Will the Real Katniss Everdeen Please Stand Up? Part 1

We’re back with our Guest Post Tuesday! This time, we’re hearing from Satsuma! She;s got some interesting character analysis of our often misunderstood heroine, Katniss Everdeen!

Take it away, Satsuma!

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You can say that the THG series is about a lot of things. Suzanne Collins might say it’s about war first and foremost, but it’s also about survival, adventure, romance, even psychology. And much like the overall story offers different things to different people, so does its heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Marshall Bruce Mathers III created not just one persona, “Eminem”, but also the “Slim Shady” persona as a spinoff of that. Well, Katniss, along the course of the story, also acquires several different personas. The Girl on Fire. The Star-Crossed Lover. The Mockingjay.

Katniss Everdeen by Shaefellar

by Shaefellar

But it’s not just the name. In my perusal of many Hunger Games fansites, blogs, and discussions, I have found a plethora of different opinions about Katniss. Some hail her as a heroine, a role model, a defender of the innocent. Others find her to be an angry, vengeful girl who’s being a hypocrite when she questions Gale’s ruthless actions. I’ve even seen Katniss described as a sociopath who’s really not much different from her chief antagonist, Snow.

Katniss questions her own identity many times in the books. In THG, when she considers her possible post-Games life as a wealthy Victor, she muses, “What would my life be like on a daily basis? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I’m not really sure who I am, what my identity is. The idea scares me some.”

As she is heading back to District 12 after the Games, she muses some more:

“I excuse myself to change out of my dress and into a plain shirt and pants. As I slowly, thoroughly wash the makeup from my face and put my hair in its braid, I begin transforming back into myself. Katniss Everdeen. A girl who lives in the Seam. Hunts in the woods. Trades in the Hob. I stare in the mirror as I try to remember who I am and who I am not.”

Well, Katniss, you’re not the only one having a hard time remembering who you really are. Many fans have sharply divergent opinions, about a lot of different dimensions of you. There are so many, I can’t fit them all into one post. So here is the first in a series of them!

First question. is Katniss masculine or feminine? For many readers, the first impression of Katniss, is that she is a classic tomboy, more at home in the woods wearing her old father’s hunting jacket, than twirling around in a dress. Many fans see her and Peeta’s relationship as an example of a complete gender role switcheroo. After all, not only does Peeta bake, frost cakes, and is less than skilled in outdoor survival, he actually wants to settle down, have a family, and pop out kids (or would if he could), while Katniss has that stereotypically male Fear of Commitment.

And yet…Katniss is NOT balking on marriage and family because she wants the freedom to bed every eligible male in sight, or is ambitiously focused on a high-profile career. Unlike Peeta, who’s embraced his identity as a baker, Katniss really doesn’t seem to have any vocational goals. So, while Peeta IS a baker, as Katniss tells him in MJ, Katniss is just “a girl who hunts.” Her hunting is a means to survival first and foremost. It may also provide her with a feeling of connection to her father, and to Gale, but she doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much once she’s in D13 and hunting is reduced to recreation.

So what is Katniss’s REAL identity in the pre-Game days? It’s not “Katniss the huntress”, it’s “Katniss the provider for the family”. While that’s still a more traditionally masculine role, nowadays even traditionalist types who think a “woman’s place is in the home”, will grudgingly allow for mothers to work if they “HAVE to” financially, have no choice because the man of the house died or left, or are actually, you know, starving. Which, really, is all Katniss is trying to do, survive for another day. Also, consider what Katniss knew was the alternative to learning to hunt; joining those starving girls lining up at Cray’s door, selling their bodies. Her finding hunting to be a better option, doesn’t mean she had a secret ambition to become the CEO of some fancy company selling wild game to every household in Panem.

Katniss Everdeen hunting The Hunger Games movie Jennifer Lawrence

Taking care of business

And speaking of fancy jobs…a corollary to the idea of Katniss as a masculine figure, is the idea that “Katniss is Gale with tatas”. Is Katniss more similar to Gale, or to Peeta? Even many Everlark shippers assume the former is true, they just use it as an argument as to how Gale and Katniss wouldn’t have worked because they’re TOO similar to each other.

But are they really? It seems to me that Gale always had ambitions to move beyond the confines of D12, while both Katniss and Peeta see D12 as home and are content to return to it at the end. (Now, technically Katniss HAD to return, but I think that she’d have done so even without that part of her “parole agreement”.) Out of the Love Triangle Trio, the only one who winds up putting career before family, is Gale.

As an aside: I think that Peeta hitting it off with the Capitol bakers, and his artistic nature that Katniss teases him about in CF, suggest that he could have survived, even thrived, in the Capitol after the war. (Also, note that cooking and baking as paid professions, as well as the art world, is STILL dominated by men, so Peeta really isn’t being that subversive in his career choices.) If Peeta was interested in personal advancement, returning to D12 was not exactly the best career move. But did anyone doubt he would?

As for Gale, I think that while he did sincerely love Katniss, she wasn’t his true love. His true love was the rebellion, and in both CF and MJ, he lets his commitment to the Cause drive him and Katniss further apart. He also, in canon, shown to have that stereotypically male tendency to Sow His Wild Oats Before Settling Down. I wonder when Gale would have made a move on Katniss if Darius and Peeta hadn’t made him realize that he’s not the only guy who finds Katniss attractive. Would he have continued his reign as King of the Slag Heap, assuming Katniss would be available once he finally got ready to settle down?

