With the release of The Hunger Games in 2012, youth lined up multiple times at theaters across America to see the popular book played out on the big screen. Catching Fire is on the horizon, premiering this November. The books were a hit with audiences of all age, but why? Did Suzanne Collin’s write more than genre into the pages of her trilogy? Yes, but did Hollywood take notice?
Collins gave readers a female protagonist who is strong, self-reliant, not overly attractive, and, readers discover, she has the ability to intimidate men. Collins also gave readers Peeta, the baker’s son, who is proficient at baking and decorating cakes. Peeta is not useless as readers see in the arena, but it is Katniss, in life and death situations, who appears to be the “knight in shining armor.” She saves Peeta’s life. This plot and these characters were a welcome addition to a literary world too filled with helpless females and muscled men.
Though Collins wrote the screen play for the first movie, she didn’t select the actors and actresses. The producers and directors took Collins’ words and decided who they thought would fit the rolls. What they gave us on the screen did not match up to the characters in the book. Jennifer Lawrence certainly doesn’t look like she would spend her days in the woods with a bow and arrow, but she does fit nicely into the dress that Katniss wears before heading into the arena. She also doesn’t look like she is 16, which is the age of Katniss. I am not implying that Lawrence is a bad actress. I am implying that Hollywood manipulated a powerful script by taking away a protagonist who was written differently than they chose to portray her.
What would you say if I told you that The Hunger Games Trilogy is meant to be every bit as eye-opening and poignant as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale? In a 2009 interview with James Blasingame, in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Collins said “The brutal dictatorship of the Capitol over the 12 districts and the forms of social control and colonial oppression are always at the forefront of the story, with a thin veneer of popular culture from the present, such as reality TV, and professional sports championships.” Collins explained that these themes were very intentional on her part “to characterize current and past world events, including the use of hunger as a weapon to control populations.”
Do American’s teenagers consider current and past world events when watching the moves? Or, are the boys and girls fantasizing over Hollywood’s choices for the main characters? Collins also told Blasingame, “I am fearful that today people see so many reality shows and dramas that when real news is on, its impact is completely lost on them.”
For those who have not read the books, but go see the movies, is the impact of Collins’ message completely lost on them because of the message Hollywood is feeding us? Hollywood gave us a female protagonist to lust after, not one to look up to and admire. They took a character that didn’t fit into the female protagonist formula and adjusted her, and not many took notice.
We, as a society, accepted it. Would Offred’s story be acceptable to us too if she was played by Jennifer Lawrence or Megan Fox? I am afraid to answer that question.