Chances are most of us saw our fair share of dystopian films as teenagers. Whilst Shaun of The Dead (2004) remains a firm favourite of mine, there’s no character there to resonate with me.
Sure, sometimes life does feel as monotonous as zombie-Ed sat in the shed all day playing video games – but major female characters that kick-ass throughout the whole film are non-existent. So when it comes to talking about the dystopian films that shaped our generation, I mean, it’s obvious isn’t it? We need to talk about Katniss Everdeen.
I still remember the day I bought the trilogy – in HMV of all places. After that, I was sort of a walking entity. No-one could speak to me until I’d finished them and processed my emotions. I loved Katniss instantly – she wasn’t a charming ‘good-girl’, she didn’t wear dresses and she stuck up for herself and her family. She was everything that thirteen year old me wasn’t and I loved her for that. Once the films came out and the world went crazy for The Hunger Games, I bought the Mockingjay pin and wore it with pride and just about managed to whistle the rebellion signal. It was a little bit of Katniss Everdeen spirit with me wherever I went, even though I was just a shy teenager with a bad fringe and waist-length hair. Which, yes, I would put in a plait. Although being the ginger I am, I knew I wouldn’t make much of an Everdeen lookalike.
And that’s the thing – I know I wasn’t the only one. There were loads of other teenagers doing the same thing too. Because we had finally realised that we weren’t all Bella from Twilight – moping around waiting for Edward to come save her. Suzanne Collins and Jennifer Lawrence made a whole generation of teenagers realise that actually, you can do whatever you want. Although I have a feeling this meant sales in archery lessons went up as well.
There was so much in The Hunger Games just from a thematic point of view. Politics! Feminism! Gender roles! The media! Single mothers! Why drinking is bad for you! (although that one didn’t really have the effect I think they were going for with Woody Harrelson as Haymitch) They practically taught us more about paying taxes than we ever learnt in school. Effy showed us to unapologetically be ourselves, and always appreciate the value of mahogany. Gale showed us that unrequited love isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. There’ll always be other people in our lives who love us. Peeta showed us your name can literally be a pun and you can still do good things. Your name, or where you’re from doesn’t have to define you. Primrose and her mother showed us never to underestimate the importance of nature. Even Cinna showed us that a lit (I’m not even sorry) outfit can have meaning.
The whole love triangle bit could’ve been handled better between Katniss, Gale and Peeta (I actually wouldn’t have minded it not being there), but honestly, given how unromantic most of their relationships was, put on as a show for the Capitol? I can’t complain too much. In fact, if we want to go really in-depth, that was a pretty good representation of media for a teenage audience. To show that actually, not everything you see is real – no matter how perfect it might look. And in an age where pretty much everyone’s life is documented for you to compare yourself to on Instagram, it’s kind of important to know that.
As much as it might pain me to write it, The Hunger Games isn’t exactly the only teen dystopia to have such a strong influence. A lot of people would probably suggest Divergent (2014-2016) but honestly, it’s just a shit version of something Suzanne Collins and the films did so much better. The Maze Runner (2014-2018) was somewhat better, and whilst the action was good – it was ultimately another white male as the lead to save the day. My only real inclination to rewatch The Maze Runner is just to see Thomas Brodie Sangster play Newt all grown up after Love Actually (2003).
Whether you were rooting for Gale or Peeta, or whatever district you thought you might live in, I think it’s fair to say The Hunger Games is a lot more than some dystopian teen concept. And if you’re planning a re-watch of them all soon, then “may the odds be ever in your favour“…
Last modified: 16th May 2020