When your government forces you to murder teenagers on a live TV show, you really need somebody to hug.
Let’s talk about girls.
I’m a girl. You may or may not be a girl. But one thing we both know is that girls don’t always get the best roles in film. I watch a lot of action films, and sometimes I’ll watch a movie that is otherwise spectacular, but has zero women in it. Sometimes action films will have a cool prostitute character who keeps our hero grounded emotionally while also having super sweaty sex with him.
There was a time when conventional wisdom was that you couldn’t get an action film made with a lady in the lead unless that lady was Angelina.
That was then.
Now I have all kinds of girl crushes. Watching women kick ass is probably my favorite thing in the whole world besides impressing strangers at a karaoke bar.
Every so often I’ll be popping by here to talk about films from the lady perspective. I won’t just stick to action films, but I will start there.
One of my biggest girl crushes is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. If you haven’t seen the movies, go watch them right now and come back, otherwise you’re gonna be super spoiled by what comes next.
So what is up with Katniss? Why’s she so grumpy all the time? Why doesn’t she choose the Hemsworth boy? I have answers.
The key to understanding and appreciating Katniss is to realizing how much pressure she puts on herself to be strong. From an early age, she’s been responsible for not just putting food on the table, but for maintaining a sense of safety for the rest of her family. Katniss is the kind of person who can handle the emotional pressure of living in the dystopia that is Panem, and everyone around her looks to her to provide them with emotional strength. They have bad days where they want to give up, they cry themselves to sleep, they fret about what to do. Katniss figures out how to survive so they can focus on other things, and she considers that her job. She’s the rock for you to stand behind when the danger comes, and rocks don’t have emotional breakdowns. They’d be terrible rocks if they did.
That’s the root of every single decision she makes. Of course she volunteers as tribute to take Prim’s place – how could she not? She knows Prim can’t handle the games and she can. Of course she protects Rue. Of course she won’t kill Peeta. She was never going to kill Peeta. She saw Peeta, Rue and Prim as people who needed her protection, and that is her mission in life – protect those who can’t protect themselves.
I’ve always found this relatable as hell. I’m not a superhero or anything (although I do have a Dazzler costume), but thanks to a lot of fragile people in my family, I felt from a young age that it was my job to keep it together while everyone else fell apart. I always knew that in the zombie apocalypse I’d be shoving down all my emotions and giving the orders while everyone else panics. Weird job for an eight-year-old to plan for, but here we are.
So when Katniss seems grumpy I totally get it. Others have the luxury of sleeping, laughing, enjoying fancy parties. Everybody else gets time for self-care, but not Katniss. She’s not worried about herself – she’s worried about her family, then her friends, then eventually every single person in Panem. So yeah, that kind of burden will make you seem kind of grumpy.
And that’s where Peeta comes in.
When I read the book, I never quite got why she picked Peeta over Gale. In the film, it’s much easier to see, but not just because Gale’s ego got innocent people killed. It was over for him a long time before that moment.
Gale is the kind of guy who complains about being “stuck in the friend zone” because Katniss doesn’t have time to meet all his romantic needs. She’s busy worrying about every single person in Panem being oppressed, but Gale wants to make it about how she doesn’t kiss him unless he’s sad and her Katniss protector mode kicks in. But Gale’s just as emotionally strong as she is in a crisis, so he don’t really need her. He also expects her to be strong all the time, just like everyone else in her life.
Everyone else except Peeta.
Peeta gave her bread because she was starving, even though it cost him. In the games, Peeta refuses to let her take all the danger for herself even though she tries. He wants to SHARE her burden. And more importantly, Katniss learns to LET him share it on the day she asks him to hold her while she sleeps.
“We take care of each other,” she says to him in Mockingjay, while they’re running through a subway station where the floor becomes razor blades and laser beams.
They take care of EACH OTHER. That’s a big admission for Katniss – that she doesn’t just take care of him, but he takes care of her too. That’s the conclusion of her arc – admitting that she needs somebody. And trust me, when you’ve spent your entire life thinking you had to be strong one hundred percent of the time, it’s a huge relief to know someone will allow you to be vulnerable.
And that’s why I love Katniss. She reminds me that it’s okay to be a badass but also let a boy hug you.
Come back next time to read me go on about something else cool that has to do with women in the movies. I’ve got a lot more to say about girls.
Emily Blake is a screenwriter/producer/script supervisor/dog lover. She cohosts Chicks Who Script, a filmmaker podcast that focuses on women and minorities (Chickswhoscript.com), and tweets a lot. She is a Gryffindor.