Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I Like The Hunger Games

There's a lot of hype about The Hunger Games right now.  I've read the books, and seen the movie, and I'd like to talk about what I like about it.  If you aren't sure whether you want to see the movie or read the books, maybe this can help you make a decision.

Let me start by saying I get that the concept of The Hunger Games is nothing new - there are many films and books and stories out there about battles to the death and humans hunting each other and all that.  So absolutely in no way am I defending that The Hunger Games is a totally fresh concept for a story because it's not.  I don't think author Suzanne Collins would ever try to defend that either.

What I do think though is that The Hunger Games is a very interesting take on the concept, and from it creates a very interesting, moving story about war and oppression and uprising and standing up for what you believe in, even when it's the hardest thing you will ever have to do.  It's also got a great underlying theme of unconditional love and never giving up on the people you care about when it seems like they are lost to you forever.

I also found it to be an interesting commentary on "reality" media and news coverage.  I think a discussion on the large role the media, the news, and even the personal stylists played in The Hunger Games and their significance could go on a long time.

I think maybe though what I like best about The Hunger Games is its main character, Katniss Everdeen (played in the movie to perfection by Jennifer Lawrence).  In a series of books and films that is hyped this big, I'm so so excited that the protagonist is a female who doesn't suck.  She's super tough, but she's emotional.  She's flawed and dynamic.  She's a strong character who happens to be female, not a Strong Female Character

And yet, crazily enough, The Hunger Games appeals to males AND females.  I was in Costco the other day and I saw a nine-year-old boy excitedly exclaim "HUNGER GAMES!  HUNGER GAMES!" and grab the boxed set off the shelf.  Contrary to what Hollywood seems to think based on the movies they keep churning out, movies about women can appeal to a male audience too.  A good story will appeal to everyone, no matter the gender of the protagonist.

I've heard some people compare The Hunger Games to Twilight.  Um... no.  Admittedly I have not read or watched Twilight but from reading the Wikipedia page, the only thing these two series have in common seems to be having a female protagonist and a love triangle - although in Twilight the love triangle IS the story, whereas it's maybe the C-plot, if that, in The Hunger Games.  Because Katniss has more important things to do than worry about which boy she wants to kiss more.

Do I think The Hunger Games is the greatest series ever?  No.  Do I think it's amazing literature/filmmaking?  Not particularly.  But it's an interesting and thought-provoking story, and definitely a page-turning series of books.  As a feminist I think the fact that an extremely popular movie like this passes The Bechdel Test with flying colours with a whole roster of interesting characters who happen to be female, already introduced and yet to come, is groundbreaking and awesome, and I'm happy to support it.

However - do I think you should watch the movie before reading the book?  No, I don't.  I think the movie does a great job of visualizing the settings and characters from the book, and overall the movie was one of the closest book-to-movies I've ever seen, but it glossed over the importance of a lot of subtle things that contribute to the story.  The screenplay was written by Suzanne Collins and perhaps that's actually a downside - when the author herself lives and breathes the story, she might miss some of the elements that an outsider NEEDS to understand the whole picture.  The movie is great if you already understand the story from reading the books, but there are a lot of things that will just seem like plot holes when you watch the movie if you don't already know the story.  I hear that Suzanne Collins is not writing the second screenplay which hopefully will make for a movie that makes more sense, even if it does have to take a few more liberties with the story to do so.

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