Today, Guest Postapalooza begins! Our first post is from Satsuma, who is handing Gale Hawthorne a healthy dose of something he needs more from fans: understanding.
Just to clarify– We don’t write many character based posts, so any Peeta-biased sentiment suggested here comes mainly from other guest posts.
I’ve noticed that Katniss and Peeta get a lot of attention around here, but Gale, not so much. So here’s my attempt to give the Boy With the Snares some love. Some of this was inspired by the recent debates along THG fandom these days, with some fans being very worried that Francis Lawrence and others involved in the Catching Fire movie, are paying too much attention to Gale Hawthorne as a
character, and giving others (well, TBH, ONE other, his “rival” Peeta) short shrift.
Certainly, Gale DOES seem to fit a certain mold of hero that is often showcased in movies and TV shows. The Handsome Rebellious Action Hero, who has women falling all over him (but lets romance take a back seat to the Cause) like an alpha male should, but is also a Family Man who loves his mother and family, both by blood and “adopted” in the case of the Everdeens. A “local boy made good” who moves up in the world, getting some well-deserved, cathartic revenge on his enemies on the way.
But while Gale seems to fill many traditional “action hero” tropes, it seems only a minority of fans see him as anywhere near heroic. SC manages to subvert those tropes, when another author might have painted Gale’s actions as completely justified, because “we’re fighting a war here” where there’s no room for mercy towards your enemies. Many stories that deal with rebellions against tyrants, portray the rebels as innocent, oppressed people throwing off their chains, who the audience can cheer for without reservation, even as they’re blowing up thousands of people.
What I find to be groundbreaking about the THG series, is that Suzanne Collins does NOT let the rebels off the hook, does not give the reader that cathartic moment when the enemy falls, and all becomes right with the world. She does not use the atrocities committed by the Capitol side to justify those of the rebels. Not only that, while good ol’ Alma is obviously the “other side of the Coin”, to Snow, and her evilness is shocking to some, I don’t think Collins meant for the whole war to be just a struggle for power between Snow, Coin, and their cronies, or for Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, and other soldiers to be mere pawns in their Game-of-Thrones-like schemes. I think Gale’s story specifically makes that much too simple an interpretation.
I never got the impression that Gale is meant to be a mere victim of Coin and her machinations, anymore than he is a mere victim of Snow and his regime. Gale makes his own decision to “take a page out of Snow’s book”, exercises his own agency in doing so, and deserves his share of responsibility for the consequences.
However, just because Gale is not meant to be a hero or a victim, neither is he a villain. If you look at matters from Gale’s POV, we know that he faced hardships all his life due to the Capitol oppressing the Districts, and was almost whipped to death for the crime of trying to feed his family. Not only that, when the Capitol bombed D12, he saw thousands of innocent people brutally massacred, with no way to fight back.
Do I agree with his “fight fire with fire” attitude? No, but I can understand it, and sympathize with Gale’s thirst for revenge. Katniss does as well, when she imagines the scene after Gale tells her, in D2, of seeing children burned alive by Capitol bombs, bombs dropped by Peacekeepers from D2. For a moment, she wants “everyone in the mountain dead”. I think most fans wind up sympathizing with Gale, but not so much that they find his actions completely justified.
What’s also interesting is that, despite his actions, Gale winds up with what might be the happiest ending possible in the world SC has created. Yes, he loses Katniss’s friendship, but he isn’t dead,
maimed, or psychologically destroyed. He hasn’t lost his mother or his siblings and he seems to have achieved some material success with his “fancy job in D2”. Another author might have been tempted to “punish” Gale more as a way to make it quite obvious that He Did The Wrong Thing.
Now, I’m sure some readers did conclude that the ending of MJ shows there’s no point in trying to do the right thing, that the best way to live life is to just look out for your own welfare, and perhaps that of your family. That doesn’t seem to be the majority opinion, though. Seems SC was right to give her readers more credit, that they could understand that just because good deeds aren’t always rewarded, and evil deeds often not punished, doesn’t mean “there is no good and evil, only power” (to quote a certain character from Harry Potter).
Now, does Gale sleep well at night, or is he haunted by Prim’s death, perhaps that of others? We don’t know. We also don’t know the exact nature of his “fancy job” in D2, but it seems likely that he has a position in the “military-industrial complex” there. Did he go there as a conqueror, to rule over those in D2? Or did he realize that he DID have similarities to the people there, much like Katniss did earlier? We don’t know, and perhaps SC meant for this ambiguity to exist. Another interesting question is whether Gale would have agreed with Coin’s proposal for a Hunger Games involving Capitol kids. I’m really not sure myself. I think much depends on whether Prim’s death led him to question anything, or if he thinks it’s justified to “show them what it’s like to lose what they love”. (That’s a quote from a certain character in Game of Thrones.)
Now, all that being said, will Movie!Gale wind up being shown as more heroic than Book!Gale? Or more romantically desirable, to the point that movie watchers will wonder why Katniss lets him walk away? I suppose the risk is there, especially if they show Gale rescuing people in D12 at the end of CF, or perhaps being part of the tribute rescue mission in MJ. However, at this point I’m still pretty confident that Suzanne, Nina, Francis, and others involved will avoid that trap. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.