Jan. 4, 2012 at 9:09 AM ET
If it's "Team Twilight" vs. "Team Hunger Games," I admit it, I'm on the team that doesn't have sparkly vampires.
Sure, I can see the similarities. Both are enormously popular young adult book franchises in which a young woman must choose between two hunky guys. Each heroine's world resembles our own, but with some really weird differences. And when each set of books started to make the leap to the big screen, fans took a deep personal interest in the movie casting and filming, and hung on every leaked photo, poster, and trailer.
But if all movies based on books with young characters were the same, "Winnie the Pooh" would be indistinguishable from "Flowers in the Attic." And that would be a side of Tigger I really don't need to know about.
They're two completely different franchises. "Twilight" is a supernatural romance. Say what you will about Stephenie Meyer's writing, she created a full-fledged world where vampires and shape-shifting wolves have their own rules and customs. I'm not exactly a fan of the sparkliness, but I love the idea of the Volturi, the law-enforcing royalty of the vampire world. Yet it's the romance -- Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, with no one on wishy-washy Team Bella's side -- that rules the day.
But the "Hunger Games" books are first and foremost a well-sketched tale of survival, with the romance well in the background. In author Suzanne Collins' creepy apocalyptic world, each district in the fictional nation of Panem must send one boy and one girl, called tributes, to fight to the death. That chilling premise is backed up with all the elements we know too well from reality TV. The competing tributes even have stylists, and work to curry favor with those who watch the battles on TV in hopes that they'll be sent food, tools and medicine. It's delightfully disturbing, in part because the reality TV angle is so recognizable.
I've read all of the "Twilight" and "Hunger Games" books, and it seems pretty obvious that "Hunger Games" is being better received because of its heroine. Katniss Everdeen from "Hunger Games" has had to provide for her starving family since she was small. She bravely steps in as tribute rather than let her beloved younger sister Prim almost certainly die in the Games. She doesn't spend any time mooning around over whether she'll end up with childhood love Gale or fellow tribute Peeta. She considers it, sure, when it's part of the plot, but her mind is on survival, and somehow protecting her loved ones.
In "Twilight," Bella Swan spends a large part of an entire book pretty much sobbing on her bed because Edward left her. Sure, it's something young readers can identify with -- we've all done stupid things for love. Bella is a human in a world of vampires. She can't compete with their strength, so she gets smacked around and protected. She's the heroine we fear we really are -- klutzy and sheltered.
If a vampire tried to drag Katniss around a ballet studio, as one does with Bella in "Twilight," she'd somehow get the upper hand and shoot a flaming arrow through his skull before setting deadly traps for any other vamp who might be following him. She's the heroine we'd all like to be.
Team Katniss, or Team Bella? Or can the franchises happily co-exist? Tell us on Facebook.