On The Hunger Games and Market-Driven Ghettoization of Film

On The Hunger Games and Market-Driven Ghettoization of Film

Full disclosure: I was one of the Team Katniss faithful who flocked to the movie theaters late last evening to make The Hunger Games a resounding box-office success. The crowd at the particular theater at which I saw it was mostly comprised of groups of young people in their late teens to mid 20s with a few tween families to round it out. What also interested me was that the most vocal fans, i.e. the ones who jabbered the most about the book before and after the film, were young men.

Before the movie was released, the studio responsible for it, Lionsgate apparently hand-wrung over its appeal to boys and men. This is not an uncommon occurrence with films that do not feature a cisgender, straight, white male person as its protagonist. It is assumed that people who are transgender, not straight, non-white, not male, or any combination of the above should be able to relate to the mainstream default position, but that to ask those who embody that position to relate to a protagonist unlike themselves is to ask for too much.

For example, a funny movie featuring mostly white men is a comedy and is thus marketed to everyone, while a similar flick featuring mostly black actors is a “black comedy” and marketed only in select ways.

The excuse for such ghettoization – in the case of The Hunger Games, that a female protagonist is unrelatable for male audiences — is The Numbers, with which no one is ever allowed to argue. The fact that they are usually the target audience and thus assume that anything not marketed towards them isn’t for them might have something to do with it.

Lionsgate, admirably, has made attempts to market the film towards men as well as women. While I would prefer that we not assume that men don’t have the capacity to appreciate a nuanced female protagonist, the way in which the film is portrayed in trailers and advertising does help to combat the assumption that featuring a heroine does not necessarily mean that the movie in question is not for men.

The data before the movie showed that nearly half of the young men polled were interested in seeing The Hunger Games, as opposed to nearly three-quarters of young women. There was still a gap, clearly, but one that still puts the majority of young people in the “interested” category.

Of course, women don’t have the luxury that men have in terms of only seeing movies that are marketed towards us or feature us. Blatantly sexist advertising aside, most movies don’t even feature two named female protagonists who converse about something besides a man. Hopefully, movies like The Hunger Games, which interest men and women alike in a female protagonist and aren’t bizarre remakes or unnecessary sequels (emphasis on unnecessary, as I am acutely aware that there are three more movies in this series), will mean more movies that not only feature fully-fleshed-out female characters, but that also allow people in different demographic groups to enjoy movies together.

The applause that erupted in the wee hours at theaters across the country certainly gives me some hope.

Avatar of Heina Dadabhoy
Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

44 Comments

  1. Avatar of Luarien

    It's oddly interesting to me that part of this story is Katniss' discomfort with an element that exists purely because she's a girl, a part of the story that wouldn't exist had she been a boy, while her character is essentially a gender-swapped classic Brooding Antihero.
    I have to take my hat off to Lionsgate for the marketing, too; it doesn't give much of the story away, it allows Katniss to be a hero, it doesn't glorify her as a girl or explain away her being a girl, and her supporting cast doesn't get All The Screentime in the ads to try to play up the fact that they exist. It's respectful to her character and to the mystique of the story.

  2. Avatar of Gordon Duffy

    I saw the trailer and it blew me away. It never occurred to me that I'd have any diffiulty relating to the protaganist! What a bizarre notion.

  3. Avatar of aceofsevens

    Remember when Warner quit makign movies about women for seveeral years because they had two movies about women flop? Execs have weird ideas about why people watch movies.

    • Avatar of haydenmuhl

      As far as I can tell, that never actually happened.
      According to my cursory googling, a blogger, Nikki Finke, was the first to publicize this. She says in her blog post, "This comes to me from three different producers, so I know it’s real: Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has made a new decree that 'We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead'." Warner Bros. denied that Robinov ever said that, and that it was not their policy. In other words, a rumor that the company denied.
      I have not looked through WB's films to see what their track record is with regard to male vs. female leads.
      http://www.deadline.com/2007/10/warners-robinoff-gets-in-catfight-with-girls/

  4. Avatar of Patrick Oberlehrer

    As far as I can tell, it's eve a myth tham young men should be the target audience for films:
     
    http://womenandhollywood.com/2010/03/11/guess-what-women-buy-more-movie-tickets-than-men/
    http://thehathorlegacy.com/demographics-and-stories-how-numbers-lie/
     
    Patrick

    • Avatar of amm1

      There seems to be a hidden assumption floating around here that producers’ decisions have a rational basis.

