Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at email@example.com.
The absence of Katniss’s voice in The Hunger Games movie didn’t become clear to me until after it ended. Once I realized that her silence was bothering me, even more troublesome questions began to arise. Why eliminate Katniss as narrator?
The answer to that question is probably found in Twilight. In the Twilight franchise, Bella is the primary narrator of her story, sharing the minutiae of her emotional life with abandon. Many of Bella’s musings read like they come from my (early, okay?) teenage diaries. They feature a singular, laser-like focus on herself and her place in the world, with little concern for anything or anyone not directly involved in helping her through the process of self-actualization.
Sarah Blackwood over at The Hairpin and GLG’s own Melissa Sexton have eloquently analyzed the problems with dismissing Bella and the Twilight franchise on terms of its emotionality and subsequent feminization. Such defense of The Hunger Games won’t be necessary since (as also noted by Melissa) the filmmakers circumvented such criticism by eliminating the primary female voice entirely.
Obviously, Katniss speaks in the film, but the film lacks the richness of the books as developed through the readers’ access to her ongoing inner monologue–which, yes, includes confusion, anxiety, love, sadness, loneliness, anger, and a host of other messy emotions. When those messy emotions are assigned to a female character, they are suddenly stripped of any potential importance and instead are trivialized and dismissed (see: Bella). Katniss’s agency, cleverness, and care for those she loves, so prominent in The Hunger Games books, is presented in a shallow, one-dimensional form on the big screen, denying the power that can be enacted by an angry, loving, or vengeful woman.
The comparison between Bella and Katniss is a tenuous one (though productively explored by Noah Bertlatsky at The Atlantic), but both of these narratives center on female characters and their feelings, despite the fact Bella and Katniss’s approaches to actually acting on those feelings are widely divergent.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Mary HK Choi at The Awl suggest that Katniss fails to be emotionally compelling as a character in the film because of Jennifer Lawrence’s weaknesses and inexpressiveness as an actor. I get the humor underlying their criticisms, but think that assigning blame to Lawrence is a cop-out. Lawrence can emote just fine. Instead, we as cultural critics need to be identifying and calling out a system of production and a culture that calls for women to be silent if they want to be strong and, in turn, labels women who are vocal about their emotional lives as passive and powerless.