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Last modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012

'The Hunger Games' media tips from Indiana University

March 22, 2012

Editors: With the premiere of "The Hunger Games" movie on Friday, March 23, Indiana University has several faculty experts who can provide insights on various aspects of the film, based on the first book in IU alumna Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy. Collins received a bachelor's degree with distinction from IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences in 1985, with a double major in telecommunications and theater and drama. Sources may be contacted directly. If you need further assistance, contact one of the other media contacts listed on this release. This tipsheet addresses the following topics:

'The Hunger Games' should do well as movie
Book is cautionary tale set in post-apocalyptic world
Trilogy successfully bridges gap from young adult to adult fiction
'Collins pushes the entertainment envelope right over the cliff'
'The Hunger Games' brings readers familiar imagery

'The Hunger Games' should do well as movie
The theater version of "The Hunger Games" should be a hit, says IUPUI professor Michal Hughes, citing aspects of Suzanne Collins' novel that will appeal to various segments of movie-goers.

"Suzanne Collins' 'The Hunger Games' has a good chance of being a hit movie adaptation since her trilogy already has a large fan base. Unlike the Disney production of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Princess of Mars,' Collins' novel is currently popular, and her producers tie it directly to her, which Disney does not do with 'John Carter.'

"One reason her novels are popular is she blends dystopian and post-apocalyptic themes. In unsettling times, these themes do well. Further, she adds such popular formulas as a strong female protagonist trying to decide between two male suitors. As with 'Twilight,' many female readers are fans of this series.

"Next, she added a 'game' where only one teenager can win and all the others die. As with Takami's popular novel, 'Battle Royale,' this draws in the male audience. And to ensure success, she portrays a cruel, intolerant political master for people to hate. As with 'V for Vendetta,' an impersonal cold villain resonates a strong hatred among viewers. As a movie, it should do well."

Hughes teaches science fiction literature in the department of English in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His academic interests include science fiction and fantasy. Hughes' writings include "The Confessions of a Science Fiction Reader: Notes upon values taught by Science Fiction and Fantasy," published in Reaching Young People Through Media.

To arrange an interview with Michal Hughes, contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195 (office); 317-371-0437 (cell); or Top

'The Hunger Games' is cautionary tale set in post-apocalyptic world
IUPUI professor George Dunn is a co-editor of "The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason" (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, Wiley, 2012), a collection of essays that explore the wide range of philosophical issues raised in the "Hunger Games" trilogy. The book "gives you new insights into the 'Hunger Games' series and its key characters, plot lines and themes, including war, authenticity, social class, personal identity, altruism, gender, art, fashion and moral choice," according to the publisher's notes.

Why has "The Hunger Games" struck such a powerful chord with audiences? "The Hunger Games" is a cautionary tale about what human society could easily become, with the opportunity to reflect on the capacity for goodness in human beings, Dunn said.

"It depicts a world where children are slaughtered for entertainment, power is in the hands of nearly untouchable tyrants, and workers starve as the affluent look on and laugh," Dunn said.

"At the same time, it offers us an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary capacity for goodness that dwells inside even the most seemingly ordinary human beings, such as the central protagonists of the tale, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. What's captivating about the story is the way it combines the fantastic with the familiar, offering us strong and resourceful protagonists who are nonetheless deeply relatable and who must struggle to survive with their moral integrity intact in a post-apocalyptic world that bears a chilling resemblance to our own."

George Dunn teaches philosophy in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. To reach Dunn for interviews, call 317-442-9967. Top

Christoph Irmscher

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The 'Hunger Games' trilogy successfully bridges gap from young adult to adult fiction
Originally written for a young adult audience, the "Hunger Games" trilogy successfully crossed over into the world of adult fiction, with the third book, "Mockingjay," being named a New York Times Notable Children's Book of 2010 while also appearing on the newspapers' best-seller list for adults.

IU professor Christoph Irmscher said the success of such series with appeal for a wide age range -- think about J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series or Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" books, both of which also became popular movies as well -- can be attributed to several literary reasons. One reason is the middle ground these books occupy between fiction for children and adults because they tackle serious topics yet maintain general appeal. Another is the formula used by these writers, including spinning their stories into a several-book series.

Irmscher also said books written for young adults appear to be affecting the reading habits of Americans in general, citing recent National Education Association surveys that found a definitive increase in rates and numbers of American adults who read literature, with the largest increases among young adults age 18 to 24.

Christoph Irmscher teaches English at Indiana University in Bloomington. To reach Irmscher for interviews, call 443-622-3277 or email Top

In 'The Hunger Games,' 'Collins pushes the entertainment envelope right over the cliff'
IUPUI professor Brian McDonald is a contributor to "The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason" (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, Wiley, 2012), a collection of essays that explore the wide range of philosophical issues raised in the "Hunger Games" trilogy.

What makes a movie set in a post-apocalyptic world make us say "ouch!" about our own world?

"Because it's, among other things, a ferocious satire on reality TV and all forms of the 'anything goes' art and entertainment popular today," McDonald said. "Taking on the current assumption that it's always a good thing to 'push the envelope,' Collins pushes the entertainment envelope right over the cliff, creating an updated version of the Roman Coliseum, where children battle each other to death on live TV instead of voting each other off an island.

"In so doing, Collins raises the question of whether art and entertainment devoid of moral and sacred limits might become the incubator for a civilization like the one in her fantasy. The Latin names of all her Capitol characters -- as well as numerous other allusions to Rome -- remind readers and moviegoers that the fantastic horrors of her fictional world have ample and horrifying precedence in the real one."

Brian McDonald is a senior lecturer in literature at IUPUI, where he has specialized in the development and teaching of online literature courses ranging from Shakespeare's plays to modern fiction. With an interest in the philosophical implications of literary works and popular culture, he is the author of "'The Final Word on Entertainment: Mimetic and Monstrous Art in 'The Hunger Games,'" the first chapter in "The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason."

To reach Brian McDonald for interviews, call 317-274-9671 or 317-280-1369; or email Top

'The Hunger Games' brings readers familiar imagery from other media
While "The Hunger Games" appeals to readers of all ages, some of the details feel specifically relevant to teens and young adults. IU associate professor Paul Gutjahr described the first book in the trilogy as "basically video game culture made human."

"You have this arena where people are pitted against each other, which is very much a game, but people receive gifts dropped to them using little parachutes, things that are there to help them," Gutjahr said. "It's right out of games like 'Super Mario Brothers.' Young readers are very familiar with these conventions, but they're not familiar with them from reading -- they're familiar with them from gaming. And Cinna? He's basically right out of 'Project Runway.' Collins has been able to bridge different media, and she does it incredibly well."

Layer onto that some typical "coming-of-age" themes including a strong female character with two love interests and a lack of positive adult role models, plus conflicted themes about the role of children in war, and you've got "a very good book," Gutjahr said.

Paul Gutjahr is an associate professor of English at IU. To reach him for interviews, contact 812-855-2147 or Top

For questions about IUPUI experts, contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195, 317-371-0437 or

For questions about IU experts, contact Bethany Nolan at 812-855-6494 or