Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

General Honors

First Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Second Advisor

Daniel Jones

Third Advisor

Oliver Gerland

Fourth Advisor

Ernesto Acevedo-Munoz


Today’s theaters are full of film adaptations of popular novels, in particular from the budding genre of Young Adult (YA) literature. These films tend to come under fire from accusations of unoriginality and poor popular taste, and are even seen as an indicator of the death of Hollywood creativity. This view fails to see the potential that this genre holds to redefine the landscape of social representation in film and address issues that have been at the heart of cinema since its founding over a century ago.

Hollywood has long been troubled by problematic depictions of society and individuals—from explicit and implicit racism to social exclusion, from sexism and stereotypes to the overwhelming persistence of the singular “white heterosexual male hero,” movies have been plagued by under- and mis-representation of minority groups. Often this has been attributed to the double pressures of a mostly white, male dominated industry producing the content, and the financial pressures to adhere to existing formulas of “what works.” This paper aims to reveal, through the in-depth analysis of representations of gender and race in The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012) and Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014), how YA adaptations have the power to combat this problematic representation due to its diverse, complex characters, as well as its increased likelihood for financial success, as demonstrated by their passionate fans and high book sales.

In short, this thesis seeks to demonstrate how YA adaptations, rather than sounding the death knell of cinema, are a trumpeting call to arms for a more socially conscientious and inclusive media environment—if the potential for diversity found in the novels is effectively translated to film.