Katniss the Badass

Katniss Everdeen is a badass. Sorry we’re not sorry!

See, it all started with a recent article on Divergent, which included a line from Shailene Woodley about her character, Tris Prior:

“What I like about Tris is that she isn’t perfect. She’s not a super-hero — she’s not Katniss. She doesn’t know how to shoot a bow and arrow, she’s not a badass by nature.”

We read the article and didn’t even blink twice at this quote. Come to find out, it became A BIG FREAKING DEAL at some point because fangirls are sensitive lil’ snowflakes.

Can we get a "Hellllllll Yeahhhhh"?!

Can we get a “Hellllllll Yeahhhhh”?!

Let’s break it down: First, we don’t believe Shailene was trying to insult Katniss Everdeen. She auditioned for the role of Katniss Everdeen and has talked about her love for the series regularly. Nor do we think she was calling Katniss “perfect” or “a superhero”. In journalism, we know so because of that dash: “She’s not a superhero — she’s not Katniss”. Zee dash typically represents one of two things: 1) Someone getting caught up in their thoughts mid-sentence and altering things. She was probably trying to think of a good contrast and eventually stumbled upon Katniss after saying those first couple things. Or 2) A piece of a quote that the writer chose to omit, usually because they think it’s irrelevant or too similar to what’s already been quoted.

Anyone who has read both books should actually be able to see what Shailene is talking about. Katniss IS badass and there is zero shame in it! She knows how to hunt (and effectively kill), she’s got survival skills, and she’s a quick learner who’s able to win hearts. She’s mature and hardened by her difficult upbringing. She’s fully aware of what it means to be in The Hunger Games and faces that head-on. Being badass in such a way doesn’t make her a Xena-style archetype. She’s still vulnerable and scared and fucked up in many ways, despite her badassery. The worst thing for us is the fans arguing that Katniss isn’t as badass as she is to try to make her seem less like a stereotype. She’s super kickass! She’s just other things too!

Tris, on the other hand, is a clean slate at the beginning of her story. She essentially joins the military without knowing what the military is about. No weapons training, no special skills, no endurance, little social skills, and the… emotional squishiness of your average 16-year-old girl. While Katniss has some grit to her, Tris is building that grit up from scratch and in many cases, failing miserably. Realistically, we’re all more Tris than Katniss in this sense (unless you’re a Doomsday prepper or an outdoor survival enthusiast!) And no, we’re not dissing Katniss when we say that.

When an actress says something regarding The Hunger Games other than “OMG I love it (though I don’t plan to be in it)”, the fandom then turns around and tries to EAT THAT ACTRESS, Walking Dead style. Shailene Woodley seems to be a popular target because The Secret Life of An American Teenager was that bad of a show, which wasn’t all her fault, and maybe 3% of the fandom has seen her Golden Globe-nominated performance in The Descendants.

Clearly, Theo is disgruntled with the comparison as well!

Clearly, Theo is disgruntled with the comparison as well!

Is Shailene justified in explaining ways she believes Tris and Katniss are different? Absolutely! After all, the Entertainment Weekly cover read DIVERGENT: IS THIS THE NEXT HUNGER GAMES? She’ll have to explain over and over that there are a lot of differences between Divergent and The Hunger Games in the same way that The Hunger Games actors were constantly explaining that their movie wasn’t anything like Twilight. And everyone who understands fandom better than the media will let out a collective sigh of frustration every time.<

But let’s get this straight: Nobody’s turning this into a rivalry between The Hunger Games and Divergent or whatever-the-hell-else dystopia/fantasy comes out in the next few years. WE REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE. It wouldn’t be controversial had another actress called Katniss “a badass by nature”. We might even love them for it. It’s all about the context. Because Shailene says she likes Tris for not being badass, we assume she doesn’t like Katniss for being so when she probably only meant to say she loves how Tris overcomes a more drastic state of unpreparedness.

Written word is a bitch, y’all! Everyone assumes you’ve got a hidden meaning or a snide remark behind a sentence that was said without a bit of malice. EW was smart in using that fact to their advantage and highlighting that quote, thus leaving it up for fan interpretation. Hell, maybe Shailene Woodley DID have the intention of starting fandom wars, because lord knows that’s what multi-million dollar actresses in their 20s apparently like to do in their spare time! … But we’re doubting it.

