Story time children! Gather around. By now you have all heard of the New York Times Bestselling books/ Mega box office smashing films,The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins/starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. I would like to give you all my unique perspective on this entire franchise as I have now been to both the Los Angeles World Premiere of The Hunger Games where I interviewed the cast on the red carpet for the daytime talk show Wendy Williams as well as attended the U.S. Premiere in Los Angeles of Catching Fire this past week.
Entering The Hunger Games World
I read The Hunger Games in 2008 when I was 15 years old. A librarian recommended it to me as I am and was a complete book dork who devoured novels like it was a contest. Katniss, the story’s heroine, was 16 with just one sister who was 12 years old, I was 15 with just a 12 year old sister. The similarities were endless I was hooked right away. I remember calling all of my friends right after I finished it and screaming “YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK” but at the time everyone was on the Twilight train (myself included) so for my one- book -a- year -friends this was more than enough. These were dark times, before I had a Facebook/Twitter/or a Tumblr, so little did I know, the fandom was already growing. Fall of 2009 Catching Fire came out (my personal favorite of the trilogy) where our heroine faces her enemies yet again. Katniss was so incredibly strong throughout the series. I had come to think of her like a friend, I got really defensive when people complained about her choices. The novels are in first person so I felt like I was with Katniss from start to finish. I recall summer of 2010, I had just created a Facebook, just turned 17, and just got a new Kindle. Posting about how excited I was to read Mockingjay, one person replied to my status. Now every time I post about The Hunger Game series, many people have input! Yes I just used Facebook, to indicate the popularity of a book. The Mockingjay release party at Borders (RIP) was on August 23rd,2012 where we played trivia games and got little prizes. There was hardly any The Hunger Games merchandise you could get at the time so I still have 15 Mockingjay rub on tattoos I stuffed in to my pockets,coveting them as they were the only tangible thing that showed my pride . At the time there were a lot of fans but nowhere near the amount we have now! Mockingjay came out at midnight on August 24th and I read the entire book that evening(on my band new Kindle). I set up in the spare room in our basement for some privacy and read the night away. I had no sense of time. After I finished I just sat there. It took me weeks to decide I did not like the final book. The depression set in, as Ms.Collins is a master at making the reader truly feel as if they are with Katniss who really struggled throughout the book. I did not dislike the realism of the story, I disliked the execution. I personally felt the book was rushed and sloppy but nonetheless the novels remained some of my favorites. I still recall getting the alert on my phone that Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss on March 17th, 2011 (I’m good with dates) and being pretty disappointed, despite loving her in Winter’s Bone and knowing she was talented, I was one of the people who thought Katniss was of biracial background. From the book I pictured her as half Caucasian half Native American, oddly specific, I know. Come to find out later that they only opened the casting of Katniss to Caucasian actresses was heartbreaking to say the least. Then there was the backlash that both Amandla Stenberg being cast as Rue and Dayo Okeni being cast as Thresh, caused. Overall, it was just saddening to see people respond in such foolish and offensive ways. But these young actors took it in stride.
The Hunger Game World Premiere
Fast forward to the end of 2011, beginning of 2012. I’m a senior in high school/freshmen in college (long story) and a Tumblr expert. All thanks to Tumblr, I was now familiar with the ever-growing The Hunger Games fandom and had even created a specific blog for all my “feels,” as tumblr users would say. Many of us followed the production of the films like we were being paid. The Hunger Games marketing team was clever; they engaged many websites (50 to be exact) that were undoubtedly told these books are the next “Twilight.” Competitions to win tickets to THE World Premiere were up for grabs! Entering every single one I could, I did not win tickets until one day I was checking my usual sites, Thehob.org, Mockingjay.net, and HungergamesDWTC.net, when I saw a new competition to be special correspondents at The Hunger GamesWorld Premiere on behalf of The Wendy Williams television show. I entered a video of me talking to the camera about how much I loved the series in addition to showing off my ever growing merch collection. Fifteen minutes later I got a call from a producer! They flew myself and a lovely girl named Kara from Georgia, to NYC to be on the show. They told us there would be 10 of us, where they would pick one winner. I could not help feeling like I was in a game as we were put in a fancy hotel and going on a show where they would choose one winner. Well, in true TV show fashion, they were tricking us! Both Kara and I had won and the other people pretending to be the other eight selected were actually Wendy William interns.
Then they flew us to LA where we had wardrobe, professional makeup, and hair! The guy who did my hair had also done Halle Berry’s had Tyra Banks’s. I felt so royal! However, being around an entire crew of professionals for an entire day was tedious and frustrating.
