Is 'The Hunger Games' Just for Girls?

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The Hunger Games, the YA book that many adults are going crazy over (we're late to the game, some of us) has been made into possibly the most highly anticipated movie of the year, and it's just days away. (March 23! Save the date!) Despite advance tickets selling like crazy and hype for the books and film rivaling that of Twilight and the Harry Potter franchise, Lionsgate, the studio behind the movie, is worried. They're concerned that boys aren't going to contribute their share to the financial pie. What if only girls go, because, you know, there's kind of a love story, and the main character is a girl?

Keep in mind, that the girl in question totes a bow and arrow with which she hunts wild game and humans. The romantic side plot in The Hunger Games occurs as teenagers fight to the death in what's basically the ultimate dark dystopian Survivor, at the behest of their government. The movie is hardly going to be cupcakes and lollipops. Genetically modified bees attack people and, if failing to kill, send them into hallucinatory states; one participant is basically ripped apart by mutated "mutts" bearing the features of deceased characters. If anything, maybe we should be asking if girls will go to this movie.

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That is not the case, however, partly because girls are definitely going to see the movie. Boys are the wild card. As The Wall Street Journal'Rachel Dodes and John Jurgensen write, "Lionsgate has been picking its way through a minefield of gender issues: reeling in male moviegoers without alienating core female fans. But male audiences, long the driver of blockbuster openings, have proved increasingly fickle as they divide their attention with videogames and other diversions."

Still, all this gender hand-wringing might be kind of silly, or maybe a case of last minute jitters on the part of the studio. When you get down to the numbers, 73% of young women and, actually, 48% of young men say they are definitely interested in seeing the film, which is estimated to make $100 million or more in its opening weekend. It's pretty clear this thing is not going to be a lemon. "The movie has sold more advance seats than any film in online ticket seller Fandango's 12-year history, and has sold out 47 opening-night shows at IMAX theaters," write Dodes and Jurgensen. (The IMAX theaters are a nod to the dudes, though this girl would like to watch it there as well.)

Anyway, regardless of such manipulations from the studio to make sure their film is appealing to as many people as possible, at the end of the day, we'd wager that readers and viewers don't care so much about gender-targeting as they do for a good story. Targeting entertainment toward a particular gender may even be self-defeating, and certainly fails to acknowledge the quality of the entertainment itself. One male fan of the books told The Atlantic Wire, "I think the idea that boys are unwilling to identify with a female protagonists is a bit of a myth, and it's a myth that becomes self-perpetuating when marketers and YA publishers steer girls towards one thing and boys towards another. Maybe some boys will go to or pick up Hunger Games because of the promise of violence, but they'll like it because its a great, well written story with characters you really end up becoming attached to, regardless of gender."

Another said, "Some guys go to to the movies for explosions and hot girls. But that's as reductionist and simple-minded thinking as thinking every girl wants to see a listless romantic comedy. I think Harry Potter proved guys will see a young adult movie without Megan Fox looming in the background, gyrating on a car or some piece of sexualized metal."

Yet another fan of the book, this one female, responded to the question, "Do boys you know want to see The Hunger Games?" with a resoundingly affirmative, "Yes. I know like 100." Let's hope they bought their tickets in advance.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.