Why we're all back in our 'Hunger Games' era according to fans, experts and the stars of the iconic series

Why we're all back in our 'Hunger Games' era according to fans, experts and the stars of the iconic series
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes first trailer

Growing up in the early 2010s, there was one book-to-film adaptation that had a chokehold on most teenagers - The Hunger Games series - and over a decade later our obsession has returned.

This is all thanks to the author Suzanne Collins who delved back into this dystopian world with the 2020 release of the prequel book "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" which has since been adapted into a $100 million film that's set to be released on November 17.

The story follows 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) before his tyrannical presidency of Panem, when his family had fallen on hard times, and ahead of the 10th annual Hunger Games, he's assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from District 12.

"Uniting their instincts for showmanship and political savvy, they race against time to ultimately reveal who's a songbird and who's a snake," the synopsis reads.

(*Potential spoilers for the book and film ahead - you have been warned*)

While it may be eleven years since the release of the first The Hunger Games film, it's clear that enthusiasm and interest in the franchise remains.

Earlier this year, when Netflix acquired the streaming rights for all four films (sadly this is no longer the case), it was no surprise that the first two films soared into the Global Netflix Top 10 streaming chart, and spurred a newfound appreciation for the series.

Between this and Taylor Swift releasing a re-recorded version of her song Safe & Sound for the film in March this year, it’s like we’ve been transported right back to 2012 – although social media was a different place back then.

Facebook and Twitter were popular 11 years ago but the likes of Instagram was still in their infancy, meanwhile, fan communities congregated on Tumblr and we were a long way off the existence of TikTok.

Some of the different 'Hunger Games' memes that have gone viral on TikTok where people pretend they're in the games TikTok/likethespicebut.ie, kaitwrites and robbienoble11

Fast forward to the present day and TikTok is the social media app, where The Hunger Games is all over everyone’s For You page with the hashtag #hungergames receiving 9.8 billion video views.

From dissecting the characters and themes in the books and films to creating hilarious videos on how they would fare in the arena, to creative edits (and thirst traps) as well as dystopiacore fashion aesthetic making a return, The Hunger Games is having a renaissance.

Meanwhile, the film adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is also receiving the same attention as fans share their theories on elements of the story such as whether Lucy Baird is related to Katniss Everdeen, and given how the book ends with nobody hearing from Lucy again, it leaves us wondering what happened to her.

Stats-wise, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hashtag on TikTok already has 437m views and it's not even out yet.

One of the most popular creators that bucked this trend is Loretta Loera, otherwise known as @luckyleftie, whose has built a community of 846,100 followers on TikTok with videos on in-depth breakdowns of films, TV series, and books has led to her going viral.


Another look at the careers! #clove #thg

Her series of TikTok’s focussing on The Hunger Games franchise has been particularly popular, with videos exploring different topics from Panem’s history to the backstories of characters, why protagonist Katniss Everdeen is an accidental (and reluctant) hero as the symbol of revolution - the Mockingjay.

“The Hunger Games is actually the first or teen movie I was ever allowed to see,” Loera told Indy100.

“I believe I was 11 years old when I watched it for the first time and it was a huge obsession of mine in middle school and a proud part of high school in that early 2010's era.”

She described how rewatching the films on Netflix with her younger sister who had not seen them before is what “rekindled that obsession.”

Upon watching them again as a 21-year-old, Loera noted how the experience was different from when she was a child as there were details she missed, and so decided to explore these elements through her videos.

“I was able to revisit the movies and the books as an adult and I realised there was a lot a lot of nuance, I miss reading them and watching them as a child.

“So it's been really fun to pick them apart with the perspective that I've gained over the years and see the sort of subtler details and critiques that Susan Collins made.”

To begin with, Loera posted videos about minor characters from The Hunger Games such as tributes like the boy from District 4, Clove, Thresh and Foxface, that altogether received 7.2m views.


#answer to @ducky a look at the rationale behind the votes we see in #mockingjay !

“People really, really liked those initial videos and began requesting for more,” Loera said. “...I love engaging with my audience so I gradually started doing more than it's sort of snowballed into me apparently consuming many people's For You pages.”

A particular aspect that Loera discussed was the “many levels of social commentary,” in the franchise relating to morality and the circumstances of the situation the characters find themselves amid the Capitol's authoritarian rule over the districts.

“One of the ones that strikes me is the way that Susan Collins depicts the way that the districts are propagandised and she has this extremely nuanced take on moralities because I feel for people in the careers for instance, or people in the Capitol, it's extremely easy to pick them as this universal monolith of evil,” the TikToker explained.

“She [Collins] makes the effort to show that while you certainly have people that are like that, the majority of them are shaped by their upbringings and their circumstances.”

As she previously stated, Loera was a huge fan of the series growing up and believes the resurgence online earlier this year was down to people like her rewatching the series on Netflix for the first time in a while.

“A lot of people that are now in their early 20s were in school [when the films were first released] and they're sort of rediscovering that love and they're also discovering that not only does the series hold up extremely well, but it also has a lot more nuance that they weren't able to pick up as children,” she said.

