Being that this Friday marks the release of Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie (Super excited! Already pre-ordered my tickets for opening night!), I feel like it’s fitting to write a little bit about this trilogy.
There is so much that I love about the Hunger Games. Love the story, Love the writing, Love Katniss as a strong female lead whose inner dialogue is not comprised of hashtags (#boyz! #nailart! #hashtags!). I love that these books can be read as a simple adventure story or can be analyzed seven ways from Sunday (I doubt this will be the only post about The Hunger Games). I even thought the movie was well made, artfully filmed and very well cast (LOVE Jennifer Lawrence and think that we could be best friends!).
But today, I am going to talk about the only thing that I didn’t like, the reason I read the first two books in 4 days and then waited months to read The Mockingjay.
I know, I know, #boyz! But I think that she ends up with that guy speaks to a larger issue.
Also, seriously, He’s the WORST! Useless and whiny and absolute dead weight. He’s lucky he didn’t get them both killed on numerous occasions. Basically, he’s me if I were to be in a fight to the death situation! Not buying it? Let’s have a look.
- Face painting for camouflage. super useful if you have 3 hours to spare and a palette of neutral tones.
- Being in love *sigh*
- Playing along with his captors to stay alive
- Being too noisy to go hunting
- Choosing poisonous berries to eat
- Worrying about “being true to his soul” instead of worrying about being hacked to bits.
So why did this happen? Time for a theory!
Why Katniss ended up with Peeta: A Feminist Analysis
Okay, so we finally have a young, strong female in a non romantic role. She doesn’t get rescued, she doesn’t trip over a dog leash and fall into a fountain because she’s fallen in love at first sight. She is proactive, acting on her surroundings and circumstance instead of only reacting to things around her. Sound familiar? It shouldn’t, because it rarely happens in teen/ young adult media anymore. The problem with this? Empowerment doesn’t emblazen well on a tween-sized thong. Basically, this goes against the narrative being forced onto girls and women, and so, they broke Katniss using Peeta.
Now, from a character writing standpoint, Katniss had to break down a little bit after all the fighting for her life. I get it. But a male hero gets to go through his darkest hour, then a musical montage about getting back on his feet, then he’s back and more ass-kicking-er than ever.
What happens to our female hero?
- Semi-comatose during the revolution
- Dragged around half-heartedly on a mission led by men
- One more heroic act (I at least won’t spoil that!)
- The Babies…which she had after being worn down by her lovely husband
And all is right with the world, because while women can handle a little adventure, but then they have to cut it out before they permanently damage their feeble minds.
What does this have to do with Peeta? Who better to extinguish the Girl on Fire than the Boy who Frosts? He is the perfect wolf in sheeps’ clothing, a mechanism to subdue a powerful woman.
The crazy thing is that most women are happy that the series ended the way that it did. Peeta has a lot of the “Elijah Wood” effect. Cute? Sure. Sensitive? Definitely. Forgiving, perfect and kind. End up with him and you’ve got a life of deep conversation and socks-on lights-off overly respectful sex. He is familiar and non-threatening. All of these things are great, but his tranquilizing effect on Katniss is so obvious and drastic, that I think the underlying mechanism of patriarchy should be very obvious.
And I’m not saying that she had to end up with Gale (Strong, handsome, supportive Gale who fights for her and with her and is totally the kind of guy who would pull your hair in the bedroom- with consent ;)). Collins makes a decent case for why she doesn’t. But she could have ended up with someone else, or alone!
Shouldn’t we be showing young women that relationships should also be complex and challenging? That your chosen partner should bring out the best in you? Someone who can stand by you but also push you to be better?
Relationships built soley on familiarity and comfort are tempting but un-fulfilling, and will always keep both people from living to their potential. This type of relationship allows for the character of Katniss to be put back in her “proper place” as a docile wife and mother, not the role model we were presented with at the outset.