Now, you can argue that Katniss takes Peeta for granted just as much as Gale took her for granted, but Katniss wasn’t playing the field. In stark contrast to Gale, Katniss is, as Peeta puts it, “pure”. Also, it’s not the experienced Gale who awakens Katniss’s sexual “hunger”, it’s Peeta. Hmm, a pure woman who only lets her more primal desires be sparked by a man she knows will be around for the long haul and truly loves her, for more than just her body? Seems like the plot of literally a thousand romance novels. Also, note that Katniss is fairly passive in her approach to romance. She’s never the one to make the first move, with either Peeta or Gale. She might not spend as much time obsessing over her love life as, say, Bella Swan, but here she is following some very traditional female tropes.

And BTW, despite a lot of fanfic/art presenting this as fact: Katniss is NOT a horrible cook. At one point in THG, she describes, in great detail, how she’d recreate a Capitol version of Orange Chicken… “Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey. I’d need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange. Goat’s milk would have to substitute for cream. We can grow peas in the garden. I’d have to get wild onions from the woods…” This is NOT the POV of someone who can’t heat up a pot of Greasy Sae’s stew without setting the kitchen on fire! As a Food Network fan, I’d say that while she might not win Next Iron Chef, she doesn’t need pointers from the How to Boil Water crew either. I think she’s at least at the Rachael Ray level, though with a totally different personality, of course.

by palnk

by palnk

And true, Katniss isn’t bubbly and giggly like “Rache”, or Delly. She seems to be more comfortable among boys than girls; not just Peeta and Gale, but Cinna, Finnick, even Haymitch. But she does have a close relationship with the more stereotypically feminine Prim, bonds with Rue, and winds up befriending Madge and Johanna (two very different women, other than being fan favorites to pair up with Gale), as well.

Unfortunately, Katniss not being a stereotypical female in some (though NOT all) respects, has led to her being harshly judged by many fans for not following the Stand By Your Man routine when Peeta’s hijacked. She’s also judged for not forgiving Gale for his part in Prim’s death. Because, of course, women are all supposed to be unconditionally loving, forgiving, and Emotionally Supportive, as opposed to those stone-faced males who have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon (and if you didn’t get that reference, I urge you to read the Harry Potter books again, and if you haven’t yet…PLEASE DO!)

Well, I actually thought it refreshing that Katniss is presented as a believable female character who often has trouble understanding her own feelings, much less expressing them verbally. Because there are times when I find myself in similar situations, and I don’t think this makes *me* less feminine. Yes, for those who don’t know me, I do happen to be a woman, who also has some non-traditionally female interests like baseball and football, but I certainly don’t think that makes me “masculine”, either.

That’s it for now. Part 2 will delve into “Is Katniss a compassionate person, or not?” “Is Katniss a static or dynamic character?” I’ll also return to the topic of how similar she REALLY is to Gale. I think that answering those questions also helps answer that very controversial one of why Katniss voted the way she did in that pivotal scene toward the end of MJ.

Stay tuned!
Satsuma

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18 comments

  1. Personally, I’ve never subscribed to the “Katniss is a guy in disguise, and Peeta is a girl in mufti” theory. Even in our own, settled world, such gender stereotypes are fast dying, and in a tough environment like The Seam (or any of the districts for that matter) no girl can afford to be a Barbie-doll.

    I see Katniss, with her urge to protect the weak, help children, and yet be willing to do what it takes to survive as a perfect embodiment of what a female should be. Diana the Huntress/Artemis, if you’re seeking an archetype. And Peeta is no sissy, either. He’s badass enough to have the Careers accept him as part of their team, happy to take a beating to feed a hungry girl, strong enough to hurl bags of flour around, and he’s survived TWO Hunger Games and fought in a war… that enough machismo for you?

    Loved this article, and not just because I agreed with it :^)

    1. Considering how much Collins refers to Roman myths and history, I am sure Diana the Huntress was in her mind as she developed Katniss’ character.

  2. Great article, very interesting topic. Katniss is a pretty complicated character who can’t really be boiled down to one or two nicknames.

    Also, where does it say that Gale put career before family? He couldn’t move back to District 12 because of Katniss so he took a job in 2. There’s no mention of his family or where they ended up, but you can guarantee that he was still providing for them.

  3. Satsuma, bravo! A brilliant elucidation of Katniss’ character!

    I really like how you started with the fact that Katniss’ has these different personas — to herself, to the Capitol audience, to the rebellion — and Collin’s has even named them for us. Thank you for including those two quotes, which I think crystallize Katniss’ own struggle with her identity perfectly.

    I think that you’ve made some really good points, especially that Katniss and Peeta would have chosen to return to District 12 anyway whether or not it was part of her “sentence” for killing Coin. But most of all, I appreciate you clarifying a few things about Gale that have bothered me in the past, but I could never put my finger on: that Gale’s true love was “The Rebellion” not Katniss, and that Gale may have put his Career before family. Not that I think that Gale would let his family starve, but it does seem like he just moved on to District 2 where he could kick some more Panem butt. Not sure if Hazelle and kids went with him, or they stayed in District 13 or what. Do you know… I can’t remember if Hazelle is ever mentioned again in Mockingjay or not? If she didn’t go back to District 12, then I bet Haymitch’s house is pretty dirty by the time we get to the “I hunt. Peeta bakes. Haymitch watches geese when he’s sober” part!

    You’ve also posed a great Gale question: would Gale have even noticed Katniss in an attraction way if Darius and then Peeta hadn’t? If Panem had gone on business as usual and Katniss had never been reaped, then I think it is conceivable that Gale would have kept playing the field and Katniss continued to focus on providing for her family for quite some time. However, Katniss, at one point, wonders if they would have gotten married or if they would have fallen apart eventually. If I remember correctly, she has started to feel the cracks in her relationship with Gale… they are starting to show more differences than similarities at that point. You are probably going to address that in your next post.

    As far as your question as to whether Katniss is masculine or feminine, isn’t any answer going to be purely opinion since there is no way to “quantify” femininity? But I like how you’ve broken it down into various aspects of “femininity”. Katniss is certainly not the “typical” girl. Not only is she not bubbly and giggly, but she is absolutely awful when she tries to be! And I, like you, love her character more for it!

