Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Hunger Games 2012.
A week ago I was standing in line for The Hunger Games. After three years of waiting, it was exhilarating to finally watch the characters and places I had formed in my imagination take shape and flesh and color on screen. I left the cinema that night with the intention to watch the film again – this time with my fiance who has not read the book – compare notes, and write a review dialoguing the two perspectives.
And then a monster virus struck. Not a computer virus – the old-fashioned kind that strikes your immune system. Talk about annoying. I am the kind of person who is too busy to get sick. I don’t allow colds or flu-like symptoms to interfere with my work or writing or projects, damnit. So imagine my shock when this wretched virus knocked me out flat. For four days. My brain and muscles are equally exhausted. I feel completely out of the social media loop. And I’m sure hundreds of Hunger Games reviews have been written and posted by now, such as this one by my good friend Nicole M. Miller.
Today is the first day that my brain has been able to grasp a coherent, fully formed thought. The rest has been a haze of fitful sleep, NyQuil, fabulously bad ’80′s television (Remington Steele) and Torchwood marathons. (More on the latter two in a future post.)
Three Hunger Games items have punctured through the drug-head fog this past week. First, box office numbers. The Hunger Games made $155 million during its opening weekend, making it the third-best opening weekend ever. Thar’s right – it surpassed all Twilight movies and all Harry Potter installments save the final one (Deathly Hallows Part 2). Pretty impressive for the little studio Lionsgate.
Writers such as Melissa Silverstein and Thelma Adams have pointed out that HG‘s success is all the more significant due to its central female protagonist. This isn’t a blockbuster about Spiderman or Batman. Katniss is a sixteen-year old girl, and this powerful character is providing a strong role model for young girls across the country.
Second item: Astonishingly, despite the popularity of Katniss, some have criticized Jennifer Lawrence’s body in the film, claiming she doesn’t look “hungry enough” or that she is “too big” to play Katniss. One critic (Todd McCarthy) actually calls attention to Lawrence’s “lingering baby fat.” Such comments are repulsive. Are you frickin’ serious?
I found Lawrence utterly refreshing to watch onscreen. She is healthy, normal, and, um, beautiful. There are too many ultra-skinny women in film, television and media. How sad is it that underweight, dieted bodies are the “norm” for Hollywood – so much so that critics cannot recognize a normal, fit, and healthy body on screen? Thankfully people have been speaking out against this appalling bodysnarking, and the reviewers ought to feel ashamed of themselves.
Third item: the Jezebel article. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve read it. For those that haven’t, here’s a brief summary: Several Hunger Games fans expressed racist comments on Twitter and Tumblr after watching the film last weekend. Apparently, even though Suzanne Collins described Rue and Thresh as having “dark brown skin” in the novel, these viewers were shocked and angry that their “favorite characters” were black in the film. One particularly loathsome tweet said that the casting “ruined” the movie, and another confessed that Rue’s death was not as sad because she was black. WTF?
I don’t know what’s worse: that this kind of racism is still present – and so highly vocalized! – in 2012, or that the hateful tweets were predominantly posted by teenagers. In what kind of culture is this behavior deemed okay to our youth? I am outraged that this kind of prejudice is still so clearly and unapologetically demonstrated in this country. It’s the kind of prejudice that leads to vigilante citizens shooting an unarmed black teenager wearing a hoodie.
A review on the actual film will be posted in the coming days. For now I thought it important to recognize that The Hunger Games is highlighting issues that extend far beyond war and youth and hunger. This movie is (unintentionally, I’m sure) provoking dialogue on the current state of gender, body image, and race in this country. That’s pretty powerful.
What conversations have you seen or been a part of relating to The Hunger Games?