In The Hunger Games, Peeta is Katniss’s ‘movie girlfriend’

Peeta Hunger GamesMy friend dug up an NPR article from back in November about how The Hunger Games movies are smart and valuable not just because Katniss’s character challenges the way we portray women in film but also because they ask us to rethink how we represent the opposite gender.

As a girl, Katniss is physically capable, so she doesn’t need rescuing as a damsel, and she’s not helpless. But she’s also emotionally insensitive and unavailable, which isn’t a feminine trait according to what Hollywood and society teach us.

Peeta works in a bakery while Katniss hunts and is the obviously more formidable player in the Games. She saves him with physical strength and prowess while he saves her through goodness and kindness and sacrifice. Their relationship is a reversal of gender roles:

She kisses him sometimes, but she keeps him on a need-to-know basis, and she decides what he needs to know.

He loves her as she is, while knowing he’ll never change her and parts of her will always be mysterious and out of reach.

And Katniss’s choice between Peeta and Gale, the NPR writer argues, is essentially a decision between a movie girlfriend and a movie boyfriend:

Gale works in the mines, not in a bakery. He’s a hunter. He grabs her and kisses her because he simply must. He’s taller. (Real talk: HE’S THOR’S BROTHER.)There’s more to the unusual gender dynamics in these stories, in other words — particularly, I think, in the films — than the idea of a girl who fights. There’s also a rather delightful mishing and mashing of the ideas of what’s expected from young men in movies where everybody is running around shooting and bleeding.

Of course, referring to these characters as “movie boyfriend” and “movie girlfriend” sort of misses the point because the argument is that gender can mean anything, not just what we as a society say it does. But these terms do their job in helping the message hit home, and the whole idea is something I didn’t quite realize this fully until now.

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5 thoughts on “In The Hunger Games, Peeta is Katniss’s ‘movie girlfriend’

  1. I never thought of Katniss and Peeta’s personality traits as a defiance against the typical YA romance. It’s definitely different than what we see in “These Broken Stars,” which fits the gender roles to a T, but I never saw symbolism to gender roles (or lack thereof) in THG (and I’ve read those books a couple times each). I’m not even sure if Suzanne Collins placed that symbolism purposely, but that’s a piece of brain food to get me thinking.
    Her books do exactly what any true sci-fi novel should; they take the things that are wrong about society and propose a “what if?”; they make us reflect. Most readers read THG and notice the similarities to our own culture right away: reality TV, celebrities, the natural want to be prettier and grander (as seen in the Capitol), a distraction from what really goes on in the world; the relatability level is what makes the premise of Collins’ novels so intriguing, not simply the plot that Katniss finds herself wrapped into. The whole gender roles idea most certainly fits into the same concept. Maybe, I’ve always been intrigued by Katniss and Peeta’s relationship dynamic without knowing why it was so interesting.
    Oh, gosh. Now that I’ve started thinking about this, it doesn’t look like I’ll be finishing my homework anytime soon.

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