    Men, in general, are not as good with verbalizing their feelings as women. But I agree that this particular aspect doesn’t make Katniss less feminine, just less typical. Just as Peeta being good with words, and better at expressing his feelings, doesn’t make him a “girly man”. They are just opposite in this area… and as we know, opposites attract!

    Can’t wait for Part 2…

  4. Fantastic analysis, can’t wait to read more.

    I think what I value most about the character of Katniss is how Collins made her a person first and female second. The obsessing over her femininity, or supposed lack of it, likely comes from this being so rare in literature. People are used to complex male characters–female characters, not so much. They usually embody some simplistic female archetype. Katniss shatters a lot of these archetypes.

    1. Hi Debbie thanks for the compliment! Though you can refer to my long reply to TTB for more about Katniss and gender stereotypes, your comment on archetypes made me think, perhaps this is one reasons some readers were disappointed about Katniss having kids, that they’d built her up into this archetype of the Diana/Artemis figure, the “pure” warrior woman, armed with a bow, who’s vowed never to marry or have children.

      But while I think SC was evoking this archetype to some extent, she also shows Katniss to deviate from it, when she assumes the caretaker role for Prim and Gale’s siblings, and later seems to “adopt” Rue as another “younger sibling/surrogate child”. She also feels “empowered”, not disgusted, by Peeta’s story about her being pregnant. She also shows insight, as she tries to process what Peeta’s said, as to WHY she doesn’t want marriage and kids:

      “Isn’t it the thing I dreaded most about the wedding, about the future—the loss of my children to the Games? And it could be true now, couldn’t it? If I hadn’t spent my life building up layers of defenses until I recoil at even the suggestion of marriage or a family?”

      As far as I know, this was not the reasoning for why Artemis didn’t want to get married or have kids! Katniss doesn’t see domestic life as oppressive by any means, it’s not that she doesn’t want it, she’s afraid to achieve it, only to have it torn away from her at the end. A fear she still has at the end of MJ, though only on “bad mornings”; and if she bothers to point out the bad mornings, she must have good ones as well.

      1. That’s exactly what I mean about “shattering” archetypes. She’s IS an Diana/Artemis figure–and yet there are aspects to her nature that contradict the archetype, such as how she loves children and has no real aversion to having them, only a fear of losing them in the arena. Great characters are full of contradictions. We’re just more used to male characters with contradictions than female characters.

  5. Great essay.

    I don’t see the Katniss/Peeta relationship as “gender-flipped” entirely and I certainly don’t think that she’s “masculine” or that he’s “feminine”, but I do think that they both challenge and subvert some of the widespread gender stereotypes. And it’s not just them – Collins casts other characters in roles not typically given to their gender in fiction (e.g. Finnick – which, again, doesn’t make Finnick “feminine”) and portrays a world in which many gender stereotypes we know have seized to exist, which doesn’t mean that it’s a perfectly gender-equal society, but that those gender roles and stereotypes are, by their nature, arbitrary and temporary rather than somehow ingrained in human nature, or whatever some people will have you believe. My stance on this is therefore twofold: I do think there’s a subversion of gender stereotypes in THG, which I think is great. (I’ve seen some of my feminist friends on LJ praise the subversion of gender stereotypes, I’ve come across one article from a right-wing evangelist Christian website that was “warning” people of the “dangers” of THG teaching kids that it’s attractive and good for girls to be tough and fight and for the boys to be sweet and gentle, and how this goes against the roles that God intended for men and women – I found it not only hilarious, since the author seemed to be serious, but I also saw it a huge compliment to THG. 🙂 ) But the thing to remember is that those “gender” roles and stereotypes are constructed, and often short-lasting, and that, while Katniss may embody some “masculine” traits while Peeta may embody some “feminine” ones, this only means that these traits are often culturally classified that way, not that those traits are actually connected to people’s sex or gender. It’s not about Katniss being “masculine” or Peeta being “feminine”, but rather about them presenting models of femininity and masculinity, respectively, that are different from the most widespread cultural models out there.

    And furthermore, like you pointed out, Katniss does have some very traditionally or stereotypically “feminine” traits as well. (Though maybe not so many of the “girly” traits.) Certainly the way she only feels sexual desire when in love and affected by strong emotions, is a very stereotypical feminine trait (which I don’t mean in a bad way; I actually relate to that a lot, this particular stereotype is not without basis in reality, though there are of course many women who don’t fit it at all). Gale certainly sees Katniss’ erotic passion for Peeta as a sign of her true feelings, and so does Peeta when he’s not doubting the truthfulness of it (which I don’t think he did before hijacking screwed with his memories and made him additionally insecure), and it seems to help Katniss with her romantic epiphanies, including her final realization that Peeta was always what she needed, which she apparently realizes when she feels the “hunger” again. People are usually not that ready to base their judgement on a man’s love for someone on his sexual feelings for them. And while a teenage boy character would not be deemed unusual for not wanting romance, the same would not be the case with a teenage boy character who so rarely showed an interest in sex.

    On one hand, one may see Katniss as a traditional male who’s good with physical action but falls apart without his girlfriend’s/wife’s emotional support. But the way she enjoys resting her head on Peeta’s chest and feels safe sleeping with his strong arms around her is very feminine. maybe even “girly”. 😉

    Like you point out, bakers are traditionally men, as with most paid jobs, so that doesn’t actually make Peeta “feminine”. Katniss and Peeta with their different backgrounds do symbolically represent the oppositions, but not between genders, but between wilderness and society: hunting and gathering vs baking, woods vs town, a reliance on physical action vs a world of words, social interaction, art.

