It's dark, sometimes controversial, and has a female lead: How did 'The Hunger Games' franchise become a global phenomenon? Simple. It used science fiction to show us the best in humanity.
There is no denying The Hunger Games has become a global phenomenon that's enraptured audiences of all kinds. This is no ordinary franchise with an ordinary cast and ordinary fan base. Not just any movie can premiere within a month of the new Star Wars film and sit side-by-side with it in audience anticipation. The Hunger Games series is more than just a film starring the hottest actress in the business—it's a message set in a world that is more familiar to us than we realize.
I've sat around thinking about what exactly it is about this franchise, both the book and movie adaptations, that caused The Hunger Games to consume my life. I've co-run a fansite about the series, helping me to launch my career. I can never pinpoint what it is, but I do know that they have changed my life for the better. I feel pieces of Katniss Everdeen's personality and inspiration fill spaces in my everyday life, reminding me that I am courageous, capable, and that hope can always shine through any situation.
So, What Does 'The Hunger Games' Mean to Me?
Real or not real? Real.
The Hunger Games series is not a "happy" story per se. We don't get a perfect ending, no hero saves the day, not all is well again with the Big Bad behind us. So why on Earth would so many people want to read these books and be so connected to the films?
Katniss' journey is the epitome of hope. The idea that no matter how bad it gets and will continue to get, just being alive is hope enough that we can make it for the long-haul. Something that, in the midst of struggle, we all need to be reminded of. Katniss loses so much of her life to the Games. She sacrifices everything she is and has, suffers through tormenting loss, and doesn't get a particularly "fairytale" ending. She gets reality. She gets the rough edges of the real world, she gets real-life. For once we get to grow along with a character who gets a tough, but true end to her situation—something we can all relate to. Even after problems are resolved, the world is still there to be faced. And we've all been there.
Katniss isn't a Hollywood action hero, she's a realistic role model fighting for her life and the lives of those she loves. Suzanne Collins wrote her character just that way on purpose; to show the immense strength inside every person when they most need it. Suzanne gave us a strong female lead who can rival the heroism of any man, and it is so refreshing.
The movies gave us a Hunger Games franchise accurate to its source and form, shying away from the unrealistic ideals that Hollywood serves to us on the daily, and boy, was it so obviously appreciated by all who have found themselves in love with the films. You can tell that a fresh take on relatable heroes and complex characters is something audiences have been craving.
The Girl on Fire
"Girl." Yeah. Did ya'll hear that? "Girl." But, Katniss isn't just any girl. She's damaged, but not broken. She's independent, strong beyond reckoning with skills and talents so special, she started a war. This young woman can do so much more than contouring her face or gossiping about boys. It's been too long since we've had a film franchise lead by a woman who is portrayed as intelligent and physically strong, as well.
Katniss can be a bit emotionally compromised at times, but who wouldn't be in her situation? She always overcomes her emotions in order to lead her team forward in the right direction, despite feeling lost herself. It's clear that not only women enjoyed the strong female lead, either, ya' feel me? According to the box office numbers, Katniss Everdeen was a character happily received by all. I'll be proud to introduce my future kids to Katniss and her story when the time comes to instill healthy ideas of self-image and respect.
It's Okay to Fall Apart, as Long as You Try Again
"It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together than it does to fall apart." Finnick O'Dair, ladies and gentlemen!
Finnick serves up some truth tea. Throughout the films, we watch the victims of the 'Hunger Games' unravel. The victors once looked like picture-perfect celebrities, but now resemble war-worn soldiers trying to survive the torment of backward politics. There's no denying that we all unravel much quicker than we can spool ourselves back up. And, I think that's a beautiful thing. There's no one person better than the next; when it comes to real life, we're all human and we all fall apart - maybe even a few times. The Hunger Games shows us, though, that we always have the chance to pull ourselves back together and keep trekking along on our journey, no matter the obstacle. The Hunger Games shows us that life is worth all of our efforts too, even if it isn't the perfect world to live in.
Buttercup, the Unsung Hero
Buttercup! War, starvation, abandonment—that Buttercup can survive it all. Being a cat-lover myself, I noticed that Buttercup has a much more important role in The Hunger Games than you may have realized. In essence, Buttercup is a mirror of Katniss. Feral, distrusting, and surviving for one person in particular, Prim. Buttercup and Katniss may not get along, but they sure are alike and just like Katniss, can even withstand a bomb annihilating his home. Indestructible!
Dandelions in the Spring
There's no denying that The Hunger Games series is heavy and dark, but it's also full of dandelions. Moments and messages displaying the good in the whole of humanity remain strewn throughout the movies, even amid tragedy. The franchise shows us that no matter how hard it is to see the positivity through the fog of suffering, there will be a tomorrow with a new opportunity of success. That's the most incredible part of Ms. Everdeen's journey. Even she starts out as a pessimist with trust issues, but soon sees the beauty in people that are stuck in ugly situations. Opening her up to trusting others, and giving more of herself to them in return. She learns that no matter how harsh the winter chills are, if you keep going forward, the spring will come with a sunny day.
Watch Katniss and her Rebels take down the Capitol this Friday, November 20th, and be inspired to tackle anything that comes your way.