03.24.2012 Screenwriting Blog 4 Comments

The Hunger Games story could only be written by a woman?

I’m almost done reading The Hunger Games trilogy of books on my trusty Kindle and I’m seeing the movie in a few hours (as it unleashes a Quarter Quell on the box-office in its opening weekend), so until I can offer an analysis of the screenplay or movie, I thought I’d share one of my first impressions of the story when I read the book.

In most stories of an unlikely young protagonist having the mantle of a warrior thrust upon them, the hero must undergo some sort of training by a skilled mentor. Think Pai Mei in Kill Bill, Liam Neeson in Batman Begins, Morpheus in The Matrix, etc. It’s all about learning the ways of the warrior — becoming a deadly force with the use of weapons, martial arts and cunning.

But those movies were written by men, primarily for men. The Hunger Games is written by Suzanne Collins, who’s, you know, a woman. And here’s the cool thing that really jumped out at me…

In The Hunger Games, our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, doesn’t have a trainer… she has a stylist.

His name is Cinna, and his makeover of Katniss plays a pivotal role in her training and potential survival in the brutal gladiator match known as the Hunger Games (Cinna is played by Lenny Kravitz in the film, as seen above). The use of Cinna’s character is a brilliant device created by author Suzanne Collins, and makes the book stand out from other popular stories with similar elements.

For example, The Running Man is also a Sci-Fi action story of a televised death match. It even has a host who interviews the contestants before the fight, as played by Richard Dawson…

…similar to Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games, who interviews Katniss before the games.

Arnie in a body suit and Jennifer Lawrence in a gown — quite different images for quite different character constructions.

Ultimately, Collins’ perspective gives us a unique protagonist in Katniss Everdeen — rather than a weakling trained to be a deadly fighter, she already has the fighting skills (she’s an expert archer) and she must learn to be more feminine to have a chance in the games. That’s a really cool concept that blew me away when I read the book.

I know it’s sexist, or reverse sexism, perhaps, to suggest that this refreshing take on the hero’s journey could not have been written by a man, but… it’s definitely worth some discussion.

What do you think?

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Dan

Click here to read excerpts and purchase Story Maps

Click to read excerpts and purchase Story Maps

“There is a lot of great advice here…
Most important, as I read Calvisi’s book,
I was inspired to rethink my current
project. And that’s what it’s all about,
right?”

-Script Magazine

4 Responses to “The Hunger Games story could only be written by a woman?”

  1. Lauren says:

    Can you do a Story Map of The Hunger Games?? Pretty please!

    • Dan says:

      Dear Katniss, er, I mean Lauren,
      Thanks for your interest — I’m a big fan of the Hunger Games books, but I’m a bit too busy right now to map the first film, but I’ll make you an offer — if YOU story map The Hunger Games and email me your map, I’ll give you notes on it and help you to revise it, and maybe we can post it here on my site? I’ll email you a Full Story Map worksheet so you can get started. :-)
      Good luck and happy writing,
      Dan

  2. Michelle Vasquez says:

    Dan, the Matrix and the Terminator were written by a woman named Sophia Stewart. Just some food for thought. Thanks for your article. I look forward to reading the trilogy after hearing so much about the movie.

    • Dan says:

      Michelle, Sophia Stewart’s lawsuit was dismissed years ago, in fact she never even showed up for her big day in court in 2005. People still believe her claims because several articles exist on the web that look legit, and they don’t bother to do further research. Here’s an article about how it’s been debunked.

      My article above shows an example of how people may think that any variation on classic elements means a story is a “rip-off.” But compare The Hunger Games and The Running Man — are they the same story? No, they just share common elements, which is true of perhaps the majority of popular stories, in all forms. In fact, the current internet buzz is that The Hunger Games was a rip-off of the Japanese film “Battle Royale.” I highly doubt it, as the idea of gladiator matches imposed by a fascist regime is hardly original, but I’m going to watch the film soon. My video store just happened to be out of it this weekend, and the owner said it was because of The Hunger Games!

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