Crowds of thousands of girls, screaming. Millions of people all over the world flocking to the nearest bookstore or movie theater. Only two stories have this effect on that many girls: Twilight and The Hunger Games. What makes these rabid fans so crazy? There are several factors, of course. It could be that the main characters are female. It could be the unusual circumstances that the both heroines find themselves in. What I think affects all these girls most is the romance. The forbidden romance between a vampire (Edward) and a human (Bella). Or the romance necessary to save millions of lives that Peeta and Katniss have. While millions of girls are screaming over Twilight and The Hunger Games, millions more are just discovering them. The question remains: which to read (or watch) first? Even though both series are similar in some respects, The Hunger Games is a more worthwhile read because of the overall themes. The main themes of The Hunger Games concern government politics and the natural state of man, whereas the main theme of Twilight is essentially just a deceptively “deep” love story. By reading books with important themes (themes that will concern our country in the future), we can expand our knowledge, which will help us to make important decisions in the future.
As stated above, The Hunger Games has worthwhile themes incorporated into the fiction. Take the Capitol, which is the main antagonist, or rather, President Snow, for example. President Snow is a domineering, all-powerful, evil person who controls Panem. Because of his tyrannical ways, when the 12 districts attempt to rebel, they are forcefully oppressed, and the Hunger Games were established to remind the people who has the power. Now, this isn’t necessarily going on right now in our country, but it could eventually. If we elect the wrong leaders, we could very well end up like the people of Panem. This series is set in a post-apocalyptic world, to disguise the fact that the author, Suzanne Collins, was actually writing about our society. Or rather, using fictional characters and circumstances, she’s writing about our society’s possible future and our current fascination with “reality TV,” war, and politics. Another reason that The Hunger Games is a constructive read (more so than Twilight) is that the characters are human. This makes them prone to human emotions and mistakes. This, obviously, is extremely relatable to possible fans because we’re all human.
In The Hunger Games, the characters are put in life-threatening situations, in the arena and out of it, all thanks to the tyrant who rules over them. Because the Hunger Games become more than just a “game” of physical survival, the romance between Peeta and Katniss had to be faked at first, at least from the narrator’s (Katniss’) point of view. However, what makes this love so loveable to fans everywhere is that what was originally faked later becomes real. This shows that love is really real when it’s based on self-sacrifice, shared experience, and choice.
Now, as with every series, the sub-plots of the books all work together to create an even bigger plot that goes on throughout the trilogy. In every Hunger Games book, the conflict has to do with Panem as a whole, as a society, even if the narration is in 1st person perspective. For example, Katniss’ rebellious actions in the arena incite rebellion everywhere. Not only because of that, but if she makes another wrong move, President Snow will punish people other than herself (her family, or her entire district). This kind of personal pressure can be found in real life, today, for example, in the recent case of the demise of a Chinese dissident who was forced to give up his chance for freedom due to implied or direct threats to the safety of his family.
This enormous stress shows us another aspect of The Hunger Games. Because of their dire situation and because so many people depend on their success, the main characters grow. They change. They become better and stronger people because of the trials they go through. This is true for many people who may have read (and may read) these books. We all make mistakes, and, whether or not we like it, we learn and grow from those mistakes. It’s what makes this trilogy so loved; it’s relatable.
On the other hand, we have Twilight, in which the main antagonist is the Volturi. As compared with President Snow, the Volturi are not much of a threat. Where President Snow is willing to do anything to keep his power (which is a human reaction), the Volturi already know that their victory is secured. In the world of Twilight, none of the vampires, the only beings that could stand up to the Volturi, do. They accept the fact that the Volturi are the ruling power of the vampires, and they don’t challenge that. Therefore, the Volturi don’t threaten anyone other than Bella and the Cullens. That’s what makes President Snow a more immediate threat; he’s human, and therefore likely to panic if his rule was ever challenged. The Volturi are not human, and therefore do not feel the pressure of having to suppress the vampires, which means that their threat is not as immediate, and therefore not as dangerous, unlike President Snow in The Hunger Games.
Something that makes Twilight relatable to fans today is that the time period is current. While this is relatable to many people, it does not disguise anything, which basically means that this series has nothing to do with the important issues of mankind. The story is all about Bella and Edward. It does not really concern anyone else except for Bella’s parents and Jacob. The main characters’ actions only matter to each other, and, later on, the Volturi. The situations the characters find themselves in in The Hunger Games involve the whole country, which makes it more important that the characters do the right thing, whereas the choices of the characters in Twilight only matter to themselves.
Alluring to Twilight fans is that the love interest of the main character (who is human, like them) is a vampire. A tall, handsome, mysterious, dangerous vampire. Because of the similarities between themselves and the main character, women who read the Twilight series get to fall in love with the perfect man right alongside Bella. This poses an argument that Twilight isn’t the best read; Bella has no character. Yes, she’s described as being independent and responsible (who wouldn’t want to be?), but then why is it so easy to imagine oneself in her place, especially concerning Edward? Bella is essentially a faceless place holder, a shell that women of this day can project themselves onto to fulfill their own fantasies of being desired by the perfect lover. Where Bella is a flat character, Katniss is a robust, strong character. She has something important to fight for, socially and politically significant decisions to make, and she goes through trials that expand her character. Katniss’s dilemma is whether she should continue to incite rebellion and, therefore, risk the lives of her family and close friends (and herself), or call off the rebellion, go along with the establishment, and thereby save her friends and family (and herself), but in the process condemn the whole of Panem to remain in their oppressed and low state. Bella’s dilemma is whether or not she should marry a pouty, self-pitying vampire or marry a pouty, angry werewolf. While Twilight is basically a fantasy romance, The Hunger Games is a serious look at political suppression and individual choice and accountability.
