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From Sparks to Catching (Wild)Fire

We’ll be back soon, lovelies! In the meantime, check out Uli’s fabulous analysis of the Catching Fire marketing!


The triad of Josh, Jen and Liam blazing their way through red carpets all around the world can only mean one thing. The day we’ve all been eagerly waiting for is finally upon us. Who would have thought that a year ago, huh? 500+ days of a countdown sure don’t pass by all too quickly, but Lionsgate did their best to keep us all on our toes and excited throughout. And with the movie now being shown to not only media representatives but the general public as well, I thought it time to do a little recap of how well the marketing machinery of Lionsgate worked this time around.


Did #TheSpark spark fan interest?

After months and months of watching The Hunger Games multiple times to pass time, something was finally happening. #TheSpark was sent flying to ignite all those Tributes in hibernation and get them excited for the second installment of the franchise. And ignite it did.

First, stills from the movie were being revealed that, again, had to be unlocked by fans through tweeting a certain hashtag. It felt almost like we were back in the days of “The Hunger Games” marketing campaign when all was about tweeting, revealing and unlocking. But for “Catching Fire” it stopped suddenly and instead of being a part, becoming a part of #TheSpark, we were asked to stand aside and watch. And wait. Wait until Lionsgate decided it was time to reveal something new. The whole “Tick Tock” concept was all about tweeting and joining to win, not tweeting and joining to unlock. And that, in general, reflected what a grand part of the Catching Fire marketing campaign was about.

My recollection of the whole campaign might not be detailed, but I sure remember the overall feeling I’ve gotten from it was us, the fans, were being degraded to viewers as opposed to the players we all had been throughout The Hunger Games campaign leading up to the movie. We “played” to unlock site, played to unlock our DIPs, played to puzzle together the first official movie poster. Everyone had a part in it. And this time around, especially with all give aways or competitions being restricted to only the US and Canada, most of those players were forced to sit down and watch as the game went on without them. And I, personally, found that saddening. It’s more exciting being a part than watching (except, of course, when we’re talking about the Hunger Games. The actual ones).

Now, I am not saying that Lionsgate didn’t do a good job. It was solid, just enough to keep the level of excitement boiling. But Catching Fire’s marketing campaign was just missing that little extra that would have taken #TheSpark from its initial, big-enough-to-make-smores campfire to a full-blown wildfire like the one Katniss is escaping from in the first book. Something engaging and captivating the fans, allowing them to become a part of Panem rather than just citizens of the Capitol. Net-a-Porter anyone?


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Hunger Games Companion Book Review: Katniss the Cattail

Welcome to another pre-premiere guest posts!

Companion books are a much debated part of The Hunger Games fandom, so wouldn’t you love a like help deciding whether or not a certain companion is for you? The fantastic HGBC is here today to do just that!


A little bit of salt goes a long way.

Reading ‘Katniss the Cattail: An Unauthorized Guide to Names and Symbols in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games’ by Valerie Estelle Frankel is like adding a little bit of salt to your Hunger Games experience.

Click here to check it out!

Click here to check it out!

It’s a simple book. It dips its foot into the literary criticism genre without being pretentious or super scholarly. ‘Katniss the Cattail’ is a reference guide intended to be used over and over again to make connections between characters, name meanings, and historical figures.

A little bit of salt brings out the flavor. You see, you could read ‘The Hunger Games’ just for the plot, or maybe because you enjoy a little romance in-between intense action scenes. But ‘The Hunger Games’ has many layers – a complexity to it that needs to be unveiled. That is where ‘Katniss the Cattail’ comes in…

Until I read ‘Katniss the Cattail’, I didn’t understand the degree to which Suzanne Collins built this world of Panem. Most of the names of characters that come from the Districts are derived from botanical sources: Katniss (a plant commonly known as arrowhead or duck-potato), Prim (as in primrose), Rue (sometimes called a “death herb”), Buttercup, the Hawthorne family, etc. On the other hand, the majority of the names of characters in the Capitol have Roman names. Not only can we learn about these Roman figures from historical sources – such as ‘Plutarch’s Lives – but most are featured in Shakespeare’s plays, such as ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Coriolanus’, and ‘Troilus and Cressida’. I recognized some of these Roman names when reading through ‘The Hunger Games’, but had no idea the scope or the historical background until perusing this little guide.

Some names have these connections to history, while others require more speculation to the meaning behind Collins’ choice for that particular name. For example, I found it fascinating to learn that “the hawthorn root-wood makes the hottest wood-fire known (Grieve). Gale’s fire for survival, and especially for revolution, indeed burns hotter and stabs more sharply than everyone around him” (Katniss the Cattail, pg 19). Each name or symbol is mentioned briefly to give you inspiration or a starting place for more research. Frankel has written other books that go into more depth on some of these topics: ‘The Many Faces of Katniss Everdeen’, ‘The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend’, and ‘From Girl to Goddess’, to mention a few. Overall, I found this book to be well researched and thought provoking. Though the title’s alliteration was catchy, I disagreed with the cattail part, finding Frankel’s description of the duck-potato as the katniss plant to be more accurate.

