If you’re a Tolkien fan, you know the Tauriel character is new to the “Hobbit” franchise. Introduced in the current installment, “The Desolation of Smaug,” Tauriel – played by Evangeline Lilly – packs a powerful punch as a bow-wielding elf. But was Tauriel introduced as a convenient love interest for Legolas, or because archery’s increasing popularity demanded it?
“She just as effortlessly rolls Tolkien’s elfish language off her tongue as she brings down a hundred orcs in seconds with her super-powered archery skills,” says Justin Craig of Fox 411, describing Lilly’s Tauriel. “Perhaps, too, 2013 is setting a new perquisite that strong female action characters must be archery pros.”
If USA Archery’s female participation stats are indicators, Craig’s theory might be true. The organization reports female membership increased a whopping 130 percent the past two years, and it attributes at least some of that growth to Hollywood’s love affair with archery.
“It has changed our sport,” USA Archery CEO and three-time Olympian Denise Parker told Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports. “There has been archery in movies before, things such as ‘Rambo,’ and there has been some pickup in popularity along with that.
“But what is so amazing with ‘Hunger Games,’” Parker continues, “is that you have this character, Katniss, who is confident and beautiful, and the way she uses the bow is an extension of that. That is what really resonates and makes people want to try this.”
Archery is calling to youth archers as well: USA Archery’s youth membership rose 104 percent in the same time, with archers aged 15 to 17 making up the largest competitive group. But don’t count out adults. The organization’s fastest-growing demographic is 18- to 34-year-olds.
What does this mean for Hollywood’s affinity for bow-and-arrow sports? Judging from upcoming archery films – an “Avengers” sequel in 2014, two more “Hunger Games” installments in 2014, and a possible “Ranger’s Apprentice” franchise on the horizon – archery’s star should keep rising.
And does this influx of Katniss-inspired archers mean greater potential for Olympic medals? Possibly. With Rio 2016 around the corner, archers who found the sport within the past year might be on track to attempt a tryout for the Olympic Team.
“It is inevitable that the wider the pyramid of people, the greater chance you will have champions come through the ranks,” Parker told Yahoo! Sports. “It raises the whole level overall. In a few years we will hopefully have Olympic champions who fell in love with the sport through these movies. It is very exciting.”