      It seems more likely that Hollywood ghettoizes films with female leads because of Hollywood’s well-known and blatant sexism. Given that most of the decision-makers see women solely in terms of whether they’d like to f*** them (as Tina Fey puts it), it’s not surprising that they are blind to the idea of women as a potentially lucrative audience.

      (Similar considerations apply to blacks and black-focussed films.)

  5. Avatar of Skeptinerd

    Didn't Alien settle this debate in 1979?
    As a man, there are few things I like to see more than an independent woman on screen. The damsel in distress isn't an interesting human being. An intelligent, capable woman is. Hollywood should get this by now. 

  6. Avatar of Autochton

    I myself just wish that it had been a better work, originally, that was this successful. I find THG to be crap, not because the protagonist is female, but because she's almost completely bereft of agency throughout the whole trilogy. Said trilogy also to me preaches that fighting to change things is futile and never worth it, and that you should just bow your head down and take whatever is sent your way, because hey, otherwise it'll just get worse.
    I guess I'm just highly unimpressed with THG, with Suzanne Collins, and with the rush to cheer for both.

    • Avatar of schleprock

      Did you read the same trilogy I did? Because (not going into detail due to possible spoilers) I sure as heck didn't get the same message out of it that you did. Are you sure you read all three books? I mean, it's not Shakespeare, and although I clearly enjoyed the books more than you did that's obviously a matter of taste. But I'm completely puzzled by your remark that Katniss is almost completely bereft of agency throughout the trilogy: again I hesitate to go into details (even the ones that are known from the trailers since many find the trailers themselves spoiler-y) but I strongly dispute that assertion. Even before she volunteered for the games to save Prim (ahem: agency?) she was hardly a meek, model serf obeying all of the rules in order to stay out of trouble; and that's without mentioning (for obvious reasons) her actions at the climax of the first book (movie), much less the later books. But to each his/her own!

      • Avatar of Autochton

        Because a suicide pact is agency now? (No I don't actually care about spoilers. It's not like it isn't utterly obvious that some lame ploy is going to happen.)
        And that's even before spending five minutes to realize A) the complete nonsensicality of how Panem is built, B) the inherent racism (a whole district of black people who farm and pick fruit? Really, Collins?), and C) the incessant display of zero understanding of what combat, warfare and strategy are actually all about. To the point of calling a quiver an 'arrow sheath' and talking about 'loading' a bow. She couldn't even check the Wikipedia page on archery.
        The book is overhyped crap, and its sequels are worse. I will not watch the movie, even were I paid to. And I am frankly disturbed by the rush of otherwise sensible skeptics to fawn over it.

        • Avatar of dtkgreg

          "A) the complete nonsensicality of how Panem is built,"
          Where do you live?
          Where does your oil come from?  Look at the tag on your clothing.  Made in _____?  Where does your food come from?
          You're living in the Capitol.  Congratulations.  Every third world country that's every been declared a "failed state" and had its government changed is a "District".
          And really, you're complaining about a term like "arrow sheath"?  It's hundreds of years in the future.  Language can change.

          • Avatar of Autochton

            Ad the first: Show me the country that mines all the coal and show me how they're wholly powerless. Better yet, the oil. The food. The other crazy things that Capitol consumes and that one District is the one single place that makes. Protip: Check out why the Middle East has more throw weight in the world, and are richer, than one would otherwise expect.
            Ad the second: 'Quiver' has been used in English for 1200 years. Do tell me why it should start changing now. As well, if you want to claim linguistic drift, please show me how a term like 'arrow sheath' would come from 'quiver'. Especially since 'sheath' is a word for a tight-fitting cover, not a loose container like a quiver…