‘Katniss the Cattail’ describes many of the symbols in ‘The Hunger Games’ such as bread, ‘The Hanging Tree’ song, the nickname of Katniss – The Girl Who Was on Fire, the pearl, President Snow’s rose, etc. Learning more about these symbols deepens the experience of watching the movie (soon to be plural!) or re-reading the trilogy. Frankel digs briefly into some of the over-arching themes of war, reality television, Greek myths, and more.

Here’s the thing, folks… nobody wants to eat just salt! Salt is meant to enhance another food. And ‘Katniss the Cattail’ is meant to enhance your understanding of ‘The Hunger Games’ – to take your thoughts in a new direction or see characters in a new light. So, dear readers, may you savor your literary food and, of course, “may the odds be ever in your favor”.

Hunger Games Bookclub

Those Crazy Tumblr Kids and Their Real Life Ships

It’s official! We’re off to the US premiere of Catching Fire!

In the meantime, we’ve lined up some stellar guest posts for you to enjoy! First up is Emese, whose a little disturbed (and rightfully so) by a trend she’s noticed among members of The Hunger Games fandom on tumblr.

Take it away, Emese!


For an outsider Tumblr might seem like a pretty crazy place. And it is! It’s filled with all these gibberish text posts, shiny fan arts, RP-ers and regular bloggers, social activists and trolls, hipster blogs and cat picture blogs and food blogs and of course: fandom blogs.



You see, it’s never dull there. People always have a lot of ‘FEELS‘ to talk about, they use taglines like ‘AKFSJGSGADKHJGSDAFLJKSAFHKJSA‘ to express excitement, and have separate folders on their computers where they store all the GIF files they might use as reactions to a post.

Pretty graphics can be called ‘color porn‘ and ‘scenery porn‘ and ‘hair porn‘ without having any kind of adult content and the concept of ‘shipping‘ was completely re-defined by these folks and the general fandoms. It’s not just for your OTP (=One True Pairing) anymore, you can have as many ships as possible for one single person by ‘multishipping‘ them. You can ‘go down with a ship‘ even if it’s about two characters who only interacted that one single time. Heck, they might not even met! And sometimes you can ship two people without actually wanting them to get together, and call them your ‘brotp‘. Really, it’s gotten to a point where you can ship someone with an inanimate object without seeming like a weirdo.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel like twitching and screaming whenever I see a a photoset out there of two Hunger Games co-stars tagged as #i ship it. Because I know that that same person might just have a gifset reblogged of the Doctor and his screwdriver (no, that’s not an euphemism, pull your mind out of the gutter and start watching some Doctor Who! God!) with that same tagline.

No, but seriously. #i ship it

No, but seriously. #i ship it

Still, ‘real life shipping’ in itself is in fact an existing separate phenomenon and is something that we all encountered in our lives. It can be derived from people identifying actors with the characters they play, or just an idea to put two celebrities you like together. In many cases though, real life shipping is simply just an act of appreciation of an existing relationship between two people, whether it’s romantic or not. Unfortunately, that’s not where it all stops. It’s just where it all starts to get disturbing.

Like guys, there are fanfictions out there! Fanfictions! It’s crazy! Think about it, these are not fictional characters, these are real actual human beings who could possibly read those! But that’s not even the honest-to-God-real problem – I mean yeah, I feel pretty uneasy whenever I come across those writings, but I also know people who merely find them fun and entertaining in a totally-not-taking-this-seriously sense. What worries me more are these mile-long text posts I have to scroll through day-by-day, describing why X and Y are not really in love but X and Z are like meant to be together. Like look at those pictures the user just posted, they tell you everything you need to know! Obviously, the poster totally knows these peoples’ feelings much better than the people in question. “Seriously, X and Y need to break up, stat!” That’s like a legit thing to write on a public forum about two very real people who you know nothing about.


Again, we are talking about real people. Not fictional characters.

And guys trust me, I’m not making this up. These posts actually happen. In this fandom. And those posting them are absolutely serious about them. And people agree with them.

The question is, how is that better than any sort of shitty celebrity journalism making up crap about well-known public figures just to sell themselves? And even more so: how is that different from the Capitol’s obsession with Peeta and Katniss’ romance?

The answer is: it’s not. It’s actually worse. Because you’re a fan, and you should know better.

You see generally, this whole idea is not a new trend. People were obsessed with the personal life of their favorite stars 50 years ago as well; it’s why trashy magazines and celebrity journalism exist in the first place. Thanks to the internet however, there’s some rapid growth that happened on that front, which means more accessibility, more paparazzi pictures for the public and obviously much more intrusion into these people’s lives. It’s one of those disturbing points where the fictional world of the Capitol meets our present day entertainment industry.

