Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers as a tribute in the Hunger Games in the first movie of the saga

‘The Hunger Games’ Renaissance Already Made Me Tired of Seeing This Terrible Theory

Did we even follow the same story?

The odds seem to be back in The Hunger Games’ favor—not that they ever really stopped being so, considering how Suzanne Collins’ trilogy and its subsequent movie adaptation still remain the absolute best thing to ever happen to the young adult dystopia genre. Nothing that came after The Hunger Games, blatantly trying to replicate its success, ever really came close—and I will fight everyone on that; it’s what the saga deserves.

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Said saga is currently caught in the sweet spot between nostalgia cycles—somewhere between twenty years and ten years, depending on whether you want to look at the books or the movies—and the upcoming release of its prequel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, set during the 10th annual Hunger Games, which will premiere in cinemas next November.

And that means that more and more The Hunger Games content is circulating on social media, creating a renaissance of sorts similar to what The Twilight Saga experienced a few years back—even though, in this case, it’s without a single drop of irony, given how The Hunger Games has brilliantly withstood the test of time and how its message remains incredibly poignant.

Still, with more content being created comes more people posting their ideas and theories on the saga—and some of those takes are puzzling, to say the least. One, in particular, is so abysmal that it really makes me wonder whether we have all read and watched the same story.

**This article contains minor spoilers of the entire The Hunger Games saga, books and movies both. If by any chance you have never read it or seen it and would like to keep the plot twists a surprise, proceed with caution.**

Here’s the take

The theory goes like this: Prim’s reaping at the start of The Hunger Games was never an event born of terrible luck, but a machiavellian orchestration by President Snow to punish Katniss. Even before the events of the 74th Hunger Games, President Snow knew who Katniss was and considered her a potentially dangerous person, what with her hunting beyond the borders of District 12 and singing forbidden songs. So, according to this theory, he decided to send her a message by way of sending her beloved little sister into the arena—meaning that actually, every single strip of paper in the girl’s bowl that year carried the name of Primrose Everdeen.

And here’s the issue with it

Now, of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and headcanons, and I would never argue otherwise. But this particular take just completely misunderstands the point not just of Katniss’ character arc but also of the entire saga. It would make her a Chosen One, someone who was selected by powers beyond her even before the whole story was set in motion, like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, and Katniss never was that.

Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, hunts in the woods outside of District 12 in the first The Hunger Games movie

Also, the fact that Katniss was overlooked by everyone because she was a girl from the poorest part of the poorest District is another key element in her story that this theory would make void. Suzanne Collins makes it a point to tell us time and time again throughout her novels that The Hunger Games is not a Chosen One story. Katniss just happened to be at the right place—which, sure, was a horrible place because she was in the arena—at the right time, when years and years of abuse by the Capitol had started to truly sink into the people in the Districts. 

She never meant to start a revolution, and her actions in her first Games were never scripted, not even the ones that Snow considered rebellious, like arranging flowers around little Rue or suggesting she and Peeta eat the nightlock berries at the end. Katniss was driven by her desire to survive and come back to Prim—and, I would argue, also influenced by what Peeta told her the night before they went into the arena, that he didn’t want to be “a piece in their game”—not to convince the Districts to rise up against the Capitol.

Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, enters the arena of the third Quarter Quell in the second movie of the Hunger Games saga, Catching Fire

Katniss was left in the dark during the entire plot to break the victors out of the Quarter Quell arena, so while she was most definitely a symbol of the rebellion, she was in no way an architect of it. The rebellion probably would have happened anyway, even if Katniss had never participated in the Games, because there’s only so much abuse people can take before their rise up, and also because District 13 was led by someone who wanted to overturn the Capitol.

The fact that Coin also wanted to take Snow’s place, rather than dismantle the whole system, is a whole other brilliant issue but one that is not exactly relevant here. The important thing, though, is that even though it could have been anyone, it ended up being Katniss—and the fact that it happened to be her caused a whole array of consequences on her and her family and her loved ones—and Panem in general. 

Besides, this take would place all the power back into Snow’s hands and remove agency from Katniss. The fact that she volunteers for Prim is her defining and foundational character moment—it’s vitally important to who Katniss is and her bond with Prim, since it’s not a given that siblings volunteer for each other. If Snow had engineered the whole thing, then Katniss taking the first step onto the path that would lead her to become the Mockingjay was actually his doing rather than hers, and there would be nothing sadder. 

Plus, if Snow really was so interested in a nobody girl from District 12 as to maneuver the reaping to get her sister into the arena, then wouldn’t he have also known Katniss’ character enough to predict she would have volunteered instead? Thus making the entire “punishing Katniss by sending Prim to her death” scheme absolutely void?

The message of The Hunger Games

While The Hunger Games is very much Katniss’ story—she’s our first-person narrator and we see the events that take place throughout the books and movies exclusively from her eyes, with all the upsides and downsides that entails—it’s also a very poignant commentary about revolutions and power, as well as the incredible influence television and spectacle can wield.

The revolution has always been the main point of the entire saga—rather than the division of the people of Panem into districts or the love triangle, on which many other works that tried to replicate The Hunger Games’ success focused. 

Gale Hawthorne as he appears in the final instalment of The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, played by Liam Hemsworth

One might even argue that it’s Gale who best understands the cost of revolution, rather than Katniss—even though neither gets the real power of television like Peeta “If it weren’t for the baby” Mellark. We just happen to live this revolution from the point of view of a heavily traumatized girl who went through something terrible and ended up becoming a symbol that brought the rebels together—and the premises that brought Katniss to become that symbol are important.

And they simply wouldn’t have the same meaning and gravitas if they hadn’t been born from her unconditional and selfless love towards her little sister, who just happened to not have the odds in her favor.

(image: Lionsgate)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.