“So it's a franchise that many people are like, ‘Oh my god, I have to revisit it now.’ And I think it's this wonderful mix of very profound observations and very, very funny jokes and memes.”

Gen Z have also been using TikTok to reminisce just how obsessed they were (and still are) with the films ,from having a Hunger Games-themed birthday party, to making a home video recreating the dramatic scenes in the cornucopia.


Some of the best memories!! We had so much fun. Dont worry we didnt actually kill eachother #hungergames #hungergamesedit #mockingjay #fyp

Lionsgate has also been tapping into Gen Z audiences when promoting the movie on TikTok, from sharing behind the scenes shenanigans with the cast, to Q&A's and creating meme-worthy content as well as posting edits of characters.


never back down never what?? #thehungergames

While nobody is a fan of President Snow, Loera explained why learning Snow's story is "essential" to understanding his motivations later on in the franchise.

"I remember when the news of the prequel was announced there was a lot of controversy regarding it surrounding Snow's perspective because many people were like, 'Why don't we do like one of the big districts for instance, or a more interesting character?"


#answer to @BayleytheLabrador #lucygray and #coriolanussnow thoughts!

"But I find that understanding the villain's perspective is so essential to understanding the main conflict of the story and I find the prequel gives us some excellent insight as to how Snow became the monstrosity that we see him as in the next three books."

With the date for the new release approaching, she predicted "another Hunger Games resurgence" similar to the one we saw earlier this year for the first film anniversary.

"I have a feeling that people are going to watch the prequel and then rewatch the next four movies and I'm very excited to see a sort of discourse that prompts."

For many, the excitement about the new film gives fans who are now adults that same feeling they had in their teens.

From personal experience, I was 14 years old when the first movie came out and as the four films came out back-to-back each year, so did cinema trips with my best friend, a tradition I imagine was shared by millions of others my age.

Therefore, rewatching the films at the age of 25 and seeing the franchise explode on TikTok brings back all the nostalgic feelings from my teens – and there’s a reason for this.

“Rewatching a film can bring back memories of a time when we first watched it, the person we watched it with, the things we did then, or the type of person we were back then, perhaps younger and full of hope,” psychologist Anna Sergent told Indy100.

“From a more neuroscientific perspective we may experience an activation of the brain reward system whilst watching or reading something familiar that we've enjoyed in the past.”

She noted how rewatching a film we love “can trigger a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.”

“Rewatching a film can allow us to interpret the story and characters in new ways, especially if we have matured and changed since the last time we watched it.

“Our brain has a remarkable ability to form new neural connections and associations and repeated exposure to a film or a book can solidify our memories and perceptions of it,” she added.

Elsewhere, it is not just fans that are engaging with the films and TikTok content as even some of the cast members from the series are enjoying the revival this year.

Jena Malone who played the headstrong Johanna in Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 had fun playing around with a filter that tells what character you are.


Alrighty then

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Emerson who played the smart and elusive Foxface poked fun at her character’s 'nightlock-berry' demise from the first film in a TikTok and it went viral with 5.9m views back in March.

The 28-year-old actor whose roles include historical drama Kent State and Art Thief, joined TikTok during the pandemic and was not an avid user but decided to create a video about rewatching the films on Netflix.

For Emerson, it was the first time in a decade she watched the film she starred in at the age of 18.

“I hadn't watched it in like 10 years and with my partner he hadn't seen in a really long time and so when it came on Netflix we both watched it again,” Emerson told Indy100.


TikTok · Jackie Emerson

“It was so nostalgic, especially because I was just pause it every few seconds and be like, how was real it was. Like, they actually built the training centre, they actually built the Cornucopia in the middle of a field.

“So for me to wake up every day and feel like I was walking into a book that I loved, that was just beyond words,” she added and noted how she was a huge fan of the novels before she got the role.

When it came to making the TikTok, Emerson decided to make a funny video with her boyfriend.

At first, she was going to recreate Foxface’s impressive plant memory skills that became a Twitter meme but instead decided “ah let’s just eat some berries,” as the humorous reference.

After uploading the clip to Instagram and TikTok (and deleting the latter from her phone), the reactions flooded in.

“People started texting me, like ‘funny video,’” she said, causing her to redownload the app and could not believe the “unexpected” numbers it was doing.

Emerson as Foxface who exhibited her memory skills during tribute training Lionsgate

Between this and being recognised as Foxface in her family’s TikTok videos, Emerson spoke sincerely about the passionate fan community that remains to this day. “It was kind of cool to see that this does till have this global fanbase and as a fan [myself] it’s fun to acknowledge that,” she said.

Foxface has been at the centre of many TikTok videos since despite a low training score, her intelligence allowed her to go far in the games, finishing fourth in the books and fifth in the film – all without killing or committing violence towards her rival tributes.

“She's going through the games in a very smart and very specific way,” Emerson said of her character.

“There's something to that about somebody who's smart enough to kind of survive on brains alone without sort of resorting to this more primal painful side - all of it builds up to make her a very intriguing character in general and it was so cool that I got to kind of make my own decisions about that and then bring her to life.”

