Why the Hunger Games YA dystopia fashion finally crashed and burned
The 2010s saw the rapid rise and equally rapid fall of the dystopian genre YA, with The hunger Games and its followers dominate headlines and popular culture. It has been argued that the dystopia boom was inspired by cynicism and anxiety in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but for those of us who have become teenagers in the age of dystopia obsession YA, the films in particular had a different function: they cultivated a distrust of government, expressing and amplifying how tired millennials around the world were of tyrannical rulers. The hunger Games in particular helped popularize what had already become a flourishing literary subgenre, with books from Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel The donor to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series shaping the dystopian boom. And then the wave of Hunger games imitators have oversaturated the market and killed the fashion – at least that’s what the popular story goes. But there were other reasons why the YA dystopia boom ended, and they have been incorporated into its premises and execution throughout.
The intensity of fashion certainly contributed to its end. In 2014 alone, four blockbuster YA dystopian films hit theaters: The Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part 1, The Maze Runner, Divergent, and The donor. But saturation isn’t enough to kill a genre, as the wave of new superhero movies of the past decade has proven. The dystopian genre YA died because it didn’t evolve. Book after book and film after film featured the same tropes, with the same types of characters all suffering from the same generic oppression and teenage love triangles. The hunger Games struck a chord because of its sinister themes and the way it intensified the concerns of its time about capitalism, imperialism, wealth and power inequality, and technology, but its followers have largely added more gadgets and different kinds of violence, and called it a day.
The hunger Games emerged from similar stories of adults versus youth as Royal battle, but added new layers on the media propaganda and authoritarian structure. Author Suzanne Collins drew inspiration from Greek mythology, reality TV programming, and child soldiers, and she used these ideas to give more texture to her books. Its protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is relatable and down to earth: she doesn’t want to become a revolutionary or a hero, she just wants to protect her little sister Primrose. His deteriorating sanity feels realistic, and it was for the most part unprecedented in a genre filled with daring teenage heroes who have gone through the most gruesome adventures completely unscathed.
After the Hunger Games series, subsequent YA dystopia films weren’t as richly made, and the creators didn’t seem to care about the traumatic experiences of their young protagonists. It’s unrealistic to have a movie about teens overthrowing bullies, but little or no focus on their emotions. Katniss was not endlessly stoic – Collins allows her to be vulnerable and learn that feelings are a sign of strength rather than weakness. Many of the brutal dystopia stories that followed avoided this kind of focus on feelings – or simply followed Katniss’ model of anxiety and dread, without finding new territory to explore.
The Hunger Games series focuses on ending a brutal regime that executes children for sports, which requires a revolution and a complete restructuring of society. But the stories always stopped right after the fall of the last oppressive regime, as if that would solve all the problems in society. As real teens struggled against their own idealism and wish for a better world, fiction told them that systematic oppression is simple and easy to resolve with a standard fight between good and evil, and that none of the above. that comes after this fight is interesting. or relevant. The stories of how these dystopian societies were rebuilt would be newer and more alluring, but there was never room in the YA dystopias for this kind of thinking or consideration.
Which left nowhere for these stories after injustices were overturned and evil fascists defeated. They all created momentum and excitement around the action, but few of these stories have ever considered what young readers want to know: After a cruel leader leaves, what happens next. ? Injustice rarely ends with the death or departure of an unjust ruler, but YA’s dystopian stories rarely consider the next world order and how it could function differently, without stigmatizing its people. Revolution, post-apocalyptic survival, and societal restructuring are fascinating topics, but aside from the Hunger Games ‘brief coda of Katniss’ future PTSD, most YA dystopia stories just don’t explore these areas. .
And just as YA’s dystopian stories weren’t particularly interested in the future, they were also rarely interested in their past, or even their present. They hardly ever explored their societies in depth, beyond declaring them wicked, violent and dominant. We don’t really know much about the destructive diets of the Maze Runner or Divergent series – we just know they’re bad. The dystopian film series in particular offered only the quickest and most superficial explanation of why a government would force its children into mazes or kill each other. The Capitol’s desire to terrorize its citizens in The Hunger Games, or The maze RunnerThe emphasis on population control and disaster response – these are political excuses for mass murder, but not nuanced.
And at the same time, YA’s dystopian stories were always too dependent on the hero model, where a single teenager starts a revolt and does most of the work to bring down a totalitarian state. While this is an empowering vision, it looks like a dated and hollow model for young adults engaging in real collective action. We are arguably living in a dystopian era, in a changing world where authoritarianism and fascism are on the rise, both in America and around the world. And resistance to this must be cooperative, not dependent on the Chosen One heroes. Inequality and oppression are driven by institutions, not by isolated bad guys who could easily be overthrown. The simplicity of stories where a brave youngster stops a monster and revolutionizes a society quickly began to sound like a simplistic fantasy.
And part of how these dystopian fantasies avoided reality was by avoiding the real and relatable issues that teens face. Katniss, Divergent‘s Tris, and Maze runnerThomas are all teenagers, but the main concession of their stories at their age are the little love triangles they face. Their stories explore issues related to technology, environmental destruction, and government control, but without, for example, explicitly drawing parallels between the innovative ways in which adolescents use technology or interact with education systems designed to shape them. Teenagers experience a plethora of emotions as we grow older, but these dystopian films rarely felt authentic about teenage angst or anxiety – their heroes felt like generic adult heroes, played by young actors.
And of course, non-whites barely exist in the wave of dystopia movies. The few characters in BIPOC are never fully developed and the public never discovers their stories. Studies point out that white characters are much better portrayed in YA literature than other groups, which may help explain how some fans have been strangely bothered by black characters in the Hunger Games movies – in a genre to white trend, not only did they not. expect something else they couldn’t handle it when he arrived.
These dystopias suggest that they occur in some sort of post-racial utopia, but they achieve this by suggesting that non-whites would not exist in a dystopian society. Although Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley dominate the genre with messages of empowering women, they still live in fantasy worlds that amplify some real-world issues, such as government overreach and deep inequalities, but which address at address the other real issues facing women and adolescent girls, such as gender discrimination and harassment. To claim that none of these things would exist in a dystopian society, when we know from real experience that oppressive regimes make the problem much worse, seems superficial and false.
But who knows, as the march against the new fascist regimes continues, the genre may be reborn in a new form. Trends come and go, but they tend to be cyclical – and the second or third time around, they’re more likely to have shifted. As the wave of diversity spreads through different cinematic and literary genres, from fantasy to romance to sci-fi and beyond, the YA dystopia genre could be reborn in new forms. With the rise of more BIPOC creatives in the industry, we may have a distinctive YA dystopian movie with more characters of color.
Not everyone wants to live or imagine a dystopian society. Dystopian fashion may have faded in part because young readers and viewers are ready for some positivity and for less fantastic and simplified problems and solutions. But they may also be doing the work themselves now. Young people are mounting increasingly sophisticated political campaigns against the real-world dystopian futures they face, from the climate crisis and renaissance of authoritarian governments to nation-specific issues like sectarian violence, wars, nationalism white and terrorist attacks. Eventually, it may be possible for the writers to take inspiration from this reality and revive the genre in more compelling and compelling forms.