The Hunger Games is about to be a really big deal. The best selling teen lit series is heading to the silver screen early next year, and if the comparisons to the Twilight franchise hold true, it’s going to be huge. There’s talk of the movie putting Lionsgate into the big boys arena at last, and if film market pre-sales are any indication, this will be the next major teen film franchise now that Twilight and Harry Potter are wrapping up. You are about to learn who Katniss Everdeen is, whether you like it or not.
The good news is that as far as teen lit properties go, The Hunger Games is good. How do I know? I’ve read the book, silly! Basically, The Hunger Games is Battle Royale meets Twilight, but if Twilight wasn’t awful. In a dystopian future where most people are literally dying of hunger, a group of teens are picked by government lottery to battle to the death in a wilderness arena for the sake of the docile public’s entertainment. Our protagonist, Katniss, has trained herself as a hunter to feed her starving family, and comes into this event in ways I won’t reveal. The set-up is good, and Katniss is a capable but grounded-in-reality heroine who is basically the antithesis of Twilight’s Bella, without being an unattainable superhero like Buffy. In other words, the kind of role-model I’d like to see teenage girls aspire to.
Yes, there is a love story. But unlike the Bella/Edward dynamic, Katniss is the capable one of the pair. I must admit the romance element of the story was the least interesting thing to me about The Hunger Games as I am not, contrary to rumor, a teenage girl. But I thought it was clever twist on the “they can’t be together” meme that is the fuel of so much great teen angst, starting with Romeo and Juliet. Thankfully this one doesn’t make you want to puke. I can see how it will/does play gangbusters for teens, and that’s who the audience is here. But the cool thing about The Hunger Games is that is has a strong backbone of subversiveness and rebellion, and that’s what teenagers need, at least as a possibility. I don’t want to live in a world solely populated by conformist sops. To me, that’s the most nauseating thing about Twilight; not the sparkly vampires, but the undercurrent of conformity and religious morality. That’s fine for some, but I feel better knowing there’s an option out there for teenage girls who would rather be defined by what they do than who they’re with. And yeah, you can fall in love too.
So the point of all this is yes, The Hunger Games are coming, but you should be OK with that. There are those who will balk at the love story, and point out the ways the concept is derivative, but they’ll be missing the big picture. I don’t expect geeks to wholly embrace the series, but they don’t need to feel threatened by it either. Be glad that Katniss Everdeen is poised to be the next big pop culture movie icon (and Jennifer Lawrence = perfect casting). She’s a bow-slingin’ breath of fresh air.