As a blogger with a site about books, I would be remiss if I ignored the growing phenomenon behind The Hunger Games series. With the film adaptation of the first book receiving critical and financial success, the books have experienced a new boost in sales, pushing The Hunger Games towards a Harry Potter level of popularity. As a result, I should warn you that I’m not reviewing the books, but addressing the effects of their recent fame.
The Hunger Games, of course, is the story of a Barbie doll who must fight to the death against other toys. Oh wait, that’s not it. The books are about a pillowcase trying to survive and overcome a dystopian government. Hmm, that’s not it either.
Before I start questioning the over-saturation of Hunger Games merchandise coinciding with the movie, let me say that I did enjoy the film and I don’t think all of the attention is necessarily bad. For many viewers, the film was inspiration enough to find the original books and read through them all. There’s a reason why every store I’ve been in the past two weeks has plenty of copies in stock (when last summer I had a hard time finding a single copy). People want to read the source material.
My main concern is that with the host of merchandise coming out – from the aforementioned Barbie doll and pillowcases to socks and cookbooks – the original intention of the series might become distorted. Katniss is such an accessible protagonist in the first novel of the series because she doesn’t care about the materialism and superficiality of the Capitol, but she is thrust into the situation against her will. The series contains a lot of commentary on the destructive nature of celebrity, so fans buying anything with Katniss or a Mockingjay on it seems like a contradiction. Will the original message of the books be lost underneath the weight of commercialism? Only time will tell.
Despite my apprehension over the abundance of Hunger Games merchandise, one positive has come from the attention to the series: the popularity of Katniss. In both the books and the film, she is a very positive role model for young women. She is a strong character, but still has human flaws. She is physically strong without being hypersexualized for a male audience. The fact that a female character can fit into a traditional hero role so naturally and receive wide acceptance from both men and women is an important step forward.
What do you think? Is the commercialization of The Hunger Games overwhelming the original story? Should we simply be happy that an entertaining series is receiving the attention it deserves?