Patrick E. McLean : Just what it says on the tin.

Katniss Everdeen: A Fashion Model with PTSD

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.

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