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.)
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.