The Real Big “R” Question for Mockingjay – Not Ratings, but Romance

Today we have a great guest post by Satsuma on a topic that brings out a lot of passion in the fandom.


Okay, first things first.  I confess that it wasn’t just the (rather scanty) Mockingjay news so far that brought this question to my mind.

No, I must credit the inspiration for this topic, of how much romance is appropriate for a sci-fi, action-packed “young adult” tale to, of all things, LEGOs — the LEGO ninjas who star in the Cartoon Network show, “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu”. Think LEGO Star Wars mixed with kung-fu.  For a series of 22-minute LEGO commercials, the show can be surprisingly deep; there is one Big Bad Palpatine/Sauron-like villain, but other antagonists are quite humanized, including Darth -er, Lord Garmadon, or the snake-like Serpentine clans, who actually have legitimate reasons to be angry at mankind.

The show is targeted mostly at young boys, and the 4 ninjas (Kai, Jay, Zane, and Cole)  are all male, as is the Chosen One, Lloyd. But there is one significant female character; Nya, Kai’s sister. Nya is a mecha wiz who dresses up in a robo-Samurai-suit to fight evil, and often bests the boys at their game.

Seasons 1 and 2 of the show had a touch of innocent romance between Nya and Jay, but this was far from the focus.  But suddenly, in season 3, Nya wound up in a love triangle between Jay and fellow ninja Cole.  A love interest appeared for Zane as well, and it even turned out that Lord Garmadon and his brother, Sensei Wu, had both wooed Padm – er, Misako in the past.

Well, the fan reaction to all this romance, was, essentially, “ewwww”!  Not just from the young boys, but the tween girls who were the likely target of it. Many female fans of the show were annoyed that Nya was turned into yet another Bella-like ingenue torn between two suitors, as opposed to a heroine in her own right who just happened to be dating another ensemble character.

And so this brings me to Mockingjay, and the debates over how much romance will, and should, be in the films.  It seems the fan consensus for THG was that one of the film’s major flaws was how the K/P ship was not only downplayed, but done so in a way that shorted Peeta as a character.  For the CF movie, I was mostly satisfied both with the “balance” between K/P and K/G and the overall amount of romance , but I certainly recall some Everlarkers griping “no plant book scene”, “no rooftop scene”, or “that beach kiss was NOT passionate enough” (I actually agree with the last one; it was cute, but not one that made me think Katniss was having sexy feelings down below, the way the book scene certainly did.)

How much of this will we see in Mockingjay Part 2? (Source: tigriss92.tumblr.com)

How much of this will we see in Mockingjay Part 2? (Source: tigriss92.tumblr.com)

What will we see in the MJ films, though?  Certainly, two films give the film-makers extra time for romance, but that doesn’t mean all the book scenes will make it in. Some of the extra time will be given to added scenes, such as battles, or exposition scenes between Snow and his new adviser, Antonius, and we’ll likely get a peek at Coin’s machinations as well.  So in keeping with the general trends, I forecast some romantic scenes being edited, cut down, or merged with others.

Again, the “balance” between K/P and K/G will be crucial, especially given Peeta’s absence in most of Part 1, and the difficulty even SC herself had with sinking K/G not only as a romance, but as a friendship as well (I refer, again, to the many “post-MJ” fanfics that feature a K/G reconciliation at least as friends.)

What I think fans also should keep in mind, is that the MJ book itself was a much less “romantic” a book than certainly CF, or even THG. To me, even before Peeta reappeared, MJ made it obvious that the only potential K/G had, even without the clashes in values, was a “lifeboat camaraderie” type friendship with some  “hurt/comfort” thrown in.  (And to be fair, K/P has these aspects as well, but goes beyond it in a way K/G didn’t.)  Note that SC herself had to be nudged by her editor into writing “more of the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle”.  (Source)

Now, this little tidbit makes me highly suspect that the very Twilight-ish “who will she choose” scene between Peeta and Gale in Tigris’s shop was added on by SC in response to her editor’s suggestions.  Considering how the films so far have tended to cut out the “cheesier” romantic scenes and lines, I think that if we do see the scene, it will be quite cut down, though Gale’s “she’ll choose who she can’t survive without” comment may be left in.   And it certainly may, as Katniss’s later musings about “what I need to survive” show much about the characters of all Love Triangle Trio members. Also, in the books, Katniss only reflects on this comment internally.  Certainly, book!Katniss actually verbalizing her complicated feelings to Peeta (or to Gale) would have been quite OOC.  But movie!Katniss is not quite as introverted (a change I certainly prefer to cheesy voice-overs), and it will be interesting to see how the movie converts her thoughts to actual dialogue.  In this way, I can see the MJ movies having a more “romantic” component than the books.

