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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

Why the series became a global phenomenon and how it’s getting its revival 10 years later

The early 2010s were wild. We wore animal print and mustaches in everything, listened to One Direction on our Hello Kitty radios and posed for “grunge” or “pastel” aesthetic pictures on Tumblr and Instagram. To add to the peak era of fandoms and fangirls, a surge in the book fanbases started, focusing most specifically on YA fantasy and dystopian fiction.

Like many modern fangirls, I had my phase of writing book quotes in every notebook and drawing the “Deathly Hallows,” “Divergent” and “Shadowhunters” symbols on every blank piece of paper. But the book with the biggest effect on my thoughts and personality was “The Hunger Games.”

Katniss Everdeen was my role model and favorite hero; she was strong without being afraid of vulnerability, and she was honest without being scared of criticism. She loved deeply and fought for what she believed in, and when I was 10 years old, she was my favorite character in any piece of media. 

After the release of the first two movies, the phenomenon of fans grew, and every Halloween costume was of a girl in a hunter suit with the braid that the girl on fire sported in the games. The trilogy of books and series of movies became a global trend, and they thrived all the way through 2015, when the last installment came out on theatres and wrapped up the story of the revolution in Panem.

That was, until 2020, when the author Suzanne Collins released “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” a spin-off prequel telling the story of a young Corionalanus Snow, the president of Panem in the later books. The trip down memory lane back into the 12 districts and the infamous games gave some renewed popularity to the franchise, but the new announcement of the movie coming out in November 2023 for Snow’s book gave another boost to the resurging fans.

In what seems to be a collective movement, most of the generation that grew up with the books and movies is revisiting this classic to brush up on Panem history and be ready for the upcoming film. Naturally, I had to do my studying, too.

I read all three books (i.e., “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay) in one random week when I was 10 years old. Then I watched the movies and my obsession started. After around 10 rereads and uncountable rewatches, I keep finding plot points and character arc moments that I had not fully understood when I was younger, and I find that it is that complexity behind a simple story that makes this franchise so successful.

In terms of plot, “The Hunger Games” was one of the first of its kind. It was followed by many other YA dystopian adaptations, but none had the level of popularity and acclaim that it did. Personally, what made me like the series the most and made it stand apart from its successors was how realistic it felt. As Elisa Guimarães writes for Collider that, “It’s a bleak, bleak scenario that is made even bleaker by the fact that Collins doesn’t make any effort to soft-cushion the violence perpetrated by the Capitol. From child sexual abuse to downright physical torture inflicted by government agents, the horrors created by Collins for her fictional world are very much rooted in reality.” 

The story of Panem, a dystopian nation divided into 12 districts that surround the luxurious and elite Capitol, is one that can be easily compared to reality. I come from a country that has lived over 20 years under a dictatorship, and that is just one from multiple in Latin America and many in the rest of the world. Anyone who looks around at world politics and all the examples of violent and unfair governments around the globe can see that the sad story of Panem is not too different from the horrors in some people’s lives. This gives a structure to the book that is logical and makes sense to any reader. It is very much believable that a corrupt nation will create an annual game where they make teenagers from each district kill each other until one last stands, and it is very believable that authoritarian governments will use fear to control their citizens.

On the bright side, the story is not solely a depressive depiction of this reality but instead shows that even in the bleakest of situations, humanity prevails and the last thing that dies is hope. Personally, I’m a sucker for apocalyptic and dystopian stories precisely because of this idea that as long as there is a spark of hope we will survive through the worst of times, and “The Hunger Games” serves as the perfect literary depiction of this hope, showing us the literal girl on fire that lit the flames of revolution in her starving nation.

Another characteristic about the franchise that helped it succeed is its characters. The books and movies have a wide set of likeable characters, and it doesn’t matter whether you are Team Peeta or Team Gale; both characters will make you feel for their predicaments and root for them throughout the story. Most importantly, the main character, Katniss, is one of the best crafted female protagonists of her time.

Katniss is the modern take on the “strong female character,” but not only because she is good with the bow and arrow or because she takes on the bad guys and serves as the symbol of a revolution, she stands out because she is an honest take on a very human character. She is flawed and she is complex, and at times in the story the audience even finds themselves annoyed at her or her actions, in the same way that you would be about a real person’s irrational actions. She is also a multifaceted character, someone in the book that takes on different personas. Huffpost shared an excerpt of Nicola Balkind’s book on “The Hunger Games” as a fan phenomenon, and she explains how part of Katniss’ appeal comes from the multiple roles she takes on. Balking also points out how these personas, like her role as the “Star Crossed Lover” and the “Girl on Fire” go hand-in-hand at the same time they act as opposites, showing the contrast of her masculine and feminine traits.

For me, it was most impressive to see how these multiple roles took a toll on Katniss. She was a role model, and everyone wanted something from her, but Collins never let us forget that she was still just a teenage girl going through identity crises and romantic dramas. All the weariness and the confusion as to why everyone wanted her to be their symbol made her only more human; even through her tough exterior and dry attitude, it made her more likeable.

By bringing us back to Panem and reliving the stories of the games with the new movie, the franchise is being revived both in the mainstream world and in our hearts. A story that has had an everlasting effect because of its complex plot and characters and for showing a world not too different from reality without taking away the promise of hope. “The Hunger Games” was a worldwide phenomenon back in the 2010s and like all the classics, it is finally ready for its comeback in the early 2020s, and its storytelling and craft keeps living up to the hype.

Valentina is a second-year journalism major at the University of Florida. She is passionate about freedom of expression, gender equality, and the plot of most Barbie movies. Whenever she is not writing or studying, she likes painting landscapes, reading about celebrity and sports drama, and making oddly specific Spotify playlists.