Even so, sometimes I feel that while Tumblr is in many ways perpetuating that kind of behavior, occasionally it also adds some kind of fun spin to this whole craziness instead of embracing it. Again, we’re talking about fans here, and many of them might even understand the situation as a whole, and so they try to maintain a certain level of respect for their idols and their need for privacy. I personally feel like the Hunger Games fandom in general is very self-aware in that regard, especially since the books are full of criticism toward the subject.

That doesn’t mean though that I don’t feel uncomfortable whenever it happens in any way. Our cast is generally very private about their personal lives, and I feel that getting involved in their relationships like that is very disrespectful for them. There are parts of their lives that they choose to indulge us in, but there are also parts that they’re desperate to keep to themselves. And while enjoying a certain relationship that we get to see through channels that they choose to open, such as in interviews, is fine, I find that discussions above that are always problematic and very much Capitol-y.

What more could you possibly ask for?!

What more could you possibly ask for?!

I’m proud to say that most of the fandom – outside the madness that is social media – respects that. We might be aware of our cast members’ relationship statuses, but we do not talk about it – because they don’t. Unless of course it’s Sam Claflin’s adorable relationship with his wife, which we can unabashedly fawn over thanks to his openness about it.

I imagine of course that many of the weirdos who are taking this all to the extremes are either pre-teenage fangirls and boys, who haven’t yet thought over these issues, or people who might not even be actual fans of the books and movies themselves. Well, I’m here to tell you that your age is not necessarily an excuse to be a disrespectful prick to your own idols. Heck, I don’t even care if you’re not a Hunger Games fan: if you come into our party, you play by our rules.

Team Just Leave These Guys The Hell Alone A.K.A. Who Cares If It’s Real Or Not Real?

Give Us Your Guest Posts!

Premiere madness is upon us! If you missed all the fandemonium of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire premiere in London, view it here!



In other news …Oh man! Premiere madness is upon us! That means that in a few days time, the whole Victor’s Village staff will be traveling around Los Angeles with little Internet access! We could write some posts on our cell phones, but that’s about as fun as grinding down your teeth with a nail file.

You know what that means!


And we ain’t too proud to beg.

We’re seeking out some stellar guest posts because, believe it or not, we know that our opinions aren’t the only ones that matter!

If you’ve got ANYTHING to say about The Hunger Games books, movies, merchandise, actors, fandom, etc. that you’d like to share with tons of members of the fandom, write it up and send it to! Wit preferred, but not required. As long as your writing isn’t a hot mess (we have faith in you!), we’ll post it up to be shared with other fans!

Send in your posts by Friday, Nomveber 15 at 5pm EST and we’ll love you forever!

Carry Your Woooooorllllld!

Sometimes you ask for guest posts, sometimes they fall into your lap as a gift from devoted readers! The following falls in the latter category, brought to us by the ever enthusiastic mse! Enjoy!

Still prettier than my own handwriting

Still prettier than my own handwriting

I’m a huge Coldplay geek in addition to being an enthusiastic Tribute, and I know I’m not alone. I’m not gonna use words like ‘OMG I’m the biggest fan of the band ever’ because yeah, I don’t even have an authentic lyric sheet handwritten by Chris Martin and we all know that that’s the only sign of a true fan – well that and the ability to rotate air. Alas as it turns out you can become one now by entering this contest here, so good luck! Tell me when you learned how to ventilate so I can give you a call on a warmer than usual autumn day.

Back to our topic, as you can guess I was obviously very excited when I learned that Coldplay is going to contribute to the Catching Fire soundtrack, and was eagerly anticipating the release of the song. By that time we already had the lyrics Chris shared via Twitter and we all brushed up on our Greek mythology and knew that the title ‘Atlas’ referred to the Titan who was sentenced to literally carry the world on his shoulders. But we still needed the song itself to truly appreciate the power of that metaphor , and as it turns out, we also needed a beautifully designed lyrics video to get fully obsessed.

I know that saying that this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is a gross overreaction but guys, THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING THAT I’VE SEEN. EVER.

Okay, so let’s first talk about the song itself. Now, this is probably going to be a subjective opinion, but I totally had a flashback of the Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes while listening to it. For those of you who are not as obsessed with the band as the rest of us, here’s some recap:

Coldplay had 5 big studio albums out in the last 13 years, and while they all had a very Coldplay-ish sound, they also had their distinguished characteristics that made the songs on a specific album stand out and separate them from the music on any of the others.

For example A Rush Of Blood To The Head had this very clean, sleek sound with lots of piano. That album probably also has the most memorable melodies, because the songs were just simply great – the intro to Clocks is possibly the most recognizable Coldplay melody ever, even though it really is nothing special from a musical stand point (although it might make your hands pretty sore by the end if you attempt to actually play it on your piano at home, especially if you have such a horrible wrist movement like me). On the other hand, Viva la Vida or Death and All Of His Friends was this epic journey that I personally like to refer to as the “Coldplay opera” . There’s a very complex sonority to it, the songs don’t always follow a typical structure, and this is that one album that you feel like you just have to listen to from beginning to end.