    The disappointment and even outrage that some of the readers have expressed at Katniss “settling down” and having children seems to come from wanting to make her a role model for women who don’t want a partner and children – but while it’s nice to have such a role model, that’s not who Katniss was. Her rejection of the idea of children was always mostly about her fear of the Games and the overall situation in Panem, and also partly about her insecurities about her own ability to be a mother – as well as her fear of losing loved ones, which I think stems from her father’s death (and her mother’s depression and emotional withdrawal, which IMO was the underlying reason for her reluctance about romance and marriage.) But she was always a family-oriented person, and she was for a long time virtually a surrogate mother to Prim. It’s just that her family changed from “Prim and mother” to “Peeta and the children” in the MJ epilogue.

    You’re right that Katniss is, during most of the narrative, in the traditional female role as the object of affection pursued by men. But I disagree that she’s always passive and never makes the first move. When it comes to physical intimacy with Peeta (whether it’s hugs and cuddling or kisses and the passionate making out), she is pretty much always the initiator. This is because Peeta has declared his feelings for her verbally to begin with, but throughout the first two books either isn’t sure of her feelings or believes that she is only faking any romantic feelings for him, and therefore understandably wouldn’t want to make physical moves on her, though he continues to verbally express his feelings; and also because Katniss is far more comfortable with expressing her feelings physically.

    A lot of the feeling that Katniss is “like a male hero” is just down to the fact that Katniss is the protagonist and hero(ine) of a narrative about revolution and war, who’s the real center and POV of her narrative and is complex and flawed and has several aspects to her story (politics, family, romance…) and complicated relationships with many other people, all those things that are more common with male fictional heroes. As Debbie points out, female characters are often not much more than a simplistic archetype. For instance, the great controversy about how much romance is or isn’t important in the trilogy would never happen if the protagonist was male; nobody sees anything wrong with male heroes having love interests and feels no need to either promote the movie/book as a romance story, or try to diminish the importance of romance to the story. Romance played a big role in “Casino Royale” and its sequel (I haven’t seen the latest Bond movie so I don’t know about that one) and in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but you didn’t see magazine titles about which one of Bruce’s love interests is the one you want him to be with, or, on the other hand people whining on Youtube that they don’t want to see The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises if there is “girly crap” there like love triangles.

    Someone once said that the romantic story of the trilogy essentially fits the traditional narrative mold of “boy meets girl; boy falls for the girl; boy loses girl; boy gets the girl back” but with Katniss as “the boy”. I loved that – which I don’t think means that Katniss is “boyish” or that Peeta is “girly”, but that the story is really centered around Katniss and her feelings, the way it usually is around a male protagonist – as opposed to the more male-centered narrative that “Team Peeta/Team Gale” implies, one that’s about guys and a supposed competition over “getting the girl”, with the heroine as not much more than a trophy. (This is something that the fandoms and the media often do, even when the actual stories are not like that.)

    I also think that Katniss is harshly judged by many because she doesn’t conform to some ideas what women, particularly fictional heroines, are *supposed* to be like – rather than because she’s different from what women *are* like; but, on the other hand, the same behavior and character traits would be praised in a man. If a male was doing the same things Katniss does for people she loves or cares about, and was just as bad with dealing with his feelings and expressing them verbally, I doubt that anyone would be calling him a selfish sociopath or whatnot, he’d be universally lauded as a brave, loving, protective hero. Few people ever thrash male fictional characters for “stringing along” their female love interests (just how many simultaneous love interests and potential love interests did Clark Kent have on Smallville?). And I’ve even seem people say that Katniss blaming herself for the lives of people in D12 is a sign of her “ego”, her making it all about herself and believing it all happened because of her – while the same kind of guilt is praised as noble manpain in every fictional male hero.

  6. I don’t quite agree with some of what you say about Gale, though, or at least I’m not so sure I’d put it like that. I’m neither a fan nor a hater of Gale, but I think that people often simplify his character and motivations to make him into a more stereotypically “masculine” character, whether it’s in the positive or in the negative way. While he does conform to the stereotype in many ways, let’s remember that, for instance, he’s the one character in the books who we’ve seen cry in front of his love interest because of his unrequited love. I know that you and other fans see Gale is the guy one puts career, revolution etc. above family or romance, but that doesn’t quite ring true to me, as he never actually makes such a choice, and there are many occasions that contradict that. I say that as someone who doesn’t think that putting a career or the cause above the personal life is a either a bad or a good thing in itself, and the same goes for the opposite.

    As a matter of fact, one of Gale’s traits I find most irritating is the possessiveness and jealousy he shows when it comes to Katniss. I’ve seen you call Gale mature in his interactions with Katniss, and even more mature than Peeta, something I really disagree with. (For instance, you praised him as mature and strong for not stopping the kisses in District 2, but what was he doing kissing Katniss in that situation in the first place? He already knew what happened with Peeta and how she was feeling about it, and yet he was ready to take advantage of that until he saw how unresponsive to him she really was. Then there’s his jealousy of Finnick – I can see why Katniss had had enough of it at that point.) The first time he really rubbed me the wrong way was the conversation in Catching Fire, when Katniss suggested running away into the woods. You’ve pointed out Peeta’s moment of pettiness in the District 11, “Was this really the only time you kissed Gale?”, and I agree with your thoughts on that, and how it shows Peeta’s complexity as both a noble self-sacrificing character and a jealous teenage boy. But while Peeta’s pettiness in that scene was funny, but not terrible, since he says it *after* a very serious conversation about the unrest in Panem and saving lives and after they’ve resolved the other issues; Gale’s pettiness is really unpleasant, since Katniss is talking about saving lives, and instead he starts angrily interrogating her about her feelings for Peeta and himself and which one she could bear to leave behind. I can understand that he had just had his romantic hopes raised and dashed within a few minutes, but still, he should have realized that his jealousy was not the priority there. One of the posters on Amazon discussions, in a post so old I found it pointless to reply to, simplified this scene, saying that Gale was all for running away into the woods with Katniss before he learned about the rebellion in D8, that this is what changed everything for him, and that this shows that Gale is fully committed to the Cause, while Peeta is supposedly someone who is fully focused on Katniss. But in fact, neither of this is quote true: in the subsequent conversation on running away, Peeta does tell Katniss he would go with her and her family, though he thinks she won’t go, but he also adds that they have to first make sure with Haymitch that they won’t be making things worse for everyone. While Gale’s motives during his argument with Katniss are ambiguous: it’s not clear if he would’ve refused to go just because of the rebellion, if Katniss had returned his ILY or hadn’t told him that Peeta would be going with them; and Katniss herself almost accuses him of being motivated by jealousy rather than the Cause.

