Category Archives: Katniss Everdeen

Turning women into sex objects removes their humanity

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Black Widow in her catsuit.

Women are not sex objects. Their role in a quality story is not to fulfill a male fantasy or act as eye candy.

Sex sells. This is no secret. When creating a marketing scheme for a product or outline for a commercial, advertisers must look at their demographic and combine it with what research shows will capture that demographics’ attention. Axe product commercials show women fawning over a man because he is wearing their products. It doesn’t matter how they feel or if they even want the man, the aroma he gives off automatically makes him desirable—if you believe the commercials.

Even products for women objectify their customer base. Victoria’s Secret commercials show their models prancing around looking like sex goddess. Viewing this does not make me want to buy their products nor does it empower me. Gatorade is more affective at empowering women by showing a healthy mix of female athletes along with male athletes.

Over the past several days, various blogs and websites have been discussing women in Star Wars and Black Widow in The Avengers. As with most conversations about women and gender, the issue of the over sexualization of women appears.

Just as children are told from a very young age, what matters is on the inside of a person. I believe that the majority does not want to read a Star Wars novel with a flighty, driven by carnal desires, flimsy woman who bows to every whim of the man she’s with because she is so overcome with lust over his manliness that she can’t see straight. Paragraphs and sentences speaking of how tight and low-cut her shirt is, how large her breasts are or how hot and bothered her mere appearance makes the men in the room isn’t the storytelling we want in our fandom.

In The Avengers, Black Widow fights in a slinky black dress at the beginning. Later on, she wears a catsuit, just like Agent Maria Hill. Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers wear normal clothes at some point and their costumes are not sexualized. Scarlett Johansson’s tight catsuit doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. It puts her character in a box that no matter how great she is, she can’t break free from if she’s treated this way.

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Leia captivated audiences from the start by her character.

The issue is beyond Star Wars and The Avengers. It encompasses our everyday lives. Sexual messages and behaviors are showing up younger and younger. Take a walk through the girls’ department at any clothing store. You will see shirts with cutouts in all the wrong places, low-cut necklines, short skirts and other inappropriate attire. The shoe department is just as bad. You can find heels higher than two inches made for seven-year-olds. No such problems exist in the boys’ department.

Sex finds its way into children’s shows through references and dialogue. The child may not understand it at first, but she will catch on eventually. All it takes is one child to ask another at school what it meant. The real meaning of the joke or comment will be known in minutes. Re-watching the shows we used to love as children review so much that we missed.

From a young age, women are told that we must be desirable to men. “Don’t get dirty. The boys won’t like you.” We are constantly assaulted with images of the ideal woman, of the way we should act to gain the approval of a man. We’re told to “man up” or “grow a pair” when something seems tough. These types of comments teach young girls and boys that men are, by default, tougher, stronger and superior to women and that the only way a women can compete is to act as a man.

The Hunger Games books and the movie smashed through the bestseller lists and box office. It is concrete, undisputable proof that a good quality female lead can sell. Katniss wasn’t a sex symbol. In close ups, viewers can see her facial imperfections. Capitol’s ways of transforming the tributes is seen as bizarre and unnatural. People didn’t feel for Katniss because of her appearance. It was her characterization and her story that drove her into our hearts.

Sex is a fact of life. It’s not offensive if one character considers another attractive. It’s becomes offensive when the woman’s only purpose to the story is to be a sex object. An object is not a person; it is an item. Calling someone a sex object removes her humanity.

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Katniss isn’t loved because she’s a sex symbol.

The constant claims that women are only sex objects hurt everyone. The issue is in the hands of consumers. Stop responding favorably to sexualization. Companies respond to losses of profit. The reason so many gossip magazine exist is that they sell well. The more issues that sell, the more appealing the publication is to advertisers, thus more money the publishing company makes. If the market for gossip magazines fell, less would hit newsstands. It’s the same with sexualization. By not protesting it, it will never stop.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, female characters, female geekdom, feminism, Katniss Everdeen, Princess Leia, The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Where do we go from here?

ImageThe massive success of The Hunger Games film created a unique situation for the movie, book, comic and video game industries. A good female lead can bring in the average consumer. The question now is what to do with that information.

