The Twilight Saga books and films made a substantial impression on popular culture for nearly a decade. Beyond the success of the actual franchise, the series also influenced other young adult franchises that were popular during the same time. In particular, the series caused a great disruption to The Hunger Games film adaptations by shifting their narrative focus away from the social and political criticism of the novels and towards a Twilight-style love triangle.
The final Twilight film Breaking Dawn Part 2 was released in 2012, which is the same year the first Hunger Games movie premiered. When The Hunger Games was in production and first hitting theaters, the Twilight fandom was in full swing with a heavy emphasis on the series’ signature love triangle. Fans declared themselves either Team Edward or Team Jacob depending on which suitor they felt was best for main character, Bella. This trend evolved beyond the Twilight fandom, seeping into other pop culture fandoms as well, including that of The Hunger Games, which overemphasized the love triangle between main character, Katniss, and her two love interests, Gale and Peeta. While love triangles can lead to entertaining debates, it should not have been the foundational pillar a mega-franchise about tyranny and the commodification of suffering should have been built upon.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film adaptation in the series, is particularly guilty of being overwhelmed by its focus on the Team Gale versus Team Peeta debate. Nearly the entire first hour of the film is focused on this issue. While Katniss and Peeta are on their Victory Tour, they learn about the brewing rebellions in their country and they witness the debauchery and decadence of The Capitol. However, it feels like this stretch of film is much more interested in the love triangle than in tackling the themes of the source material.
Peeta’s relationship with Katniss is given more screen time than his revulsion at the decadence of The Capitol. He appears to be much more upset that Katniss’ marriage proposal was a ploy to appease President Snow than he is at discovering people in The Capital force themselves to be sick to continue overindulging, while his community in District 12 starve.
By following the “team” trend established by the Twilight fandom and the impassioned response it created, The Hunger Games film adaptations diverged from the original source material. It seems that the filmmakers were much more interested in capitalizing on the same enthusiasm that led to Twilight‘s success than dramatizing the substantive messages of the novels. Just because both franchises appeal to the same demographic, primarily tween and teen girls, does not mean that audiences would demand the exact same thing from the two franchises. The filmmakers should have given their audience more credit.
By shifting the narrative focus of The Hunger Games films to raise the significance of the Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle, the films imitated some of the worst tendencies of the books’ villains. The tyrannical regime of Panem depends on the spectacle of the Hunger Games as a distraction and confirmation of its power. The reason Peeta and Katniss’ love story made an impact in Panem was because it was a spectacle and a distraction. The commodification of the couple’s love was simply an extension of the commodification of their identities as tributes in the Hunger Games. The novels used this plot to discuss ideas like seeing beyond what is presented and learning to discern fact from fiction by scrutinizing sources of information.
When the films lean too far into the love triangle plot, a substantial level of social and political criticism is lost. It is a shame that the filmmakers were so influenced by The Twilight Saga‘s fandom. The two series have unique intentions and deliver different types of stories despite being intended for the same demographic. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of the Hunger Games series ultimately weakened the movies they released — all because they were trying to replicate the success of the Twilight Saga.
The Hunger Games film adaptations lean too heavily into the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle thanks to the “team” trend started by the Twilight fandom