By Brian Bethune - Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 0 Comments
Newmakers 2012: There’s no denying Suzanne Collins’s heroine hit the zeitgeist right in the sweet spot
Katniss Everdeen has had a very good 2012, and deservedly so. The heroine of The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins’s highly popular trilogy of young adult novels (2008-10), already had a devoted fan base as the year began, but she exploded into a genuine pop-culture phenomenon with the March release of the film version of the first volume. Now Katniss is not only beloved by millions of teen girls—and a few boys (her film avatar, after all, is Jennifer Lawrence)—she’s also fodder for serious social commentary. American journalist Hanna Rosin, in an interview about her book The End of Men and the Rise of Women, paused while discussing the profound socio-economic changes unfolding in her country, from the erosion of traditional marriage to women’s increasing confidence and even aggression, to call Katniss an iconic figure. “She’s a classic aggressive male provider: unpleasant, self-sufficient, a total protector of her family. Those are all things that we associate with men. Twenty years ago, Katniss would have been a bizarre and unacceptable character, and now she seems completely natural.”
There’s no denying Katniss hit the zeitgeist right in the sweet spot. She’s the 16-year-old daughter of a dead coal miner who keeps her mother and beloved 12-year-old sister Primrose fed by her skill at archery (and poaching). They live in near-future Panem, an authoritarian state risen from the ashes of ecological catastrophe: worsening climate, rising sea levels and resource wars. The residents of the ruling Capitol, living in high-tech splendour, tyrannize the hardscrabble provincials, forcing each of 12 outlying districts to annually send a male child and a female child, aged 12-18, to ﬁght in the televised Hunger Games until only one remains alive.
Teenagers put in an arena to literally kill each other for the amusement of grown-ups is as savage a satire of reality TV and high school as can be imagined. (For adolescent girls, who live in a social milieu potentially even more vicious than that of boys, the appeal is obvious.) But if The Hunger Games is a pitch-perfect dystopia for our era of superstorms and economic uncertainty, it’s merely riding a wave of such storylines. Current YA fiction is dominated by dystopias, both the classic form, featuring harshly repressive societies, and post-apocalyptic scenes of chaos, all with climatic catastrophe as their root cause. The characters in the most popular series are far more often female than in past adventure stories, and the girls all have kick-ass potential, even if Katniss—who can fire an arrow through a songbird at 200 m—kicks harder than most. Continue…
By Susan Peters - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
Would-be Katniss Everdeens discover taste for the great outdoors
An appetizer-sized leopard frog leaps across the grass, only to be captured by a little girl. “No, no, it’s a frog, we’re not going to eat him,” says outdoor educator Barret Miller.
At a Hunger Games-inspired evening of archery and foraging at an outdoors education centre in Winnipeg, the participants are outdoorsy types who like hiking and camping.
Building on the popularity of the Suzanne Collins trilogy, the workshop has been marketed as a chance for would-be Katniss Everdeens to shoot arrows, then learn how to steep willow bark tea (which contains salicin, a natural pain reliever that would be useful if your small plane crashes, the pilot has a sprained ankle and the wolves are circling).
Workshop participants say they are discovering the real taste of Winnipeg as they savour grassland plants like wild mint, licorice, and chocolate-flavoured wild sunflowers. For 20-year-old Kirsten Brenner, this is a fun evening out. “I go hiking. I like spending time outside, and I wanted to know more about Canada’s outdoors.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 3:34 PM - 0 Comments
I’m light years removed from the target audience of The Hunger Games. Wrong age, wrong gender. And I haven’t read the hugely popular young adult novel by Suzanne Collins on which the film is based. So I feel qualified to see it as a movie, not just a pop culture phenomenon. And as a movie, The Hunger Games is not just good. It’s a knockout: stylish, suspenseful, smartly acted—and endowed with more depths of meaning than you’d ever expect from a blockbuster franchise.
There have been inevitable comparisons to the Twilight franchise, another life-and-death teen fantasy that has a heroine juggling two suitors in a love triangle. But the similarities are superficial, so let’s dispense with them right away. Twilight is supernatural fantasy that flips between extremes of earnest romance and cheesy camp. The Hunger Games is a dystopian drama with classical roots, gripping drama and a keen edge of political satire. And the love triangle plays a minor role, at least in this first movie of the series. But what makes The Hunger Games outshine Twilight right out of the gate—aside from a superior script and better direction—is the quality of the acting, especially the superb performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Continue…
By Brian Bethune - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 2:10 AM - 0 Comments
There’s nothing supernatural about The Hunger Games’ dystopian world
Extreme reality TV with echoes of Greek myth and Roman history; a post-sexism world and the makings of a romantic triangle; a girl who can shoot an arrow through a squirrel’s eye and twirl prettily in her teen queen dress even while it’s on fire; a dystopian world and a (mostly) happy ending. Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, a mega-selling young adult novel set to become a blockbuster film, has a lot going for it, both in surface dazzle and in its deeper hooks. Some teen girls (and their mothers) admire a stubborn heroine fighting hard for herself, her family and friends; others, as Collins notes, “zero right in on the romance.” And some love it all. If the factors fuelling The Hunger Games’ success often seem contradictory, no matter. What teenager’s life is not a mass of contradictions?
The Hunger Games are often compared to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire-romance series, reasonably enough in terms of pop cultural reach. The first Twilight film grossed $35.7 million on its 2008 opening day, while The Hunger Games has already recorded the highest ever first-day advance tickets sales for its March 23 opening. But for many critics and fans, Collins’s and Meyer’s stories are also often linked together, inevitably but wrongly, by their love triangles. For every girl furiously typing on a fan site, caps lock usually in place, “This is NOT Twilight!” there’s another at one of the film’s galas waving a sign at Josh Hutcherson (who plays Peeta, the baker’s son and one of the love interests) reading, “Is that a loaf of bread in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?”