It’d be far too easy to consider Katniss as a fluke, one time heroine. Unfortunately, should a string of movies hit theaters boasting a good female lead fail, the achievements of The Hunger Games could be cast aside by some critics. The reality is that not every female lead will connect with audiences. Just as their male counterparts, some will miss the target. A woman character is judged differently than a male. How many times is a grand romantic gesture seen as touching for a man to do, yet if a woman does it, it’s weak? The man searching for the woman he loves seems noble where as a woman appears pathetic.

The other, more desirable, alternative is that we will see more female leads worthy of being grouped with Katniss. These heroines don’t need to be purely action-oriented. Think about the great male characters that aren’t fighting to save their family, friends, home or self during the entire piece. Forest Gump fought for his country and saved his friends, yet those actions are only part of what made him a hero. His non-combative actions are worthy of the label heroic. The ability to shoot straight or fight to the death does not mean a person is a hero.

Is a woman staying at home to tend to the family and work in the factory while her husband fights overseas any less of a hero? Would a movie featuring this role be received well? I’d like to say yes, but realistically the answer is no. That said, if the roles were reversed, the man would seem a hero.

ImageThe appeal of The Hunger Games is not based on Katniss being a woman; it’s her personal journey, story and self. The thousands who saw this movie didn’t do it only because the main character was a woman. Throwing a person into a situation with a flimsy personality and no real self-worth doesn’t work. When writing a character, gender is important. It’s impossible to erase gender from a person. With various groups working to eliminate gender roles from children by forbidding the use of certain pronouns and limitations on play, it feels as if gender has become something to be ashamed. How many children aren’t allowed to play with a particular toy just because it can be construed as belonging to a particular stereotype?

Gender plays a major role in the development of a person, from the obvious physical characteristics to the more complex psychological. Insinuating that only men have “the balls” to act bravely or that a woman must “think like a man” to succeed sends the entire fight back 150 years. Turning everyone into one androgynous gender isn’t a solution.

That is not what needs done to create a good female lead. While some roles can fit either a man or woman, drafting a male character but changing it to female just for the sake of using a woman is a cheap ploy.

Creators need to take the time to look at why Katniss connects with so many people. Katniss is a different type of heroine that can’t be limited by the current categories. She’s not the same as heroes before. If she was, she wouldn’t be nearly as popular.

The literary and film success of The Hunger Games provides the ideal springboard to launch more female-driven entertainment. The pressure is on for the creation and publicizing of viable female leads.  Ignoring the opportunity will only limit what we see in the future.

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Few movies manage to capture to true essence of a book. Fortunately, for fans, The Hunger Games succeeded where films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Eragon failed. There were changes, as expected, but not ones that were detrimental to the feeling of the story.

Immediately fans see how terrified Primrose Everdeen, the main character Katniss’s sister, is of the reaping that day. It’s clear from the beginning how much Katniss cares for her sister—and how emotionally distant she is from her mother. This scene sets the feel for the rest of the film beautifully.

The casting choices for The Hunger Games fit perfectly. Willow Shields broke hearts as young Prim. Woody Harrelson captured Haymitch perfectly—and hilariously. Josh Hutcherson portrayed Peeta’s feelings towards Katniss and his own life in a moving, meaningful way. The spirit and soul of Katniss comes out brilliantly through Jennifer Lawrence.  Each cast member brought his character to life in a believable, fitting fashion.

The addition of scenes not from the books didn’t detract from the story; they enhanced it and set up for Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The scenes with President Snow brought chills to the skin while the moments in the Gamemakers room contained a mixture of horror and fascination. The ones orchestrating the obstacles in the area seemed proud of sending children to their deaths. The technology, though, is quite interesting to see. Think Iron Man’s computer system.

As with any adaptation, some scenes don’t make the cut while others face alterations. The only real complaint in this department is that if a person hasn’t read the book, she may find herself confused on a few points. Fortunately, through the role of Caesar Flickerman, there’s some explanation throughout the Games. It’s almost like sports commentary. It’s easy to miss details like who Foxface is, that Peeta and Katniss trained together at first and that Haymitch was a former tribute.

As expected, the movie contains dozens of incidents of violence. Through shaky camera work and angled shots, viewers see what happens without it being gratuitous. The shaking shots can make viewers a bit dizzy or disorientated, so this is definitely not a movie to watch up close. The amount of blood is enough to make the point without taking it too far. There’s a certain feeling of wrongness accompanied with watching children fight to the death; a feeling present in the books and that fans should never lose. Director Gary Ross captured the horror in an effective method.

