Peeta, I’ll Make A Man Out of You

Earlier this week, we talked about the new Entertainment Weekly article and how it wasn’t much of a shocker. Alas, we didn’t take in to account The Hunger Games fandom’s ability to OVERREACT LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW.

Evidence that Peeta is ever-strong and emotionless, via the Catching Fire trailer

Evidence that Peeta is ever-strong and emotionless, via the Catching Fire trailer

What about now? Francis Lawrence talked about “manning up” Peeta:

“We made some changes to Peeta’s narrative,” says [Francis] Lawrence. “We manned him up a little. And by the way it didn’t take a lot, just little choices to make here and there. The story doesn’t really change, his relationship with Katniss doesn’t change, he’s just a different kind of character.” For instance, in the book, the Hunger Games kicks off and Peeta is paralyzed when the other all-star tributes dive into the water. “The option is for either me drowning or sitting there like a cat batting my paw into the water,” says Josh Hutcherson with a laugh. “Either way the visual is horrible.” Easy fix: Let Peeta swim.

And suddenly Francis Lawrence, who fans were seemingly optimistic about until a few days ago, is nothing short of the devil. “HE’S DESTROYING OUR PEETA!” Nevermind that nobody is aware of the context in which Peeta is being “manned up” or in comparison to what other elements, or the fact that Lawrence stated that the changes were very minimal. And Frankie says he’s “a different kind of character”! As we all know, we should be taking ALL THE THINGS literally and Peeta will be totally unrecognizable now. right?!

Everyone seems to assume that Francis Lawrence is talking about toughening Peeta up from his role in the books because the example provided talks about him swimming, which he does not in the books. (P.S. Swimming means Peeta has an extra skill, not that he is all that equals manliness. We know plenty of people who would start and win a bar fight, but can’t swim well.) Yet we’re thinking no, mainly because Hunger Games Book!Peeta was much tougher than Movie!Peeta. Think about it!

Remember that he's actually 11 when this happens in the books

Remember that he’s only 11 when this happens in the books

We love that The Hunger Games characters subvert gender stereotypes in many instances, but something went awry in the first movie. In order to make Katniss look stronger, they made Peeta look helpless. The only time his strength is mentioned is when Katniss brings it up. The only time his strength is shown is when Katniss tells him to show it off. He’s a jittery mess when working with the Careers. He rarely talks back. That not how we recall Book!Peeta at all. So is working Movie!Peeta up to a level more on par with Book!Peeta really a bad thing?

We also seem to be forgetting that once the Quarter Quell is announced, both Peeta and Katniss become more emotionally callous. Peeta puts himself, Katniss, and Haymitch through his own version of Victor bootcamp. He becomes friendly with the other tributes in a way Katniss can’t, but he’s doing so on a strategic level. He’s facing down his death and he’s not taking it lightly. Why is it that when Peeta is described as getting tougher, everyone assumes they’re trying to make him into a testosterone-driven dickhead action hero instead of considering the natural freaking progression of his character?!

Peeta has strengths! Manly ones! He also has a great deal of sensitivity and charm that fans love. The idea that the progression of one somehow negates the other is downright stupid. He can be strong and skilled and artsy and still have deep feelings, just like in the books! Crazy, we know!

Personally, we’re looking forward to seeing how this plays out on the big screen.

The Mulan Reference In The Title Is Ill-Suited But We Don’t Even Care,
The Girl With The Pearl

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12 comments

  1. I’m still going to hold on to my irrational complaints! 🙂 Mostly because my complaints are not necessarily out of fear that Peeta wouldn’t be portrayed, well, etc., because – *GASP* I know – I don’t have as a strong connection to Peeta as 80% of the fandom. It’s the concept and the wording of ‘manning up’ that irks me, especially in relation to how I see gender in THG. So yep, still gonna hate on that quote, but that doesn’t mean that my faith in Francis has wavered even a tiny bit.

    1. You don’t see anyone saying that they’re going to or that they should “woman up” a female character. I don’t think they’re really trying to change Peeta into some sort of stereotypical macho action guy – and knowing how to swim sure isn’t going to make him one, any more than not knowing how to swim made Sundance Kid a non-action guy – but the sexist language, and the idea that someone isn’t “man enough” if he doesn’t have particular physical skills, irks me.

      But Francis is a director after all, not a spokesman for Lionsgate or someone whose job is to choose the right words for the public, so I let it pass.

    2. I think there are two issues here. One is Francis Lawrence’s use of “manning up” to describe the supposed changes to Peeta, which irked me in the same way it irked you and TTB. There are many cases of female characters portrayed as more involved in the action in a screen adaptation than the source, such as Arwen in the LOTR movie, or Susan in the “Prince Caspian” movie, or even Brienne of Tarth in GOT (the show portrays her as already being a seasoned killer, but in the books, it takes a while for her to actually kill anyone). But no one refers to such changes as “womanning up” the character.

