One’s a starving, militant rebel living in a post-apocalyptic world. The other is a fashion-forward teen thriving on a bright Orlando soundstage. What do they have in common? One clearly versatile writer: Suzanne Collins.
Ever since reading The Hunger Games, I’ve been intrigued by the fact that the same woman who wrote such a gritty, violent series also wrote for the fizzy, neon-colored sitcom Clarissa Explains It All (and also for The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, which I think is sort of underrated). Collins didn’t create Clarissa, but I’m sure she lived and breathed Clarissa while she worked for the show, just as she lived and breathed Katniss while writing the novels. We’ll learn about Collins’ journey from Clarissa to Katniss in the upcoming comic book about the author’s life, but for now, it’s fascinating to see ways in which the 90’s Nickelodeon heroine could have inspired the very different teen who made Collins famous. Okay, all of this is a huge stretch, and it’s easier to think of ways they almost-might-be similar but are completely different, but here goes:
1. Sam is totally Peeta; Clifford is Gale.
Sweet, sensitive Sam keeps Clarissa looking on the bright side, no matter what dilemma of utmost importance she’s struggling with. Sam always asked Clarissa, “What’s the worst that could happen?”; Peeta, similarly, is just so incredibly good and tries to keep Katniss believing in humanity, even as actual atrocities are happening all around them. In the early years, Clarissa kept Sam firmly in the just-friends category and dated the gruffer and tougher Clifford Spleenhurfer, who in a Hunger Games love triangle would be the Gale character. Fun fact: Collins wrote the episode in which Sam first thought Clarissa was the perfect girl for him — awww!
2. Both are bad-ass rebels.
Katniss risks her life countless times to stand up to the Capitol. Clarissa gets arrested for protesting animal testing.
3. Both are strategic masterminds.
When fighting for her life in the arena, Katniss has the uncanny ability to think a few steps ahead of opponents who are trying to kill her. When Clarissa anticipated conflict, she programmed those super-cool computer games to help her form a plan of attack.
4. They both have food issues.
So Katniss and the other denizens of Panem’s outer districts are seriously starving and constantly looking for sustenance — but Clarissa also had a bit of an obsession when it came to eating the foods she wanted. Her mother Janet was a hippy-dippy tofu enthusiast who only allowed healthy, nasty foods in the house. When Clarissa and her ginger brother Ferguson once have a chance to eat pizza, they attack it like deprived, ravenous animals.
5. Both use the media for gain.
One of the central themes of the Hunger Games is the media’s potentially beneficial or destructive power over the masses. Clarissa, an aspiring journalist, used her position as editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper for good and bad, and she also fought the evil propaganda machine that was Ferguson’s public access show Boy Thoughts. Also in Clarissa, the influence of television was a constant, running theme.
6. Both become unwitting fashion icons.
Katniss couldn’t care less about fashion, but her various, stunning outfits become instantly recognizable Panem-wide. Clarissa does care about her look quite a bit, but she wants to be an individual — she’s not happy when others copy her style.
7. Both frequently have surreal, worst-case-scenario visions.
Okay, so Katniss’ nightmares and awful hallucinations stem from evil jabberjays and real danger. Clarissa’s neurotic imagination was the best part of the show.
So case in point, Katniss and Clarissa really don’t have much in common aside from Suzanne Collins, but it’s fun to pretend that they do. What other commonalities can you find? Who’s the better pet, Elvis or Buttercup?
Follow Stephan on Twitter: @stepephan