I don’t mean to sound like a brat, but people who tell you how you can maintain/lose weight, prevent aging(I was 18!), and essentially be prettier are not the kind of people I would ever surround myself with by choice. While we all waited patiently (six or so hours) for what I am not sure, things got a little catty every now and then. There was also some mocking that of famous people that I nipped in the bud because I hate offhanded bullying comments about anyone, famous or otherwise. There were about 15 people in and out all day not including us. We really got the star treatment which was neat. It’s funny because the first question so many people in that industry asked was “Are you an actress or singer, what do you do?” And I was like, “I’m just a kid, I don’t do anything.” And right now at 20 years old, that is my same answer. I remember it was a fight to even get them to allow me to wear red lipstick. Red lipstick is my signature thing, I’ve had people tell me women of color should not wear red lipstick and I just laugh. Been wearing it since I was twelve! So if they did not let me, I would have just stuck it on myself. After lipstick-gate 2012 I even had one of the men tell me “you should always stand up for yourself, because you know what looks best on you.” I know, that’s why I did stand up for myself! This just goes to show you what kind of world we were in. We had to film little tidbits expressing our gratitude and excitement all day. It was fun, but so incredibly forced, but hey that’s the name of the game. Luckily Kara, her mom, and sister were a welcome distraction, as they were the sweetest people in the room besides the producer for the segment, Mike. The end result almost reduced me to tears. It was a lot of makeup and I looked fake (some may say better) but it was a shock to my system as I only ever wear red lipstick! Now I know how people in the spotlight always manage to look so glamorous. *Ignore the date stamp*, never got that fixed.
Red Carpet Mayhem
The red carpet was INSANE as people were screaming and there were celebrities everywhere! Kara and I were not really able to interview together as there was no room so we switched off and on! I honestly was not nervous because in my eyes, they were just human beings I was talking to! No better or worse than anyone else I know. Seeing all the screaming fans across the barricades made me really sad because while I got to interview them (which was phenomenal), I kind of just wanted to scream with my fellow fans! Sounds ungrateful, but I am just not a fancy girl! So acting poised while the cameras and microphones are on for five hours straight is no small feat.
I am not an extremely talented person meaning my grades are average, I can’t act/sing/or dance, and I have no athletic ability despite being tall. So to be told by professionals that interviewing people is a career field I should look in to had me completely floored! The reason I could never broadcast journalist is because I am the bossiest person ever. I hate being told what to do. As a public relations major, I was more envious of the agents who came up to me and said, “You have 2 minutes with my client,” than I was of their celebrity clients. I don’t need the glamour and spotlight! Give me someone to boss around any day. I knew the whole day of filming would make for one 5 minute segment but I did reach my breaking point when they wanted me to ask “Who would win in The Hunger Games? Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian?”. I respected the books so much that I only wanted to ask the questions I wanted to ask (and not the tv questions they wanted)! At a very young age I was taught the word “no”. And being in this industry, you don’t get to say no. You just do as you are asked and if you have not noticed, I am not good at taking orders.
All of the actors were very kind and the only people I actually freaked out at interviewing were Cody Simpson (I had never even heard any of his music so that was an odd reaction) and the director, Gary Ross who I called a God (I love his body of work). Everyone was wrapping up and Jennifer Lawrence had one more interview to give, we were at the end of the line but there were 10 stations vying for her interview. Well I now knew the name of the game, I made eye contact with her handler/agent person and conveyed my wanting with my eyes. In my short heels, I was about 6’1 so that probably helped. Jennifer came over to us where she was funny and charming as ever! Josh Hutcherson was adorable albeit way shorter than me (sigh) and Liam Hemsworth was ridiculously beautiful. So we all headed in where we sat two rows behind Miley Cyrus and strangely enough, next to Cody Simpson where he and his sister kept checking their phones and asking each other what was going on. I loved the movie because I really understood the changes they made for the sake of adapting it. Both Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins cowrote the screenplay, so I respected the film as a sort of companion to the book. We did go to the after party where I saw Miley Cyrus again, Darren Criss (so nice), Willow Shields, Amandla Stenberg, and a large number of celebrities! After we were flown back to NYC to watch the footage on the Wendy Show and the rest is history! The Wendy Show offered both Kara and I an experience that money can not buy, and I would not have it any other way! It was also a a wake up call in some ways, as to how harsh that world can be.
Once in a lifetime opportunity! I am still blown away that I did all that, and I am beyond thankful but there was some itch in the back of my brain that made me feel like that whole spectacle was not right. I am a very honest person, so when I say that I was not in love with the Hollywood scene, that is just my personal perspective as an outsider. I am still ecstatic that all the people at the Wendy Williams show had such faith in me! But I myself felt like an alien throughout the process.
