Why We Love The Hunger Games' Katniss (& Why She Kicks Bella's Butt)

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Here at R29, our distaste for weak-willed heroines and female archetypes with zero agency is reasonably well broadcast. So, you can probably imagine our undeniable glee upon first encounter with the often fearless, always thoughtful, and innately iron-willed, but not infallible Katniss Everdeen, in book-to-movie phenomenon The Hunger Games (side note: Are YA authors no longer allowed to even consider optioning movies unless they produce at least a trilogy?).
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At first glance, the "girl on fire" seems so unlike us. Living in a desolate world with a distaste for the show ponies of the Capitol (okay, we get that, but at the same time, Cinna’s gold liner seems kinda fun), she sees the frivolities of fashion as an extension of the excesses of the government that suppresses and starves her family. And she’s right, at least in the horrific context of her story.
(In case you've managed to avoid the books, the Cliff's Notes: A totalitarian government keeps its people in check by sacrificing two kids from each district, and forcing them to fight to the death in a psychologically manipulated arena — on live television. Katniss volunteers to participate in place of her 11-year-old sister, and mayhem ensues.)
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Photos: Courtesy of Lionsgate
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But despite all of that, Katniss Everdeen is our kind of girl. A reluctant heroine, Katniss follows an epic journey to reform the society she lives in, but in a world of propaganda and unthinkable cruelty, she’s no naïf, chasing windmills, looking to singlehandedly topple a regime. Instead, she’s motivated pretty much every time she acts, throughout all three books, by an instinct to protect a loved one. Actually, in that respect, she’s not unlike Twilight’s Bella Swan, who’s been frequently subject to our ire.
The difference between the two, though, is that Katniss is capable. She may enter the fray stubbornly and without thinking at times, but she doesn’t need to be rescued. In fact, whether it’s Prim at a reaping, Peeta in a cave, or her prep team in District 13, it’s most often Katniss who does the rescuing. But, really, none of this is earth-shattering.
For us, the thing that sets Katniss apart is the fact that her inner monologue, while often hesitant, doesn’t make us want to slap our iPads at her head. No really, though. We don’t need our heroines to be invincible. Or even fearless. But we do need our heroines to make thoughtful, heartfelt decisions about their own lives. We love Katniss even when she makes us crazy, perpetually unsure of her own feelings for Peeta and Gale (full disclosure: This writer fell hopelessly for Peeta very, very early in the first book, and never looked back.).
We don’t cringe at the likes of Bella for being unsure about her feelings for Jacob and Edward (aren’t we all unsure about most relationships, until, well, we are sure?). We cringe at her for having no capacity for real analysis. As a narrator, she lets us down time and time again, but Katniss rarely does. Even when we sometimes hate the decisions she’s making, we understand that she’s acting based on the limited information she possesses. And we ache to knock that fourth wall down, every once in a while, but never for the purpose of iPad-hurling.
Photos: Courtesy of Lionsgate
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