My own take on the series is that, romance is certainly a large component of it; certainly more than the Y-7 rated Ninjago.  Not only do we have the central love triangle, we also have Mr. M, Mrs. E and Mr. E, Annie and Finnick, and so on.  I certainly don’t agree with the extreme anti-romance “Katniss was incapable of loving anyone but Prim, she just chose Peeta because she was stuck with him and did what she could to survive” theory.  But in the end, it is NOT a romance in terms of the genre.  So I’m not personally going to wait with baited breath for each book kiss to appear on the scene.

I think SC meant for the romance to take a back seat in MJ, and only be established towards the end, in the context of not only two hot bodies going at it, but a long-lasting relationship that produces children, to provide a ray of hope at the end.   I also hope the films convey the idea that the “choice” between Peeta and Gale wasn’t just a choice between two men (unlike Nya’s choice, as her suitors are both “good guys” who pretty much look the same except for wig and costume) but one between two different ways of life.  Can movie!Katniss become one of the few pop culture heroines who isn’t JUST a “romantic” or “action” heroine, but transcends both?

One can only hope.

-Satsuma

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11 comments

  1. I for one am looking forward to seeing angry peeta. The one who actually gets upset at the fact she took comfort in him, but didn’t return his feelings, and calls her on it. Far more attractive than the Peeta that is so understanding, in my book.

  2. I feel like the filmmakers in catching fire refused to make it a “love triangle” as much as the book does but rather develop the two relationships separately. I feel like they will continue this model in mockingjay.

    They should show the disintegration of Katniss and Gale relationship very clearly while building on the fact that Katniss is definetly in love with Peeta. It will be difficult to do without Peeta and Katniss together but I have some faith.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I must admit I find love triangles in general tiresome at this point because they’re so overdone, ever since Twilight it seems every YA series that aspires to the “next great YA series” has an obligatory love triangle. Especially when female characters are at the apex because they seem to reinforce the notion that a woman always has to be paired with someone. Or worse, that a woman is a “prize” that two guys fight over and “win” like stags in heat locking horns, with her own choice of partner only secondary in importance.

    So ITA with TeamButtercup that showing K/G and K/P more as two parallel storylines rather than a real “love triangle”. It’s not that Katniss chooses Peeta OVER Gale, but that “Katniss and Gale’s relationship is tested, and fails” and “Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is tested, but endures” are BOTH going on in parallel. Because even WHEN Katniss assumed Peeta was lost to her, she still couldn’t give her heart romantically to Gale.

    BTW, to anyone who has seen Ninjago S3 (everyone else can just ignore the rest of this post), that love triangle especially annoyed me because at first, it SEEMED that the idea was that Nya was feeling rather smothered by Jay already and was realizing she had other options. There’s a quick exchange in the first episode, where Nya gets annoyed that Jay’s offering her pudding he’s already taken a bite out of, and she says “what have we discussed before”, and he sheepishly says “boundaries”. (Which I guess was a weird Y-7 version of “okay I like you but not enough to be exposed to your body fluids” or something.)

    Then in a later episode Nya reveals the location of her secret hideout to the team (where she stores her samurai suit) and Jay gets really upset she didn’t tell him before, and says “but I thought we knew everything about each other!” And the only thing Nya can really say to explain why she likes Cole at all (other than being told he was her “perfect match” by a computer) is “Cole is, well, he’s not Jay”.

    But then it just degenerated into the standard “two guys fighting over one girl while she just sadistically plays with their hearts” claptrap, Sigh. And inspired me to write this essay because, well, I certainly don’t want that to happen in MJ. I don’t think it will, though.

  4. Several good points. Dare I mention that Divergent did not have romantic triangle? *sigh of relief*

    Also, there are a myriad if relationship triangles in THG trilogy, not just romantic. Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch as a team. Katniss, Prim, mother as a family. Katniss, Gale, Boggs as military D 13 leaders. Collins is fond of this character dynamic. And while I enjoy the romance, I agree that THG doesn’t qualify in that genre.

    1. Hi HGBC, thanks for your insight! True that Divergent did not have a romantic triangle, though I admit that when I first heard about the series I thought Caleb was a love interest for Tris (blame my Game of Thrones conditioning ;)), only later did I realize he was actually her brother. Though I guess as a “loved one turned antagonist” his role has SOME similarities to that of Gale.

      The other thing I like about the “triangle” in THG is that there really is no infidelity aspect to it, as Katniss is never actually in a romantic relationship with Gale, and doesn’t start a “real” romantic relationship with Peeta until the very end. Unlike some other “triangles” in which the formula is “Girl meets and dates Boy 1, then later cheats on Boy 1 with Boy 2”. (Though you could argue Twilight itself, despite setting the stage for Obligatory YA Love Triangles, technically doesn’t count because Bella never actually dates Jacob, yet many fans think her kissing Jacob while engaged to Edward counted as cheating.)

