One army bares its fangs. The other brandishes arrows. Can they declare a truce?
It may seem like so long ago that 104-year-old Edward Cullen was just an infant mortal, but it’s been only eight years since Stephenie Meyer released Twilight, giving life to the rabidly passionate Twihard fanbase. The group only grew in ferocity with the release of the first film adaptation in 2008. Suzanne Collins’s own young adult novel, The Hunger Games, made its debut that same year, quickly earning devoted fans.
Now The Hunger Games series is about to release the second of its film adaptations, Catching Fire, to rave reviews (93 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, compared to The Twilight Saga: New Moon’s 27 percent) and massive box office predictions (early projections of $165 million, compared to New Moon’s $142 opening). It’s been over a year since Twihards had a Twilight film to look forward to. So how do they feel about The Hunger Games—not to mention its fans—on the dawn of the release of Catching Fire?
Turns out, not great.
“Social media is a wonderful thing that allows us to voice our opinions,” says Elena Raines, co-owner and co-administrator of Fangirlish.com, who used to run the Twilightish.com fansite and now helps run TheHungerGamesMovies.net. The opinions of those Twilight and Hunger Games fans that’s she’s become so familiar with over the years? Let’s turn to the tapes—social media—to see.
“Twilight can beat The Hunger Games any day, because Hunger Games is just a competition with a tiny bit of romance,” writes one commenter. “Twilight, on the other hand, has battle, romance, friendship problems, and more…most people aren’t thinking if they choose The Hunger Games over Twilight.” There’s this rant: “I love Twilight and in my opinion it’s WAY WAY WAY better than THG because the books have more detail and the films are better. And in THG, it’s all about Katniss moaning about the Capitol and then defying the Capitol and she should have chosen Gale not Peeta.” Then there’s settling the age-old (read: five-years-old debate) debate: would Twilight’s Bella Swan or The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen win a fight? “Bella could beat Katniss because she’s a vampire now,” says one commenter. Fair.
Hunger Games fans, naturally, are quick to defend their tributes.
“Twilight is only popular, cuz, like Taylor Lautner is a hottie!” writes one commenter on Facebook. “Twilight is just so stupid,” writes another, bragging about the superiority of Hunger Games fans. “They weren’t lining up to squeal at a guy’s face or abs. Twihards are so annoying.” Some take aim at Twilight’s quality—“If we measure the deepness of the storyline, Twilight is a puddle and Hunger Games is a lake”—while others are as ruthless as the Capitol with their conclusions as to why Katniss would totally own Bella in a fight: “Bella would just bite her lip and call up one of her boyfriends to save her.”
That last comment crystallizes why the respective fan groups get so riled up when their franchises are pitted against each other. When The Hunger Games first caught fire, marketing wizards oh-so cleverly were quick to capitalize on its pop-culture phenomenon predecessor by branding it “the next Twilight,” a comparison, it turns out, that’s more lazy than it is accurate. Sure, on the surface there are similarities: a teen heroine, adversity to overcome, a love triangle.
But while romance provides the axis the rest of Twilight spins on, The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss as the leader of a rebellion. If Bella Swan is writing “Mrs. Edward Cullen” in script in her high school notebook and drawing hearts around it with gel pens, Katniss is sharpening her arrows to prepare for a fight to the death…and maybe sneaking in a kiss or two along the way. (Passion breeds passion, folks!)
“I was disappointed that everyone started doing the ‘Team Peeta’ and ‘Team Gale’ thing,” Colleen Hurt, senior staff contributor to The Hunger Games fansite HGGirlonFire.com, says. “The love triangle is such a minor, minor part of the story. It’s not really about that at all.”
She may be disappointed about the false appropriation of such Twilight lingo. But Twihards are livid. “I never see them more defensive about Twilight than when The Hunger Games is being called ‘the next Twilight,’” says Ryan McKee, senior editor for MTV’s Guy Code Blog. McKee used to have a regular column on NextMovie.Com called “Confessions of a Male Twihard,” on which he’d blog about his unexpected love for Twilight and the phenomenon of its fanbase. It’s an outrage that, to some extent, he says he gets.
“If you’re a Shakespeare nerd and that’s all you read for eight years and get your master’s degree and doctorate on Shakespeare, and then someone misrepresents his work, you’re going to get angry.”
Both fanbases are clearly emotional about the franchises they support. But, if we’re going to be honest, those Twilight fans have always seemed a little bit crazier, right? Heck, The Hunger Games obsessives don’t even have a cutesy name for themselves, the way Twihards do.
If Twilight fans seem more insane, er, passionate, than their Hunger Games counterparts, it’s because they have to. “A lot of Twihards say in private that they know the books aren’t well-written, that they have holes, or what have you,” McKee says. “But when it comes time to debate publicly, they fight harder in defense of the books. When you know a shortcoming of something in the back of your head, you want to fight for it more to overcompensate and feel that it’s worthy. Hunger Games fans don’t have to do that as much.”
In other words, Hunger Games fans, you have it easy. Your franchise is good.
McKee, who eventually owned the once-sheepish confession that he was a “male Twihard,” even expressed jealousy at the ease with which a Hunger Games fan could pledge his allegiance when the film came out. “Okay—tough chick, fighting for her life with a bow and arrow, nothing overly feminine about that,” he wrote. “Kind of sounds like a more glamorous Winter’s Bone, and no one teased me for liking that.”
Surely, Ms. Raines, who the proud proprietor of fansites for both series doesn’t abide by the guilt-factor theory, too? “I ran a Twilight fansite for four years and now I run a fansite for The Hunger Games as well,” she says. “The truth is, telling people about the Twilight fansite was embarrassing.”
Still, there’s something to be said for turning shame into strength. McKee doesn’t just think that Twilight launched the young adult franchise craze, but that, because it was the original and because the movies were so unexpectedly popular and starred largely unknown and untested actors, it will be the one that lasts. “Can’t you see Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner show up in ten years in parody roles, like Mark Hamill?”
Still, the war between Hunger Games and Twilight fans may not be as bloody as it seems. Many of them coexist peacefully. Many even consider themselves members of both groups…or at least can say that more Hunger Games is a suitable antidote for Twihards suffering from withdrawal.
“When you have something like Twilight that’s such a huge pop culture phenomenon, you’re not ready to leave the world when it’s over,” Raines says. “So when there’s nothing left to read, you look for the next best thing. For a lot of people, that was The Hunger Games.”
But does that mean that they’ll all also move on peacefully to Divergent, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures, or the dozens of other franchises being labeled “the next Twilight” and “next Hunger Games”?
McKee says a line has to be drawn somewhere. “How many of these young adult series can you become obsessed with before you start to really question yourself?”