gender class we discussed the power of music and the messages that the lyrics can convey. Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” was a way for her to protest the lynchings of the early 20th century and have that message reach people all over the country. Was I too quick to think that a song depicting murders and hangings was too gruesome to play on the radio?
While I certainly think that the marketing technique that The Hanging Tree song is coming out under is not too admirable, is it possible that we can use this song and their provocative lyrics to create discussion about the racial injustices happening today?