    After the Quarter Quell is announced, Gale changes his mind and asks Katniss they could run away into the woods now, before she tells him it’s too late. When push comes to shove, when it’s Katniss life on the line, he is willing to put Katniss above the Cause.

    You say that Gale let the Cause drive him and Katniss apart, I see this as a result of him and Katniss having fundamentally different views. Katniss is as determined when it comes to her own beliefs; and I don’t believe that Peeta is someone who would just do whatever Katniss wanted, say, that would decide that it’s great to start mass-murdering people if Katniss for some reason decided it was a good idea (which she never would, but you catch my drift). We don’t know where his family is at the end of MJ – in D12 or in D2. And at that point, he doesn’t actually have a choice between Katniss or the career, since he seems to have lost all romantic hopes and is aware that his friendship with Katniss can never be the same since she can’t forgive him for Prim’s death. He may also, as Sandy suggests, found it easier to go to 2 and not move back to 12 since it’s easier for him to move on if he’s not close to Katniss.

    (As an aside: where does the idea that Katniss is “banished” to D12 come from? I don’t remember any mention of it in the book. I don’t think she’s even officially banished from the Capitol, it’s just that they would rather have her leave Capitol, but there is no reason to think that she couldn’t decide to go into some other district if she wanted to, since people are now free to move between districts.)

    That said, I do think that Gale got a moderately happy ending, I’d say as happy as he could have hoped for: he got through the war without losing any more of his family and without any permanent physical and psychological damage, and he got a great career that suits him. Gale gets a career, Peeta and Katniss get love and build a family with each other, and it’s fitting for all of them. In any case, I think it’s pointless to muse over who or what is the True Love or a character who was 19/20 year old the last time we hear anything about him, and who probably went on to live on for decades. Gale might have found a love of his life later, he might have married, had kids, or he may have had several serious relationships, or he might have just had casual flings while still pining for Katniss, we don’t know because it’s outside of the scope of the story.

    I’m also not sure if Gale was ever taking Katniss for granted or thinking that she would be waiting for him to finish sowing his wild oats. That would mean that Gale always saw Katniss as a potential romantic partner, but we can only speculate on what exactly was going in Gale’s head. He knew Katniss from the time when she was just a “skinny 12-year old” and he may have thought of her as a little sister figure rather than a “girl” he might get involved with; especially since that they were growing up together, and that she in particular had grown from a prepubescent girl into an attractive young woman in front of his eyes (according to Katniss, he already looked grown-up at 14, so, he was already well into the puberty when they met while she seemed like a child). Darius and Peeta showing an interest in her might have first made him start looking at her like that, or, at least in the case of Peeta, might have made him worried about losing his position as the main guy in Katniss’ life (regardless of whether he ever had romantic thoughts about her before).

  7. “I don’t see the Katniss/Peeta relationship as “gender-flipped” entirely and I certainly don’t think that she’s “masculine” or that he’s “feminine”, but I do think that they both challenge and subvert some of the widespread gender stereotypes.”

    Hey TTB: I didn’t mean to suggest that there’s no gender stereotype subersion at all when it comes to Katniss and Peeta. What I wanted to argue against is the overly simplistic narrative that makes it out as if the relationship is completely “gender-flipped”. Though this isn’t a shipping essay, it seems that a lot of the “Peeta is feminine” arguments come about in that context. Either by Gale fans who prefer Gale’s more traditionally heroic “war hero/rebel” role, or by Peeta-Katniss shippers who state that Katniss is too masculine to be a good match with Gale, but that she’d get on okay with Peeta because of his more feminine qualities.

    Though to me, the only thing (other than his stated wishes for marriage and family) really stereotypically feminine about Peeta is his way with words, ability to win an audience, and his manipulativeness at times. He does often wind up in the “damsel in distress needing to be rescued” role, but that says nothing about Peeta’s character itself.

    “People are usually not that ready to base their judgement on a man’s love for someone on his sexual feelings for them. And while a teenage boy character would not be deemed unusual for not wanting romance, the same would not be the case with a teenage boy character who so rarely showed an interest in sex.”

    True, though this idea that “all men/boys care about is sex” is hardly fair to them, either. It seems many fans, even K-P shippers, assume that Peeta MUST have had some kind of sexual experience before Katniss, though (unlike Gale), there’s no mention of Peeta kissing other girls, and nothing in their more physical encounters to suggest Peeta has any more experience than Katniss. It seems many assume that it is not “realistic” for a popular, handsome 16 year old boy to still be a virgin, even though I’d find it quite OOC for Peeta to just use a girl to get off with, while still harboring feelings for Katniss. (Even Gale seems to have stopped kissing random girls once he realized he had romantic inclinations toward Katniss.) But no one seems to find it unrealistic for Katniss, a girl, to have reached the age of 16 still a virgin.

