Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

TikTok Is Confused by This Song From ‘The Hunger Games’

If you grew up as a fan of The Hunger Games (yes, I’m counting myself, even though I was 15 when the first book came out), you know the song “The Hanging Tree.” Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) sings the song in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, which quickly becomes a rallying cry and anthem for the people of Panem. The song was written for the movie and featured in the books by Suzanne Collins but was not a song prior to The Hunger Games. “The Hanging Tree”, released in 2014, was written by Collins and composed by 9-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard, along with Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz from The Lumineers. 

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Now, we’re getting more lore behind the song itself, which predates Katniss and the revolution. The song will feature prominently in the highly anticipated Hunger Games prequel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) writes the song in the prequel, and Zegler is releasing her version of “The Hanging Tree” on October 20!

I think that Zegler is incredibly talented and that this version is going to be beautiful. Especially with the lore of President Snow (played at a much younger age by Tom Blyth) growing in the film. What is less exciting is Gen Z’s reaction to the song on TikTok, which is really a lesson in media literacy. The last time “The Hanging Tree” went viral online, it was thanks to sentimental millennials who were fondly remembering the franchise. But this new trend sees folks canceling the song for the dumbest reasons.

TikTok really thought they had something here …

Now, look. TikTok isn’t always great about things. But while many fans were reliving the 2010s by posting their favorite fanvids of Peeta/Katniss or singing “The Hanging Tree” themselves, people complained online and claimed that the song was appropriation. The user corrected people who assumed it was an African-American folk song about lynchings by reminding us that it’s a relatively new song composed for a fictional film franchise. As one commenter pointed out, the song is inspired by a rebel who was executed in District 12.

@kissing_whiskey

Replying to @peaceloveandpussy #greenscreen If any friends or folks in the black community would like to call me out I’m listening. But this random private profile trying to hold me “accountable” for using a 2014 pop song to spread an important message? I’m not buying it. #boycott #appalachia #appalachian #callout #thehungergames

♬ The Hanging Tree – James Newton Howard

It then sent a lot of millennials into a tailspin of “What are we doing” and “Are we teaching people anything anymore” and reminded us that some folks are, in fact, too online. I do fear that this same issue will come up again. Especially since people like to attack Rachel Zegler for breathing. Hopefully, we can all remember that this is a song of rebellion against the Capitol.

Maybe we can all whistle, hold our three fingers up to the sky, sing the song of “The Hanging Tree” and not let TikTok ruin it, but I don’t think that will happen.

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.