Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins

I heard about this book on Fresh Air with Terri Gross and promptly bought it for my son, who read it and then the rest of the trilogy.  Mockingjay came out shortly after he had read the first two volumes.

When I heard there was to be a movie, I waited.  I have learned my lesson and, if possible, will read the book after seeing the movie.  Especially one bound to be unbelievably hyped.

I had heard that the book was slow in the middle (from my son and another friend).  It was not.  It was amazing.  But how, I wondered, was I going to say anything about this book that hasn’t been said.  I probably won’t.  But these are my reflections, my record, my engagement with the text, so I guess any repetition that may occur is irrelevant.

I just finished reading Susan Douglas’ book about enlightened feminism, so that was fresh on my mind and Katniss Everdeen’s busting of the stereotypes Douglas explores kept confronting me.  She’s a young girl who hunts with a gorgeous guy and doesn’t notice.  She doesn’t worry about her looks, particularly weight, unless it’s to worry about not having enough.  She is a young woman who provides for her family through a particularly masculine pursuit of hunting.  Gale traps with elaborate snares (like women trapping men).  She shoots her prey through the eye with one arrow.  When she buys a wounded goat for her sister, Prim, she says she knew it would be worth its price and denies any sentimental motivation.  When her mother and sister work to heal the people of District 12, she runs for the woods where she can kill things and be in control.  When she has to pretend to be in love with Peeta, she’s in drag.  She’s acting out a script she’s seen women performing.  Her one truly feminine trait is her nurturing love for her sister and her care for little Rue.

Like Douglas’ heroines, however, in order to survive, Katniss must hide her power under a mantle of silly femininity.  She has to giggle in her pre-game interview.  She’s waxed and primped, stripped naked, subject to the gaze of her handlers.   To earn help in the games she must kiss and cuddle and declare love and demonstrate her devotion to her purported beloved.

Unlike Douglas’ heroines, this drag show saves Katniss’ ass from the powers that be, the Capitol, but the drag does not convince the people in the outer districts.  Here it’s her defiance of the show that captures attention:  the flowers over Rue’s body and the threat of ruining the games by eating the poison berries.

This blog is not about movies, but, because this book’s movie adaptation was just released, I have to comment on life imitating art.

Katniss Everdeen is a female heroine who kicks ass and shoots and saves the boy.  The actress who plays Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence, has been asked to put on a drag show by some critics.  In particular, several male critics have tried to police her weight.  Hollywood has become the Capitol.  Like her literary counterpart, Ms. Lawrence has flipped the establishment the bird.

I think Susan Douglas must be pleased.

On to Catching Fire.

Finished 4/9/12


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