Catching Fire U.S. Premiere
I met a girl named Angel outside of The Hunger Games after party. She had won the myspace competition (50 websites had tickets to give away) and asked to take a picture with Kara and I! Actually quite a few people asked to get their pictures with us because we had sparkly microphones and a camera crew and the whole deal.
So almost a year later I found Angel on Facebook (because I’m creepy like that) and we became total book nerd fans! Messaging each other exclusively about books for the better part of 2013! So when Angel won both a trip to London for the Catching Fire World premiere (where she took her best friend) and tickets to the Catching Fire Premiere in LA and offered to take me, I gladly took her up on her offer! I would get to experience the premiere like a fan! You’ll notice I look like a doll at the first premiere with so much makeup and perfect hair while the second premiere is much more relaxed. I am horrible at hair and makeup but I had fun wearing a look that I felt so confident in. Much less glam this time around but just as many if not more celebrities were in attendance, my favorite encounters were Josh Horowitz , my favorite interviewer and getting to talk to Jacquline Emerson who played Foxface on The Hunger Games, and Bella Thorne of Shake It Up on Disney Channel! I met some other fans who I knew had either recently left the U.S. or weren’t from here because their shoes were so rad and unique around these parts! Nicole squared are a pair of cousins from New Zealand who I am happy to call new friends! Between Kara, Angel, Nicole, and Nicole, this series has presented me with tons of new friends.
Not to mention THE MOVIE WAS PHENOMENAL. Somehow Francis Lawrence, the director of no relation to Jennifer was able to convey every single moment subtly and directly! Their were so many lines that were directly from the book but there were also some that were impoverised that I actually wish were in the book, which is the greatest compliment I can give! The addition of Jena Malone as Johanna Mason and Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair made the story move seamlessly! UGH. I am so impressed. I especially loved that the love triangle that the marketing team seems to really be throwing at us in commercials is not in fact as prevalent as they make it seem in the previews. At the end of the day it is about a young woman who is forced to be this symbol and inadvertently sparks a movement for an entire nation. Never forget that, however much the Capitol, I mean The Hunger Games public relations team tries to sell it to you. Which brings me to my final point:
WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS COVERGIRL MAKEUP CAMPAIGN?!?
So in my not so humble opinion, The Hunger Games is the political allegory of our generation. It is a reflection of many western societies as a whole, but especially the U.S.. I finally figured what that itch was at the first premiere, the feeling that made me so uncomfortable. While, I have always seen us as the Capitol (us as in the States), I never realized how much the actual The Hunger Games marketing team was identical to the capitol, and we as a consumer nation, are the Citizens. Jennifer is propped up, scrutinized, and adored. The interviews, the products, and the insincere Capitol Citizens (aka a huge portion of Hollywood). We no longer see celebrities as human beings, they are items to be fawned over and observed. So maybe as you read this you are responding with a resounding #duh. Perhaps it was because I was distracted by the glitz and glam but it took going to my second film premiere to realize this is INSANE. The paparazzi are bullies and all of the “want, more, need” attitudes are heightened in everyone at the premieres, fans, celebs, and reporters alike. They may say in their defense. “It’s just the way it is.” We have had celebrities and the culture of supply and demand is nothing new. It has been this way since before The Hunger Games and it will be this way after. But how dare they actually sell Capitol makeup, start to create a The Hunger Games theme park, and have video games where you slay fellow tributes. They dress it up like it is something to be admired and celebrated. I myself bought the nail polish last year until I questioned what I was even doing. Wearing “district make up” is LITERALLY something the Capitol citizens would do. Who wants to go to a Panem amusement park?! This is not Hogwarts! There is no magic, there is depth and despair. The only magic is in the hearts of all of those that sacrificed their lives for a better world. And there will never be a roller coaster that gives the rider that experience. I don’t mean to shame the buyers, like I said I bought the make up. I wanted to show how much I love the series! But the books are about questioning what we have been force fed, maybe it’s time we do that in real life too. Selling the makeup might be acceptable for any other book to film adaptation, but this entire series is about people standing up and speaking out. We as individuals have the power to overcome that which we don’t agree with. Katniss took on an entire government, why can’t we as lovers us this series, as people who respect the message Ms.Collins iterated, tell those that are supposedly the driving force behind this franchise that they need to reread the books. And Spark Movement is doing just that. Check out our tumblr and posts where we tell Lionsgate exactly what we think about their money hungry ideas. The irony is insane. These may “just be books” to some. In your opinion, I make take this too seriously. But with all the problematic issues I have seen since this book was even thought to be brought to the big screen, I think we aren’t taking it seriously enough. The books are reflective of our society but unfortunately so are the responses of those hungry for more games.