    This double standard, I think, also comes into play in terms of Katniss-bashing. No one seems to hold Gale casually kissing (or more) with other girls against him, and those who think Peeta acted the same way, let that slide as well. Yet, so many people agree with Peeta’s accusation in MJ that Katniss is a “piece of work” for kissing two boys, and find her “I wasn’t asking for your permission” defense to not only be invalid, but a cruel, evil thing to say to Peeta. Even though at the time, Katniss was NOT in an actual exclusive romance (fakemance not withstanding) with either Peeta or Gale.

    “Katniss and Peeta with their different backgrounds do symbolically represent the oppositions, but not between genders, but between wilderness and society: hunting and gathering vs baking, woods vs town, a reliance on physical action vs a world of words, social interaction, art.”

    While I agree with this overall, I don’t think that K and P were meant to be a simple case of “opposites attract”. (Will get into this more in my next installment!) Katniss is not an artist, but she is a singer; this is what made Peeta first notice her, after all. She does suppress this part of herself and dismiss it as impractical, but it turns out to be an inspiration to the rebels (both when she sings to Rue in THG and later when she sings to Pollux in MJ). And that Peeta’s act of throwing the bread, that Katniss believes saved her life, was a PHYSICAL action. So it’s not like Peeta is “all words, not action”, either.

    “I disagree that she’s always passive and never makes the first move. When it comes to physical intimacy with Peeta (whether it’s hugs and cuddling or kisses and the passionate making out), she is pretty much always the initiator.”

    This is quite true, BUT both Peeta and Gale declare themselves to Katniss first; even her final “Real” comes about only after Peeta poses the question. It seems that Katniss would never have considered either Peeta or Gale as possible mates if they hadn’t declared their feelings, or at least, it would have taken a lot longer.

    As for Katniss becoming physical with Peeta (or Gale, for that matter), it seems that most of the time this is NOT about affection or desire, at least not consciously. I don’t think her “initiating” the kisses in THG can be used as evidence, because she’s putting on an act for the most part. Even when she’s not, it seems that most of the time, she kisses guys for reasons other than to express love or desire. Gale realizes that she “only kisses me when I’m in pain”. Even the whole “beach makeout scene” most of fandom sees as proof of her love for Peeta, actually started out when she kissed him, not because she was overcome with desire, but so she could interrupt his argument that she should let him sacrifice his life for her. When she kisses Peeta in MJ, it’s a desperate attempt to bring him down from his psychotic state when the alternative is kill or be killed.

    Also, as far as I recall, it was always Peeta who went to her on the train when she needed comforting; though she does, for the first time, go into Peeta’s room the night before the QQ starts. As well as the end of MJ, where Katniss passively waits for Peeta. Something which also raised some “feminists'” ire against SC for “not allowing Katniss to make a real choice”. Poor girl can’t win! I think the problem is that so many “feminists” fall into the trap of holding traditionally feminine traits and roles in as low a regard as any male chauvinist. Hence the outcry by some on how Katniss seems to assume a traditional “mother with kids” role at the end; as if this is somehow less valid than if she’d, say, mounted a vigorous defense in her trial for killing Coin, cleared her name, and run for some political office.

    “If a male was doing the same things Katniss does for people she loves or cares about, and was just as bad with dealing with his feelings and expressing them verbally, I doubt that anyone would be calling him a selfish sociopath or whatnot.”

    This has always been my suspicion, from the first time I came across some of the more insane Katniss-bashing. (Much of it coming from women, sadly…) It seems many people feel that when Katniss acts more like a stereotypical man than a stereotypical woman, this is WRONG. Also, it seems a lot of the double standards between Katniss and Peeta are based on his sex. So, while Peeta gets a total pass for his whole object-throwing tantrum in D11, Katniss gets slammed for the whole vase incident in THG, which many interpret as her deliberately trying to cause him serious injury, though that’s not how it came across to me.

    As I often think about other THG related discussion, I think a lot of the Katniss-bashing says as much about the bashers as it does about the character herself!

  8. Re Gale: Well, maybe the idea that Gale chooses Career over family, or the Cause over Katniss, is a bit of an oversimplification. (But hey, this post was not meant to be about Gale…).

    I re-read the part where Katniss tries to convince Gale to run away. It’s certainly possible jealousy about Peeta was involved However, I think that something DID change when Gale heard about the D8 rebellion. Would it have been different if Katniss hadn’t shot down his “ILY”? Maybe, but there’s no way to tell.

    This is the “moment”:

    ““Well, with an uprising in District Eight, I doubt he’s spending much time choosing my wedding cake!” I shout.
    The instant the words are out of my mouth I want to reclaim them. Their effect on Gale is immediate—the flush on his cheeks, the brightness of his gray eyes. “There’s an uprising in Eight?” he says in a hushed voice….”

    Also, during this scene, katniss admits she doesn’t understand “why he’s doing this”. She seems to grab on to the “jealous of Peeta” angle as something she CAN understand.

    “No! We have to leave here before they kill us and a lot of other people, too!” I’m yelling again, but I can’t understand why he’s doing this. Why doesn’t he see what’s so undeniable?
    Gale pushes me roughly away from him. “You leave, then. I’d never go in a million years.”
    “You were happy enough to go before. I don’t see how an uprising in District Eight does anything but make it more important that we leave. You’re just mad about—” No, I can’t throw Peeta in his face. “What about your family?”
    “What about the other families, Katniss? The ones who can’t run away? Don’t you see? It can’t be about just saving us anymore. Not if the rebellion’s begun!”

    As for choosing Career over Family: this is just the overall impression I got of Gale’s story arc. (Though it is true that Gale tries to get Katniss to run post-QQ announcement). It’s true that we have no idea what becomes of Gale’s family. Do they move to D2? Back to D12? Stay in D13? I’m sure that he continued to support them financially even if he was no longer living with them, and I never meant to suggest that Gale is a deadbeat. But a lot of fathers provide financial support to their children, and not much else. I also think that from Chapter 1 of THG and onward, SC foreshadowed Gale’s leaving D12. Not only is he the first to propose running away, he also states that he might have kids “if I didn’t live here”.

