My 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.