This post actually comes after a request! Carrie emailed us to see what we thought of The Capitol’s perception of Peeta, which is a damn good question. She also said she didn’t feel comfortable writing a post because she’s not “a Hunger Games scholar” (implying that we are, which is both adorable and HILARIOUS).
Let’s start off by saying this: There is noooooo easy answer. Capitol views of Peeta are both positive and negative, depending on the time and the circumstances and the people involved.
In the beginning, it’s easy for everyone in the Capitol to love Peeta. He’s sweet, quick-witted, and appears to be a hopeless romantic. The star-crossed lovers routine he masterminded is insanely popular, so even Snow and the Gamemakers appreciate him. There’s a temporary usefulness they see in him, because citizens would be saddened by his death, but they weren’t going to turn around and overrun the games because of it. His death probably wouldn’t have even caused a Rue-like uprising, just a collective “Oh, that’s a bummer!” He’s a convenient element of the show. That is, until the berries. The Capitol audiences love him even more– What a special ending! What romance! What showmanship!– but Snow certainly ain’t drinking that kool-aid!
Peeta takes part in that berries ploy, too, but it wasn’t his idea. He’s got Snow’s attention just as much as Katniss, but he’s not seen as the threat. Snow sees straight through both Katniss and Peeta’s different intentions, sees Peeta’s genuine affection for Katniss and his almost comfortable life in District 12 that he probably doesn’t want to lose, and thinks “How can I use this?” Note that Peeta isn’t the one Snow needs to threaten into compliance before the Victory Tour.
We’ve said before that Peeta has a gift for words, but Katniss has a gift for action. Great speakers have really positive effects on people. The Capitol wants to live vicariously through his words. They want to understand him. They want to believe in what he has to say. But action really gets attention. While the Capitol is really fond of Peeta, it’s the “DAMN! Did you just see that?! I LOVE HER!” response to Katniss Everdeen that really catches their attention and poses a threat to Snow. Words can be reshaped and spun in ways bold actions cannot. Though Peeta causes some trouble with his public speaking engagements in Catching Fire, stirring the districts into uprising and getting Capitol audiences to finally take some issue with The Quarter Quell, it’s nothing that can’t be contained. In fact, his speeches are ultimately what saves his life.
Snow knows that The Capitol still has a very favorable opinion of the star-crossed lovers from District 12 after the clock arena’s destruction. With the acquisition of Peeta, Snow can leverage Peeta’s feelings for Katniss and loyalty to others involved in The Rebellion to get what he wants. Peeta is forced to spin the story in The Capitol’s favor in propaganda across Panem, talking about how Katniss has been brainwashed and Rebellion is not worth it. Snow gets comfortable in the concept that Peeta would never become a threat. He’s more of a puppet. Of course, we know Snow is wrong for two reasons:
1) Peeta does what Snow says, but only after being ruthlessly beaten. He makes his shaken state obvious throughout his segments, giving audiences the subtle message that all is not as it seems.
2) When he realizes that Snow is out to kill the others no matter what he does, Peeta busts open his plan on national television to save the lives of the people in District 13. His thanks is a good ol’ hijacking.
Snow and The Capitol continuously underestimate Peeta. They think he’s the weak link and maybe, at first, he is softer than Katniss. What they don’t count on is the different kind of strength he possesses. He stands up to the Capitol in systematical ways that convince people that the government is deceptive without putting on a big show. He recovers from a brainwashing most people never do because he’s got some serious mental fortitude. And even in the end, when Katniss Everdeen has been labeled a deeply disturbed byproduct of war, the truth of Peeta Mellark’s troubles remains mostly under wraps and it’s likely Panem audiences are still quite smitten with him.
Snow never even saw it coming.
Essentially, Peeta Wins The “Most Popular” Superlative In The Capitol Yearbook,
The Girl With The Pearl