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The Hunger Games or Just The Hunger? Katniss Gets Straight-Washed

katniss 2

Courtesy Lionsgate

by DAVE FUMAROLA

By now, almost everyone in the world is familiar with The Hunger Games, the trilogy that tells of a love triangle in a dystopian future. Between the hugely successful films and the myriad amount of merchandise depicting the well-known characters, The Hunger Games is in everyone’s faces. There’s only one problem – what the public is being fed is a straight-washed version of the original novels.

Whether or not it was Suzanne Collins’ intention, she created a great lesbian protagonist. Katniss Everdeen spends literally zero time thinking about romantic relationships with boys. She spends her free time hunting to feed her family, maintaining a platonic relationship with her friend, Gale, and starting revolutions. In the books, Katniss doesn’t shave her legs or worry about her appearance. She’s pretty much described as a raging bull-dyke. Of course, we forget this because she is portrayed by the painfully gorgeous Jennifer Lawrence in the films.

Peeta and Gale, both boys, have feelings for Katniss that she doesn’t quite return. She acknowledges that she feels something for them, but not the way they feel about her. She expresses her desire to end up with neither of them and wonders why boys can’t just leave her alone. You may have forgotten this due to the film franchise’s epic marketing campaign playing up the love triangle. Many details from Catching Fire are left out in order to allow time for more Gale and Katniss kisses, of which there is only one in the book. Honestly, her feelings and actions toward her two suitors very much resemble the way a closeted lesbian would handle unwanted advancements.

katniss 1

“Yo, Prim, I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you live, but Madge had one of the best hugs of all time!”

The biggest difference between the books and the films is the films’ omission of Madge. In the books, Madge is Katniss’s good friend and the mayor’s daughter. Katniss is always bringing strawberries to Madge’s house, which seems like it must be a metaphor for something lesbian, but as a gay man, I don’t know what. Madge is also the one who goes to see Katniss before she leaves for the games and gives her the mockingjay pin for good luck. We later find out it was her aunt’s, who died in the arena years earlier. Not much is mentioned about Katniss and Madge’s relationship in the books except that they are good friends and they spend a significant amount of time together at Madge’s house. When Madge and Gale seem to be growing close, Katniss gets jealous, but is she really jealous that Gale found a girl? Or is she jealous that he found THAT girl? Reading it, the latter felt more appropriate as Katniss has never come across as a strictly heterosexual character. The films eliminated Madge altogether and found other ways to create the same impact she has on the plot, ways that have nothing to do with Katniss’s sexuality.

The films also work harder at making Peeta seem stronger than he does in the books. So much of the prose is dedicated to Katniss taking care of everybody, but in the movies she’s almost just along for the ride. Is Katniss Everdeen too strong for Hollywood? She must be since the filmmakers took great pains to keep her feminine and the men masculine.

Considering Collins’ trilogy is set in the future, she is remarkably conservative toward sexuality. There are characters that seem like they’re gay, but they’re extremely over the top and otherwise asexual. She has crazy costumes, a new government and even new evolutions, but she doesn’t have overtly homosexual characters. This is one oppressive view of the future.

None of this means that The Hunger Games movies are bad. In fact, they’re pretty great. Any excuse to stare at JLaw for over two hours is okay in my book.

It’s just sad that we could have seen one of young adult literature’s strongest lesbian characters in one of the biggest film franchises of all time. Instead, we have to watch the gorgeously heterosexual version. Who knows? Maybe they’ll play up the gay angle when they inevitably remake the movies in twenty years.

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “The Hunger Games or Just The Hunger? Katniss Gets Straight-Washed

  1. Maybe Katniss is Asexual? And not shaving your legs does not make you a raging bull-dyke it just makes you a woman who doesn’t shave her legs…imho.

    I don’t shave, I don’t wear dresses much, I refuse to wear a bra, I rarely wear make-up and when I do it is lightly or for a costume type event or if I am going to be on stage…

    In my profile photo I have drawn on eyebrows, which is something I experiment with on occasion, I am getting old and grey, and my once beautiful eyebrows are disappearing, i kinda miss them.

    Posted by Liza Bear | December 3, 2013, 4:31 pm
    • Remember that Katniss, at least in the book, is an adolescent, And some teens are late bloomers and not all that interested in sex with anyone yet. Or they are not sure which way they want to go…

      Posted by Liza Bear | December 3, 2013, 4:40 pm
      • Thanks for the comments, Liza! I generally agree with you. I admit I was being a bit dramatic to demonstrate a point and the post was meant to be fun. Simply not shaving does not make someone a raging bull-dyke haha. I only meant that she was closer to that, than say, a beautiful Hollywood starlet. Yes, Katniss is young and she may not have put much thought into sexuality yet. But from the films, it appears Hollywood has decided her sexuality for her.

        Posted by gaythestraightaway | December 3, 2013, 5:11 pm
  2. P.S. Hi! I like your site.

    Posted by Liza Bear | December 3, 2013, 4:41 pm
  3. I’ve been thinking this too as I read the books. I totally loved the book mentioning that Katniss likes her leg hair. You just don’t see that much in a best selling book. And I like mine!

    Posted by Becky | June 11, 2014, 2:54 am
  4. Wow. Your view of the world is so much narrower than you think. Just because Katniss doesn’t show a lot of interest in boys doesn’t mean that she’s automatically gay. People’s default setting isn’t either straight or gay. There are lots of orientations on lots of spectrums that you’re just ignoring. I’ve seen many people speculate that Katniss is asexual(or somewhere on that spectrum), which seems a lot more likely to me. Also – not shaving legs=bull-dyke? Do you think that just because you’re a gay man you have the right to use an expression like that? Fine, you were aiming for shock-value on that one, but it strikes me as weird and pretty heteronormative, for lack of better description. You also seem to have some issues with feminine and masculine ideals. Katniss’ appearance in the films doesn’t straight-wash her. The fact that so much weight is put on the “love triangle” between her, Peeta and Gale is what straight-washes her. The lack of hair on her legs is rather a manifestation of Hollywood’s beauty ideals and irrational expectations on women’s appearance. It has nothing to do with sexuality, just as femininity and/or masculinity have nothing to do with sexuality either.

    Posted by writingtears | January 31, 2015, 10:50 am

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