Because of the extreme violence and emotionally gripping scenes, The Hunger Games is somewhat hard to watch. From the moment when Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place to the trials in the area, it’s impossible to remain completely calm. Be prepared for tears, laughter and anxiety. It’s difficult to watch characters die, especially ones that worm their way into the hearts of fans without us realizing it. It’s worth it, though.

The Hunger Games is a must-see not only for fans of the book, but the general public. Katniss Everdeen is a true heroine, one that we can all admire. If the box office numbers tells us anything, it’s that the a movie lead by such a fantastic character with an amazing story can and will take the world by storm.

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The Hunger Games: The power of marketing

Marketing is a powerful tool. Lionsgate is releasing a steady stream of pictures, videos, trailers, interviews and other medium for The Hunger Games. As with many movies, it started small. The occasional pictures, the short teaser trailer. Then they launched a website that allowed fans to find out what district they’d reside. The official Facebook page and Twitter feed posted pictures, often coupled with quotes from the book. Theatrical trailers hit movies theaters and the internet. Books and magazines further pull people into The Hunger Games.

Hunger Games merchandise is all over the internet and creeping into stores. Companion books, the mockingjay pin and posters are pretty easy to find. For those who want something a little more, online is the best avenue.

But how much marketing is necessary? There’s no answer to how much a company needs to push a movie. If the movie itself cannot enthrall audiences, millions of dollars in promotions won’t do a bit of good. Take a look at last year’s The Green Lantern. It was impossible to escape those ads. Everywhere people looked; there Ryan Reynolds was in a weird green suit. It needed to make $500 million to fall under the success category. It didn’t even make half that amount. The trailers alone tell viewers to run away.

The Hunger Games benefits from a strong book following. Fans want to see their favorite scenes come to life in accurate, tasteful manner. Each image Lionsgate releases is scrutinized and debated.

Even though countless fans would still see The Hunger Games without the constant clips and images sent their way, would so many be eager to attend midnight screenings or feel as if they had to see it opening weekend? Each snippet makes fans want more. It’s like eating rich chocolate cake; you can’t have just one bite. The more that fans can see, the more they want the whole film.

Without marking, the masses wouldn’t know about a movie. How many people picked up the book because the trailer caught their eye? Social media allows companies to reach even more people than they could before. It also makes it easier to pass around a new image or clip.

Given the number of tickets already sold and the positive reviews, it’s safe to predict that The Hunger Games will be a box office smash. Other films can look at the example when hyping up their own films—provided the content is worth watching.

And there’s no question of the content of The Hunger Games.

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The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark, the boy with the bread

Spoilers for all three books below.

The use of a sword or mastery of a bow and arrow isn’t necessary to fight a successful battle. Peeta Mellark manages to manipulate the Hunger Games without the use of spears, maces or other weaponry. Instead, he uses the mind.

A good love story pulls at the hearts of many. Peeta’s heartfelt revelation of his love for Katniss creates the ultimate helpless situation. There’s no way he can win. (Check out the clip of Peeta telling Caesar here.)

Peeta’s revelation not only creates sympathy for him, but Katniss as well, which was the point. Peeta hold no hope to win the Games. He wants Katniss to survive. Throughout the book, Peeta does various acts to play on the “star-crossed lovers” ploy he cooked up, probably with some advice from Haymitch. It’s not hard to believe that Peeta truly loves Katniss through his actions and words.

Because the story uses Katniss’s point of view, readers don’t know what all Peeta does during the first part of the Games. Capitol replays some of his actions at the end of the book, but not all of them.

Katniss uses her own forms of manipulation on the Capitol crowd, frequently playing off the love story once she figures out that’s what Haymitch wants. During The Hunger Games, Katniss has not realized how she feels about Peeta, aside from feeling as if she owes him and that they have some sort of past connection. It’s easy for readers to put the pieces together, though, to learn before Katniss does.

Peeta’s work on Capitol’s crowd added to the foundation Katniss laid down by her own actions to that point. The two of them fought against Capitol not with the intentions of inciting a rebellion, but to save someone they loved. Neither character believed their actions would stop future Hunger Games from occurring or stop Capitol.