          • Avatar of dtkgreg

            "Show me the country that mines all the coal and show me how they're wholly powerless."
            1)  That's straight up capitalist philosophy:  a nation should find out what it does best and do only that.  There are quotes to this effect either from Adam Smith or one of those other old guys
            2)  The "countries" that produce the product are fine, for certain definitions of "country".  The citizens are not.  Average citizen in a south american or African client state actually has it pretty bad.  Union leaders get assassinated, governments get overthrown, etc etc.  This is not really is dispute.
            "Better yet, the oil. The food. The other crazy things that Capitol consumes and that one District is the one single place that makes. Protip: Check out why the Middle East has more throw weight in the world, and are richer, than one would otherwise expect."
            The leaders in the middle east have a lot of throw weight.  The citizens clearly do not, or there wouldn't be so many revolutions.
            Ad the second: 'Quiver' has been used in English for 1200 years …
            I'm not bothered about the term "quiver" vs. "arrow sheath".  An editor would have clearly said, "Suz, there's a word for that: quiver" and she replied "Stet" because she didn't want the homonym "to shake in fear" associated with her hero, because she wanted to use a strange word (like muttation, Career, mockingjay, tessera etc) or for other artistic reasons.  It just doesn't cause a problem for me.

          • Avatar of daedalus2u

            I haven't seen the movie or read the books, but this kind of dystopia is what the Colonial period was all about. A good example is Haiti
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Revolution
            If the slave owners had modern weapons, the Haitian Revolution would never have been allowed to happen. In Haiti, the death rate exceeded the birth rate so they needed to keep importing slaves.
            I have seen references to Panem being analogous to North Korea where much of the population is permanently stunted due to malnutrition. There have been many times and places where workers have been worked to death, even in the US.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1912_Lawrence_Textile_Strike
            One of the women killed in the strike
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_LoPizzo
            This is what the GOP is trying to do today, break unions and drop wages to starvation levels.

          • Avatar of pciszek

            The easiest way for the word "quiver" to fall out of use would be for its original meaning is for it to become slang for something else.  Words like "intercourse" are rarely used for their original meanings today because they became too heavily associated with something else.  Particularly with the Quiverfull movement we have now, I can see the word "quiver" becoming so loaded that people come up with a synonym.

        • Avatar of marilove

          Let me guess:  You haven't actually read the books.
           
          And if you did (doubt it), you clearly didn't actually *read* them.

          Unless you also feel the same way about the book 1984, as other shave touched, on, just stop it. 
           
          NO ONE has real agency in the world of The Hunger Games.  Not unless you are rich (and even then, you can't step too far out of your little utopia without great risk).  This is the story of one smart, strong girl trying to find at least a little agency and free will in a world that largely lacks it.  Don't you get that? 

    • Avatar of Drew Spencer

      I think you may have misunderstood the protagonist's motivations.
       
      One thing that I really liked about THG is that the protagonist is not a hero. Her goal is not to bring down all of the crushing injustice around her. She really just cares about the survival of herself and her family, and otherwise is really not that political. She goes along with others' plans only to the extent that she thinks it will keep her family safe. Whenever she feels like others' plans aren't in her best interests, she rejects them, no matter how important they are to the cause others want her to support. That's hardly "no agency."

      • Avatar of Autochton

        Ah, so that's why she spends most of the third book drugged to the gills while most everything of importance happens without her. Because she rejects others' plans. … No, that still doesn't make sense.
        I just don't buy that this book has anything valuable to say. What it tells me is quite simply that you should look out for number one alone, and maaaaybe those nearest and dearest to you. But that probably won't matter 'cause they die anyway. And in all honesty, the world has enough selfishness and cynicism already. If we want a narcissistic and harsh world, I'm sure that's great and all – but me, I'd rather we tried to make a world that's actually worth inhabiting.

        • Avatar of lofgren

          I find it interesting that the message you received from the book is on contemplated often by the main character, who eventually comes to the opposite conclusion and chooses to put herself, her family, and her loved ones at greater risk in order to improve the world. Of course books can send the opposite message of that espoused by their main character but in this case I thought that her decision was treated as laudable by the story. This being the Hunger Games, there is a healthy respect for the complexity of the world and no decision is Absolutely Right or Absolutely Wrong. There are just people trying to live their lives and do the best they can. You might call that cynical, but I call it treating real life with honesty and respect instead of writing a childish fairy tale or didactic screed.

