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Does The Hunger Games Franchise Appeal More to Male or Female Readers?

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 2:39 pm

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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Answer by Cristina Hartmann, Lawyer by day, writer by night.

This is an interesting question which requires a two-fold analysis. First, what's the gender breakdown for the Hunger Games readership? Second, what aspects appeal to which gender?

The gender breakdown of the actual readership leans female.

My scavenger hunt throughout the Internet didn't turn up much. But! That won't stop me from eking some insights from the little information that we have.

Anecdotal evidence points towards a strong female readership. Most of the Quora members active on the Hunger Games topic are female. The same is true for other online Hunger Games forums -- mostly female. This evidence is far from conclusive. Females could simply be more active and vocal readers.

Then again, males do read less than females, especially during the teenage years. These two pieces of evidence point towards a primarily female readership, but probably not overwhelmingly female.

Readership isn't the primary determinant of appeal, so let's look at the themes.

Hunger Games themes appeal equally to males and females

I'll have to resort to stereotypes here. No reader, male or female, is created equal. That being said, there are certain themes that appeal more to one gender than the other. Call it nature or nuture. The fact remains that some genres have skewed gender balances.

Themes that appeal to primarily female readership:

  • A Strong, yet Relatable, Female Protagonist -- Katniss stands out because she's a rarity -- a strong female protagonist in an action-oriented novel. Many readers naturally gravitate towards protagonists that share their gender identity.[1] Not only is Katniss a female protagonist, but she has uniquely female concerns. She's almost maternal in her sisterly relationship with Prim. Like many women, Katniss is the primary caretaker of her family. Collins manages to balance the masculine, bow-wielding qualities with more feminine, maternal qualities.
  • Love Triangle -- this is more of a teenage female issue than anything else. After Twilight, love triangles became all the rage. What can I say? Being coveted by multiple men is nice, I guess.

Themes that appeal to males readers include:

  • Action -- not only is the books' premise action-packed, but Collins paces the books so that we're always anticipating the next blow. Collins crafts the action sequences with a masterful hand, adding details that bring the gruesomeness to full light. This book doesn't flinch from violence, and males like that.
  • Strategy -- part of the reason why Ender's Game resonates with men is its strategic lessons. Men, as a whole, love figuring out the "rules" of the game, even if there are no rules.
  • Hot Chick -- it had to be said. The star of the Hunger Games movie is "hot" so a lot more boys will go see the movie. Shallow, I know, but I never said that males were deep, soul-searching creatures.

This seems to pose a conundrum. The series appeals to males and females equally, yet the readership is primarily female. This can't be! Well, as I said, readership isn't the end all of appeal. There are many reasons why males may shy away from the series: lack of interest in reading, YA label, or the female protagonist.

If you're a dude, you may want to give this a try.
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[1] - Despite the fact that people prefer protagonists of the same gender, women are more flexible in their gender preferences. My theory is that male protagonists dominate the storytelling tradition, so women grow up with a higher exposure to cross-gender protagonists than men do.


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