      But poor choices in phrasing aside, what I think might happen, other than the “Peeta can swim” change, is that the movie will show some action-oriented scenes that weren’t shown in the books, such as the Brutus-Peeta fight, or perhaps showing Peeta actively saving people in the Hob fire. I don’t have a problem with that kind of tweaking, as long as it’s not at the expense of showing Peeta’s emotional, not just physical, strength. If, for example, they cut out the “morphling saves Peeta” scene in favor of just showing Peeta cutting down the monkey mutts with no problem, I’d be a little upset.

      Also, note that per the trailer, Gale tackles a Peacekeeper, which doesn’t happen in the books. I also fully expect the CF movie to show Gale rescuing people in D12 at the end. So, it does seem that the movie is adding the equivalent of a protein powder supplement to the action content in general, not just where Peeta is concerned. I don’t mind that, as long as they don’t overdo it and add the equivalent of anabolic steroids, HGH, etc. If the movie focuses too much on action at the expense of the more serious parts, relationship and character development, etc., then I will complain. (I thought many of the Harry Potter movies also fell into the same trap, even though most of the HP action was quite tame.)

  2. The phrasing didn’t offend me because for whatever reason, I assumed FL was just trying to make up for Peeta’s woefully inadequate character representation in the first movie. As long as that’s the case, I’m good.

    This is absolutely nothing against Josh, mind. I LOVED his portrayal , am thrilled he’s in the role, and feel he should’ve been given the chance to portray the real Peeta, not Ross’s cheap idea of a substitute – which this article did a great job articulating. Hopefully Josh will have something more to sink his teeth into acting-wise for CF, because as good as I think he is now, he could blow this thing outta the box if they’d let him.

    One curiosity with Gary Ross – reading the way he gushed about Jen, I’ve long wondered if he was not so much determined to let Katniss shine over Peeta as he was to let Jen shine over Josh, acting-wise. I can’t fathom any other reason for such a massive character imbalance. Again, just a wonder, not a pronouncement.

  3. Never underestimate the HG fandom’s ability to freak out over anything related to Peeta. He tends to be kind of a…sensitive subject, especially after the movie.
    Also, this is the same fandom that freaked out over Katniss’s backpack color. Which ended up being a moot point anyway.

    P.S.: The Mulan reference is great (and actually pretty apt for the post’s prompt) , because that song is awesome.

  4. I share the general irritation with Gary Ross’ interpretation of Peeta: so much of the humor and courage got drained out of him. I was fine with the scene with Kaniss the night before the games started and some of the scenes on the train, but once they got into training room and the arena, everything about Peeta’s role sort of fell apart. It was never really clear who’s side Peeta was on. It was never clear how he saved Katniss at the risk of his own life. The seriousness of his injuries never came across. But the worst was the cave scene which made him seem just sort of creepy and wimpy, like he was stalking Katniss all through school. In the few good scenes it was pretty clear that Josh has what it takes to play a Peeta that’s truer to the book, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that FL gets the real Peeta character better than Ross.

    1. Exactly, which is why I’m fine with FL making these changes. Still dunno what Ross was thinking – book Peeta was crafty, funny, clever, and man enough to own his feelings, and Josh was given only mere flashes of those qualities to play. Here’s hoping the swimming scene is just the beginning of some highly necessary character rehab.

  5. For me, it all comes down to whether Francis Lawrence means that CF movie Peeta is going to be different from CF book Peeta, or whether the difference is between THG movie Peeta and CF movie Peeta. Using the phrase “manned him up” is seriously unfortunate, and outright offensive to some people, and I start eye rolling at this is because we’ve heard it all before. Gary Ross and Josh Hutcherson spoke of Peeta being toughened up prior to the first film’s release. That amounted to removing most of Peeta’s book dialogue, or changing the context, and scratching the artificial limb. As is detailed quite succinctly in this entry, the result was not a satisfactory representation of the book character. We also supposedly have minor changes here and there leading to “just a different kind of character.” IMO, that’s a huge and weirdly contradictory statement. So if the difference in the film character is steering Peeta more in the direction of the books, I’m fine with that. However, the more they are compelled to change and tweak the character, the greater the chances that the end result is a hybrid character we don’t recognize. He could still be fantastic, no doubt, but I’m still holding on to my scepticism.

  6. Hi Cat’s Toga– Am I really reading that right? My cats would never let me wear a toga; they would expect me to spread the toga out on the ground so they could walk on it or arrange it carefully across the couch so that they could sleep on it and leave their fur all over it 🙂

    More seriously, I basically agree with you on Peeta and hopes for CF as interpreted by FL.

    But I really worry (and this is not about you but is rather a general comment) about people who live in the constant glare of public attention. The old expression used to be that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. Now, in the era of instant global Twitters, I think the saying should be changed to “people who have NEVER lived in glass houses should not throw stones”.

    It’s sad that really talented young artists like Jennifer Lawrence or Shailene Woodley seriously hesitate to do high budget, general release films because they know the glare of the 24/7 ‘reality’ paparazzi cameras and microphones make every tiny word or camera glance an instant, analyzable moment, subject to painful live dissection without anesthesia.

    So I really am willing to give FL the benefit of the doubt here and I will try really hard not to over analyze every single word the poor guy says. I think we as real appreciators or aficionados (I hate the word fan — derivation fanatic) of the Hunger Games books and films should cut the cast, directors, producers, etc. a little bit of slack.

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