Welcome to our latest Guest Post which was supposed to be up last night but my sleep schedule is awful!
Today, Satsuma is taking us through the ropes of Fanon, aka the stuff fans generally believe to be true despite the books never specify and actual Canon plot points!
So I’ve spent almost a year in the THG fandom at this point. And one aspect of fandom culture in general that amazes and amuses me, is the existence of “fanon”. While many of these widespread beliefs seem to be perpetuated by being repeated in many fanfics, some have become so established that I’ve seen them expressed by fans in replies to fansite questions, and many fans railed at the THG movie for “changing what’s in the books” when the idea was never actually in the books to begin with!
Now, I think some aspects of canon, such as why Katniss voted yes to a certain plan President Coin proposes at the end of MJ, were meant by Suzanne Collins to be up for debate, as to what the “real answer” is. But some other, more minor aspects, not as much. In no particular order, here are some widespread fanon assumptions that I don’t think are established in canon at all:
1. Fanon: District 5’s official industry is Science. It’s a place where Dr. Frankenstein would likely feel welcome, where the muttations, purified tracker jacker venom, and other elements of biological warfare are dreamed up. (Popular corollary: Foxface herself was created in a laboratory, not conceived by normal means.)
Unfortunately for fans who think “I’d love to live in D5 so I can unleash my inner mad scientist!”, the books never actually state what D5’s industry is. I am actually flummoxed as to where this came from. (Unlike, say, District 6, where I think it was quite plausible to conclude, as many fans did, that it was the Medicine district, based on their apparently widespread morphling addiction problem.) I realize that many fans do not accept the movie tie-in materials that present D5’s official industry as Power, not Science. But the fanon version of the official industry isn’t any closer to book canon, though it does make for interesting Foxface fanfics.
2. Fanon: Katniss is a horrible cook. Post-MJ, Peeta does all the cooking as well as baking around the house, because he knows that if he let Katniss try, she might just burn the house down. (Though he is comforted by the idea that at least they have two houses between them.)
Katniss’s does state in THG that “I’m not much of a cook”, but that’s far from “I’m such a bad cook that any attempt to do so, will require the services of a hazmat team for the clean up operation”. Is it plausible that Peeta is a better cook than Katniss? Sure. He’s certainly a better baker, both due to experience and passion. But baking is a specific skill set, which Peeta has been practicing since childhood. It doesn’t mean that he’s just as much a whiz at making, say, an omelet, or a stew (especially from nonstandard meats). (Just like Peeta being a good liar doesn’t make Katniss a horrible one. She fooled plenty of people throughout the books, including Peeta himself.)
Also, there is a specific scene in THG, Chapter 5, in which Katniss describes, in detail, how she’d recreate a Capitol version of Orange Chicken back home. “I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home. 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….” And on and on. As someone who’s done my share of cooking, this did NOT come across as the inner monologue of someone who can’t even warm up a bowl of Greasy Sae’s stew without causing a kitchen apocalypse.
3. Fanon: Cato and Clove were romantically involved.
Certainly, Cato’s emotional reaction to Clove’s death, and the fact that his words, “Stay with me”, are later echoed by Peeta in both CF and MJ, suggest that he did have some kind of connection to her. But was it really a romantic one? Or were they just good hunting partners?
My own take on Cato and Clove is pretty similar to the general take on the Career Pack dynamics posted on Victor’s Village under “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes”:
“The Careers aren’t friends in The Hunger Games, but they have an understanding.At least temporarily, they’re a unit. They care about each other, though not as much as they care about themselves.”
But, many fans seem to see it as canon fact, that Cato and Clove were a couple; enough to rail on the THG movie for having Cato and Glimmer get cozy, “when in the books it was Cato and Clove!” I’ve even seen movie defenders state, not that “Clato is a popular ship, but that doesn’t make it canon”, but that “Isabelle is only 14, no way Gary Ross would have had her hook up with Xander, he’s way too old for her!” With the implication that this age difference was the ONLY reason the movie didn’t showcase Cato and Clove as the second set of star-crossed lovers.
If you ship Clato, I won’t stand in your way. But if you actually got upset at the movie for showing Glimmer flirting with Cato, I think you’re taking your ship a bit too seriously. Might Cato and Clove have bonded either in the arena, or before? Of course. Is it plausible that they were a couple? Sure. But unless Suzanne Collins herself confirms it, it’s not canon, sorry.
(Same goes for Gale/Johanna, Haymitch/Maysilee, and other pairings that are so popular in the fanfic world that even fans who don’t do fanfic, seem to believe these pairings MUST be what Suzanne Collins herself intended.)
