Hey guys, it’s Jelly here, and I wanted to talk about Catching Fire and the Hunger Games franchise.
To start with; Lilipop and I are pretty hard-core excited about The Hunger Games. Lilipop even took me out on a “date” (it wasn’t a date! we’re not going out! I’m poor and lilipop is the bestest! (why thank you)) and we discussed Catching Fire intently over Vietnamese. However, one of the problems with being a feminist (I’m lying, being a feminist is great all the time, i swear) is that it’s quite difficult to enjoy a lot of media. Being aware of social issues has made practically everything icky – and it should be icky – and so, even when you get something that seems pretty good at first glance, like the Hunger Games, you are honour-bound to pick it apart and talk about how it could be better.
So, to start with: what’s great about the Hunger Games?
Well, the entire a pretty blatant anti-capitalist missive. The bad guys are called the Capitol (hardly a huge step away from capitalism), and the story is about how life sucks if you’re not super rich. Collins tells us that the next logical progression for humans who exploit the lower classes is to have humans who battle the kids of lower classes together in a brutal humiliating game, for the pleasure of people who don’t even view these children as human. The Panem that we see in the books is America – America ruled by money and power, that is, where if you are poor there is no way to get to the top. Oh, except by killing people who used to be your friends, children like yourself, oppressed and subjugated and having to live a life they don’t particularly want or everyone they love will be destroyed. Kinda like that.
And Katniss, well, she shakes things up.
Katniss is the second thing that’s good about the Hunger Games. There are ‘strong female characters’ in the books and the movies, and Katniss is stereotypically strong – physically strong – in contrast to what feminists usually mean when they ask for ‘strong female characters’ and mean, simply, realistic women. In the first movie, she supports her family by being a physical badass in that she can shoot things. She doesn’t enjoy talking about her emotions, clothes are not her thing, being more occupied with feeding her family, and she proves herself to be brave, strong, practical, and most of all, ruthless. These are, surprisingly enough, rather rare qualities in a girl in modern media. Katniss has no time for kindness, or softness, or largely, empathy, and not being “soft” makes her sometimes irritating, but very unusual and worthy of our respect. In fact, she is rather like a man on modern media in this respect – her romantic relationships are definitely not her priority and in her main relationship she is the one who is being needed, not needing. Pretty great stuff.
What’s not great about the Hunger Games? Well, the above reasons are all good. Combined with a great plot, interesting characters and general kick-assery, its success is self explanatory. However, what I’m here today to talk about (at angry nitpicking feminists dot com!) is the stuff that really could have been done better in the books and the movies.
First! Very important! In the books, Katniss is described as olive-skinned – and here is a very compelling case for her being a woman of colour. For the auditions for her character, they only let white-skinned actresses in. This is not great. This is bad. This is called whitewashing, and it’s a form of racism, as it systematically removes traces of PoC from modern media. However much you thought Jennifer Lawrence was perfect for the role, this proves she actually really wasn’t the best choice. Whitewashing is really harmful and should stop. Also read this disgusting backlash from racist and apparently illiterate HG readers! Racism in HG is actually a big problem and this blog tries to tell everyone just how.
One fact of life in modern day America is that most of the people is power are old, rich, white men. This is true in the Catching Fire as well; President Snow, Plutarch Heavensbee, Cesar Flickerman. What I don’t like is that the new revolution is also controlled by white guys – who keep Katniss in the dark, use her as a symbol instead of considering her as a person in her own right with her own ideas and –try not to faint here- might even be able to contribute to the resistance herself. This is not great. This shows a revolution, through violence or through education, as controlled by many of the same people and processes (especially in the case of Heavensbee, the previous Gamesmaker who apparently was ruthless enough to fool even the president) as before. This isn’t true revolution, after all, the master’s tools will never dismantle the masters house. Alternatively, this could be a subtle and scathing commentary upon the rise of brocialism, (anti -capitalist movements which exclude everyone who isn’t a white, able-bodied cis man, bro) but this is seriously unlikely and instead just looks like someone managed to miss out one of the major points of HG; that a revolution should be for everyone.
Another point! Katniss, in the books, is extremely independent of her romantic interests. She even says something to the effect of ‘I could do just fine without either of them,’ referring to Gale and Peeta. Her relationship with Peeta, a physically attractive, physically stronger and richer man, is controlled by her. She save Peeta – fends for him – is the dominant one in their relationship. He falls in love with her far before she falls in love with him. This, is some small way, subvert the norm for heterosexual movie relationships (although Lilipop says that I’m being far too lenient here). IN the books, although this relationship is neither particularly typical or healthy, care has been taken to keep her separate from the men in her life. All this is different in the movies. The kick-ass message that poor, angry, women of colour can change the world has been toned down in favour of a slightly ridiculous and ridiculously prominent love triangle. Katniss needs to choose between one man and another (how will she live without these manly arms protecting and sanitizing her anger???) panning back to a shot of Gale listing ruggedly after Katniss while she heartlessly abandons him to honeymoon wither blond baker in the Capitol. Katniss, “””””independent””””” Katniss, needs Peeta to stay with her after she has a nightmare. There is nothing wrong with human comfort – it’s just not consistent with her character. Basically, Katniss becomes defined by her relationships with men (NOT AGAIN) and loses a lot of her strength. Uh huh.
OVERALL! HG is great – loads of stuff in it is great – but it could be better, in the books and especially in the movies. The representation of Katniss is not as great as it could be. I’m only truly angry because this has so much potential – as modern media to incite and enthuse kids with the feeling that they can do something – but it falls a teensy bit flat. Still 100% recommend seeing it in the cinema though.
Hey this is Lilipop, a massive thanks to Jelly for writing this on behalf of both of us. There are about 700 more issues I would like to raise but we don’t want to bore you to death! I usually don’t bother getting this angry over various media but we both loved this film so hard, after reading the books together when we were about 11, that we thought it was worth doing some critical thinking on. GO SEE THE FILM!