      Which was another issues I had with the twists in Ninjago, I really found not one but TWO examples of cheating in a Y7 rated show to be overkill, as both the “Garmadon-Misako-Wu” and “Jay-Nya-Cole” triangles follow that formula. Garmadon and Misako are married (though granted he DID abandon her when he fell to the Dark Side), and Jay and Nya are considered “official” enough that the first thing Cole says to Nya when he realizes she likes him is “Don’t tell Jay”, and when Jay finds out he calls Cole a “back-stabber” and is enraged at what he sees as a betrayal not only by his GF, but by a good friend.

      1. Well, that settles it. My kids are not watching Ninjago! (Why would cheating be in a Y7 show??)

        I don’t think Katniss is cheating but she “feels” like she is lying to both at one point (can’t remember exact wording). I am re-reading CF right now and just finished chapter where Katniss says, “Gale is mine. I am his.” That is a strong statement. Of course, next chapter she wonders what kind of love she has for Gale and is confused by the whole thing.

        1. Yeah, I’m still shaking my head over Ninjago S3. Too bad, because I really liked the show before; the first 2 seasons kept a great balance between keeping it kid-friendly while including a lot of pop culture references for the parents; the main plot, of Lloyd, a whiny pre-teen, being the Chosen One fated to defeat the Vader-like Lord Garmadon, was straight out of Star Wars, and there’s little touches like the “Brown Ninja” Dareth who claims he can talk to animals, a power Radagast the Brown had in LOTR.

          Anyway, back to THG! I agree that while Katniss never actually cheats on anyone, she at times feels she’s being dishonest or disloyal, both with Gale and with Peeta. Some of the other “triangles” you mention also are “loyalty triangles” as well; Haymitch makes promises to BOTH Peeta and Katniss to keep the other alive, and Katniss feels betrayed when she finds out Haymitch failed to save Peeta. And where Katniss – Mrs. E – Prim are concerned, Katniss for some time essentially saw her mother as an antagonist who was making poor choices that put Prim in danger, instead of being on the same side.

          I don’t see that dynamic in Katniss – Gale – Boggs, but Boggs certainly has conflicting loyalties to Coin and Katniss (and eventually chooses Katniss – I do hope they boost his role in the movie because the backstory behind how that happened is really intriguing to me, it certainly goes against his “programming” so to speak).

          Also, unlike the ambitious Plutarch, Boggs really seems sincere. Yet, he advises Katniss to kill Peeta, which makes for another “triangle”, Boggs sees Peeta as a threat more than anything else, and doesn’t seem to quite get that killing him might keep Katniss alive but at a heavy price psychologically and emotionally. I just love how SC keeps everyone at least a touch ambiguous; no one character makes all the right decisions or has all the right answers.

          1. I love the complexity of Collins’ characters too.

            Since I am going to be teaching THG for the first time in fall, any suggestions for discussion topics?

            1. Here are a couple: (1) What is the overall message of the series regarding violence? Much room for debate here, I’ve seen readers argue everything from “it sends an extremely pacifist message that violence is NEVER justified even in reaction to violence and oppression” to “despite SC’s likely intent, the mere depiction of violence in the series can’t help but glorify it in a “torture porn” type way, or at least winds up de-sensitizing the reader to such violence.

              Personally, I think the series suggests violence is justifiable in SOME cases, but that committing such acts ALWAYS comes with a price even if they are justified.

              Or you could discuss (2) How is the series applicable to the reality TV and celebrity PR cultures that go on today? This is assuming English teachers still assign essays making students make parallels between the works they were reading, and their own personal lives, as some of mine did.

              (3) And here’s one that I really like, though I’m nerdy like that, discussing the many parallels SC makes between Panem and historical cultures, the meanings behind many of the character names, etc. But I don’t know if your students are like that.

              You could also discuss parallels to the Vietnam War/Cold War, which the MJ rebellion certainly gas. Also, while obviously SC didn’t intend this, I think the current Ukraine-Russia conflict has a LOT of parallels with the MJ Rebellion, with a “Ukraine = Capitol, Russia = D13, Crimea = the Districts” parallel. In both, it seems pretty obvious that Russia/D13 is involved more to expand their power spheres than any real concern for the “rank-and-file” rebels.

  5. 1. I was definitely going to ask the question, “Is war ever justified?” And “what would be worth fighting for?” Because to me, THG encourages us to ask ourselves those questions, but diesn’t tell us “the answer”.

    2. Yep, I am already planning to have the students look at history of Theseus & Minotaur, Spartacus, gladiators, Roman culture, etc.

    3. And because I am nerdy too, we are looking at name meaning, imagery, story structure.

    But I hadn’t thought about the parallels with Ukraine and Russia. Great thought! Thanks!

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