How Popular Is the Hunger Games?
A quick search* in social media data shows that “Hunger Games” is increasing rapidly in popularity, largely in response to the movie. Hype has been high, especially as the actors of the film have been touring the country in preparation for the films premier.
- 11/14: First Movie Trailer
- 2/2: New Movie Trailer
- 3/9: Red Carpet Premier/Mall Tour
Hundreds of Hunger Games fans gathered in the parking lot outside the Microsoft store in University Village on Saturday March 10, 2012. The actors coming to Seattle were the main stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson, who portray characters Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and Peeta Mellark. Seattle was the final stop of the Hunger Games Mall Tour, a promotion for the Hunger Games movie, which comes out in theatres on March 23rd.
I just finished reading The Hunger Games series about two weeks ago, so when I heard that the cast was coming to University Village, I decided to go down and take some pictures. Fans could show up as early as 7:00am. The first 100 people in line would have a chance to meet the actors from the film. But at 3:30 there was to be a public Q&A in the parking lot. I went for the Q&A, arriving around 3:00pm.
When I got there, the place was already packed. I parked off site and hoofed it to the Microsoft store, where I could already hear a crowd of hundreds, mostly teens, cheering wildly from several blocks away. When the cast of the Hunger Games movie actually arrived, Seattle fans screamed so loudly and for so long that they couldn’t begin the Q&A for several minutes. At one point, Josh Hutcherson remarked that Seattle fans were the loudest of any stop on the tour.
The Q&A lasted about 15-20 minutes. Liam, Jennifer, and Josh seemed fairly comfortable in front of the crowd and answered questions casually. The questions were pre-selected and read aloud. Some were about the Hunger Games story and insight into playing the roles of the characters. Others were about the actors–their experiences, feelings and ambitions. The crowd was screaming throughout so it was sometimes difficult to hear, and I was standing far enough back that it is difficult to make out the individual speakers. Josh, who plays Peeta, was a clear fan favorite and talked the most of the three, followed by Jennifer. Toward the end of the Q&A, Jennifer remarked that the crowd seemed more interested in screaming than continuing the Q&A. The cast made their exit soon after, to the disappointment of a very excited fan base.
Haymitch is Liam’s favorite character
Jennifer empathizes with Katniss’s tough decision between Peeta and Gale (because they’re both hot).
Josh thinks Katniss should choose Gale/Liam has attractive eyes
Josh really connects with Peeta’s beliefs and values
Liam doesn’t have a prom date, but he can’t go to any proms in Issaquah because of his schedule
Jennifer doesn’t get asked to proms as much as Josh, but she did get asked by this crowd
Jennifer can really shoot a bow and arrow
Josh can’t go to prom with Carly in Sammamish
Josh wasn’t a big fan of having blonde hair, but respects that that is Peeta. He had to have it bleached because dyes didn’t work
Liam would build houses if he wasn’t acting (I think this was Liam)
Jennifer had no idea how to answer the question of what she would do if she wasn’t acting. When she was a kid, she used to pretend to be a travel agent
Josh likes playing basketball and soccer (and crochet?). He also likes wildlife/life sciences but wasn’t interested in going to college that long because “it’s a lot of work.”
Josh almost did some rapping, but insisted those days are behind him
Josh and Liam were going to make their own dubstep at one point; they bought equipment at Guitar Center but only used it three times.
Josh’s fads (slingshots, bb guns) have gotten the group in trouble in hotels
So What Is The Hunger Games? [no spoilers]
The Hunger Games is the first book in a three book series by Suzanne Collins. The story is set in a future dystopia called Panem, located somewhere in what was once North America. Panem is a nation consisting of a pampered and privileged Capitol city and thirteen subservient districts. 74 years ago, District 13 was firebombed into oblivion for rebellion. Since then the Capitol has demanded annual tribute in the form of one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the remaining 12 districts. These tributes compete to the death in a televised competition called The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games are essentially a combination of Ancient Rome (Gladiator games in the Colosseum) and the dark future of America’s reality television. It is similar in some respects to Survivor, one of the first reality TV shows, in that the contestants don’t know about the arena where they will have to survive, can form alliances to further their chances, and the more despicable people become the champions more often than not. In the Hunger Games, all the contestants die except for one victor. The Hunger Games are so compelling that the civilization of Panem has come to revolve around it, with interviews and parades of the contestants beforehand and the sole survivor of each Hunger Games afterward becoming a celebrity. The reason it is called The Hunger Games is because the victor’s district is gifted with food and other supplies as a reward.
