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The Hunger Games Renaissance

Beth Nicholls discusses the timelessness of The Hunger Games through its current resurgence and the cultural impact of dystopian literature on shaping the lives of adolescents. 

POV: It’s 2012 and the first of The Hunger Games book-to-screen adaptations has hit cinemas, kickstarting the powerful era of dystopian film. With a budget of USD 78 million, The Hunger Games, was considered a small movie at the time compared to other 2012 movies, The Amazing Spider-Man (USD 230 million) and The Avengers (USD 220 million). The movie opened in March 2012 and went on to make a total of USD 695.2 million at the box office, ranking ninth in the highest-grossing films of the year worldwide. The franchise then continued, with adaptations released in 2013, 2014 and 2015, for Catching Fire and Mockingjay (Part 1 and 2) respectively. 

The Hunger Games series marked the beginning of the dystopian fandom era, with both the The Maze Runner and Divergent series being adapted from book to movie in 2014 and onwards. These fandoms ran rampant in online communities, especially on Tumblr which was at its peak in 2012. At the time of these movies, they seemed dystopian and futuristic, with many of these narratives set many centuries in the future. Audiences fell in love with the characters and their arcs but, with the target audience being teens and young adults, many of the deeper themes were missed and were not discussed in great detail in online spaces. 

Flash forward to April 2023 and the first teaser trailer for the prequel movie, The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes, is released with the movie set to be released in cinemas in November 2023. More than ten years on and the fandom is alive once again (although did it ever really die?) and this re-emergence has become known as ‘The Hunger Games Renaissance’. However, most fans have moved away from Tumblr and have taken their thoughts to TikTok instead – the space where you just cannot escape that Josh Hutcherson YouTube edit from 2014. 

Much of the discussion-based content that can be found in online communities is much different than what you would find posted back in the 2010s as well. Back in 2012, when most of us were in our teenage years, we were much more naïve about the events of the movies (and books). Instead, focused on the love triangle that emerged, the arc of the Mockingjay, and how hot Finnick Odair was. Today these topics have not lost their value, but as we have grown into young adults with greater awareness of the world, we understand what The Hunger Games represented, and how so many parallels can be drawn to today’s society. 

The war and surveillance prevalent in The Hunger Games series were once a fear of the future and were seen mostly as futuristic. But as we reflect and look back upon the narratives of the main series as young adults, we understand that it’s happening now and continuously rising within our world and society. Both the books and movies wove in elements of fascism, capitalism, inequality and privilege, though as children and teenagers, those were concepts we could hardly begin to understand. We focused instead on the simpler themes of rebellion, love, and power, ones we had a better grasp on as younger people. And although these themes are still relevant, they come across in a different light at an older age. The Hunger Games Renaissance has allowed newer and more developed discussions to occur about the events and themes of The Hunger Games. So, as we moved from childhood to adulthood and burst the bubble of innocence and naivety, we also began to better understand the dystopian media we grew up with and the themes hidden in the many layers of the stories. 


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