Every movie critic and columnist is currently in full-on "Hunger Games" mode, furiously writing on every angle of the film. So why am I bothering to write this column, then? What makes my angle unique?
Unlike the other journalists, I haven't seen the movie. Not because I don’t think it looks worth seeing. It currently sits with an 86% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I love Jennifer Lawrence. After seeing "Winter's Bone," I've even gone back to watch episodes of "The Bill Engvall Show" just to see more of her. Plus, one of my favorite '80s flicks is "The Running Man," where Arnold Schwarzenegger, like Katniss, also fights to the death for the amusement of TV viewers in a future dystopia. Based on that info, I should have been lining up last week for the midnight premieres.
I didn't because I'm worried I'll get obsessed with yet another female-centered Young Adult series. It's quirky for a straight male in his early 30s to get caught up with "Twilight." To fall for a second YA series, however, makes it a trend, and that would raise serious questions about my maturity and masculinity. In case my father is reading this, I want you to know that the Kansas versus North Carolina game is on in the background and my fantasy basketball team, Occupy Ball Street, is going to the playoffs.
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If I'm being honest with myself, I know I'm just delaying the inevitable. "The Hunger Games" triumphed this weekend at the box office, becoming the third biggest debut in history. As a person who makes his living off pop culture, I can't simply ignore one of the biggest blockbusters of all time and its eventual sequels. That is why I've turned to the "Hunger Games" experts. I want them to convince me that this series is nothing like "Twilight." That way if I get hooked, it doesn’t make it a "trend."
"The 'Hunger Games' love triangle is not really a predominant part of the actual story," writes Shelia, founder of the fansite HGGirlOnFire.com. Right away that's a relief, since the central element of "Twilight" is the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle and ultimately what makes series "so girly." Sheila continues, "The focus of the books is truly about Katniss, her struggle to survive life in general and the games, and ultimately her journey to becoming a symbol of hope and rebellion for this nation. What draws fans in is Katniss' strength, grit and fragility as she struggles with the events that happen to her."
Okay -- tough chick, fighting for her life with a bow and arrow, nothing overly feminine about that. Kind of sounds like a more glamorous "Winter's Bone," and no one teased me for liking that. But even if it's not central, there is still a love triangle with two hulking heartthrobs on either side -- Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale. That means the question of Team Peeta or Team Gale is going to come up. I always cringe whenever someone asks if I'm Team Jacob or Team Edward. I'm not a tween girl, so I'm obviously Team Kristen Stewart Is Hot.
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"I think the 'teams' will always exists in 'The Hunger Games' because it's an easy way to show your fondness for Peeta or Gale, but I don't think it'll ever get near the level of 'teams' in 'The Twilight Saga,'" writes Amanda of TheHob.org fansite. "So far, it's really just been used by media to compare the two franchises (or in merchandising to make a quick buck), and doesn't really hold much water in the fandom."
Sheila of HGGrilOnFire.com agrees. "I would avoid any reference to 'Teams,' i.e., Team Peeta vs Team Gale," she says. "I know it's been used a lot in the media, but I've seen it get a lot of negative backlash from the 'Hunger Games' fan community (basically the 'Hunger Games' fans hate that reference)."
"I think for the 'Hunger Games,' they might build up that love triangle more, to draw in more of the 'Twilight' fan base, but I can't see how it could ever measure up," writes Lindsay of Team Twilight, who is also "somewhat of a "HG" whiz." "Having said that, I am not sure anything could EVER compare with the 'Twilight' love triangle and the attention it's gained. It was the first time we used 'team' in the way it is now in everyday language."
All right, I'm coming around to the idea. There is violence and a tough, sexy female central character, and I do not have to root for a Hollywood hunk's "team," even though we already know who gets the girl. The series feel different enough so that I can like both and not feel as though I'm turning into a 13-year-old girl. Heck, plenty of "Twilight" bloggers also dig "Hunger Games" and don't seem conflicted.
"I don't find a lot of Bella/Katniss similarities except their protective nature for their families," writes Elena of Twilightish.com and TheHungerGamesMovies.net. "Peeta and Edward both put their lady-loves' safety first and themselves second. And Gale and Jacob's similarities pretty much stop at them both being a third wheel."
I'm resolved to see it and will tweet my thoughts once I do.