The Gender Neutral Hunger Games – Oh yeah, the feminists will love this movie

April 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

After a disappointing run with the character of Bella Swan in Twilight (read my past post here), I was delighted to be introduced to a positive female role model in fiction world, Katniss in Hunger Games.

First of all, I’m really glad that Katniss looks like a healthy girl. Seriously. No anorexic tint whatsoever. Just normal body size for a girl. Thank you!!!

And for the first time in my life of movie-watching, I was certain that Katniss, along with the rest of the female characters, had no intention at all to meet and be with a guy for the duration of the movie, and voila, she’s the hero.

And it has nothing to do with her being against men, it has nothing to do with her wanting to be with one. She’s simply battling a sick system, and deserves all the glory for being who she is. Regardless of her brief “hook-up” with Peeta the nice boy, at the end of the game she’s still as independent as how she started it.

Brilliant, for once.

-RNT

Below is a nice article on the gender neutrality in the book and movie: From Harvard Crimson, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/3/26/Hunger-Games-Gender/

The Gender-Neutral Games

This Friday marked the theatrical release of “The Hunger Games,” the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular young adult novel.The franchise’s move to the silver screen places it among the legions of vampires, wizards, and singing and dancing teens that often leave middle school girls swooning and feminist critics groaning. The Hunger Games, however, is different: The female protagonist is a highly skilled hunter, while the primary male character’s greatest talent is frosting cakes. As a result, the series has earned acclaim for its tone of female empowerment. However, in praising the lead female’s characteristically masculine traits, critics undermine The Hunger Games’ decidedly gender-neutral political agenda.

Teenage readers and middle-aged reviewers alike agree that Katniss, the protagonist of the franchise, is “a strong feminist role model: independent, skilled, fierce.” Katniss may be a strong woman, but The Hunger Games ultimately cautions against the very strengths that its main character upholds and critics exhort. With independence comes the temptation of apathy: At a strategic high and moral low during the Games, Katniss recognizes the ease with which she could survive if she left weaker, injured allies behind. Her sharp intellect and hunting skills brand her as a poster-child of survival of the fittest, the harsh world order against which the books elaborately protest. Her fierceness faintly echoes the ruthlessness of her oppressors; indeed, the overwhelming nature of vengeance is explored in-depth in the final book of the trilogy. Independence, skill, and relentlessness are the “strong, feminist” qualities that readers celebrate, but they are also the qualities that Collins’ books implicitly censure.

For what ideal, then, does The Hunger Games advocate? Femininity, it would seem. After all, Katniss ultimately chooses companionship over independence, relinquishes the dangerous power that her skills facilitate in favor of temperance, and trades her wrath for an attempt at tranquility, even domesticity. Through the eyes of Katniss, the cruel and destructive world of Panem has only two true heroes: Peeta, a non-aggressive, sensitive and deeply caring boy; and Primrose, an even more gentle, caring, angelic little girl. These characters do not exhibit the physical strength, political aggression, or obstinacy that characterize most of the prominent figures in the series. Indeed, they serve as the moral center of Katniss’s universe precisely because of their impermeability to the aggression around them, what Collins symbolically alludes to as “fire.” In The Hunger Games, fire is attractive and powerful, but it destroys everything in its path. On the contrary, redemption is possible through love, nurturing, and non-violence—qualities that carry feminine connotations.

The Hunger Games could easily be interpreted as a feminist allegory. In a sadistic, masculine world, Katniss is “a fiery teenage huntress battling to overcome a corrupt, male-dominated system.” Yet the franchise’s political undertone is more complicated, still. It crusades against brutality, but simultaneously condones it. With adrenaline-pumping passages, now translated into Hollywood action sequences, Collins invites us to revel in the gory glory of the Games. Real-life readers and viewers mirror the audience within the story, rooting for the survival of their favorite characters—and thereby, the deaths of other characters. At the same time, the story inspires us with the lofty feminized ideal of prioritizing altruistic selflessness over self-preservation, as demonstrated by an official trailer for the movie that heavily emphasizes the heroic self-sacrifice Katniss commits by taking her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games. Somehow, the series refuses to fully embrace aggression or non-violence, and even hints at the futility of searching for a happy medium. With no resolution in sight, The Hunger Games leaves its fans confronting what we knew all along: Neither gender is superior. There is no paradigm for a perfect human, because no such being exists.

It is worth noting that the attributes of passivity and agression are not gendered in Collins’ literary universe. Remarkably, The Hunger Games assumes that gender is not circumscribed by defining character traits. Just as Katniss’ femininity is not questioned because of her emotional toughness, Peeta’s manhood is not doubted because of his emotional vulnerability. The nation of Panem may be an archaic dictatorship, but its post-gender social organization far outpaces the social advancement of our modern society. It takes for granted a principle that would startle much of The Hunger Games’ readership: there is nothing inherently masculine about aggression or feminine about passivity.

The Hunger Games largely avoids the restrictive lens of gender. Within Collins’ literary world, Katniss is characterized neither as feminine nor as feminist; she is merely a complex, humanized character. Perhaps this is the real victory of the Games.

Tarina Quraishi ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Eliot House.

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§ 2 Responses to The Gender Neutral Hunger Games – Oh yeah, the feminists will love this movie

  • katybrandes says:

    The reasons listed in your post and the other review are exactly why I liked “The Hunger Games,” regardless of not being in the target demographic anyway.

    Thanks for writing this blog post and re-blogging the article! I wish a multitude of young women would read the article.

  • Multatuli says:

    Hi!

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting here!

    Indeed, I think this is the the aspect that female adults can appreciate more. At least now younger girls are thinking of archery and athleticism, and what a normal body proportion is. And a kiss in a movie is more of something on the sideline, not the main theme.

    I watched this movie twice -without ever reading the book- at the cinema actually (yes, that’s how much I love it), and the second time I watched it I picked up on subtle things I didn’t notice the first time: eg. after Katniss and Peeta went out from the cave and headed to the woods, Peeta had asked Katniss for her bow and arrow to get food, but Katniss declined to hand it. This was awesome I thought. So although she finally had this guy by her side 1) she still wants to hold on to her own weapon -she’s the one who knows how to use it, not Peeta- 2) she refuses to let Peeta do the food searching for her -obviously girl can do it on her own- 3) even though she walked out from the cave after kissing Peeta (the purity of the kiss’ intention is debatable, of course) she still wants to hold on to that sense of independence (getting her own food, holding on to her own weapon).

    Much love for The Hunger Games. I’m definitely spreading the words to girls…

    *I see on your blog that some of your reading is quite similar to mine. Looking forward to a conversation with you on books!

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