Atlas however… Atlas feels like modern day Coldplay Parachutes song to me. There’s a bit of back to basic feel to it, yes, but that’s not just it. Parachutes was a very early album for the band, they didn’t use a whole lot of fancy electronic stuff back then, but there was also some naivety and some interesting dissonant melodies which you might notice in Atlas as well. Basically: Parachutes is the angsty teenager of Coldplay albums. Or at least as angsty and teenagery as Coldplay can get.

Seriously, even the art work looks like a frickin atlas

Seriously, even the art work looks like a frickin atlas!

Now, I’m not saying that Atlas is a definite addition to that album, and there’s a lot of maturity and a more modern sound in this song. Actually I’d say that it’s more like a blend between Parachutes and Viva la Vida, which also had a revolutionary theme beside all the things I mentioned before. And now that I think about it, it might actually be more of a Viva la Vida song after all. But the dissonance in that piano melody gives it a sense of unrest, there’s a clear underlying anxiety – until the chorus resolves it all by promising that it’ll ‘carry your world’ and also ‘all your hurt’.

I also think that this structure, the way the song makes a translation from angsty to something more hopeful and uplifting, makes Atlas a perfect first credits song. I’m mentioning this not just because the choice of a first credits song is important in the sense that it contributes to the whole impression a movie has left on you – but because in addition to being a Coldplay geek and a Hunger Games fan I’m also someone who’s very interested in movie awards and Oscars and all that jazz.

Of course you might ask now, what does this all has to do with the Oscars? Here’s the thing: some of the most prestigious film award ceremonies have a category called “Original Song” to them, however the definition of what can be considered part of that is kind of fuzzy. The Globes are more flexible with all this as you can expect, however the Oscars have this crazy rule that only songs that were playing during the movie or as a first credit song can contend. RUDE! That means if I put 51 songs at the end of my movie only one of those will be considered. Pfft! (This is also the reason why Safe & Sound was never going to get an Original Song nomination at the Oscars, in case you didn’t know.)

So yep, Atlas being the first credits song and the song of a universally well-liked popular band and this being their first ever contribution to a movie’s soundtrack increases the chances for an Academy Award shout out about 500%.

“But… why do we always have to bring up the Oscars?” I’m sorry, but this is what happens when your lead actor is an effing double Oscar nominee and a fresh Best Actress winner. People are probably gonna talk about the movie’s Oscar chances in costumes and hair and make-up and visuals and music and all that as we approach award season, so get used to it. And wouldn’t it be just plain cool to read the words “Nominated for X Oscars” on Catching Fire’s IMDb page? Don’t lie to me, you wanna see that just as much as I do.

I gasped.

I gasped.

Before I’d finish this up, we need to talk about that lyrics video though. Because that is just abso-freaking-lutely STUNNING. That’s not just a lyrics video guys, that qualifies as an actual music video if you ask me, and those animations… Wow. It’s simple but effective, and the whole constellation concept is really clever, because obviously there’s no cooler archery symbol than the Sagittarius itself, but it also gives off a sort of mythologic vibe which is obviously a reference to the lyrics themselves and the inspiration behind them.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning behind the 7 lines that start off and finish the video, and I’m kind of convinced that it refers to the 7 members of Peeta and Katniss’ alliance: Finnick, Mags, Beetee, Wiress, Johanna and Katniss and Peeta themselves. Of course that doesn’t include people like Woof or even the morphlings who were obviously supposed to have been part of that alliance but I stand by my theory.

Now excuse me, but I gotta get back to listening to this song for the 1002th time,

And They All Look Just The Same

Them There Eyes is off exploring the wilderness this week, which means one thing: GUEST POSTS!

We’ve got a couple of goodies for you, starting off with this one from first time guest writer Fefe! She’s introducing us to a new term and talking about why resemblance isn’t a deciding factor for the characters she loves.


In completely unrelated (but totally related) fandom news, the answer to “Who is the 12th Doctor?” has been answered, and he looks nothing like, well, me. Whovians all over the world have been weighing in on what they wanted from a new Doctor (“a person of color”,” a woman”, “A GINGER!”) all summer and now that the role has been filled we can get to the part I’ve been dreading: the backlash from the unsatisfied.

Ambiguous characters: Easier with cartoons

Ambiguous characters: Easier with animations

The hoopla over the next Doctor reminds me of another group of fans we all know and (usually) love; fans of The Hunger Games. See, I told you it was kind of related. Remember when Jennifer and Liam weren’t the exact skin tone we imagined Katniss and Gale would be? Remember when Cinna was (*gasp*) tapped to be played by a black actor? Remember when that all happened again this year when the Catching Fire cast was announced by Lionsgate? There were people who were angry yet again because the actors did not look the way they’d imagined, these critics were those who didn’t think there were enough people of color hired to be a part of the cast.

