POSTED: Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 1:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 1:04am
CNN — "The Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen inspired more than just a renewed interest in braided hairstyles.
Suddenly, in the immediate aftermath of the film's $400 million-plus box office success (in the United States alone), archery landed in the bull's-eye of pop culture.
Sure, we've had the occasional "Robin Hood" movies, which have achieved varying levels of success, and you could catch a glimpse of flying arrows in TV series like "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead," but archers have now taken center stage. (Even the MTV Movie Awards had to spoof the phenomenon.)
"Brave," the Disney/Pixar hit, is about a young woman who could wield a bow and arrow with the best of them. Considering how long it takes to make an animated movie like "Brave," that's just a case of extraordinary timing.
It wasn't enough that the biggest blockbuster of 2012, "Marvel's The Avengers," starred Iron Man, the Hulk and friends. It also threw in an archer, Hawkeye.
Plus, if not for Michonne and her sword (maybe 2013 is fencing's year), this season of "The Walking Dead" might belong to Daryl, whose favorite zombie-slaying method is the crossbow.
The top new series on TV? That would be "Revolution," which includes -- you guessed it -- a heroine with a crossbow.
There's more to come: Lara Croft's return in the "Tomb Raider" video game will focus on archery, instead of a gun in each hand; and the next two "Hobbit" films have the promise of archers Bard the Bowman and Legolas.
Jeremy Gutsche, the chief trend hunter at Trendhunter.com, notes that "Google search volume for archery has remained relatively constant" for archery over the years, but that's not to say it hasn't made a splash: He saw archery-infused fashion shoots crop up this year.
However, he thinks a lot of it can be traced back to Jennifer Lawrence and the character of Katniss.
"There is an extra appeal that happens when you have one of the hottest pop cultural stars taking up any new sport, and in this case it happened to be archery."
It also doesn't hurt that she got high marks from her trainer on the film.
"She was very motivated and technically very good. I do think it looked good in the film. You can absolutely shoot apples from 80 to 100 yards out (like Lawrence's character did)," Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig told Fitness magazine.
So, how has pop culture affected archery as a sport? CNN turned to one of the experts, Teresa Iaconi, spokeswoman for USA Archery (including the Olympics team) and a level four archery coach.
CNN: What level of interest have you seen in the sport this year?
Iaconi: We have had massive gains this past year. Our membership has increased over 25% this year. We typically don't see gains like that. A lot of our membership transactions this year were new memberships. We're seeing new people joining the sport. At our national championships this year, we had our largest number of competitors since 2001. In 2001, we had roughly 370 adults and 150-200 kids. This year that number was completely reversed.
Our instructors have said they can't keep up with the demand. We think that's fantastic. As archery films continue to come out, assuming we continue to see that popularity increase, we can provide opportunities to grow.
CNN: Is the portrayal of archery accurate?
Iaconi: I don't think kids necessarily built a strong relationship with Kevin Costner's character in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." When you have a heroine like Katniss Everdeen, it's another story. The young people who heard the buzz about it connected with her. I saw it with women on a bow hunt: You had 60-year-old women getting excited about that movie.
"Brave" got the archery so technically correct. They got the flux of the arrow right. Even a young archer will pick up on that. They made it look so beautiful. ... Disney-Pixar worked with us. We were able to arrange a screening with Olympic hopefuls, Olympians and their coaches screaming and cheering with this movie. They loved the fact that they got it right.
CNN: Do you think this level of interest can hold into the future?
Iaconi: Looking in 2013, we don't have the Olympics for two more years. What we have is this massive amount of interest from kids into the sport. Friends will say, "Hey this is really cool, come to archery with me." We'll continue seeing as the next three "Hunger Games" installments (come out) over the next three years.