Take a few breaths, punch a pillow, untwist your panties, and QUIT YA BITCHIN’,
The Girl With The Pearl

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. I was a bit confused about where all these Shailene comments came from, so thanks for explaining. God! I mean Katniss is such a special snowflake to me and I’m not a fan of pigeonholing her obviously, but let’s not get carried away here. I’m pretty sure that at some point all the THG actors made stereotypical comments about other franchises or even their own, but that doesn’t make me love or respect them any less. And Shailene was soooooo amazing in The Descendants, I can’t help but be happy for her and all her future projects, and wish her all the best with her career. 🙂

  2. A few things:

    1) I hate it when the media announce that something is “the next [something else]”. It may be a marketing strategy or an attempt to draw attention and prop up the sales, but it’s annoying.

    2) I don’t think that Shailene Woodley or any other actors want to start fandom wars, but what she’s doing here, and what actors often do, is try to make their own character/franchise seem more interesting by contrasting them positively to another (usually better known) character/franchise, which often involves over-simplification, and misrepresentation of the other character/franchise.

    3) The media love to start fandom wars, since it garners discussion and increases sales/visits. So these kinds of comments get a lot of attention.

    4) We don’t actually know that she didn’t call Katniss a superhero or perfect, especially not based on a dash that an interviewer put in the text. And even if she didn’t mean to say that Katniss is perfect or a superhero, there’s a clear correlation: “perfect – superhero – Katniss”. People normally don’t list two things and then something completely different.
    Now, it’s not like “superhero” is a bad thing to be. I like superhero movies. I love Buffy, who is sort of a superhero. It’s just that Katniss definitely isn’t one.

    5) Context matters. If you told me “Katniss is a badass by nature!” I would naturally say “Duh! Of course she is! Yay!” If you told me “Katniss is a superhero” I’d say “Um… no. Superhero is someone with superpowers. Shooting a bow and arrow is no superpower.”. If you told me “Katniss is perfect” I’d double-check and say that I agree if it’s in the sense that she’s perfect for me, with all her flaws, which only make her more interesting and relatable.
    But in this context, the message is (whether intended or not): “Tris is more interesting and more relatable than Katniss, who is a perfect superhero/warrior woman stereotype with no vulnerability or complexity”. It may have been a poor choice of words, but that’s how it reads. I don’t think that someone reading that would get all those nuances you talk about.

    6) There’s already a widespread tendency in the media to portray Katniss as an invulnerable action girl/warrior woman stereotype, which is annoying, even though they think they’re portraying her positively (and it’s usually as a contrast to Bella Swann, who is used as an example of the simpering love-struck teenage girl stereotype. Because girls, apparently, can only be one or the other). Whoever buys that this is all that Katniss is is probably going to be disappointed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay. (Which some people already were, since they expected Katniss to fit into a certain stereotype.)

    7) I have no idea what A Secret Life of an American Teenager is and I have 0% familiarity with Shailene Woodley as an actress or a person. All I know is that these comments sound like she doesn’t have much of a grip on the character of Katniss. (Unless it was just bad wording.) Which is perfectly OK, of course, since she’s not playing Katniss, so I don’t think I’m dissing her when I say it.

    1. Essentially, this is reinforcing everything that was said about fans making the assumption that her comment had a cruel hidden meaning. You said you disagree with the media using quotes to promote fandom wars, then say that you find the comment offensive whether she meant it that way or not, thus fueling that fire you just said you hated. You’re taking her message to mean “Tris is more interesting and more relatable than Katniss, who is a perfect superhero/warrior woman stereotype with no vulnerability or complexity”, but you have no proof that it’s what she was trying to say at all, or if she got caught up and stumbled over a few words.

      I actually WAS a local journalist for a while (I still do freelance-y stuff online) and can easily attest to the fact that it’s SUPER EASY to take a vague and/or badly worded quote and start controversy with it. The spoken word doesn’t translate well into written word and unless you’re the most eloquent speaker in the world, you’re probably going to come off sounding a bit aloof or obnoxious. This is true for anyone. I think that’s why it’s easier for me to give her a break than others.