        • Avatar of Stephen Edwards

          I wasn’t aware of the hype, marketing etc. And I’m sure this wasn’t intended to become a review discussion but…
          Judging by the way the relationship between Rue and Cathniss formed I’m assuming some of the film was left on the cutting room floor. And was no one else bothered by some of her actions? At times they just didn’t seem to be those of someone who was in a life or death situation. If I thought someone had been killed nearby I wouldn’t run blindly through the woods shouting, same goes for completely dropping my guard to pick and lay flowers in a clearing, whatever the emotional reason. And if I had managed to sneak up on a small unarmed person and a larger armed one I'm pretty sure of who I'd aim for.

  7. Avatar of anon skeptic

    The movie company marketed this movie predominantly to men (if that's at all true) because the women would have gone anyway. You see the companies try to make money. So if each dollar spent on marketing draws ten times more men than women then the company is going to market the movie towards men. To expect companies to do otherwise is not particularly reasonable.

    • Avatar of Heina Dadabhoy

      I don't think it's as simple as that. Plenty of female-led films are not marketed towards men because the assumption is that they won't go, and I was glad to see something different happen with THG.

      • Avatar of anon skeptic

        I think it is that simple. Movies appeal to different people. Some appeal more to men and some appeal more to women. I'm already pretty skeptical that by marketing you actually can change the appeal of a movie significantly. And yes, it would be sad if production companies would obviously falsely believe that certain movies could not draw a male audience. But you can be pretty sure that they don't because that would cost them money.

  8. Avatar of BruceGee1962

    This book crossed my radar this year when my 11-year-old daughter's book group at school was getting ready to read it. From what I was able to find out about it from wiki-research, I was appalled. Fortunately, she wasn't the slightest bit interested in it (her tastes run mainly toward animal rescue stories), so I was able to get her an alternate assignment.
    I found the concept of the book distasteful 20+ years ago in The Running Man, but downright sickening when the condemned criminals were replaced by a bunch of teenagers. But I normally try to keep up with kids' literature. So can somebody who has read the book and/or seen the movie tell me what on earth is redeeming about it?
    If I could expound upon this for a bit: from the middle ages up through Star Wars, the basic plot of the Romance has been that the protagonist has to fight (and kill) a bunch of Bad Guys because, well, they're bad. The violence is justified because of vengeance, or to stop the Bad Guys from doing something even worse than they've already done, or to regain something the chief Bad Guy has taken that he isn't entitled to, or whatever.
    (I'm talking about the genre of Romance here to distinguish it from the other genre about violence, the War Story, which has its own history and ethical code.)
    In the last few decades, though, I've observed a disturbing trend in fiction towards something I've started to think of as "Murder Porn." Because violence has become so far removed from most of our lives, it seems as if we've been fetishizing it more and more, while at the same time removing it from its original ethical justification.
    In popular culture, I've seen two different versions of this in the last few decades. One of these is the "slasher flick," which is still about good versus evil, but where the focus is mainly on the evil killer rather than an empowered protagonist. A good subset of the audience may even be watching because, subconsciously, they can identify with the killer, who is usually (like Freddy) the coolest and most memorable character on screen. I think this reached its culmination in Scream, where one of the filmmakers' main goals seemed to be to make the hobby of serial killing look as if it might be a whole lot of fun.
    The other trend has been the overwhelming popularity of the zombie movie, wherein one day you wake up and find out it's just fine to go around dispatching all your former neighbors and friends because, hey, zombies.
    So now we come around to The Hunger Games, where the only moral (and again, I'm just relying on wikipedia for my knowledge of this) seems to be "If it comes down to a choice of killing or being killed, you should try to be the best killer you can be." For anyone who has ever fantasized about putting an arrow through that bully in algebra class — here's a framework where you can imagine thousands of people cheering you on while you do it! Doesn't it bother any of you that the violence seems to be seen as okay because it's approved by a higher authority — considering the fact that this is the same argument that organized religion always uses?
    So again, somebody tell me — is there any redeeming value to this book, or is it just the Murder Fantasy that it appears to be? And should we really be trying to empower girls, if what we're empowering them to be is the next generation of Harrises and Klebolds?