And speaking of Glimmer…
4. Fanon: Every single Victor who ever lived was pimped out, not just by Snow, but by whoever was President before him. Everyone, including Mags, Haymitch, Beetee, Chaff, Woof, Blight, Cecelia, the morphlings…Every. Single. One!
We don’t find out exactly which Victors were exploited by Snow in this way, and how often. However, while Finnick states he “wasn’t the only one”, he never states that all the Victors were involved. He does imply Cashmere and Johanna were approached, and perhaps this was an accepted part of the life of a Career Victor in D1; I can certainly see this happening to Glimmer if she had been Victor, since she did work the sexy angle in her interview. And that makes me sad, to see Glimmer not just as a girl who’s using a clever Games strategy, but as a girl choosing (or being persuaded) to sell her body as a way to survive; not that different, really, from what some starving Seam girls did in Cray’s house. A subtle reminder that even the Careers were still victims of the Capitol.
But just as not all girls in the Seam became prostitutes, I never got the impression that forced prostitution was part and parcel of the standard Victor compensation package in Panem. I think that if it had been, and 73 Victors had being prostituted around the Capitol for 75 years, the reaction to Finnick’s revelations would have been, “Yeah, yeah, Snow makes the Victors whore themselves out to wealthy Capitol patrons, what else is new?” As opposed to being a shocking scandal that even served as a distraction from a certain rescue mission…
5. Fanon: The Merchant Class of D12 all have arranged marriages.
This theory seems quite popular as a way to explain why the apparently kind, decent Mr. Mellark wound up with such a “witch” for a wife. However, Katniss says that one of the few freedoms allowed in D12 was the ability to choose who to marry, or to marry at all. Now, the small population of D12 likely meant that many people wound up “settling” for a spouse out of practical considerations such as whether they could be helpful in running the family business, instead of having some grand epic romance. But that’s not the same as having parents or matchmakers choose your spouse for you. Even Katniss realizes in Catching Fire, that many people in the Seam had assumed she would eventually marry Gale. That might have been a marriage more of convenience than passion, at least on her side. But it certainly wouldn’t have been arranged.
This theory also lets Mr. M off the hook for his actions, or lack thereof, in terms of protecting his children from their mother. “It wasn’t his fault, he was stuck with this horrible wife who his parents made him marry!” The sad state of the Mellarks’ domestic life doesn’t mean they were forced to marry each other. Maybe Mr. M just got swept up in a classic rebound relationship with Mrs. M, shortly after his disappointment that his true love “ran off with a coal miner”. Maybe she got pregnant, leading to a “shotgun” marriage.
I think this is quite plausible, actually, considering how the Mellarks’ eldest son is too old for the reaping, and hence at least 3 years older than Peeta, even though both sets of parents (the Everdeens and the Mellarks) seem to be around the same age. But even if he was pressured into marriage due to pregnancy, that’s far from the kind of arranged marriage where he didn’t even see her until the day of the wedding.
6. Fanon: When Peeta has a flashback, he experiences everything he did during his initial episode of tracker jacker venom induced psychosis…including his homicidal thoughts and behavior toward Katniss.
JekyllandHyde!Peeta is a popular interpretation of post-hijack, post-war Peeta in many “post-MJ” fanfics. But though nothing in canon specifically rules OUT this possibility, I think that Peeta’s recovery by the time he returns to D12 is meant to be much more advanced than this. Note that he tells Katniss that Dr. Aurelius didn’t let him return earlier. Now, Dr. A’s ethics as a psychiatrist might be slightly shady, but SC doesn’t portray him as a total quack, either. I think she meant for the reader to know that Peeta had been declared by a competent mental health professional, to no longer be a threat to society. SC, through Katniss, refers to “moments” when he clutches the back of a chair until the flashbacks pass. Moments. To me, this suggests these flashbacks last a few minutes at most. Not hours, or even days, the way some fanfics have it.
Besides, would Peeta really have returned to Katniss’s side, and her bed, if he had any doubts about whether it was safe for her to be around him? If he was really having flashbacks that lead him to try to choke Katniss again every week, like some fanfics have it, would he really allow himself to get anywhere near her, even if Katniss does her best Bella Swan impression and proclaims that she loves him enough to accept the risk that he could kill her? I just don’t see this as consistent with Peeta’s character. Peeta, who cried after inadvertently killing Mitchell, a mere acquaintance, and asked to be killed because he feared “It’s only a matter of time before I kill someone else”. If he was so concerned about squad members who he’d earlier dismissed as just “guards”, why would he risk the life of someone he actually loves?
All this is speculation, of course. But I think it’s important to differentiate between speculation and fact. (Though, of course, good ol’ SC left a lot of ambiguity about what’s Real or Not Real, anyway.) Also, I’d love to hear from YOU! What are other “fanon” theories you can think of that are widely believed, but aren’t really supported by canon?