Being a woman isn’t about embracing a social role or gender, gender, gender. It is about being an adult female bodied person or being assumed to be an adult female bodied person.
Glamour is the stuff of the elite and overly privileged. Hunger Games allegorically shows how the elites of the world treat the masses. The working people do the menial work and fight the wars, the privileged bask in their glamour. You don’t have to be a Marxist or Tea Party prole to see that one.
Despite its female hero, The Hunger Games constantly depicts the conventional trappings of femininity as decadent, weak and dangerous.
November 30, 2015
In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is the luxurious seat of evil. While the drab working class in the districts toil in poverty and filth and boring clothes, Capitol citizens stroll about in pampered splendour. President Snow raises white perfumed roses. His populace is decked out in gaudily colored costumes, preposterous coiffures and elaborately styled facial hair. The upper-class, in short, is decadent – and decadence, in both Suzanne Collins’ books and the films, means flamboyant femininity.
Disgust with, and hatred of femininity is often linked to hatred of women – as in the uber-masculine James Bond novels, with their casual disdain for the disposable sex objects who cross the hero’s path.
The Hunger Games doesn’t hate women, though. Its hero is a woman. But, as a woman, she is a hero precisely because she rejects the traditional roles of femininity. At home in District 12, Katniss wears utilitarian, drab clothing. After her father dies, she steps into his role as provider and hunter, leaving the confines of the domestic village for adventures in the woods. When her sister is threatened, Katniss does the stereotypical manly, heroic thing. You could certainly say her feelings for her sister are maternal, but she expresses them most dramatically through being iconically paternal – by going into battle to protect her family.
The Hunger Games does put Katniss in female roles with some regularity – but it invariably does so to emphasize those roles’ artificiality, and her distance and discomfort with them. She wears a series of striking, literally incendiary dresses, which in the films emphasise Jennifer Lawrence’s considerable glamour. But, while Katniss admires these dresses (and shares a bond of deep affection with designer Cinna), she’s wearing them because she has to, not because she wants to. She has to dress up first in order to win sponsors to help her during the Hunger Games battle, and then to inspire the resistance against the capital. The dresses are a performance. They function as a kind of drag, not an expression of her own gender identity or choices.
Similarly, Katniss’s romance plot is presented as a front. She and Peeta pretend to be in love for the cameras to, again, woo sponsors and to assure President Snow that their main interest is true love, not rebellion. The wedding preparations are an elaborate ruse, which underlines Katniss’s distance from the traditional feminine romance narrative. She doesn’t want marriage and happily ever after; she is not that feminine archetype. If she could, she would head for the woods.