Peeta takes the star-crossed lovers theme one-step further in Catching Fire when he announces that not only did he and Katniss wed already, but also that she is with child. On the surface, this move seems like a cheap shop to top Peeta’s reveal in the first book. It works even though Katniss and Peeta don’t play on the idea constantly throughout the Quarter Quell. The pregnancy claim stirs the hearts of the Capitol citizens once more, possibly forcing them to ask if it’s right to throw a pregnant woman in the area to die. Given how obsessed with the self the citizens are, it’s doubtful.

Because of the rebellion plot occurring, the pregnancy bit doesn’t seem as relevant as a reveal. It’s necessary, however, given how Peeta behaved in the first Games. He must continue to play on his true need to keep the woman he loves alive. As explained later in the trilogy, Katniss and Peeta did not know about what the plan the other allied tributes were following. To drop what Katniss believes is a ruse puts their lives in even greater danger, quite a feat given Katniss and Peeta’s participation in the Quarter Quell. Capitol made it clear with the scores that they want Katniss to die. The convenient use of the previous tributes is another strong indication of this, whether a reader believed that the card actually read what it did or that Capitol changed it.

Peeta’s personality and determination to keep Katniss alive makes him a very likeable character. He doesn’t play the victim, something easy to do in the situation. He shows frustration with everyone, even Katniss, taking away the thought that he is a pushover. One of the best Peeta scenes occurs in Catching Fire when he finds Haymitch and Katniss the morning after the Quarter Quell announcement. He comes up with a strategy and puts the plan into action.

Peeta’s injuries in both Games can make him appear as a hindrance to Katniss. However, Katniss’s caring side had to come out during the Games to remind readers of the type of person Katniss is. Aside from a survivor, she takes care of those she loves.

Capitol’s torturing of Peeta is heartbreaking. To see such a caring individual reduced to madness is hard to endure.  It’s easy to feel anger towards Peeta during the interviews in Mockingjay and his subsequent behavior, but it’s necessary to keep in mind what had happened to him.

Being unable to determine what’s real or not real leads to a terrible existence. The woman he loved would cause pure terror rather than help him recover. His family was dead.

Peeta complements Katniss’s character without becoming a flimsy or transparent person. He maintains a true presence through the trilogy, something not all love interests manage to do. Peeta’s masters of manipulation deserve applause, for he helped beat Capitol at their own game.

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The Hunger Games: Cinna fights with fire and thread

From the moment Katniss describes Cinna’s appearance, it’s obvious that he is a man of subtle skill. Unlike others in Capitol, he hasn’t dyed his hair some crazy color, undergone surgeries to change his appearance or any other odd fashion quirk. He dresses in simple black clothes with gold eyeliner around his dark eyes. From there he continues to surprise Katniss by admitting that he wanted District 12, the least desirable of Panem, and that Katniss must see the beings of Capitol as “despicable.” (p. 64) He doesn’t deny that he is one of them, and yet it’s clear that he knows how wrong Capitol is.

Cinna and Portia, Peeta’s stylist, develop costumes for the parade that allow flames to burn around  Katniss and Peeta without causing injury. The purpose of the costumes is to force everyone to see and remember District 12. The fire theme carries onto the night of the interview in Cinna’s next creation. The prep team transforms Katniss’s hair, skin and nails into complimentary accessories to Cinna’s masterpiece. By using colored gems, the dress appears as if it is on fire. She spins and the flames engulf her, yet she remains unharmed.

Fire commonly accompanies the notion of power. Flames destroy, often uncontrollably. Cinna’s works of art fueled the idea that Katniss can win the Games and will not back down. Her score reflects her skills, but visuals often intimidate more than numbers. Seeing a woman under the illusion that she cannot be harmed by flames plants a seed of doubt in the mind.

Cinna’s costumes would not have worked had Katniss not been who she was. Had she simply given up, not acted as she did during the parade or interview and acted sullen, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well. Throwing a doctor’s coat on a man doesn’t mean he can perform surgery. Cinna’s designs inspired and enhanced Katniss.

Given how important image is to Capitol and its people, the role of the stylist is completely necessary. Molding a person that no one knows into some type of image the crowd will adore is a challenge. The tributes need the crowds to want them to win. Those sponsor gifts can place a tribute in the winner’s circle.

Contains spoilers for the end The Hungers Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The fire theme continued to the end of the book, in Katniss’s Victor’s dress. It’s yellow, made to look innocent. The idea is that it glows like a candle. The innocence is vital after what occurs at the end of the Games. He once again must use clothing to prove a point.

