Katniss Everdeen: A Fashion Model with PTSD

By March 17, 2015Uncategorized

Really, why not mock the Mockingjay?

I’ve made some mistakes in my time, and reading the Hunger Games are at least three of them. These books are so bad the movies have more depth. It is such an accomplishment it should be noted in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Heroes should be Heroic.

You know what a hero is? A person who takes action and sacrifices themselves for the greater good. To be fair, Katniss does it once. She offers herself instead of her sister. But after that, she’s a fashion model with PTSD.

Her main action is playing dress-up. And it really comes off the rails at the end of the second book/movie because she doesn’t even save herself. She is saved by her band of friends because — wait for it — her media presence can be used to advance the revolution.

Dun da dunt da, dunt da waaaaaaaaaaah.

Really, she does little more than pine for various guys, who are all in love with her and bitch about her sister’s cat. The cat, quite frankly, is a mean son-of-a-bitch, a true hunter, a cold-blooded killer and my favorite character in the book. Haymitch is a close second because, once he completes his ‘hero’ quest and gains a broader understanding into this silly universe, he makes the sensible decision to get drunk and stay there.

Here’s the question. Why is this story about Katniss? Why not Haymitch or any of the other victors? Not because she’s smart or she’s strong. It’s because she’s pretty. Because she is a media presence. A person who is famous for being famous. She’s bascially Kim Kardashian with. And there’s a brilliance in that. It’s a story for girls coming of age in this media-obsessed-age. I can appreciate what’s good about it. But it’s still offensive to me.

It makes me wonder how I would raise a daughter in this day and age? I mean it’s hard enough to raise a girl and not have her self-worth tied to appearance, but when you also have to face down powerfully rendered stories where the moral is “if you are pretty enough and you have a great team of stylists and you wear the right clothes you can save the world?”

Fuck that.

Pippi Longstockings is more heroic. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz is more praiseworthy. And don’t even get me started on Hermione from the Harry Potter novels. She’d have Chairman Snow done and dusted in a book and a half. But Katniss?

Ughh. She’s a Fashion Model with PTSD.

As a lesser criticism

If your protagonist is a hunter…

then you as an author have a responsibility to know something about hunting. Or at least, have taken a walk in the woods. Or, perhaps, shot a bow. From the writing of the Hunger Games, none of these things appear to be true for Suzanne Collins.

I am not a hunter, but here are some things I know about animals and being in the woods that I would have used.

  1. Deer walk somewhat consistent trails from food to water to safe places to sleep. While little more than a hoof-print wide, these deer paths can be as fast ways to move along the side of the hill.
  2. Deer are only really active in the morning and the evening.
  3. Turkey make weird noises and are very smart. Making noises like a turkey is a good way to hunt them.
  4. All animals have a very good sense of smell, so care must be taken to disguise your scent.
  5. After a day or two in the woods, you can smell people before you see them.
  6. Hunting is a sacred thing, especially to hunters.

Hunting for Katniss is like a bad piece of stage business for an actor. She goes into the woods and then comes back with food. Not seeming to interrupt her conversation with Gale to do it.

And there is no need to be gruesome about the description of hunting, or to go to live in a swamp and hunt frogs with a spear manufactured from a deconstructed [Olivetti Lettera 22] to get those details. Collins could have read the Pulitzer-Prize winning [The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings], (strangely enough another female author of YA fiction who’s surname is found in the plural) and stolen some tasty bits.

But she didn’t. Hell, she could have wandered into a sportsbar, plunked five bucks into “Big Buck Hunter” video game and would have gleaned more details about hunting than she used.

Anyway, we need a snappy ending for this rant, so here you go.

Remember, while it may be a sin to kill a Mockingbird, it’s no sin to kill a Mockingjay.


Patrick

Author Patrick

I help organizations figure out what they stand for and how to communicate what they believe. I also write fiction.

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  • Michael Kohne

    Am I missing something? I can’t seem to download this one from soundcloud…

  • PatrickEMcLean

    Fixed.

  • Ken Ryan

    I’ve never seen the movies, but I didn’t think the Hunger Games, taken as a series, was as bad as that. It did take me a while to work up the nerve to read it – I’m not normally a fan of kids maiming and killing each other (plenty of that is real life thankyouverymuch). But Collins did do a better job setting up the Games in the first book than the original _Battle_Royale_ (by Koushun Takami). At least she had something to say beyond the mayhem, and has a more realistic setting even with the lack of hunting skills.

