With the recent announcement of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie adaptation, fans of The Hunger Games like education graduate student Jennie Heath wonder if it’s possible to revive the already dying fandom. She’s trying to remain hopeful.
Heath was a huge fan during the initial Hunger Games boom in 2011 and read the books and watched the movies obsessively.
She still considers them some of her favorite works nearly 10 years later, and she read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as soon as it came out.
She’s excited to see the movie when it comes out, but hopes that it will differ from the originals in one way.
“The biggest mistake that they made in the original movies is that they didn't cast age appropriate,” Heath said. “And I think if they really want to make the movie stick in your head like that, they will cast actual children in the roles.”
Regardless, the series has already been losing fans.
When Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins released a prequel to the series last May, it was met with mixed reactions from the series’s fandom. When she revealed it centered around character President Snow, opinions only fell further from her favor.
English junior Shelby Sullivan said that in the original series, President Snow was a wholly unlikeable character, the ultimate villain that nobody liked.
Initially she was angry after hearing that Snow was the focus of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes because she thought so highly of the series and didn’t want the new books to spoil the old.
However, upon further reflection she wondered how Collins could make readers see Snow in a different light and became intrigued.
“I wondered how she could write a story that would maybe make us see, ‘OK, how did you take an innocent boy and turn him into the person that became President Snow?’” Sullivan said.
The Hunger Games is widely known as the book that blew up in 2011, the book that everyone in the public school system read at that time.
Sullivan remembers being enchanted by the story when she read it back then but taken aback by the graphic depictions of violence against children.
The older she got, the more she liked the books, Sullivan said, and she realized that the brutality and unfair situations were part of the series’ message.
“It's supposed to be brutal. It's supposed to be blunt. It's supposed to be what starts the whole war. So I'm glad they didn't sugarcoat everything,” Sullivan said.
The series was supposed to provide commentary about philosophy and human nature, and the prequel does even more so, said Ayesha Hawkins, Arlington Public Library promotions coordinator.
Though many see The Hunger Games as a warning for what our real lives could become, Hawkins said for her it was an interesting take on “the ultimate good or bad,” and how people rarely fall on such an absolute scale.
There’s an exercise she uses with her son to teach him the difference between right and wrong, Hawkins said. When he does something wrong, she asks him to walk her through it, so she can see what his goal was and understand him better.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes made her think of that exercise, and allowed her to “walk it back” and see how Snow could become what he was in the original books.
“It's a beautiful example of a fiction that is more palatable about real-life decisions and real-life choices that people make,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins enjoyed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but understands why some wouldn’t. If you liked the original series because of the war or Katniss’ “badassery”, it isn’t going to be the book for you.
In her opinion, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will be a book that stands the test of time, perhaps even more so than the original three.
This is because it delves deeper into what making a game out of killing children does to people mentally, she said. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was accurate in its use of alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychopathy, even though it made the book darker than the rest of the series, something Hawkins appreciated.
As for whether or not the series will have a fanbase like before, Heath said it’s possible, especially with the resurgence of “middle school fandoms” on TikTok.
She said people have been revisiting their fandom roots because of the uncertainty in the world, trying to find comfort in the familiarity.
“It is very possible that a lot of people will be open to, like, kind of getting back on the bandwagon even though it's been so long,” Heath said.