The opposing fans argued that the looks of the actors tapped to play the characters they had grown to love when reading the series is: “They don’t look like me and I want to be able to see myself in this character I love.” I have a question for you, why? While I can understand occasionally wanting to see oneself represented on screen, I cannot understand why that has to be the case with every TV show or film one watches. I have had many spirited debates with friends about this when discussing the likes of shows on The CW or ABC Family as well as The Hunger Games saga and I never quite get it.

I am black, I am female, and I date women, but I don’t need every character in everything watch to also be a gay black woman for me to enjoy watching them. Some would call me a “Blerd”; a black nerd. I swear I did not just make that word up and it is actually a thing; Google it if you don’t believe me. I am also friends with a lot of Blerds and, as much as I love them, I am constantly frustrated by some of their points of view. They tend to get up in arms the “feel left out” and because they don’t think there are enough representations of them on shows and in films they watch. I in turn get frustrated trying to argue that sometimes even characters resembling me tend to be the characters I like least. For the record, the lesbian women of color, like me, on True Blood and Pretty Little Liars, to me are unlikable and I sometimes mute the telly when they are on screen. Should I enjoy a character more by virtue of a shared resemblance? A character’s race, gender, and sexual orientation have little to with my identifying with a character as I am more about the depth of that character than the surface qualities.



While reading The Hunger Games series I liked to imagine I could have been Katniss Everdeen or Johanna Mason. I wanted to believe that I could be the face of a rebellion and that there could be something that I believed in so strongly about that I would be brave enough to risk everything, including my life for. When the actresses hired to play the parts of these characters who from their book descriptions could have been a person of color turned out to be white women, I lost no love or respect for them or what they did in the books and did not admire them any less because the actress playing the part didn’t look like me. My friends argued that Collins’ description of Katniss meant she could have been played by an African-American or Native American and casting Jennifer Lawrence left some fans disappointed that she was another case of Hollywood whitewashing. They felt hurt that because Katniss/Collins did not specifically say I am black or I am Latina that meant by default she was to be played by a white actress.

It comes down to this: Katniss had to be played by someone and that someone turned out to be a great actress. Ultimately, these friends of mine accepted Jennifer Lawrence because hey, who doesn’t love Jennifer? (For the record if you don’t love her, I wouldn’t admit it out loud or on Twitter, talk about backlash.) I asked my fellow Blerds if they were pleased when Jeffrey Wright and Maria Howell were picked to play Tributes in the 75th Hunger Games and they were. They were pleased they were going to see themselves represented and even happier because unlike the stereotypical move in a movie, Beetee and Seeder don’t die right away. Oh well, at least there’s that I told them. Boring old that, because how uninteresting to only watch things that have characters just like you living their lives just like you (well, if you lived in a dystopian future and were on a nationally televised reality show where you had to kill to live)? I am a self-proclaimed TV & film addict, and if I only watched shows featuring a chick that goes to classes, writes papers, and spends most her time at her call center job I’d be bored, like, Episode One bored

Personally, I am most looking forward to Catching Fire to see my favorite character, Johanna, from the series come to life on screen, and I could not care less that Jena Malone does not look just like me. I just want to see her sashay into that elevator and swing that axe because those are actions I most want to try in real life.


Why Did They Change It?

THIS is the last post in Guest Postapalooza. FOR REALS, GUISE!

The official Guest Postapalooza Poll will go up tomorrow and winners will be announced Saturday, during our site anniversary extravaganza!

In the meantime, check out this entry from TimeTravellingBunny on book-to-film transitions!

“Anyway, films adaptations of novels are sometimes prone to failure not because they are too faithless but too faithful: why spend all that effort producing an audiobook with pictures?

This quote comes from David Mitchell and his foreword to his novel Cloud Atlas, which was last year adapted into a film. Like my fellow Hunger Games fan and blogger Satsuma, Mitchell understands that certain changes always have to be made in order to translate a story from one medium to another. This opinion is not always shared by many fans of popular books who are disappointed when certain things get cut, changed or added in the adaptation, making the actual film different from the pictures they had in their heads while reading the book.

Oh, the travesty!

Oh, the travesty!

Yes, there are adaptations that stray so much from the source material that they fail to preserve the characterization, themes and messages of the book. There is a good reason why the saying “Don’t judge a book by its movie” exists. Even with famous literary works, it’s not uncommon for film adaptations to whitewash the main characters (every film version of Wuthering Heights does that to Heathcliff in one or the other sense of the word, most of them in both), cut entire storylines and push important characters into the background in favor of characters and storylines that are deemed more exciting to the wider audience (most adaptations of Wuthering Heights and Anna Karenina) or even slap a happy ending on a tragic tale (notorious reworkings of Shakespeare’s tragedies by Nahum Tate which were popular in England between the 17th and 19th century, or, in our times, the atrocious 1995 movie The Scarlet Letter starring Demi Moore). But these are not the kind of changes I’m talking about here. Even in the most faithful adaptations, and The Hunger Games movie was one of them, certain changes have to be made in order to make a good and exciting film from a good and exciting book, and I’m not talking just about squeezing a 400 pages book into two hours of screentime. There’s also a good reason why Best Adapted Screenplay is an equally respected award category as Best Original Screenplay.

