Romanticizing The Hunger Games

Are you kidding me?
Seriously? It comes down to this?

As an avid middle-aged reader, I’ve embraced young adult books. Harry Potter lured me into his magical world in 2001, just before The Sorcerer’s Stone was released in the theaters. In 2008 I bought the first Twilight book and plowed through all four novels in two weeks and hating myself for it afterwards. For Pete’s sake, vampires do not sparkle!!! My son received the first three Percy Jackson books for Christmas 2009 and I was hooked on Greek pre-teen demigods saving the world.

I’m not one to watch dystopian movies but I’ll read the novels. The Stand
had me in tears at 16. The Uglies series was engrossing but ultimately let me down. The government conspiracy and downfall of society in The Passage was terribly chilling. But none of these books really prepared me for the starkness of The Hunger Games.

I ordered the book in early 2011 but I couldn’t work up the nerve to read it right away. Once I picked it up I was struck by the bleakness of Katniss’ world. The hopelessness of living in an Appalachian mining district, living under the Capitol’s thumb, and sending their children to the Reaping…their children ages 12 to 18, picked at random to represent their district in the annual Hunger Games.

As the mother of a 12 year-old boy, this aspect devastated me. Turning the pages, meeting the Tributes from the other Districts, and meeting little Rue from District 11 really got to me. If you haven’t read the books or seen the movie I’ll spare you the spoilers. Just don’t try to read the book while on an elliptical machine. I was blinking back the tears.

When I first read the book I didn’t know a movie was in the works. Once casting was announced there were outcries over the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. “She’s not skinny enough! She doesn’t have black hair!” There was uproar when Amandla Stenberg was cast as Rue, the female tribute from District 11, because she’s black. However, when Suzanne Collins, the author of the trilogy, gave her stamp of approval regarding the casting I got on board.

Currently we’re saturated with The Hunger Games. With popular young adult fiction come crazy comparisons and even nuttier tie-ins. Glamour magazine’s April edition even said, “The Hunger Games is being heralded as the next Twilight.” Are you kidding me? They went as far as asking Ms. Lawrence if she was Team Peeta or Team Gale. No. A thousand times no! This isn’t about a romance, regardless of a kiss. The books and movie are about reality programming, fighting to the death, rebellion, and ultimately survival.

Katniss is no wimpy Bella. All Bella wants is Edward in her pants and to get bitten so she too can be all sparkly in the sun. Katniss sacrifices herself to save her younger sister. She fights to the end and becomes the unwitting symbol of an upcoming rebellion. Katniss doesn’t need a man to make her complete.

And the marketing? Beyond the standard soundtrack, posters, and t-shirts, you can buy board games and nail polish collections. Yes, I bought two from that collection but I regret my purchase! One can take a tour of the Seam and zip line down its main street. Shape magazine created a Hunger Games workout so you too can be fit like the Tributes. If you’re in New York you can take a “Train Like a Tribute” class.

I understand fandom…I really do. My Beetle’s speedometer was created from The Goblet of Fire movie poster. I keep 10’s sonic screwdriver at my desk to bleep my coworkers. I covet Liz Lemon’s Girlie Show hoodie. But to me, the merchandising of The Hunger Games dilutes its power. Its message is bleak and full of despair. For once, can’t we keep the message pure?


Image: DogArt


  1. As long as there is money to be made? No. We can’t.