Cinna’s work continues in Catching Fire, first through her “talent” and Victory Tour dresses and later on at the Quarter Quell. Rather than set Katniss on fire again for the parade, he creates an outfit that is designed to look like burning coals. I took it as a display of growing resentment towards the Games. President Snow didn’t allow Cinna to make something for the interview. Instead, Katniss was to wear the wedding dress Capitol had selected for her. Cinna made his mark, though, causing the dress to transform Katniss into a mockingjay when she twirled.

Fortunately, Cinna’s work appeared in Mockingjay in the armor Katniss wore when she fought. It also resembles a mockingjay.

End spoilers.

As with any book to movie conversion, I find myself concerned about some points. One of these is Cinna’s costumes, namely the interview dress. We’ve seen pictures of it. It’s red with a pleat-like bottom that may give the appearance of flames. I hope. It’s such a spectacular dress in the book.

Cinna fights back without weapons or words. It’s artful and cunning. I can’t wait to see his work brought to life.

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Citizens of Capitols: Victims or enablers?

“Mom, why do the Hunger Games happen every year?”

“Didn’t you pay attention in school? The Hunger Games are punishment for that awful rebellion during the Dark Days. District 13 thought they could beat Capitol. Now they’re all dead.”

“But no one from Capitol goes to the Games, right?”

“Oh no, son! We know what great and wonderful things Capitol does for us. Without Capitol, we’d be like wild dogs! Imagine that, your father killing and skinning something for us to eat!”

“That boy from 4 is closing in on the pack and they don’t know it!”

*cheers*

That’s a conversation I imagined between a son and his mother while watching the Hunger Games. While reading the books, the citizens of Capitol seem like idiotic, horrible people. From their excitement over watching the slaughter of District citizens to vomiting in order to enjoy more food, Capitol’s citizens define several of the seven deadly sins. It’s easy to write them off as worthless and evil.

One of the biggest questions I’ve heard others ask about this book is how the people of Capitol can sit and cheer for the Hunger Games. Humans are violent. Countless examples through history and even occurring right now prove the point. Children see violence on cartoons almost immediately. Stemming from that idea are public executions. How many people watched a hanging on YouTube?

 

 Most know the stories of crowds gathering in Place de la Revolution (now Place de la Concorde) in Paris to watch many die by guillotine. The gladiators in ancient Rome are another example. With these events in mind, it’s easy to see why the people of Capitol see the Games as “entertainment.”

Severe propaganda is necessary to maintain the idea that the Games aren’t “wrong” and that the Districts deserve to go through them each year. Countless times have people questioned how a group of people can blindly follow a leader or government when it’s clear that the actions are wrong. One of the clearest explanations of how this can happen is in the book The Wave by Todd Strasser.

In the book, a high school teacher, Mr. Ross, finds that his students don’t understand how the Germans allowed the Nazis and Hitler to do what they did. He creates an experiment to teach the point. He starts out simple by requiring strict discipline and behavior in the classroom. Then he creates a special symbol and a motto for the class. It picks up and the class starts recruiting others to “The Wave.” The movement causes some students to change their appearance, behavior and actions.

 Eventual a student starts to question The Wave publically. Her protest leads to repercussions, specifically violence from her boyfriend. Eventually Mr. Ross realizes what his classroom experiment turned into and calls for the students to gather. He uses an image of Hitler to explain to the students that they proved how the Germans allowed the Nazis rise.

Through Katniss’s descriptions of Capitol citizens, readers see how self-absorbed the people are. The outside appearance is a huge deal. Why else would so many wear what they do and alter their bodies? From this idea, it seems as if Capitol places emphasis on the self. If a person is constantly thinking of himself, odds are he won’t be so inclined to contemplate the suffering of others. The parade of tributes forces the citizens of Capitol to focus on the show rather than the person who is probably going to die soon. Thinking about how a way to mimic the gorgeous District 5 suits fits right into Capitol’s obsession with the self.

 The people of Capitol themselves aren’t naturally evil, though they are guilty for allowing these monstrosities to take place. In the end, they celebrate the Games. Katniss has clear pity and disdain for the citizens. While I agree with her disdain, I can’t say I ever felt pity for them. As easy as they are to ignore for the big picture, they serve as a lesson to readers as to what happens when a group follows a leader blindly.

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