The Hunger Games: “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”
Why so hungry for The Hunger Games? The masses have gobbled up this post-apocalyptic novel and movie claiming to be well fed and satisfied with the meal that is the heroine Katniss Everdeen. But once I came off the high of the starchy, greasy and sodium rich roller coaster platter of The Hunger Games and achieved mental clarity, my body desperately craved something more nutritious, something more wholesome. I began to realize that the novel itself, the movie and its heroine is a microcosm of the very Capitol that Suzanne Collins mocks in The Hunger Games. Furthermore, I questioned whether Katniss Everdeen was a heroine or remained victim to the very end.
Already I can hear you silently cursing me and I am imagining the scowl that is forming on your face. Before you click away and try to convince me with evidence of the bravery of Katniss Everdeen and her efforts to buck the system, let me assure you I don’t disagree. The complex character drawn up by Suzanne Collins is brilliantly concocted and comes to light in all it’s glory masterfully by the actress Jennifer Lawerence on the big screen. I however question whether her bravery and skill is what fuelled her survival. And if this is not what fuelled her survival can she therefore be a heroine? Or is she relegated to something more sinister, a victim? Or something more sinister yet; another woman praised for her portrayal of being innocent, lovestruck, and privy to her emotions—everything Katniss is not and yet is.
What makes a woman a heroine? She is admired and idealized for her courage, achievements and noble qualities. Make no mistake, in The Hunger Games Katniss exhibits courage, this comes to light when she sacrifices her life for her sister by volunteering to take her place as tribute. Furthermore, Katniss’ love and respect towards Rue is demonstrated by their friendship and the flowers she lays around Rue at her passing, she is indeed noble. Also, Katniss’ achievements and skills are shown in her hunting and foraging abilities and how they aid in her survival. But are these the real reasons why Katniss survives to the very end? Is this the reason why she is admired and idealized?
Enter the character of the viewers, the masses that watch The Hunger Games as they unfold and you begin to realize that Suzanne Collins is not the only creator of character, but Katniss Everdeen herself forms a persona that appeases the viewing pleasures of her audience. Do not be deceived, this book is a horror, children killing other children is atrocious. But did you find yourself being sucked into the question: Does she really love him? Oh how sweet and admirable! The awwwwwws that escaped the mouths of my fellow viewers, in the theatre, made me slightly shake as we became the character that is the audience in the novel. We became sucked into the lie that is “Star-crossed lovers” and the brutality of the violence and totalitarian power at play became dimmer and dimmer. Furthermore, the way in which Suzanne Collins writes The Hunger Games with action packed, thrilling short sentences forces you on a roller coaster ride that offers no stoppage to really think and ponder: What is really happening here?
Does this seem familiar?
Katniss is fully aware of her pandering, “I know the crowd will love it.” “I’ve got to give the audience something more to care about.” This is a bad-ass 16 year old who is a master hunter with the bow and arrow, who is fully knowledgeable about medicinal herbs, who is courageous and a fighter and yet her survival is performative and ornamental? What is worse is that she is aware of how her performance is what counts most. She is aware of how her aesthetics is what will win the audience over in The Hunger Games.
Why? Because in the end, even though she has accomplished so much and is a fighter, she is relegated to being a harmless innocent girl, driven by love, in order to appease the audience. “I look, very simply, like a girl. A young one. Fourteen at the most. Innocent. Harmless.” “I’ll need to look as girlish and innocent as possible.” And to boot, she doesn’t even love Peeta, although this is the story she feeds the audience. This is sounding more and more like a tragedy than the celebration of a heroine.
As Katniss sheds herself of the persona she portrayed to survive, she questions her identity, “I excuse myself to change out of my dress and into a plain shirt and pants. As I slowly, thoroughly wash the makeup from my face and put my hair in its braid, I begin transforming back into myself. Katniss Everdeen…I try to remember who I am and who I am not.”
Katniss did not survive The Hunger Games because of her courage and abilities. She survived because she was able to manipulate her audience into believing the persona she and the Capitol created. She consequently played a part in numbing her audience to the horror of the violence and totalitarian power in place.
Suzanne collins creates a thrilling action packed ride that you, as reader and viewer, end up zipping by the horror of children killing children as you become caught in the voyeuristic thrill that is The Hunger Games. This in essence is no different than the flash, glamor and thrill that the Capitol offers to the viewers of the 12 districts.
What is even more tragic, is that Katniss Everdeen, the so-called heroine survives not because of her amazing abilities and courage but because of the way she looks and how she is able to emotionally manipulate her audience. For all my fellow females young and old alike, is this your heroine?