    • Avatar of schleprock

      Strange that it seems to be falling to me (middle-aged married white dude) to defend the books, but here goes. Kudos to you for doing due diligence before letting your daughter read the books, but while you were obviously able to suss out the major plot points from wiki I don't think you can understand the tone/slant of the books without actually reading them. For me, anyway, the books aren't a celebration of violence any more than "Huckleberry Finn" is a celebration of racism & slavery and "Schindler's List" is a celebration of Nazism & the Holocaust (not saying THG has the same literary merit of those other works, of course). The people cheering on the violence are the citizens of the Capitol, and the reader is supposed to DESPISE them, not identify with them. The violence is most decidedly NOT seen as okay because it's approved by a higher authority, because that higher authority is depicted as cruel, corrupt, decadent, evil, reprehensible, etc. If you really want to get a feel for the books I highly recommend biting the bullet and checking THG out of the library (it's not a particularly long read). Maybe (probably?) you'll have a different take on the book than I do, but you will certainly have a stronger basis for your opinion.

    • Avatar of DrMcCoy

      I can't say much about The Hunger Games, but you completely misunderstand the message of The Running Man. The movie (and the book it's based on; as well as "Das Millionenspiel" and the short story "The Prize of Peril") does not glorify the whole deal. It's a dystopia. The concept is /meant/ to horrify you; it's a critique against certain parts of the current society. And from what I hear about The Hunger Games, that applies there too.
      Just like 1984 is not an instruction manual.

      • Avatar of ihatemusic

        Exactly. The thing that made Hunger Games great for me was the 1984-esque shiver it sends down my back, like all good dystopian novels do. 

    • Avatar of Heina Dadabhoy

      I don't know if we read the same books, really. The message is far more complex and nuanced than "kill the bully." It is clear from beginning to end that the real enemy is greed and lust for violence, not the people Katniss kills on her quest to win.

    • Avatar of nickbii

      The whole point of a dystopian nightmare is that there isn't a good guy/bad guy dynamic. You aren't enjoying it when most of the 'bad guys' get killed because most of the bad guys aren't bad guys, they're just the poor schmucks the author decided not to make into heroes.<p>
      The point of Katniss killing some kid whose only crime was losing the same damn lottery Katniss lost , is to show that the entire system Katniss lives in is evil. It's critiqueing elements of contemperary culture that mimic the system — Reality TV is the obvious one, as a leftist I'd include income inequality, but there are almost certainly a half-dozen other things I haven't thought of — and setting up later books where Katniss challenges the entire system. <p>
      And if you wanna get technical the 'murder porn' you speak of is actually a lot worse in older entertainment where there are good guys and bad guys. The whole point of Errol Flynn or Luke Skywalker mowing down a couple dozen mooks is that the mooks deserved it, and therefore you should enjoy watching them get killed in an extremely cool way.

    • Avatar of punchdrunk

      <i>Lord of the Flies</i>, <i>Catcher in the Rye</i>, even <i>A Clockwork Orange</i> are books that I read as a youth, so I don't know why you think nihilistic or dystopian fiction is a new thing. Maybe stick to fables if you need a clearly moralistic narrative.

    • Avatar of jtradke

      where the only moral…seems to be "If it comes down to a choice of killing or being killed, you should try to be the best killer you can be."

      Well, this is completely, utterly false, for a start.

       (and again, I'm just relying on wikipedia for my knowledge of this) 

      Oh, gee, I think I may know the problem is here. You've also clearly entirely unfamiliar with any zombie fiction. If you're going to critique a piece of literature, and furthermore hold it up as a piece of evidence in a condemnation of modern society, it may help to actually read/watch that literature and attempt, at the very least, a good-faith effort to dig deeper than the surface to see if the author's intent is more than just the glorification of violence.

