This is in response to Sean’s post, “I Don’t Understand the Mass Appeal of THE HUNGER GAMES”
I, too, share a sort of fascination with the actress Jennifer Lawrence, very much due to her name. It always makes me smile or giggle to see it on the screen, and I feel (and very likely am) foolish. My favorite thus far (I even took a screen shot of it) was when she was hailed as the “most desirable woman.” It was a good day for both of us 🙂
On to the topic at hand, The Hunger Games.
My first response to your question, Love, is one word: Twilight.
The timing of The Hunger Games popularity was perfectly paired with the rising dissent and irritation at the franchise (and subsequent thematically similar media) known as Twilight. The protagonist is weak, dependent, whiny, sullen, and doesn’t increase in appeal until the final book and, even then, I don’t know if it was really all that miraculous, or if it was just such a refreshing change from the other books. (Can you tell that I’m jaded? Haha!)
Katniss is, in stark contrast, essentially the anti-Bella.
That alone is enough to explain at least part of the popularity. Everyone who enjoyed fiction was desperate for something…”not Twilight.”
Here’s my response. It’s long…and probably more wordy than you’d like. 🙂
On to my second response.
While, obviously, children hunting and killing other kids is a plot point of the book/movie, it’s not the WHOLE of the book or the movie. I think part of the appeal was the freshness of the story – especially to the target teenage girl audience. As you mentioned, this seemed a little out of the norm, as it was action-oriented. I cite what I said earlier, in that people who are drawn to this type of book were desperate for something new, and a protagonist they could root for. They (or we, I suppose I should say) found that in Katniss. She was an underdog — people really relate to that feeling or theme. She also was pretty awesome – witty, smart, scrappy, determined, cared about her family, capable, etc. And, while most readers can’t empathize with having to compete in an arena battle to the death, they can relate to the fact that she’s a flawed character, struggling against her circumstances, while simultaneously trying to relate to and find her place in the world around her.
I have to take issue with one thing you said — “The problem with all of this is that we’re reading the book or watching the movie from the perspective of the Capitol.” This is only half true. The movie absolutely neglected to include any of the satire that the book used to sort of point out to the audience that they are The Capitol. I think I would put the movie into my “guilty pleasure” category for that very reason. I enjoy it in that it reminds me of the book, and I can watch it faster than I can re-read the book…but it is missing the element that I, personally, enjoyed most about the book (I would compare it to Shakespeare’s common technique of having a play within a play). I read with disdain and disgust at all the lavish overindulgences The Capitol and their citizens partook in, judged them harshly, and couldn’t wait for them to “get theirs;” realized that I, for all intensive purposes, could be a Capitol citizen. I hadn’t seen it coming.
I do, however, believe that you are correct that both the satire and the irony are largely lost on readers/viewers, which is extremely depressing. The story isn’t the same without the mirror to show us ourselves.