The story is written from the point of view of 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, a citizen of District 12, a coal mining town that is more or less always on the brink of starvation. Katniss volunteers to enter The Hunger Games in place of her younger sister Prim, 12, who was chosen by lottery. Katniss is a hunter of game who makes a living in the woods outside her district. She learned to shoot a bow and arrow from her father, who died tragically in a mining accident, and is the primary provider for her family. She spends most her days in the woods with her best friend and hunting partner Gale Hawthorne, who promises to take care of Katniss’s family should she never return from The Hunger Games. Katniss actually stands a chance of surviving, the first tribute from District 12 to possibly pull a victory in many years, but she is naturally distressed by the reality of having to kill the other tributes to win, before they can kill her, all for the amusement of the Capitol. And then she is dumbstruck when the other contestant from District 12 turns out to be Peeta, a kind boy who saved her life, and that of her family, when she was a starving child by giving her bread.
The success of the Hunger Games is similar to that of Harry Potter and Twilight in the sense that the books appeal most to young adults, but have a large fandom of both older and younger readers. The books feature young adult characters, take place in an urban fantasy setting (the world in Hunger Games is not magical, but some of the technology is fantastic) and invoke the oh-so-successful formula of a “potential” romantic triangle in which one girl faces a choice between two boys.
Many fans of the series (though not all; some are vocally not invested in the romance) are heavily involved in whether Katniss loves Peeta or Gale, or should choose Peeta or Gale, or would be better off with Peeta or Gale, which, as events evolve, are very clearly different questions with very different answers at varying points in the series. There is also the question of which boy the fans love and/or would choose if they were Katniss, which drives much of the engagement online and much of the screaming in real life. Anticipation for the movie, with real life actors playing the characters, spurs excitement further, as “Josh or Liam?” adds another dimension to the question.
However, unlike Twilight, this series is not, at its core, a romance. Nor is it a particularly victorious or heroic tale. The characters are broken in many ways by what they endure and the story has a poignant message that emerges as the plot, and the stakes, become more complicated, which has resulted in The Hunger Games being endorsed as material for classroom study and recommended on school reading lists. The conflicts in the series, emotional as well as physical, evoke conversation about the privileged vs. the oppressed, the consequences of broadcasting “reality” as entertainment, the sanity of war, peace, and revolution, the role of propaganda, the corruption of power, the gray area of morals and ethics in situations where human life is fragile and threatened, and the meaning of love, hope, sacrifice, and survival.
Should You Read It?
I loved it, but I supposed it depends on what you like to read. If you like Twilight or Harry Potter you will probably like this. However, the latter books may disappoint some people. Most seem to agree that the first book is the most interesting of the three. The last book, Mockingjay, gets a little tough to take for reasons I can’t explain without spoiling it. Still, I really liked all three books, and the story on the whole, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a page turner with gritty, thought-provoking material.
The Hunger Games is a story better enjoyed if you don’t know what is going to happen so I am glad I finished the series before the movies came out. That being said, I will be interested in seeing the movies. I am curious if the script will stick to the same plot as the book, what they will change, and how they will tell the story. Since the premise of The Hunger Games is that of a reality TV show gone very very wrong, it should (theoretically) translate very easily to the silver screen, but could be spoiled by poor scripting, bad acting, and any number of other things. However, they seem to be taking great care to be faithful to the story and the casting for the characters seems pretty spot on. Here’s hoping the movie is really great!
Pictures from the Seattle U-village stop for The Hunger Games Mall Tour
*The data used to make this graph is a representative sample of the total conversation. The search term used was “hunger games” and does not encaptulate all possible conversations related to The Hunger Games.