    I do like your description of Everdeen though. But IMHO while the story is told through her, the point is no more about her than “A Modest Proposal” is about grocery shopping. Taken as a whole, I thought the three books were a reasonably good view of the progression of today’s social and economic inequalities taken through its extreme conclusion. Yes, it is a pretty simplistic view of that society – you are quite clear on who the bad guys are – but I think it matches fairly well with the target Young Adult market.

    Anyway, I’m glad I read it, though it’s not on the list of books I’ll reread over and over.

    • PatrickEMcLean

      I took a stance to make the piece work better. Sure, there are things to be admired about the books — I mean, to be that successful, something is working there.

      But I can’t get away from what a poor agent Katniss is in her own life and story. But, maybe, that’s the point. Teenagers don’t have a lot of agency in our society. They are largely treated like children, absolved of responsibility and, in a lot of ways, deprived of agency and power. More so with helicopter parents. Perhaps that’s why the books resonated so well with YA audience.

      But notice how my reasonable, balanced comment makes for a very boring rant.

      • Ken Ryan

        That is a good point, even the heroine saving the world is left with little or no free agency if she’s a teenage girl or young woman. That that also is an aspect of our own society taken to its extreme.

        But yeah, that is a less interesting rant than a dystopian Kardashian. 🙂

  • Evil Dicemonkey

    Having read the books in question (merely to see what the fuss over the films was all about), I disagree with the premise of your title. Katniss Everdeen is not a model. There are numerous times when she states that she is not beautiful “like the people who live in district one”, particularly in the third book, and I was mildly curious to see how Hollywood would handle such a sentiment, I have not seen any of the movies but I expect they will gloss over that portion of the book, and I’m not sure how they will justify the ending, it makes for a powerful statement but on screen? I’m not sure they can use it and not be disliked.

    You say in the episode that Katniss makes 1 choice during the entire series. Again, I disagree. She makes 2 choices, not much better but credit where it’s due. The rest of the time she is manipulated by others into doing what they want “for her own good” and she never questions it or sees through people’s motivates, she is a rather put upon individual with little thought or action of her own.

    I may not agree with your premise but I do agree with your conclusion, Katniss Everdeen is not a good hero for her own books. You say she’s not a good hero she’s because of the exploitation of her beauty, I say she has none and is not a good hero because she does not think, lead or act off her own back.

    • PatrickEMcLean

      Excellent point about the ending.

      You may have made a mistake about Katniss though. Just because she says she’s not beautiful, doesn’t mean she’s not beautiful. You know how many beautiful girls I know who think they are ugly? And what girl that age really has an abundance of self-confidence.

      But the way that the other characters react to her throughout the book, suggest that she has, if not conventional beauty, a great deal of physical charisma.

      But matters not, I think we are in agreement, whatever word we use, she is an object used for spin, rather than a person of substance in her own right.

  • Dagney T

    I agree wholeheartedly, having also recently read the entire series just to see what was causing all the fuss and the constant talk of this “strong, female heroine” who is allegedly such a wonderful role model for young women. Needless to say, I was disappointed, and found Katniss to be an extremely self-centered, weak, unlikable character, from start to finish. In addition, because the author insisted on using Katniss as the first person narrator in the third book, and she spends almost all of her time hiding in closets, being drugged into oblivion, and whining about herself (even bad things happening to others are related or caused by her or directly related to her, in her way of viewing things), the readers miss out on almost all of the important action. Important plot points and interactions have to be explained by other characters, after the fact. Finally, Katniss doesn’t seem very bright, with respect to both IQ and EQ. She is constantly missing important points or facts, and signals from others. In fact, most things have to be explained to her in very basic ways before she finally picks up on the message – from Rue telling her to drop the tracker jacker nest on the careers, to Peeta’s and Gale’s very obvious feelings, to political/revolutionary strategies. Sometimes, she seems almost sociopathic, with no sense of empathy or understanding of what others may be experiencing or feeling, and often doesn’t seem to care. At the end, she doesn’t even seem that attached to her own children.