    • Avatar of Luarien

      Even though there are a lot of good responses to this already I just couldn't hold my tongue.
      First, you didn't read the books. You sussed out plot points and tried to figure out what the books' message was but you had no context, no narrative understanding, and no frame of reference for the story elements. You can pick out individual plot points from any story and weave them into some kind of awful nighmare that kids shouldn't read or have access to. There's a reason, though, that stories with these elements are part of the vernacular of education. There's a reason that school children still read The Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye. It has nothing to do with how nice or charming the books are. It has everything to do with the fact that there's a powerful message in the stories that is portrayed through shocking scenes, sometimes violent scenes, to hammer points home. Just like The Hunger Games.
      The Hunger Games is about war, economic oppression, and the price of rebellion. It's about the horrors of war that everyone, on all sides of a war, experience when it happens. It's about the wage of blood that everyone and everything is forced to pay when violence becomes the only rational solution. Part of what makes that 'rational solution' come down to violence is the fact that they've been sending teenagers into an arena to kill each other for entertainment for over seventy years when the book opens. 
      Now, I'd like to touch on your misunderstanding of tropes for a minute here. Star Wars isn't a Romance. Star Wars is a classic fantasy/myth cycle. It's The Hero's Journey. Down to Boy From Farm Gets Magic Sword, Finds Out Evil King Is Related. Romance stories are almost always driven by the Protagonist being a Savior of some kind, being the element that rescues the reader and the primary McGuffin from boredom and dignity. Likewise, slasher films do not glorify murder they punish hedonism.The point of Jason is to show that the teens who have sex are killed by it, the drug users are killed by it (and, for some reason, being black is also a punishable offense in the magical allegory world of Friday the 13th). Zombie movies aren't about killing your neighbors, they're about finding yourself trapped in a world that is actively trying to kill you and not being able to trust anyone you love.
      Film is a metaphorical, and allegorical, medium. Literature is a metaphorical, and allegorical, medium. They always have been. In order to get anything out of what you're reading you're going to have to dig a little deeper, right now you don't seem to understand the stories you're talking about at all.

    • Avatar of lofgren

      I heard about this book called Basketbal Diaries that is all about how awesome sweet, sweet heroin is and the totally cool experience of giving blowjobs in public toilets for $15 so you don't suffer debilitating withdrawl or be forced to acknowledge the hellish reality you live in.

  9. Avatar of davew

    Who cares how movies are marketed? I've learned movie trailers are the worst way to evaluate movies in advance. They show too much of the information I don't want and too little of the information I do want. The only time I watch trailers any more is for movies I have no intention of seeing so I can find out how they end.
     

    • Avatar of Heina Dadabhoy

      It's great that you don't care, but plenty of people are influenced by marketing. That's why I care.

      • Avatar of scribe999

        Additionally, Disney had issues when they were putting together 'John Carter'. One of the rumored rejected title options was "A Princess of Mars", which was the title of the book most of the movie was based on from what I understand. The rumor has it that some exec didn't think males (18-34 of course) would cotton to the word 'Princess'.

        BTW, I just saw The Hunger Games, and I enjoyed it.

        • Avatar of lofgren

          I like movies with strong female protagonists and I plan to see John Carter of Mars, but I definitely have bad associations with the word "princess." If I had been an exec planning this release I would have definitely axed the word from the title. It also gives the impression that the main character is the princess, not John Carter, which is just false advertising. (In the time and place that the original stories were published, the audience would have assumed that the Princes of Mars is somebody the main character gets to bang, not the main character herself. I think that assumption is less warranted today, even in an action movie.)

  10. Avatar of Masala Skeptic

    I had just read the first of the books and I enjoyed the movie. I did come away a little unhappy with what seemed to honestly be a 'dumbing down' of the male characters. Peeta and Gale are obviously not the protagonists in the movie but in the books they (particularly Peeta) are way smarter and more aware of the 'game' element of what is going on.

    I love Katniss' character across the board but do we have to sacrifice the strong characters of the boys to make her shine? The movie seemed to do that; the book did not. (I'm only half way through book 2 FWIW). It felt like in order to make her the bad ass, they felt they had to make the boys weaker, as if to make a strong woman in front of strong men would be less palatable or believable…?

    • Avatar of Luarien

      I think part of the problem with Peeta and Gale's characters in the movie is story compression. There just wasn't as much space for analyzation to happen in the movie and we're not getting Katniss' internal dialogue about everyone around her.
      There's also the lack of space/time to build up Katniss' living situation in District 12, so we don't have a good understanding of the world she's coming from.

