Picture this: it’s March 2012 and you just entered a movie theater lobby. The scent of overpriced popcorn fills the air as you step online to buy your ticket. As you enter the theater you pray for good seats and a good time. What movie are you there to see? The Hunger Games of course!
10 years ago we first held our breath and hoped that The Hunger Games film adaptation would live up to the Suzanne Collins Novel. Thankfully the film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, was received quite well.
It’s now been a decade since the film’s release, people are still talking about The Hunger Games. Whether it’s through comparing it to other pieces of media, reading the recent prequel The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes, or talking about its societal commentary, it’s clear that conversations surrounding the trilogy are not going to go away any time soon. Some even claim that the books and their film adaptations revolutionized the YA dystopian genre. So…what about The Hunger Games makes it so special?
A Protagonist Worth Fighting For
Sure. As my parents often remind me, it’s important to respect your elders. With book series such as Harry Potter and Twilight in the mix, it would be crazy to say that The Hunger Games was the first YA series to amass a huge following. However, when readers first opened Suzanne Collins’ 2008 they found something new, or new-ish at least: a female protagonist who would take control over her own narrative.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl. She’s strong, intelligent, and flawed. The books and films do not shy away from exploring all of these facets including her familial loyalty and mental health struggles. With Katniss, readers were presented with a person that young people could look up to. Yes, the series includes multiple love interests for Katniss but does not let them define who she is. Above all, she feels real and well-rounded- qualities that translate well onto Jennifer Lawrence’s film portrayal.
The Film Itself
Not only is The Hunger Games movie entertaining, but it helped set the standard for what a good book-to-movie adaptation could be. The casting is incredible (re-watch Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket if you don’t believe me). While there are some changes from the book, the film does an amazing job of bringing this story to life. Some of the changes even serve to strengthen and flesh out an otherwise narrow story. On paper, it’s cool to see the story from inside of Katniss’ head. It makes scenes such as Rue’s death and the game’s final moments even more emotional. However, the film version allows viewers to become omniscient onlookers that can spy on the contestants, game-makers, civilians, and capitol members. By taking us outside of the arena, the nationwide impact of the games is amplified.
There’s no doubt that The Hunger Games has some socio-political commentary. From commenting on capitalism to showing the harmful effects of a media-crazed society, The Hunger Games brings important social issues to a younger and more engaged audience. One good example of this is the inclusion of ‘Career Tributes’. This title refers to tributes from the wealthier districts that train for their whole life for the games. Winning the games ups one’s social status even more, so these ‘Career Tributes’ often volunteer. This detail is just one in the series that can represent American capitalism. Life is substantially easier for those who have access to good nutrition, training facilities, healthcare, and nice places to live. Those that happen to be born in poorer districts tend to be out of luck.
A Far-Reaching Fandom
With all of this in place, The Hunger Games had a big fandom before its film adaptation was even released. The film grossed over 150 million dollars on opening weekend alone. However, the film allowed this important story to be told to a bigger audience; parents that were dragged along with their children, non-readers, and people just looking for a movie to go see.
And after the film was released- the fandom exploded. Fanpages popped up left and right, Gale vs. Peeta arguments permeated the air, cast interviews racked up millions of views, etc. I still remember thinking their press panel at the Mall of America was the biggest deal ever.
While The Hunger Games did not start fandom culture, it definitely played a huge role in expanding it and keeping it going. Inside jokes were crafted through Twitter interactions, cosplayers often sported district 12 garb, the cast was idolized and followed to different events, and very strange merch was sold on the internet. I remember being devastated that I couldn’t figure out how to put my hair into a ‘Katniss braid’.
Following the film’s success, many similar franchises began popping up. Remnants of The Hunger Games plot points and worldbuilding can be found in series such as Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave– just to name a few.
While worldbuilding is not necessarily The Hunger Games’ number one priority, fans have created websites and fan pages, such as The Hunger Games Wiki, that are dedicated to discussing and expanding upon the history, people, and features of Panem. While it seems to have been created a while ago, this fan-based website is still fairly active today. Similarly, The Hunger Games’ official Twitter account is still active (and hilarious) to this day.
The Hunger Games franchise has even inspired some in-person activities such as The Hunger Games: The Exhibition which is located at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and The World of The Hunger Games area of Motiongate theme park in Dubai.
With exhibits and fanfics, cosplays and character analysis, it’s clear that The Hunger Games is still a relevant piece of the pop-culture world.
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