However, Foxface’s nightlock death is the real mystery, with fan theories that predate the films suggesting she may have committed suicide given her knowledge of plants (though the nightlock berries are sourced from Districts 12 and 13) – a topic has that cropped up in recent TikTok discussions.

But what does Emerson think?

She said: “The suicide theory have been around since before I got cast, and it was one of the first things I asked the director [Gary Ross] he was like, ‘no, no, I don't think so.’

“When we did the movie, that whole plant identification thing was a green screen in the very beginning so I didn't know it was going to be in there.”

“I think you can kind of analyse it any way but I love the societal implications of something happening that makes her choose to take herself out of it. I think that that's a really painful, meaningful and deep act,” she added noting the brutal reality tributes are confronted with in the games.

Emerson stars in upcoming films historical drama 'Kent State' and crime movie 'Art Thief.Photo by Brandon Dougherty

When it comes to the renewed popularity of the films, Emerson noted the Netflix impact, as well as other factors that have made the franchise age well including the "smart filmmaking" where the audience didn't need everything explained to them and were trusted to follow long as well as the clear vision from the directors.

But she also touched upon how the Covid pandemic has provided everyone with a new understanding of the books and films.

“Nobody wanted apocalyptic because we were living it,” she said, and believes that in 2023, “it feels too close to home to have Covid storytelling.”

“The Hunger Games has that kind of dystopian or apocalyptic vibe, which is why I think it is having this revival and also why The Last of Us is doing so well is because it speaks to this collective trauma that we all went through as a society without speaking to this so directly and so it helps us all to feel seen.”

On the prequel coming out, Emerson is looking forward to seeing what direction they take the franchise in.

"I wonder if it's going to be super glossy again, or if they are going to make it a little grittier. So I'm very curious, but I'm excited," she said.

How the series relates to our society, culture and history is something that Professor Stef Woods delved into when she taught a Hunger Games course at the American University in Washington DC a few years back.

But now Woods noted that she “would have to update it after the pandemic,” if the course ran again as we lived through a time that required such isolation but also demonstrated disparities in education, health and access to food.”

She added how “it reflected a lot of socio-economic disparities, health disparities and concerned that we were living in a society that had elements that seemed dystopian something that we couldn't unnecessarily imagine in our lifetime.”

Woods also referred to “the general Hunger Games references,” at the time concerning the slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout in countries like Australia and the US.

Examples of some headlines from CNN, NBC News and HuffPost where The Hunger Games was referenced in COVID-19 stories.CNN, NBC News and HuffPost

While the series discourse is taking place on TikTok, it cannot be understated that impact and discussions were happening elsewhere such as book clubs and courses like Woods's in the years before the app took off. Phrases from the film have even become everyday expressions.

“It’s become part of 2023 vernacular to say, you know, ‘May the odds ever be ever in your favour’ and ‘I volunteer as tribute’ you can say that in the majority of settings and people of any generation are going to know what you're referencing,” Wood said.

At the mention of generations, as a digital culture specialist Wood noticed that in terms of TikTok engagement, “it not just coming from one age group.”

By age group, 10-19 are 25 per cent of TikTok users, followed by 20-29 (22.4 per cent), 30-39 (21.7 per cent), 40-49 (20.3 per cent) and 50+ (11 per cent), according to Social Shepherd.

This means the series is also appealing to viewers who are new to the series or have just read the prequel - not just the long-term fans.

Melissa McFarlane, Head of Content Programming at TikTok UK said: "We are seeing Hunger Games content thrive on TikTok right now thanks to our dedicated #BookTok and #FilmTok communities.

“This renewed buzz is driven by the fans who are taking to TikTok to share reviews, cosplay content, comedy skits and fan theories; driving billions of views of #HungerGames in app."

When a behind-the-scenes look on TikTok of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was shared by Lionsgate, with a scene starring Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird the impact of the resurgence was clear as it quickly went viral.


she’s really good. on set of #HungerGames The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

“Suddenly you have everyone rewatching it at a time when Lionsgate is also building the buzz about the prequel so that's coming also out on TikTok and then it's a stream as the app is bringing people together so there's a nostalgia for when we first read the book and first watched the movie,” Wood noted.

McFarlane also commented: “We can't wait to see how TikTok's new wave of entertainment commentators react to the latest release from the franchise!"

And if early reviews of the film are anything to go by, with comparisons to The Hunger Games:Catching Fire - the film that is widely perceived to be the best in the franchise, - then it will certainly live up to the hype.

However, if you were thinking of watching the four Hunger Games films on Netflix UK then think again as they were removed from the streaming service at the end of October.

Though there's no doubt the conversation will continue on TikTok as it looks like The Hunger Games revival era isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Jaqueline Emerson has a monthly improv theatre show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles.

You can find Loretta Loera (@luckyleftie) on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Professor Stef Wood is an educator, health advocate, attorney, writer, and public speaker.

Anna Sergent is a psychologist, for more information visit her website.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set to be released in theatres on November 17, 2023

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