Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #76

The actor:Jennifer Lawrence
The character:Katniss Everdeen
The film:The Hunger Games
The quote:“I volunteer! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”

Jennifer Lawrence becomes the first person to get two quotes on this list. This probably has more to do with how funny I think the “science oven” line is than anything else, but given her prominence this century I don’t feel so abashed about it. For as much as Jennifer Lawrence feels like a relic of the early ’10s now, I do think it’s hard to overstate how much she permeated the world of popular movies. Before Adam Driver made it cool to be in a bunch of arthouse movies as well as balancing that against a leading role in a series of major blockbusters, Jennifer Lawrence was cashing in on not one but two of those blockbusters, as well as leading a number of highly acclaimed films. Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth, given how bad I think those David O. Russell movies compared to like, Frances Ha and Silence and Inside Llewyn Davis. Sure, but just as one never blames a band for “selling out” because there’s an opportunity for them to make lots of money and have lots of success, one must never blame an actor for trying to strike while the iron is hot the way that Lawrence did when she was in her late teens and early twenties.

After our brief sojourn through independent films and popular artsy fare, we’ve returned to the blockbusters. It’s a line that I hear people say with relative frequency in my actual life off the Internet; my guess is that you’ve probably also heard someone say it when they’re putting themselves up for a task that no one else really wants to do, and recently. It’s always appropriate because it’s so incredibly melodramatic. The hyperbole is basked into the line whenever it’s used out of context, which is absolutely why it’s so easy to plop into any conversation. It’s never just “I can do this onerous, boring thing that no one else really feels like doing but our boss wants us to do it, and so I will kvetch about this thing that will probably take me fifteen minutes to pump out.” It’s “I volunteer as tribute,” which is what the protagonist of this movie says when her younger sister has been plucked from a group of teens to go into a battledome and die for the honor of their distant overlords.

Something else I appreciate about this line is that, the initial pair of “I volunteer” aside, it’s not a line I’ve ever heard anyone misquote. People are still going around saying “Luke, I am your father” when the line itself doesn’t actually include the word “Luke.” Ditto the pronoun mistake from would-be homages to Field of Dreams, or the misheard “ride” for “night” from All About Eve. There’s something to be said for a line that is as straightforward as this one is, one which is proof against fouled-up wording.

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