The last, and perhaps most alluring factor of Twilight, is the romance, more specifically the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. What woman wouldn’t want two attractive, powerful, loving men to fight over her? It’s the best compliment she could receive. However, like Bella’s character, the other two main characters don’t go through trials that change them unlike Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. Edward is vaguely pouty, and overly concerned with Bella’s soul (and his own, for that matter). Jacob is also pouty, but that is understandable because of his condition. According to Stephanie Meyers, it’s extremely painful to turn into a werewolf. Not to mention the fact that the girl he’s in love with is sickeningly in love with a vampire, his natural enemy.
The last point, while oddly sweet . . . but a little creepy, is that Jacob, not winning the grown woman of his choice, imprints on a toddler. It’s especially creepy because the girl he imprints on is the daughter of his latest love.
Love is a universal concept and plays an important role in both stories. However, where Katniss and Peeta’s love is practical and real, Bella and Edward’s love is fantastic. It is imperative to Katniss’ family and friends that she remain in love with Peeta; whereas, it would be better for Bella’s family if Bella didn’t love Edward. The Hunger Games also shows different kinds of love, other than between a boy and a girl; Katniss is extremely close to her sister, Prim; Katniss and Gale are best friends, although we later find out that Gale has feelings for Katniss; although reluctant, Katniss loves her mom (or at least trusts her not to disappear on Prim again), which could be relatable to many teenagers of this day; Cinna helps Katniss survive in the arena as best he can, for which Katniss loves him. In Twilight, we understand that the Cullens love each other with sibling-like love (between the couples, anyway), and we understand that Bella loves her mother and father, but those relationships are only mentioned in fleeting glances. The majority of the series is spent on Bella and Edward whose attentions are spent all on themselves. Their thoughts and attentions are like arrows pointing in, thinking about themselves, whereas Katniss’s and Peeta’s thoughts are like arrows pointing out, thinking of others.
In both series, the main character and narrator is a girl, which (at least for me) helps connect audiences to the story, especially since both stories are written for teenage girls. But notice: even males who read The Hunger Games enjoy it because it’s not just concentrated on the main character and her love (Peeta and Katniss), but it gives the reader, male and female, the chance to question what they themselves would do given similar circumstances. Those circumstances are real today: think about conflicts going on in Somalia and other African countries, China, the Middle East, and other places around the world. On the other hand, Twilight is just about the main character and her love (Bella and Edward), so the males who read the Twilight series probably only read it so they can understand what their girlfriends are babbling about. The Hunger Games is a series read and enjoyed by all, not just girls.
For both stories, the heroines have skills necessary to survive; Katniss is a tough hunter, but is capable of love, which she demonstrates with Prim, Gale, Rue, and Peeta. Bella is responsible and adjusts quickly (but then, so does Katniss). Both families are affected by the main characters’ decisions, but in the case of Katniss the whole population is affected by her actions. Both stories have a tyrannical force opposing the heroine; however, President Snow from The Hunger Games would punish the whole of Panem for Katniss’s actions. The Volturi are only really concerned with Bella and her party, which makes me wonder what Bella would do if they threatened all of Forks? Or all of Washington? Would she break down and cry, or would she fight against them? The fact that we can debate about that is further evidence that Bella’s character is not as defined as Katniss’s.
It is true that both series have a huge following, for both the books and movies. However, one hears more of the outrageous behavior of the Twilight fans: for example, it’s the Twilight fans who tweet “Edward” and “Jacob” to sign their Team panties. Perhaps this is because the fantasy world of Twilight inspires fanatical behaviors. Perhaps Hunger Games fans are more tuned to the reality of the themes expressed in The Hunger Games and are therefore a bit more sober, although they can get wound up about their favorite actors, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Henderson. The majority of fans (who are girls, due to the romance factor) only want the mysterious, tall, . . . sparkly, and handsome, stranger. They love Twilight because it’s easier to imagine themselves in love with Edward than imagine themselves running through a Hunger Games arena. Women can see themselves as Bella easier than they can see themselves as Katniss, partly because of Bella’s character (or lack thereof), but also because of Bella’s situation. It’s more fun to the modern teenage girl, and apparently full grown women (who are just as crazed as the teenagers), to pretend they’re in love with a vampire and that he’s in love with them, rather than to face dilemmas which are very real in our global society.
Despite all their similarities, The Hunger Games is a better read, because The Hunger Games is based off of with real and important issues of the day, in a setting that is possible in the future (because of those issues). The Hunger Games is a more worthwhile read, since studying its themes will better prepare us for decisions we may have to make in the future.