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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

I spent most of the beginning of The Hunger Games kind of holding my breath in hopes that the movie would live up to all the hype I put on it.  I loved the books A LOT.  I also put a whole heap of unjustified responsibility on it and felt that it just had to hit a certain level so that the conversations about female protagonists who are strong and active in their lives could move to a new level. 

Luckily, the film fulfilled my wishes.  That is not to say that it’s perfect.  It’s too long.  And I just want to warn you to please be prepared a lot of the action is filmed on a hand held camera moving really quickly.

Aside from those small things this is a really good movie.  And it’s also a really serious film.  For those of you who don’t know about the book it takes place in Panem a bit in the future after a revolution that was put down by a totalitarian regime run by a evil dictator parading as a “president.”  Each year the “districts” who fought against the “capitol” have to sacrifice two of their teens to compete in The Hunger Games to show that they are all under the thumb of the capitol.

We meet our heroine Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence on the day of the reaping when the games participants are selected trying to assure her younger sister Prim that everything will be fine.  Katniss is a lot like Ree the character that Lawrence played in Winter’s Bone.  She’s a girl who had to grow up too fast because mom is a mess and dad is no longer in the picture.  So she’s in charge at 16.  And they are poor.  And nothing has color.  It’s like the Wizard of Oz before she goes over the rainbow.  Those early scenes are quite intense.

After Katniss volunteers to save her sister and begins her journey toward the Games we get introduced to the colors of the Capitol and boy did the production designers have fun.  Everything is exaggerated and heightened.  The drab district 12 is left behind and you see the vibrancy of a society who lives off the fruits of the labor of the entire rest of the culture.  It is perfect for our time.  It is all about how the 1%.

As Katniss gets prepped for the Games by her team which is led pitch perfectly by Lenny Kravitz as Cinna she is terrified.  I can’t say enough about how good Jennifer Lawrence is in the film.  What works best about her is that she is everygirl.  She has that look about her.  She’s real.  In each scene you truly feel her emotions.  She knows that she’s going to have a tough time but also knows she needs to get back home to take care of her sister.  You really want her to succeed.

And then we get to the Games.  And remember these are Games where kids kill kids because that is how they will survive.  Kids killing kids.  It’s hard to imagine but that’s the reality of it.  Only one out of 24 will go home.  The odds suck.  It’s brutal.  And it is in the Games that you really see what Katniss is made of.  She’s got the skills, the smarts, the compassion and the fortitude to make it.  And that’s what I love about her.  I love that she’s a real girl who has to constantly do things no girl should have to do.  But that’s her life.  We love her because she is a girl superhero.  And damn we so need some girl superheroes.  

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Until three weeks before the film opened, I knew nothing, had never heard of, and was completely in the dark about "The Hunger Games." As opening day approached, my interest was piqued through word of mouth and online commentary about the strong lead female character, Katniss Everdeen, and I looked forward to seeing it with increasing anticipation. And then I saw it…

If this is Hollywood's idea of a "strong lead female character," we're all in BIG trouble. Jennifer Lawrence's character runs around the entire movie with a terrified look on her face; she denies her love for the boy she left behind in service to "winning;" she (quite ridiculously, in my opinion) forgives and forgets all about the fact that the young man she seems to have developed feelings for, her fellow District 12 tribute, had earlier betrayed her and hunted her down like a dog to prolong his own survival; and she depends on the largesse of her sponsors (and in one instance, on the cleverness of a much younger tribute named Rue) rather than her own ingenuity and pluck to extricate herself from bad situations. Really, this is the best Hollywood can do to represent strong, smart women onscreen? Not having read the books, I cannot vouch for the power of their "message," but the film was one waaaay-too-long episode of "The Amazing Race" with a little gratuitous violence thrown in to satisfy the bloodlust of the series faithful and the movie-going public.

