I’m officially on the Hunger Games train.
I was one of many moviegoers this weekend that forked over $10 to see the latest must-see movie based on a young adult trilogy. The success of Suzanne Collins’ novels has been compared to “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” among my generation. This was proven when the movie hit $115 million opening weekend, surpassing its $90 million goal.
Among these popular stories though, the Hunger Games stood out for several reasons.
Is it the blatant social commentary about inequality? Maybe.
The female author behind the trilogy? Perhaps.
The strong, pivotal and female main character? Most definitely.
Katniss Everdeen, the smart, pivotal protagonist really impressed me. Not only is she un-obsessed or even un-fazed by the opposite sex, the male roles play second to her. Women defying typical gender roles or being perceived as “tough” isn’t anything new, but the representation of this in society are few and far between. Even when we do see tough femme fatales, they’re usually wearing costumes that look too revealing and tight to fight crime in, let alone breathe.
Simply put, in a pop culture world that celebrates Bella Swan, a non-degree-seeking teenage love interest/bride of her undead, sparkly boyfriend, Katniss is a sight for sore, bored and unimpressed eyes. And though I assigned myself as part of the “Potter Generation” at the tender age of nine, I still think Katniss is a better role model for young women today, even more than the cleverest witch of her time (Hermione, duh). Katniss carries the plot, (which doesn’t include a (real) relationship problem with the opposite sex,) by herself.
Critics of Katniss’ feminist personae have been vocal about examples of strong female role models in popular fiction before this trilogy. They point to novels like “Julie of the Wolves” or “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” both relevant, required-reading examples. Neither of these stories though, has garnered the kind of attention that earns $115 million in a weekend, or can spark conversation about social injustice or start a political dialogue. This is what the “Hunger Games” has accomplished, and that is the strength of this story.
Beyond enforcing the feminist agenda, the popularity of this story has huge potential. Yes, there are some notably strange merchandise from the franchise being hawked (“Hunger Games” nail polish and Barbie dolls, anyone?). The social justice issues that the film centers on are being brought to life with the “Hunger is not a Game” movement , which addresses world hunger and gives many fans of the franchise opportunities to help alleviate these problems.
As salon.com noted, “obsessive female fandom is having a moment.” Let’s make this moment one we can be proud of by bringing strong, independent women to the forefront of more popular literature and film.