One of the biggest problems that every screenwriter adapting a novel has to face is the issue of exposition. Novels are, by their nature, wordy – even when their protagonists are quiet by nature. Things get explained at length by a first person or a third person narrator: the background, the complicated histories, the relationships, the feelings. Films can use voice over narration, text on screen Star Wars-style, or characters delivering “exposition dumps” in dialogue, but these storytelling devices can only be used in very small doses since they tend to be clunky, awkward and boring. The first rule of film is: Show, don’t tell.

Hey, that's not Madge!

Hey, that’s not Madge!

One of the changes in The Hunger Games movie that has caused the most outrage among the book fans is the decision to cut the character of Madge from the movies and change the origins of the mockingjay pin. Some fans are still holding out the hope that Madge will make an appearance, others are bringing her up all the time as a proof that almost any character, other than the major ones, could be cut from the movies. (They cut out Madge, so why not Annie?) Others are claiming that the mockingjay pin has lost all meaning

Let’s think this over. Madge is not just a minor character whose absence won’t particularly affect the story – she simply had to be cut. Madge appears early on in the first book, gives Katniss the mockingjay pin and then only reappears halfway through Catching Fire to bring morphling for Gale, and is never seen again. The entire importance of her character lies in the complicated backstory of her family that we learn halfway through the story. In the third book, we learn that she died in the firebombing of District 12 with her entire family.

In a movie franchise, this couldn’t work. Films are not made just for people who are already fans of the book and just want to see their favorite characters on screen. What the film viewers would see in the first movie is a random person, apparently a friend or acquaintance of Katniss, who gives her the pin and then disappears from the film. She would then randomly appear in the second movie, by which time the majority of the audience wouldn’t even remember who she was or that she was in the movie they had seen a year and a half earlier, and the backstory of the pin would require a lot of screentime and exposition dump that would take valuable screentime.

Will the mockingjay pin lose its meaning without Madge? Not really. The mockingjay pin is important for the people of Panem for two reasons: because of what a mockingjay represents, as a creature that came to be despite the wishes of Capitol and as a result of the Capitol getting outsmarted by the rebels, and because Katniss wore the pin in the Games. The additional poignancy of the pin having been worn by a girl who died in the Games is a bonus that is not essential for the story. Besides, this backstory could be easily done in the movies without Madge. Maybe the pin was once worn by a daughter or sister of the sad-looking lady (credited as “Hob vendor”) who gave Katniss the pin ?

What is HE doing there?

What is HE doing there?

Thanks to the interviews and teaser trailer, we already know about some of the minor changes made in Catching Fire. Certain minor characters have been cut: Bonnie and Twill, the two refugees that Katniss meets in the woods, won’t be in the movie. This is hardly a surprise: although these two characters were likeable, their purpose in the book was to deliver exposition so Katniss and the reader would know what happened during the rebellion in District 8, and to raise the possibility that District 13 may still exist. The former is not needed in a film, which isn’t limited to Katniss’ POV and can simply show those events instead of having people talk about them, while the latter can be done in many other ways, and a whole bunch of other characters could easily come to the same conclusion about District 13 that those two did. Even Suzanne Collins didn’t care to tell us what exactly happened with them.

On the other hand, sometimes adaptations add certain scenes or lines. We know that Gale will have at least two scenes he doesn’t have in the book: he has a goodbye scene with Katniss before she goes to the Arena, mentioned by Francis Lawrence, and the teaser trailer shows him and Katniss witnessing the burning of the Hob, despite the fact that the book had Katniss and Peeta in a similar scene. This has caused a big controversy in the fandom, with complaints and suspicions that Lionsgate wants to enlarge Gale’s role at Peeta’s expense, or even make him the primary love interest for Katniss.

I could start explaining why I think this is really unlikely, but I’ll leave it for some other time. Suffice to say, I don’t think Gale’s role will be enlarged and I certainly don’t think he will become a more prominent character than Peeta (which would be really hard to achieve anyway due to the fact that Gale is absent from the whole second part of Catching Fire, while Peeta has a prominent role throughout the book and lots of scenes with Katniss); and Liam Hemsworth himself has pointed out in an interview that his character does get more to do in Catching Fire, but that most of his stuff is really in Mockingjay.

However, the additional scenes and dialogue are necessary in order to flesh out Gale’s character and explain his relationship with Katniss. The first movie showed that Gale and Katniss were close, but didn’t get across the fact that they have been best friends and hunting partners for years – and even left some viewers thinking that Gale was Katniss’ boyfriend, and some others believing he was her brother. Gale’s role in Catching Fire is not major, but he is a part of the love triangle which, while it’s not as prominent as the media would have you think, does exist in this particular book, where Katniss is still torn between him and Peeta. More than that, Gale essentially represents Katniss’ past life and one side of her personality. The story would be severely unbalanced if the viewer does not understand their connection. And while Gale gets a lot more to do in Mockingjay, that book shows their friendship falling apart.

