"Why The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen is a role model for our times" - Or "How to Call Your Internalized Misogyny 'Feminist'"
I have to say, this article bugged the fuck out of me the first time I read it. (It was assigned reading in English) Go ahead and read it for yourself if you want, it’s pretty bad. (Or don’t, I’m gonna quote what I find to be relevant).
So here are a first look at the mistakes made:
The first paragraph.
All hail Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games trilogy. If you are the mother of a pre-teen girl, you will know the whispered relief around these films. “About time. Go!” If you would like your teenage daughter to see something other than the underclass sobbing on a crass talent show, orange twentysomethings Botoxing themselves, or girls who are just “naturally thin” and who giggle when their clothes just drop off, then you will already know about them. If, like me, you simply would like to see a young woman not defined by her relationship to men, crack open the pick ‘n’ mix.
Honestly, the amount of slut-shaming and classism here is unbelievable. Underclass sobbing? Really? Orange? “Naturally thin”?
But ok, I would like to see a woman who is not defined by her relationship to men. So let’s go on:
The second paragraph.
Clearly I am not alone. Nor is my youngest.Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, has had the fourth biggest box office weekend opening in history. Ever since the first film came out, my daughter read the books by Suzanne Collins and we have a shrine to Peeta, Katniss’s fellow contestant.
It was really bookwyrmkc who brought this one up; why are we reading about her devotion to the male character here? That’s all that this paragraph says. “This is a popular series. We like Peeta.” Umm… Ok? I like Peeta too, but I thought this was about Katniss..?
The books are neither warm nor easy, but then dystopian futures of totalitarian states (Panem, as it is called) only work when they’re not so far from the imagination. In The Hunger Games, the rich and powerful control the Capitol and dress in grotesque Gaga-ish costumes while the poor live out in the Districts and are treated with increasing contempt.
So… I really don’t know what to make of the first sentence. The books aren’t easy… Therefore they must be true? Is she saying that they bug her conscience? (Good! I can totally see why they might.) But don’t demonize Gaga. If you want to nit-pick her, her outfits are the last place to go for it. Honestly. And besides which, is what they wear really the point?? We are talking about a society so fucked up that the rich take vomit inducing drugs just so they can keep eating, while the poor starve. Why fixate on the stylistic decisions of a fantasy world??
She actually mentions Katniss in paragraph 4 (even if the paragraph still isn’t about Katniss), and I don’t have much problem with it.
So this is a satire on the kind of TV that its target audience watches. The games are a brutal contest to kill every other contestant. It is the logical conclusion of reality TV: survival of the fittest. At the centre of this is Katniss, played by the sparky Jennifer Lawrence, who is seen on red carpets in apparently awful outfits. What do I know? Every time I read these gown-downs, as I call them, I like the ones the fashionistas hate (Bjork wearing a swan being my all-time favourite). We have seen Lawrence being chatted up on camera by sleazoid Jack Nicholson, who, to be fair, is only three times her age. And we have seen her lose it in front of the paparazzi, screaming: “Stop. Stop. Stop.” So she isn’t just acting cool, she is cool and aware that she wants to keep her body healthy-looking, not a size zero.
Where do I begin? “Healthy-looking” is as good as any, I guess. Why the hell couldn’t she have just said “healthy”? Skinny-shaming? That’s not cool. My sister (who is a size zero) has been redused to tears on more than one occasion by annoying remarks like this.
We also have that same fixation on clothes…. “OMG, she wears things that people who know fashion don’t like! But I think she looks fine, so clearly they have just wasted their whole journalism careers!”..-_-. Like, it’s totally fine if you think that she looked good. I thought that she looked good. But why are you praising her for her choice of things that “fashionistas” hate? The answer here seems to be sexism. That good old “not like other girls” trope (which we will be seeing more of, just wait).
And don’t say she’s a role-model because she’s been badgered and picked on. That’s incredibly stupid.
I don’t know who she was picking on with the Jack Nicholson remark… Is it slut-shaming Jennifer? Trying to present her as being counter-culture or oppressed? I dunno.