    I agree with TTB that Gale is not a completely stereotypically male archetype, either. He is actually the only one of the Love Triangle Trio to not only cry because of unrequited love, but to actually voice the words “I love you”. (Peeta actually pretty much says everything BUT those three little words, at least in public.)

  9. “Though to me, the only thing (other than his stated wishes for marriage and family) really stereotypically feminine about Peeta is his way with words, ability to win an audience, and his manipulativeness at times.”

    I agree, but on the other hand, those same traits are the traits of orators and politicians, who are by and large male. So, again (just as with cooking), we come to the dichotomy of public:private, where the same traits that are seen as stereotypically feminine in the private sphere are the required traits for “masculine” public behavior and paid professions.

    Some of those “stereotypically feminine” traits are really considered feminine only in contemporary culture. Peeta’s habit of talking about his feelings may be another “stereotypically feminine” trait, but if we look a bit further into the past, the European courtly love tradition was all about men writing poems expressing love and adoration of their passive, unattainable ladies/muses. And traditionally, men wanted marriage and family (though usually not for love), and still do in the most patriarchal of societies; it’s not like women ever had the social power to force any man into marriage. (Though this should by no means be mistaken for me agreeing with people who think that Peeta didn’t love Latnissin MJ and “forced” or “manipulated” her into bearing his children!!!)

    Also, some of the ideas of what is or isn’t feminine are defined by class: the idea of traditional femininity of being all about dressing nicely, looking beautiful and not doing anything is based on the lives of the women from the higher classes; it has little to do with the women from lower classes, who have always had to work hard. Women from poor, rural or working class backgrounds didn’t have the time or means to concern themselves with nice dresses and many had to be the head of the family, e.g. if their husbands died in wars.

    “True, though this idea that “all men/boys care about is sex” is hardly fair to them, either.
    (…) But no one seems to find it unrealistic for Katniss, a girl, to have reached the age of 16 still a virgin. ”

    I agree it’s unfair. Personally, I think Peeta was just as inexperienced as Katniss. But I do think that Peeta had a lot more sexual thoughts and fantasies than Katniss did. Katniss is rather unusual in the way she lacks or suppresses any sexual thoughts for a long time. While nobody seems to find it unrealistic for Katniss to be a virgin at 16, many people have commented on her lack of sexual thoughts and desires and some have speculated that she is asexual, though her description of being overtaken by “hunger” at the beach and in MJ proves that wrong. However, I think this would still be considered far more unusual if Katniss were a boy – especially since most would expect a teenage boy to at least have physical reactions (ahem) that he would find hard to ignore, due to the levels of testosterone. At the risk of giving TMI, I will say that in my experience, a teenage girl may have a lot of hormonal changes and confusing romantic/erotic thoughts, fantasies and fears since early puberty, but still not experience physical sexual arousal until the age of 16 or 17.

    “While I agree with this overall, I don’t think that K and P were meant to be a simple case of “opposites attract”. (Will get into this more in my next installment!)”

    I agree – I think they have a lot in common, though Katniss was used to suppress a lot of those traits that make her similar to Peeta, or even be unaware/in denial about them. One of the main reasons why I think K and P are good for each other is because they bring out hidden strengths and qualities in each other.

    “As for Katniss becoming physical with Peeta (or Gale, for that matter), it seems that most of the time this is NOT about affection or desire, at least not consciously. I don’t think her “initiating” the kisses in THG can be used as evidence, because she’s putting on an act for the most part. Even when she’s not, it seems that most of the time, she kisses guys for reasons other than to express love or desire. ”

    Yes, but for whatever reasons she is doing it or thinks she’s doing it, I was pointing out that she isn’t really that passive. Men have traditionally pursued women, but, at least in old times, their motivations were not always about desire let alone love, since courting women often had different motives; and if you look at the “Shut Up Kiss” at the Television Tropes page, I believe that most of the examples are about men shutting up women in this way (even The Simpsons had a scene like that when Nelson kissed Lisa just to stop her from talking and then realized he kind of liked it).

    I’ve said that the reasons why she initiates kisses with Peeta while he normally doesn’t are mostly situational. I was going to add that this doesn’t apply to the relationship they develop at the end of MJ; we don’t know who initiates physical intimacy and sex more often or whether they both do that on a regular basis.

    “So, while Peeta gets a total pass for his whole object-throwing tantrum in D11, Katniss gets slammed for the whole vase incident in THG, which many interpret as her deliberately trying to cause him serious injury, though that’s not how it came across to me. ”
    Speaking of which, the movie version of that scene has been mentioned a lot in the comments on Katniss’ level of aggressiveness being softened in the movie, but I don’t think anyone is mentioning that Peeta’s and Haymitch’s level of physical aggressiveness towards each other on the train to Capitol was also considerably decreased.

    “This has always been my suspicion, from the first time I came across some of the more insane Katniss-bashing. (Much of it coming from women, sadly…) It seems many people feel that when Katniss acts more like a stereotypical man than a stereotypical woman, this is WRONG.”
    “As I often think about other THG related discussion, I think a lot of the Katniss-bashing says as much about the bashers as it does about the character herself!”

    Very true!

  10. TTB: It is very interesting that Peeta’s “feminine” attributes are really only “feminine” in the private, not the public sphere. I also suspect that if Gale wasn’t in the picture, Peeta would come off as much more traditionally masculine. He’s a wrestler, for heaven’s sake! My personal headcanon is that if Peeta and Gale got into a fistfight, or even a one-on-one combat situation involving weapons, Peeta might actually come out the winner.