In the books, we find out a lot about Katniss’ relationship with Gale and their history through internal monologue – something that’s missing in the movie. True, Katniss does not get to tell Gale goodbye in the book, because she’s whisked away and never gets the chance. However, she’s thinking about things she would tell him: how important he has been to her all these years, and that she loved him even though she doesn’t seem able to give him the romantic love he wants. Film viewers would have no idea about any of this since they couldn’t hear her thoughts, and Katniss just being dragged out to the Capitol train without saying anything to Gale would have no emotional resonance.

Similarly, a film viewer who saw Katniss and Peeta watching the burning Hob would not know that Katniss is thinking of the Hob as something that Peeta had little to do with, unlike her and Gale, who had been trading at the Hob for years. The viewer may know that Gale and Katniss are both hunters, but they didn’t see the scenes with Katniss and Gale both trading at the Hob, they probably won’t see flashbacks showing their history together or hear Katniss talk at length about her friendship with Gale. Gale and Katniss watching the burning Hob is a perfect opportunity to mention their history and get across their connection to this place.

Peeta, on the other hand, has many other scenes in Catching Fire that are far more important for fleshing out his character and his relationship with Katniss. I’m willing to bet that Peeta will get scenes in Mockingjay part 1 that he does not have in the book, since he spends most of the first part of it imprisoned and tortured in Capitol. I expect the films to feature some scenes from the Capitol, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes an appearance in a dream scene or two or even a brief flashback, to remind the viewers of what he was like before the hijacking and explain Katniss’ feelings for him for those who don’t remember what happened in the film they saw a year or two earlier.

Adapting a book into a film is a bit like translating from one language into another. If you translate everything word by word, you will lose the meaning and end up with something clumsy and confusing. You need to think about how it will all sound in the other language. Or, in this case, how it will look on the screen.


Shippin’ It

Welcome to our SECOND TO LAST entry for Guest Postapalooza! (Just kidding about that last post thing!)

Today, JJ is talking about about a certain ship and why it matters!

Here’s how this competition is gonna go now: Tomorrow, we will have one more post. Tuesday, we will release the poll featuring every guest entry, along with links so you can re-read and pick your favorites. Each poster will go to a different author, regardless of whether or not one of them gets the top two posts. We hope you all have fun with it!

In case you missed the memo!

In case you missed the memo!

When I hear what fans want in the theatrical trailer, it’s two major things – Finnick (understandable because we haven’t seen him in action yet) and Everlark.

Oh Everlark, I refuse that other shipping term for you. Everlark is like a beautiful bird that soars through the skies, while that other term lives in that little corner of our brains that will always be twelve years old. But I digress. I very much want some nice Everlark scenes in the trailer, because it will give me confidence that they are, as promised, staying true to the book.

And also because Everlark is THE GREATEST SHIP OF ALL TIME. Ok, that’s a bold statement. Let me explain.

Katniss and Peeta’s story is full of hope, sacrifice, tragedy, confusion, angst, pain, friendship, and love. Fierce, I’ve-risked-my-life-for-you-through-three-books, “Let me go.”-“I can’t!” love.

And there’s also that tricky complication that, as you root for this couple, you are in a way like the citizens of Panem, participating in the media circus that makes their lives hell.

The moment

The moment

Panem is a world hundreds of years in the future, yet the media landscape rings true to today. And as the three remaining movies are released, we will inevitably see a lot of the media culture that Suzanne Collins was criticizing in the books.

As readers, we have the ultimate VIP ticket that the richest of Capitol citizens would yearn for. Because we see the story through Katniss’s POV, we understand the toll that the “Lovers from District 12” façade takes on Katniss and Peeta. But we also see that much of the pain is because the feelings are not a lie. It’s hard for Katniss to grasp for a while because she’s busy to navigating through a world where powerful forces will manipulate everything to their own interests, or kill her/everyone she loves for one false move. But when the dust settles, we know what happens.

So, not only is Katniss and Peeta’s relationship filled with mind-twisting complexity, our relationship with them is really complicated. Are we friend or foe to our favorite couple? It’s that added dimension that’s so interesting and keeps me coming back.

And yeah, when I think about toastbabies I get a little emotional.

Game of Games, Part Two

We’re back with more Game of Games with Satsuma!

Again, SPOILERS AHOY for Game of Thrones up through A Storm of Swords (aka Season 3!)

Part Two: The Pitfalls of Book-to-Screen Adaptations.

Seems that when any popular book series that gets adapted to screen, whether the screen be silver or HDTV, we can with 100% accuracy forecast a Dance of the Die-Hard Fans who argue over its merits. In both GOT and THG fandoms, there are many fans who take the “book purist”, or “books-on-tape with pictures” approach,  and bemoan every plot change and cut character.

My approach is different, for I understand that changes are inevitable, not just because of the limits of time and budget, but because film/TV is a completely different medium from books.  I do have a line though; I would draw it at the point characters, plots, and themes are changed so much, it clashes with the author’s intent in the original work.

