On The Hunger Games’ 10-year anniversary, we look back at how Panem’s rebellion revolutionized our lives and the fandom world.
Ten years ago, Suzanne Collins published The Hunger Games, the first of a trilogy that would mark a whole new stage in 21st century YA fandom. At that point, the Harry Potter fandom was already well established and “dying” — or so we thought at the time; turns out, Harry Potter will never be over! — and Twilight had taken the YA publishing world by storm. A whole generation of young readers had appeared, either drawn in by magic or by supernatural romance, and they were all hungry for more.
The Hunger Games wasn’t Collins’ first book, but it struck a chord with its audience in a way very few books do, prompting an intensely passionate fandom, and media coverage that propelled the movie adaptation stars to international fame.
This is why we loved — and still love — The Hunger Games.
It was unapologetically profound
This book didn’t shy away from social or political issues; its primarily dystopian premise and at times breakneck pacing meant that neither Katniss nor the audience could ever ignore its message. From the beginning, we were immersed in a war-ravaged world with an unjust, cruel government, who wielded entertainment as a weapon against its own people. Immediately, we were forced to recognize parallels between Panem and our own country, and identify the social forces at work that affect real-life people.
Ironically, the media covering The Hunger Games as it became more and more popular often missed the point, drawing more attention to the Peeta/Katniss/Gale love triangle than the powerful message of the story. Companies didn’t get it either, marketing Capitol makeup and making District 12 into a theme park (?!?!) But the fans got the message immediately — and even turned the districts’ rebellion into a model for real-life rebellions against injustice.
Oh, and they also made incredible fan films, beating Harry Potter.
It inspired one of the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time
The filmmakers got it, too. The Hunger Games movies weren’t only good — they added to the original story, a feat few adaptations can achieve.
Not only was the film budget good enough to show us the advanced technology the books spoke of, but the cast was incredible. Jennifer Lawrence first became known worldwide, as did Amandla Stenberg, and the appearances of actors with powerful presences, such as Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore, made the performances weighty in a way that can only be achieved when a film has a wealth of experience available.
But more importantly, the films succeeded in depicting the chilling nature of the games and the Capitol in a way that the books couldn’t, by virtue of a novel’s physical limitations. I’m still floored by how skillful some added scenes in the first movie were, such as the footage of the winners of previous games, and the contrast between District 12 and the interior of the train when Katniss was first reaped. These scenes gave us a more profound sense of horror that our minds might have normalized in the books, which only served to make the movies more powerful.
It proved that our generation knows what matters
People might have made excuses about fans of Harry Potter, saying that YA books are childish because of magic and fantasy, but The Hunger Games made it clear to everyone that YA books (and movies) can be very deep social commentary that can change the way we think about government, society and entertainment.
Katniss Everdeen was also a very important kind of hero: she wasn’t the “Chosen One,” she wasn’t a boy, and she didn’t come from a place of privilege. She was even very reluctant to become a symbol. She was manipulated and used, and ultimately extremely traumatized by her experiences — an extremely realistic character if there ever was one, and one we could identify with emotionally very easily. Her struggle was never formulaic, her decisions not always correct, and her happy ending wasn’t necessarily all that happy. She was real in a way few heroes ever are.
And of course, the supporting cast of characters, such as Peeta, Rue, Cinna, Haymitch and Gale — especially Gale — are characters we could analyze for years; characters that exist in real-life rebellions. Their choices in The Hunger Games serve as examples of what terrible circumstances can do to people, and what choices we should or shouldn’t make.
The Hunger Games was a powerful book in a very powerful trilogy, and it will always be remembered for its commitment to telling a story, no matter how painful it is. Its messages of war, love and sacrifice will make it a classic for years to come — teaching generation after generation to fight against injustice.