    (I know you’re not from the US and I don’t know if wrestling is considered a very masculine sport where you live, but it definitely is in my neck of the woods; not as masculine as American football, but still, it’s a sport that involves physical aggression and has historically had low female participation compared to some other sports.)

    I also totally agree that lower-class women, including mothers, have always had to work. Which is one reason I don’t see Katniss’s hunting as that subversive of gender stereotypes. However, working in the sense of “having a career”, versus simply to provide enough income to survive another day, does seem to have been seen as something only men should aspire to; or that, if a woman aspires to do that, she has to abandon all thought of having a husband and kids.

    Have you watched “Downton Abbey” by any chance? This is set in the UK shortly before, during, and after the first world war. This shows the lives of the aristocracy and their servants. It seems women “in service” who could achieve fairly high ranks such as housekeeper, head maid, etc…but only if they were willing to remain spinsters for the rest of their lives.

    Come to think of it, if anyone here has seen the show, does anyone find the character of Tom Branson to be a little reminscent of Peeta? Or Gale?

    “Personally, I think Peeta was just as inexperienced as Katniss. But I do think that Peeta had a lot more sexual thoughts and fantasies than Katniss did.”

    Oh, definitely. I think this is most likely why Peeta seems so bitter when he makes that “nights on the train” comment in MJ. While Katniss is perplexed by this and concludes that he’s trying to insinuate that something more happened than it did, I always took that to mean that Peeta likely found this sleeping arrangement to be a lot more sexually tempting, and physically intimate, than Katniss did. And hence why he gets into “didn’t it mean anything to you” mode. (Or, that his fantasies were vivid enough that the hijacking was able to twist them into a semblance of real memories about real sexual acts.)

    “However, I think this would still be considered far more unusual if Katniss were a boy – especially since most would expect a teenage boy to at least have physical reactions (ahem) that he would find hard to ignore, due to the levels of testosterone.”

    Well, if you’re just talking about sexual arousal (versus the acts), then I agree that it’s far less likely that a boy would get to age 16 without experiencing it, versus a girl. (Though I will say that a girl getting aroused BEFORE getting to that age is also quite within the normalcy range.)

    Agree that the same people who find Katniss “aggressive” for pushing Peeta in THG, and seem to think the movie downplayed this too much, say nothing about how Peeta and Haymitch’s aggressiveness was downplayed as well. Also, when I reread the CF scene in which Katniss tries to get Gale to run away, I was struck by how she mentions that “Gale pushes me roughly away from him. “You leave, then. I’d never go in a million years.”

    So…if Katniss pushes Peeta, who she at this point still sees as a competitor/enemy, she’s an aggressive, violent, dangerous girl, but if Gale pushes Katniss, who’s not just a girl, but someone he’d just declared LOVE for, then…that doesn’t reflect badly on him at all?

    And BTW…re Katniss’s “banishment” to D12, the actual reference to it is, “most of the credit for my exoneration must be given to Dr. Aurelius, who apparently earned his naps by presenting me as a hopeless, shell-shocked lunatic. One condition for my release is that I‘ll continue under his care, although it will have to be by phone because he‘d never live in a forsaken place like 12, and I‘m confined there until further notice.”

    1. I should mention that when I invoked the Artemis/Diana archetype for Katniss, I meant in a literary sense. When writers use such, they are not necessarily constrained to emulate their model exactly. For example, Superman might be said to be using the same archetype as the Greek heroes such as Achilles, (his heel being Kryptonite), yet he doesn’t have to skulk in his tent at vital moments… Katniss, with her archery skills, her strength, her chastity (until marriage) etc surely invokes Diana – one doesn’t have to follow the Graeco-Roman model exactly to be in the same stream.

      Re the “banishment” to District 12, I can’t help feeling that though compulsory, it is what Katniss wanted anyway. I doubt she’d have wanted to live in the Capitol!

      1. The difference between Superman and Katniss, though, is that Superman is, well, a MAN, and the whole point me and Debbie is making is that in fictional works, it’s much more common and acceptable for a male character to transcend archetypes than for a female character to do so.

        Also, the whole debate of how important romance is to the series, really wouldn’t take place for a man. Even though romance has always been in the cards for Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc. no one seems to get into any debate over how much is appropriate, or whether a superhero can be an “action hero” AND a “romantic hero” at the same time, but has to choose one or the other.

        Much as the traditional idea that mothers who work are somehow being “part time mothers”, yet no one accuses fathers who work of being “part time fathers”. There seems to be this idea that women are somehow “Man-lite”, made with simpler brains and hearts, and that they can’t competently fill more than one role in life, that they can’t have complex personalities and emotions, etc.

        I should also point out that one consequence of the “gender role switcheroo” concept and the idea of Peeta as a physically male but symbolically female character, is the idea that he represents the archetype of “pure woman who redeems bad boy hero through her unconditional love”. I’ve followed discussions in which Peeta is given the benefit of the doubt for all of his actions, any criticism has been met with defenses that “he’s supposed to represent light and hope!” I think this is as unfair to Peeta’s character as some of the over-the-top Katniss-bashing I’ve come across.

        Also, it’s interesting that it’s Peeta who refers to Katniss as “pure”, and I guess this comment might be taken as a sign that Peeta himself is “not pure”, and maybe some people take this as evidence that he must be sexually experienced? But I can see Peeta assuming that Katniss is not only “pure” in terms of whether she’s actually done anything sexual, but “pure” in the sense of not having sexual desires in the first place. And BTW, while many people seem to think Katniss was over-reacting to Peeta’s comments in this scene, I actually thought it was Peeta who was being a little inappropriate and disrespectful of Katniss’s boundaries, even though it’s by proxy. (He doesn’t do it himself, but seems quite dismissive of the actions of Finnick, Chaff, and Johanna.)

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