‘The Hunger Games’ Resonating with Millennials on Multiple Levels

by Karissa Zigarovich, MTV Insights

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games' (Photo by Lionsgate)

Last Friday, I woke up, jumped out of bed and said “Yes! It’s Hunger Games Day!”   Forty of us from MTV were heading to a movie theater in Times Square to watch the early morning screening of The Hunger Games.

It’s not often something in pop culture is shared within an entire generation, turning into a national event. An event that has generated thousands of memes, themed fitness classes, how-to makeup tutorials, a mobile video game, a tourism bump for North Carolina, and much more.

We could probably come up with a hundred reasons The Hunger Games is so compelling to Millennials, but here are just a few based on key generational themes we’ve seen in our research:

It’s a story about morality, not love

In recent qualitative groups with Millennials we’ve heard that there is a lot of interest in watching characters experience moral dilemmas, forcing the audience to imagine what they would do if in a similar situation. Due in part to the inundation of love triangles, the audience is much more interested in watching characters who have to choose between what feels right vs. what feels wrong, than those who have to choose between romantic interests, spawning many Katniss vs. Bella comparisons. This is the conversation that Katniss often has with herself, should she disobey the rules of District 12 to prevent her family from starving? Should she take the life of someone else if it means she could survive?

It’s about gaming the system

Sometimes achieving what you think is right, requires manipulation and breaking rules along the way. 77% of Millennials surveyed by the MTV Insights team agreed “when things are unfair, I use my smarts to level the playing field”. Although the film didn’t fully capture the smarts of Katniss (IMO), many of the epic moments throughout the novels involve her one up’ing the Capitol, like eating the nightlock berries, faking her love for Peeta, and showing her appreciation for Thresh and Rue while visiting
District 11.

It’s about heroism

The Millennial generation values the idea of being a hero, someone who takes a stand, does the unexpected and comes out on top. Katniss in many ways is somewhat of a new kind of hero. Not only is she a woman, but much of her heroism comes from simple acts of kindness towards others vs. in-your-face stances. 67% of Millennials surveyed agreed “helping make the world a better place and doing things for others is very important to me”. Katniss’ heroic gestures include taking her sisters place in the games and covering Rue in flowers. Interestingly, Katniss comes out as the winner in the games, but does so by killing only two tributes, Glimmer which was somewhat accidental and Cato to put him out of his misery.

It’s about a certain kind of girl

In all of our research Millennials tell us about the kind of girl/woman they admire, someone who is funny, compassionate and kind, but also strong, independent and willing to take a stand, the perfect mix of masculine and feminine traits. Katniss exudes this certain mix, she can take an animal down with her bow and arrow, but she also becomes emotional when fellow tributes are killed. This perfect mix creates a character with broad appeal, and someone young woman can look up to, with Hollywood now being urged to follow suit.

Karissa Zigarovich is Manager of Programming and Marketing Insights for MTV .

For more research and insights from MTV, follow @MTVInsights or visit http://www.mtvpress.com/company/research/.

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