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.
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.