      The media does get over-excited over the strong female heroine aspect, but they do so because that’s what fans say they love the most about the books/movies and the entertainment media doesn’t deal with complexities, which is a shame. I don’t see them taking to Xena warrior woman angle THAT hard, but they love tough girls. They’ll do the same from The Mortal Instruments and Divergent and whatever else comes.

      1. I never said I knew for sure what she was trying to say. I’m not a mind-reader. I’m not trying to figure out “what someone wanted to say”. I only know what was said and how it looks. And like I said, when I see that quote, that’s how it looks and that’s the message that a reader would probably get from that. And I’m not sure how many people would read it as positive for both Tris and Katniss. If, for instance, an actor said something like “What I like about my character is that he’s vulnerable, he can’t beat up every guy, he’s not a superhero, he’s not Rambo”, wouldn’t you think that he was using Rambo as a negative example to reinforce the positives about his character?

      2. All I know is that when I first read the article and quotes-in-question in Entertainment Weekly (Keep in mind that I have a subscription, so I read this before I saw any of the uproar online), the first thing to come to my mind was exactly what she just described. Shailene might not have meant it that way (which is, like you said, a curse of the written word), but it read that way. She said, “What I like about Tris is that she isn’t perfect. She’s not a superhero- she’s not Katniss.” That implies that she perceives Katniss to be both a superhero and a perfect human being, which we all know is definitely not the case. Shailene made it seem like Katniss was the stereotypical “badass warrior” type, which I take offense to.

  3. agree with everything timetravellingbunny said. I don’t think Shailene was insulting the THG franchise and Katniss either, but she obviously didn’t get the character of Katniss at all. Which makes it more apparent why her audition for Katniss wasn’t great and that she didn’t get the role.

    But that doesn’t really matter coz she is not playing Katniss, she is playing Tris, and it seems like she doesn’t also get Tris well either. It’s a common defense that Katniss knew archery before the games while Tris have zero fighting skills before becoming an initiate. First off, Katniss learned to hunt to feed her family, she wasn’t training to be a Career. She had zero skills as a fighter/killer. She didn’t go to the arena all arrogant and thinking that she got this. She was forced to kill, or else she’ll die.

    While Tris, she picks up on gun-shooting and fighting after a few training sessions that she even landed on top of the rankings. She jumped on the train right after choosing to be Dauntless! She even does dangerous things for thrills with other Dauntless members. While she wasn’t doing all that before, she clearly had it in her.Yes, she had to go through a transformation, but the fact she picked up on things quickly and fear doesn’t shut her down, she is the one badass by nature, that’s why she is Dauntless/Divergent.

  4. Thank you! I interpreted Shailene’s comment in exactly the same way. THG actors and production team kept saying Katniss is no James Bond when it first came out, meaning she is scared and doesn’t know what to do every.step of the way. However, Katniss does have the advantage if being smart and already having some wilderness survival skills prior t
    o games. The fact that she is an excellent

    archer is a huge advantage.

    1. Tris’ big advantage is that she is Divergent (and that Four is on her side) but she doesn’t start out in Book 1 knowing either one of those things or what they mean. She’s small and not that strong to start and sees herself as selfish. In that way, I believe she has farther to go to become a “badass”.

  5. I think Woodley is right in her interpretation, both of Katniss and, more importantly, of Tris. She gets it that Tris is far less tough than Katniss at the start. Katniss has been her family breadwinner for years. Before she was even a teenager Katniss single-handedly saved her family from starvation and despair. She pulled her mother together and forced herself to find a way to keep her mother and sister alive against overwhelming odds.

    In contrast, Tris has led a much more sheltered life, with an intact, loving and protective family. She truly is Divergent – in other words, she is basically really ambivalent about her place in the faction system. She doesn’t feel selfless enough to be Abnegation, but she only admires the Dauntless as bold and free, not really knowing how tough their code is.

    If any of you have not yet seen Woodley in The Descendants, definitely get a hold of the DVD: as the story unfolds Woodley’s character makes this awesome transition from a spoiled brat to a strong young girl, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with her Dad. It happens so subtly, with such artistry that I can hardly wait to watch her as Tris, becoming not just a brave (if not fearless) Dauntless, but then finally rising above faction stereotypes to realize her true destiny as Divergent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s