And here I get into many spoilers, up to S3 E10 of GOT, or about mid-way through “Storm of Swords” in the ASOIAF book series.

Read the rest of this entry

Game of Games, Part One

Beware! Guest Postapalooza days are switching up over the next couple weeks!

We’re back with Satsuma, who’s got some interesting comparisons between The Hunger Games and another popular series, Game of Thrones.

SPOILER WARNING: Do not read this post unless you don’t mind getting spoiled for the Game of Thrones series up through Season 3 (or A Storm of Swords, if you’re the reading type!)

So anyone who follows this blog, might have noticed there’s a lot of crossover between The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire fandoms. Not at all surprising, because the two stories have MANY similarities, though I think there are some differences, too. Part One will discuss general parallels, and will be relatively spoiler-free. Part Two will discuss how both franchises face similar issues when it comes to adapting books to screen. This has much more spoiler potential, please be careful!

Part One: Parallels, so many parallels.

Sansa gets tough

Awwwww shoot!

1. Both stories have “Game” in the title. DUH, right? But really, both stories have as a major theme the idea of Playing the Game for survival, conquest, or power. In THG, you win merely by being the last one standing. GOT, people are playing to win the Iron Throne, or at least the political power behind it, BUT it’s also about survival, because “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or die.” (Thanks Queen Cersei !)

2. Both stories are fairly “realistic” for genre fiction. THG has elements of science fiction, but the story does not focus on, or depend on those elements. Same for the fantasy/magic elements of GOT; there are dragons and zombies, but both feature in subplots that have, at least so far, not been as important as the political ones.

3. In both stories, “no one is 100% good or 100% bad”.
(Quote from George R.R. Martin himself!) Although some characters are ALMOST 100% one way or the other, the vast majority are shown to be imperfect, but with SOME redeeming features. GOT has more “political parties” than THG does, but in both stories, there is no one side that is totally justified in every action. The Starks seem to be the closest there is in the GOT world to heroes, but not everyone allied with their cause is heroic, and many of the Starks make questionable decisions that lead to death and destruction.

4. Both stories contain a LOT of violence, much of it grotesque and horrifying.
(I even think both stories have elements of the Horror genre). Now, one difference is that GOT contains a lot of sex, as well, and THG certainly isn’t filled with sex scenes like GOT. But THG still mentions prostitution, which is also a big part of GOT, and many fans have speculated that Gloss and Cashmere’s relationship was a lot like Jaime and Cersei’s.

Just call him Peddard

Just call him Peddard

5. Both stories feature some good ol’ fashioned in-cave loving.

6. Both stories show people fighting, with primitive weapons, for the entertainment of others. One of the books the GOT series is based on, actually does include scenes with “pit fighters”, who are gladiators. And in both show and books, knights are shown competing in tourneys, and dying in them as well. I think Sandor Clegane would find the Careers in THG to be quite similar to the knights of his world.

7. Both stories were written by authors who are definitely NOT afraid to kill off major characters, including the “heroic” and “innocent” ones. GRRM has promised readers “a bittersweet ending”, and I think most THG fans would find “Mockingjay has a bittersweet ending” to be the MOST positive spin on what happens. Oh, and both authors have been accused of writing “food porn”.

8. Here’s one difference. In general, the GOT series focuses mostly on the political power brokers, the Snows, Coins, and occasionally the Plutarchs and Boggs of the world. The “smallfolk”, or commoners, are essentially helpless pawns in the schemes of the highborn. THG focuses much more on the plight of the average District citizen, and doesn’t shy away from exploring the moral agency of those who are NOT conventional power players, such as Gale, or even Katniss herself.

(BTW, I think Plutarch would do very well for himself if magically transported into Westeros, and would give guys like Varys and Littlefinger a run for their money.)

9. Both fandoms have very dark corners. Some THG fans think Coin’s idea to throw Capitol kids into the Games was justifiable revenge. There are fanfics set in AUS in which the rebellion failed and the Games went on, that seem very close to glorifying the Games. However, it seems to me that such disturbing fans are only a small subset of the general THG fandom. Not so sure about GOT/ASOIAF.

Especially these days, as a recent shocking event in the GOT series, has gotten many fans, even the usually reasonable ones, clamoring for a total slaughter of anyone involved with what happened, even the innocent children of the perpetrators. This, to me, is genocide. (It’s also what Coin implied would happen to the Capitol citizens if the Victors voted down the “Capitol Hunger Games”.)

Now, I’m sure most GOT/ASOAIF fans clamoring for the annihilation of a particular House, would claim, “Of course I wouldn’t support genocide in REAL LIFE!” But the truth is that one of the major justifications used for genocide, or other atrocities, is by framing these actions as revenge for previous atrocities.

10. Both fandoms are beset with arguments between “book purists”, and fans who are more lenient when it comes to changes from the books in the screen adaptations.
But that is material for my next post.


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