The Placement of Hunger Games in Popular Culture

24 Apr

By: Andrew Schuster

The Hunger Games has a fairly distinct place in popular culture for multiple reasons.  The first tie it has is through the cult following garnered by fans of the original book series.  The second comes from the fact that the series was made into a movie, allowing it to reach an even wider audience.  The third is the controversial subject matter, the likes of which the media as well as the general public seem to have a peculiar interest.

The cult following attributes a lot to the position that The Hunger Games now rests in because it explains the ability of the series to spread so fast.  A trend viewed from a series such as this is that readers tend to recommend it to their friends if it is good.  A parallel can be seen via other popular series such as Harry Potter and Twilight.  Due to massive popularity, a book the academic community may not consider “high culture worthy” begins to accrue critical acclaim because of the fact that something getting this much attention can just be ignored.  This puts the books in a strange position because it can be read superficially, like nearly all books, but now people are giving stronger meanings to symbols and events that occur, an attribute given to more academic style books.  The series does, however, suffer from its popular standpoint because the story, in a way, is censored to be more “family friendly.”  The notion of children fighting to kill one another is a very touchy subject in the public eye, and if The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins had decided to make the series a little more gory, it may not have reached the movie status, which lead to an even broader audience to reach.

A popular trend as of late has been adapting popular books into movies (e.g., Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight, to name a few).  This is a strategic step in the popular culture market for two reasons: firstly, it will be viewed by a great number of fans already acquainted with the books and secondly, it gives the potential for new fans to discover the series.  One aspect that firmly places The Hunger Games in the popular culture side of the spectrum is a motivation driven by sales.  Making a movie will inspire people new to the series to go out and buy the books and potentially other related merchandise, revealing a huge profit.  Now, these probably weren’t the main intentions of Suzanne Collins when she originally made the series and I’m not accusing her of selling out, but if there wasn’t profit to be made on the series, it wouldn’t have been made into a movie.  The subject matter of the book really shows that the author wanted to get her readers thinking about the social and psychological aspects of the world she created and how they apply to real life; this notion played a role to its original rise to popularity.

The general public has a strange affinity towards controversial subject matter today, and this isn’t limited to just The Hunger Games.  Ranging from the speculation and anger revolving around the Trayvon Martin murder case to the SOPA/PIPA bill that was knocked out of Congress, society nowadays trends towards controversial subject matter that often times has something to do with human rights.  The Hunger Games falls into this category on the main fact that the story revolves around minors killing each other for the entertainment of a higher authority.  The story, in a way, draws comparisons of a totalitarian dictatorship in which the leaders have absolute say and control over its dominion and how such a “game” is a way to assert dominance over its subjects.  It’s a very real possibility that exists in some countries and is hopefully on its way out the door considering all the revolutions occurring around the world, but I digress.

With all things considered, The Hunger Games is a very difficult to specifically classify, but it is neither strictly high culture nor popular culture.  By gaining critical analysis and acclaim, the series gets credit toward a standing in high culture, yet its sudden rise to fame along with a movie release hints at a more ephemeral existence in academia.  The only true test for high culture work is its ability to withstand time and still reveal something to the reader that inspires emotion of some sort.

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