The obligation to be a role model is daunting and modern. I can’t remember wanting to be anyone other than Mr Spock and David Bowie. The female bit is blank – my memory is only full of girls I did not want to be or never imagined I could be.
She mentions Spock. Why not Uhura? We’re talking TOS here, Uhura was bad-ass in TOS! Or are we finally getting to it? Have you noticed the trend? Yes, this writer is ignoring all non-white women (and men too, actually). I don’t think I’ve seen any refference to a non-white person all essay (unless you count “orange twentysomethings”?). And she mentions David Bowie as a role-model, but demonized Lady Gaga just a few sentences ago.
Since then, we pretty much have a roll-call of politically correct heroines, but still have to go some way back to find tough, independent women, from Linda Hamilton in Terminator to Sigourney Weaver in Alien, or Tarantino’s fantasy of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Japanese cinema has produced some magnificent female characters, and, of course, we rewrite the “final girl” of the horror genre: in which, after several women have been raped/killed/tortured, the final girl turns the table and survives.
This speaks for itself, I would imagine. I think part of her difficulty might be that she is only looking for white blonde females of power. (And NO the “final girl” trope does not count as feminism. No self-respecting feminist would praise the human centipede). She could possibly have made a few points back here if she could have named a few of her Japanese characters, but she conspicuously leaves them unnamed. (I call racism again)
Lately though, for teenage girls, we have had Twilight’s mopey and passive Bella Swan. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is long gone, so to see Katniss (more akin to Neo in The Matrix) as resilient and smart and reluctantly becoming a symbol of a revolution is quite something. Guys fall in love with her but she really has better things to do: the uprising. Unlike Russell Brand’s fluffier talk of revolution, the movies do not shy away from the violence and executions that accompany the suppression of dissent, with the great Donald Sutherland’s watery eyes conveying pure evil as the president.
"Katniss (is more like a dude who was played by Keanu).“ "There are no other teenagers. Just Bella and Katniss”. Umm…. What?? [To be clear, I do think that Katniss makes an ok role-model. She is flawed enough to be interesting, and does her best with he skill she has.] But this paragraph still isn’t about Katniss. It is about revolution is general, various male celebrities, and the scathing criticism to Bella (after all, she would totally make a great role-model if she was just less “mopey”.)
We have seen Olympian Rebecca Adlington weeping because her body is not “bikini ready”, we have Oscar-winning Emma Thompson saying, at 54, she has to take whatever role she can get … Yes, I know this is posh self-depreciation, but all female actors say this. When did cinematic progress for women stop? The early 80s? Tough, complex female characters have migrated to TV with Hollywood lagging behind – Borgen, The Killing, Homeland et al (although Carrie’s jitters are now tiresome)
I think Katniss stands out from the rest of these because she isn’t blonde… And she’s playing right into what she claims to hate here! Jitters? Tiresome? That’s fine if you’re getting tired of watching, but don’t try to put such an annoyingly trivial remark in a piece about misogyny in TV and film. (Because you’re just playing into it)
Paragraph fucking 11:
Sure, Katniss is an idealised fantasy anti-authoriatarian heroine. She is also confused, stubborn and vulnerable. What she isn’t is either “girly” or interested in riches. She makes her bow and arrows to bring down the system. Nothing is said about gender. She is taller than one of her partners and it’s her physical and mental prowess that we root for.
Please note that this is the first paragraph that is actually about Katniss.
Don’t apologize for fantasy. We kinda knew it wasn’t actually real.
“Girly”. Just sip on that for a moment. Disgust you? Yeah, me too. Don’t demonize a whole gender. Just don’t. And really, really don’t do it and claim that you’re rooting for these girls the whole time.
Her grammar is appalling here, too. “She makes her bow and arrows to bring down the system. ” Unless she means that that whole “food” thing was just secondary..?
There are only two more paragraphs. They are just as awful. Honestly.
Is it required that we objectify women? Like, as soon as we find one which is even slightly non-objectified, is it required that we objectify her?