I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on a comic about my experiences dealing with self-defense. When I was writing it, I found it really difficult to separate out all of my feelings on the subject. I was trying to stuff the entire scope of my feelings into one 24-page book, which didn’t really work. Consequently, one of the aspects I felt like I had to trim down significantly was which female figures in the media have heavily influenced me to seek out learning more about martial arts, fighting, defense, and all that good stuff.
Therefore, all next week I’m going to zero in on a character a day that I’ve found inspiring in the realm of women kicking ass. Kick-Ass Women Week! And I’d love for all of you out there to chip in with your faves along the way. Naturally, I have way more than five inspirational figures in my head, and I’m sure all of you out there wil have strong opinions on your top five, but let’s start with that number and go from there. If I do a decent job summing up my feelings into five wee blog posts, I might continue on.
And speaking of strong female action characters, last weekend I finally got to see my beloved Hunger Games (and so, as I warned my brother and boyfriend last weekend, I am now only going to talk about that). So SPOILER ALERT AHEAD to all those who haven’t read/seen the Hunger Games and wish to!
I thought as a whole the movie did an amazing job with the amount of time they had to set the scene, prep the emotions of the audience, and throw people headfirst into the action. The first 10 minutes of the film blew me away by instantly grabbing the viewer and throwing them into a bleak, gray, miserable life constantly operating under intense fear. It took only seconds for me to put myself into Prim’s shoes when she got called up to the stage and tucked her “ducktail” shirt into her skirt. Suddenly, I didn’t want to see the rest of the movie, because I couldn’t imagine being brave enough to stand up and volunteer in that situation as Katniss did. (It could’ve also been because the beginning of the movie was incredibly hand-held shaky – something my vertigo-prone self can’t hang with – and I felt nauseous during that first part.)
I liked seeing how Katniss was translated onscreen. Luckily, over the years I’ve given up hoping that every film adaptation of a beloved book will magically depict everything I’d held in my head while reading. I can appreciate each form for its own worth (if done well, anyway). What I found interesting in the movie is that they constantly switch up what Katniss is supposed to “be like” so that you never get a chance to stereotype her. With each new scene, Katniss was bringing out another part of her personality. At the beginning of the film, she was presented to us as someone tough enough to tell her little sister she’d win the games and to warn her mother not to screw up while she was gone, but her brave face also crumbled at telling her best friend to take care of them. Next she becomes someone “unlikable” that has to learn how to put on a public face for an audience of people cheering for her bloody death. She’s thrown into a lovematch with a dude from her town she barely knows and has to allow him to distract from her determination to win. When she’s forced to meet and train with the other tributes, they actually show that she has fear and can fumble under pressure just as easily as the rest of us.
It must’ve been tempting, in a movie where teenagers are forced to kill one another, to make the main character seem invincible so the audience wouldn’t be paralyzed with worry for her. But Katniss in the film is just strong enough. You truly believe she’s capable and she can get out of this, but you recognize the horror and gravity of the situation she’s thrown into and that even her strength could fall far short. I was also worried that they’d make the other tributes cartoonish so you wouldn’t feel bad about hating them and rooting for Katniss and Peeta. But when Clove showed her fear at the hands of Thresh, you realized she was just a young girl who’d had to psych herself up for this moment her whole life. Similarly Cato, who knew since birth this was a possibility and he had to confront it with strength – but his resolve and motivation faltered when he was faced with the reality of that fate.
Of course, one of the turning points in the film is Katniss’s relationship with Rue – she takes her under her wing in the hopes that she can protect one thing, one part of her that will help her to retain a semblance of humanity in the situation. That’s one thing the book delved into a lot – Katniss was constantly afraid of becoming a killing machine, an unfeeling monster. But Katniss also doesn’t flinch when she kills Rue’s murderer. There is no pause, no roar of revenge, and she doesn’t go on a bloody rampage. True, she kills instinctively and without regret, but then Rue’s death flattens her and she can’t help but give in to the wracking sobs. Because she should. Because she can be all of these things at once. Alyssa Rosenberg’s review of Katniss makes this point perfectly – in this moment, we are suddenly exposed to a female action hero who can be strong, vicious, and yet also nurturing and emotional.
Peeta was wonderful. Though I don’t understand why he still has both legs at the end. I thought one of the main points of the book was that they don’t get out unscathed. Maybe I’m being too particular, but in the book, at the end of the Games where Katniss is reduced to dragging Peeta around and killing people-wolves and defending him with her life and you get a real sense for how strong she is in her final struggle. In the movie, everything happened pretty quickly, but Peeta was still very much able to take care of himself. Oh well. It was worth him keeping his leg just to get to see him throw Cato over his shoulder. Like my brother quipped – “Peeta’s like the HULK when he can put people in the flour-bag-throwing position!”
Okay, I’ll stop rambling for the moment. GO READ IT AND SEE IT AND STUFF.
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