      • Avatar of Masala Skeptic

        I'd buy into the storyline compression excuse if they hadn't spent so much time getting so many other aspects of the story right and in line with the book. I think they made choices as to what to focus on and I find it interesting that they chose to focus less on the storyline of the two 'love interests' in Katniss' life.

        • Avatar of lofgren

          The love story was a minimal part of the first book compared to the second anyway. But I didn't think that Peeta felt dumbed down. He immediately cottons Haymitch's advice and begins playing to the crowd as soon as they pull into the Capitol station, just like in the book.

        • Avatar of Luarien

          A lot of those things, too, are part of Katniss' story. Some of the shuffling of scenes (like how we don't get introduced to Peeta the same way in the movie as we do in the books) feel like it's for the sake of narrative flow and the compression of the movie format, rather than a shortchanging specifically of the characters.
          And, as it was mentioned, the love interests (if you can really call them that given the narrative) aren't really important until the second book. Before then it's internal conflict with Katniss and how she doesn't really understand how she feels about Gale before the things with Peeta start changing how she sees him.
          I think it's kind of refreshing, though, to not staple a love interest to her to legitimize her participation. Simultaneously, the movie did a good job of digging into Hollywood/media culture by making it an important plot point that Haymitch was encouaging Katniss to staple herself to Peeta for the reactions in the audience.
          The anti-propaganda angle comes out really, really strong.

  11. Avatar of lofgren

     
    I think Katniss is very much like a teenage girl (or boy) living in our world and our time. She has control over some aspects of her life, but little over others. She tries to do what she can with what she has. In other ways she is less like her target audience. Hunger and desperation have sharpened her will to live to a razor fine edge. I believe that she only resorted to the suicide ploy because of her respect for Peeta, whose goodness made her feel guilt and shame for her own ruthlessness. Remember that her first instinct upon hearing that the rules had been reverted was to reach for an arrow and shoot Peeta. If she had not used her last to kill Cato, Peeta would have been dead before she even had a chance to think about what she was doing. Even her "attempted suicide" was a ploy to survive and to save Peeta, or at least give a hearty "fuck you" to the capitol on her way out.
    Katniss is not the kind of character who makes plans. She is the kind of character who solves the fucking problem right the fuck now and then dwells on it later. She hasn't had a life that afforded her the luxury of thinking ahead, which is why she is so inept at it. You could view this as a weakness, and it definitely becomes one in the second book when she finds herself excluded from the long-term plans of Haymitch and Peeta. But Peeta (and Katniss' mother, and her sister) wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Katniss' conditioning and decisiveness. I think the book does a very good job of showing the virtues of both types of approach to the world. It takes Peeta and Haymitch's thoughtfulness and social adeptness to change the world, but it takes Katniss' focus, determination, and sheer hardcore badassitude to get the job done. Haymitch plans. Peeta talks. Katniss (and Gale) do.
     
    I've seen other people on the internet complaining that she comes across as a dumb broad because Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch are constantly explaining her own feelings to her. But that's not surprising. Much of her internal monologue in the books is spent contemplating whether feelings are a weakness she can afford. Prim and her mother both feel very deeply, and she resents her mother for it and knows that Prim could never feed herself because of the depth of her feelings. Until she went to the Hunger Games, the only avenue of rebellion afforded her was to never fall in love, never marry, and never have children to be reaped. Of course she has to have her feelings explained to her. She is so deep in denial that she describes herself as "hating music" and it takes Rue's death to make Katniss realize that she doesn't hate music, it just makes her sad because it reminds her of her father.
     
    I love Katniss' character. I did go through a phase when I was 13-18 or so when I found female protagonists difficult to relate to. I think that women seemed so mysterious and powerful (hormones, you know) that I had a hard time seeing the world through their eyes. Before that, as a kid, I enjoyed books with female protagonists and now, as an adult, I really don't care about the gender of the main character at all. But there was definitely a stage of my life when I thought that I wasn't interested in books with female heroes. I have always wondered if other people had this experience. (Unfortunately that is the target demographic for the movie.)

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