At least someone is making an effort, but if this is the best we can hope for from Hollywood, women still have a long way to go. Why is it that lately it seems that in order to be deemed "strong," a woman must either be damaged and different, (Lizbeth Salander in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," or running from someone or something amidst manufactured chaos (Katniss in "The Hunger Games.") When are we going to get some portraits of real women, women like the ones I know, women who are emotional rocks of gibraltar, who persevere through adversity in their daily lives, who are the glue that holds their families together, who love and respect their partners and colleagues but who don't run around killing to survive or playing head games to get ahead? We're still either good princesses or evil witches, neither of which is a very interesting character sketch at this point. Give me Tilda Swinton in "We Need To Talk About Kevin" or Meryl Streep in "Iron Lady" any day. But those types of roles, real women, strong women in daunting (but not science-fiction-driven) situations, are still way too few and far between in the Hollywood paradigm.


good thinking film! enjoyed the female point of view! cheers!


I find myself compelled to read the books because after seeing the movie, I'm left puzzled in wondering what happened to the humanity of the oppressor nations. How is it possible to subjugate and hate a beaten opponent to an extent where you would starve them and watch them kill each others children for sport.

At the same time, that's the glory of this trend in female driven young adult novels. We get to consume the humanities of these characters and discuss their motivation & personal failures.

It's the New Wine and Cheese Party of our time.


I didn't want to read the books because the idea of a plot based on children, picked by lottery to fight to the death on reality TV in a dreary post war North America where the population barely keeps from starving just isn't appealing. But my Daughter made me read the books and I found I couldn't put them down. I will see the movie sometime during the week. But I just wanted to point out that some of the most profitable movies ever, The Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, and now the Hunger Games series have all been written by women authors. I think that is important to note because there are so few women writers in Hollywood.


I have to say your EXTREME bias as a fan of the books has been evident. You trying to make it the "1st real female franchise" and thereby disrespecting the work of countless women who came before it has been disgusting. If this is feminism I want no part of it.

Also I find nothing particularly amazing about the fact that men are willing to see a teenager girl be strong. Wake me when they are willing to see a grown woman be strong.

Tony Wu

Woohoo! This is the kind of movie I've been waiting for for a decade, ever since Spiderman came out; yes I'm a guy, but I've been bothered by a lack of strong female protagonists in big Hollywood action films since then. I won't be seeing the film until tomorrow, but based on reading the book, what I've seen from it so far, and the reviews, I'm confident that I'll enjoy it. It doesn't even bother me too much that this is being called a 'rip-off' of Battle Royale, because I think it's success is actually getting a little more visibility to Battle Royale. It's interesting that of the above comments, one person is saying it's too violent and another person is saying the violence is too kiddified; well yes, I imagine they toned it down to get it to PG-13. And secondly, I appreciated that Suzanne Collins said that part of her inspiration for the idea came from flipping through channels showing Reality TV and the Iraq war. The real world is a violence place, and kids are exposed to it all the time. The Iraq war was a crime against humanity, and at the time some people were treating it as entertainment. I think this subject brings to light perfectly our obsession with 'Reality TV' AND violence as a society.


Hi Melissa, I am from Paris and I love your blog. Only this time I much disagree with you. The story is absurd and vERY brutale (for European standards, I know in USA you are used to much more violence in the films. as long you don't show a naked breast ;) ) . the idea of the murder games is not any better with a female heroine. This is not a film to inspire or entertain. Unless one is entertained by violence? (And I did not believe the heroine one minute that she is younger then 25 yrs. ;) )
Superhero or superheroine-movies normally contain some humour and irony. This is not like superhero. and not like a "real girl" in my opinion. Just to changing male and female lead does not make it a better story (a female Saddam Hussein would not be a nicer person ;) )
I look forward too your next article of course. best regards, and thank you! Florence

Gisela Diaz

I just saw the movie because I do LOVE the books too. I never considered them as Young Adult fiction. They are way too serious and they don't take place in school. But the movie kind of disappointed me. The special effects were poor. The acting was OK but nothing to hold your breath and its way too long. The violence was kiddified so children under 12 could see it and so the movie could make more money. But considering was is out there in the movies, it is really refreshing to see a strong heroine saving the guy for a change.

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