Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Importance of Genre (or, "You Say Tomato, I Say Banana")

With the release of the Hunger Games movie trailer recently, there's been a lot of noise about the main character, Katniss, vs Twilight's femme fatale, Bella*. Numerous blogs, articles, forum debates, and office discussions have centered around the pros and cons of both characters. The static goes something like this:

Katniss is a survivor who has been forced to operate on her own and does what needs to be done when the situation demands it. She a thinker, a planner, and a good role model for young girls.

Bella is an annoying teen who complains about everything, including the fact that two hot boys are head over heels in love with her. She is clumsy, always in need of saving, and her only motivation is a near obsessive need to be loved.

That's all fine and good for a chuckle, but when you boil it down, the comparisons are unfair. The reason?


The reason why these girls are so drastically different is because the authors designed them specifically for their respective "worlds". Yes, both franchises can be considered Young Adult with female leads, but the similarities end there. Twilight is basically a modern era, paranormal romance while Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games is more along the lines of a dystopian young adult adventure/survival series.

Arguing that one main character is "better" than the other is like saying that water and oil are essentially the same thing.

Allow me to go on record as saying that, personally, I don't care for Bella, Edward, Jacob, or anything associated with Twilight. Allow me to also caveat that by saying I typically don't enjoy romances in general because that's not what I am drawn to. Yes, I find Bella everything listed above and was immediately turned off by the "oh-woe-is-me-I-is-a-sparkly-monster, blah,blah,blah" by Edward. I don't identify with any of the characters and was not interested in whether or not Bella chose Team Edward or Team Jacob. 

I'm Team Potter all the way. Specifically, Team Neville.

That said, I will absolutely defend Stephanie Meyer and Twilight because I recognize that I am not her target audience.

Objectively, her books are well written. Individual plots are well structured and the major story arc is outstanding. Say what you will about the characters, no one can argue with the success of the franchise. Something about it resonates with people.

A lot of people.

Hunger Games also resonates with readers, but for a completely different reason. Part of that is because it appeals to a different echelon than Twilight. Yes, there are a lot of people who love both, but the genres draw certain lines in the sand. And no matter how you argue it, people like what they like. I love fantasy or futuristic worlds with underdogs struggling to overcome "bad people" (*cough* Harry Potter/StarWars/Firefly *cough*). I DON'T like teenage girls boo-hooing about boyfriends. But millions of readers do, or at least don't see Twilight like in that manner. Many more are devoted to the immortal romance that Ms Meyer created and they have developed an attachment to both the story and the characters.   
Comparing the two leads is also unfair because neither would survive in their other's world. Bella would likely step on a landmine or get an arrow to the heart within 10 seconds of the starting gong of the Hunger Games. Katniss, on the other hand, lacks Bella's burning passion which might prevent her from forming a strong alliance with the Cullens. Her independence/survivalist instinct would be a hindrance because she wouldn't want to rely on anyone. More likely than not, she'd tick off the wrong family and wind up on the dinner menu.

Obviously these are broad, semi-humorous sweeps of the paintbrush. There are subtleties to each story/character that different readers identify with. Additionally, the franchises are separated by their respective genre which allows both girls to prosper or fail based on the "rules" spelled out by the author.
But no matter what, it's important to keep in mind that while you or I might like or dislike a story, both Twilight and Hunger Games have main characters that appeal to millions of readers.

And let's be honest, wouldn't we all love to touch that many people with our words? 

*For the 3 people in the world who don't know what I'm talking about, Bella is the female lead for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series. Also, Han shot first. Trust me.  


  1. Totally agreed! I'm also Team Potter, and have no interest whatsoever in Twilight. Meh. But I'm not Twilight's target audience either. Twilight did absolutely nothing for me, but millions of screaming teenage girls can't be wrong.

    And I'll be lined up at the cinema when The Hunger Games comes out, elbowing my way past the teenagers to get to the good seats.

    (And it was so much better when Han shot first.)

  2. Well said, sir.

    Personally, I'm on Team Godot. We're still waiting, though...

    And yes--Han shot first. And the Ewoks closed out the third movie.

  3. @Jen: I hear you about the HG movie. Hopefully it will be well done and not an awful, wooden flop (still sore about the whole "Eragon" debacle).

    @Ace: Team Godot. BWA-HA-HA!