It's no secret that The Hunger Games has been a revolutionary franchise. Following in the wake of The Twilight Saga is no mean feat, but the Hunger Games managed to capitalise off audiences' desire to see more young adult heroines, while carving out its own place in cinema and sparking the popularity of a new genre of science fiction. And [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2](tag:449866) is no different: after a shrewd marketing campaign that blurred the lines between fiction and reality, the latest installment is set to be the most financially successful of all the films.
The Hunger Games Franchise's end will create a vacuum that dozens of young adult dystopia books are ready to fill. With new film franchise Divergent chucking out sequels, and TV shows such as The 100 gaining traction, is this the beginning of a bright new era of sci fi? Or are all of these stories a bit samey?
The Divergent Games
Let me paint you a picture.
In a world that looks suspiciously like a slightly futuristic United States of America, society is rigidly controlled, divided into factions and ruled by an oppressive regime. When they come of age, children are forced to take part in an event that upholds this regime. But fear not: there is one girl, special in a very ordinary way, who might be the key to freeing the world from this dystopia!
I'm talking about Divergent. Or The Hunger Games. Actually, it doesn't matter - the description matches both. Of course the stories have their own uniqueness. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Divergent is a carbon copy of The Hunger Games! But there is certainly a trend in fiction in movies lately for dystopian worlds saved by young girls.
This fashion is hardly new in the young adult literature world: arguably it was started by The Handmaid's Tale in 1985, but dystopian futures got a makeover with Collins' The Hunger Games in 2008. Since her trilogy gained popularity, authors have flooded the market with their own versions of the concept. And with The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 heralding an end to the gargantuan movie franchise, studios are just itching to buy up the rights for their own part of this little sub-genre. 13 separate potential franchises are just waiting for film adaptations, after a feeding frenzy of studios purchasing movie or TV rights.
So it doesn't look like we'll be seeing this trend in sci fi go away any time soon... and maybe that's a good thing!
Reclaiming Science Fiction
Sci fi has long been thought of as a very masculine genre, in a superficial sense at least. Obviously this idea is pretty gender normative (because stories about maths and science could only be interesting to guys, right?) But it's not without its truth. The vast majority of what we would consider classic sci fi novels feature male protagonists and predominantly male cast of characters... with a few scantily clad alien babes thrown in for variation. And movies are no different - have you counted how many main female characters there are in Star Wars? (Spoiler alert, it's 2. Compared to 5 men... not including the 2 male-gendered droids. Though The Force Awakens might boost that number a tad.)
Yet a woman, and a teenaged one at that, is responsible for creating the science fiction genre. I am talking of course of the venerable Mary Shelley, who changed the course of fiction forever when she wrote Frankenstein. This was the first time anyone had imagined science could be used in a fantastic way, and she started her own revolution in literature, paving the way for giants like Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov to dream their biggest dreams.
With this in mind, could it be that the modern trend of female lead dystopias are reclaiming sci fi for women, while echoing the themes that Shelley herself wrote about? It's easy to see why Hunger Games-esque stories are so popular with young women. Just like Shelley revealed the darkest and most controlling aspects of humanity, Collins and others like her use their stories as a metaphor for society's constrictions. And it's fantastic to see a trend of female lead sci fi: after decades of being delegated to the alien love interest, or that one token woman on the team, it's great that young women can see themselves save the day in fiction.
More and more and more sci fi dystopias, ready to be revolutionised by young women! With those 13 novel series ready to be adapted, and TV shows like The 100 going from strength to strength, this new genre is definitely the next big thing in sci fi. But we won't be seeing the same story over and over - Divergent's ending is supposed to be pretty radical, and The 100 is more like a teen Battlestar Galactica.
Needless to say, Collins really started something with The Hunger Games. After Mockingjay Part 2 brings the franchise to a roaring finish, at least we won't have to look far for our futuristic dystopia fix!