IT’S the new Twilight, apparently. The Hunger Games, a fantasy trilogy penned by a woman, popular with teenage girls and turned into a hugely successful film franchise, has been breaking box office records since it opened last weekend.
The similarities, happily, end there.
Decent role models for young female cinema-goers are rare, and Twilight offered up a particularly icky female protagonist in Bella Swan, who distances herself from friends and family for an abusive relationship with a controlling vampire who’s only after her for her platelets. “Twihards” – as fans of the films are known – lapped it up like it was spurting from an open carotid artery, and feminists everywhere called for a teen screen heroine whose sole purpose in life isn’t to marry a handsome corpse and carry his mutant offspring to term.
It looks like we’ve got her. Katniss Everdeen is a feisty huntress-turned-warrior who stands up for social justice and eschews all female action hero stereotypes by spending most of her screen time in a cagoule. There are no heels and PVC catsuits, no sweaty vests and cut-off shorts. She doesn’t emerge from the sea with a knife strapped to her thigh, nor does she find herself in a sexy fist fight with her male co-star which evolves into muddy frottage when the tension spilleth over.
It’s rare to find a decent heroine in blockbuster teen films and when you do she’s usually playing sidekick to the male lead. What’s great about Katniss is that her gender is essentially irrelevant. She’s not a she so that she can pine after some dude who’s been dead for a century. She’s a she because… well why shouldn’t she be? Her character – that of a disadvantaged teen in some future dystopia forced to fight fellow teens to the death for entertainment – could just as easily be a boy, yet author Suzanne Collins chose to give the role to a girl, where so many other authors and screenwriters have opted for the default male setting.
The Hunger Games follows the pattern a number of other blockbusters; seemingly normal teen is propelled from obscurity, destined for something extraordinary. It fits that popular teen fantasy that high school is just a holding room, that any moment you’ll discover that you’re really a wizard/spy/assassin. Unless you’re a girl, that is.
Until Katniss and her cagoule, the most you might dream of (according to mega Hollywood franchises at least) was that some pale chap in your history class might start looking at you like it’s snack o’clock and you’re a Greggs Steak Bake.
• Last week Alice... watched Mad Men. Who didn’t?
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