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Illusion of Strong Female Hero in Hunger Games

Updated on December 4, 2012

Women as Leading Characters in Books, Movies and TV

When a female takes a leading role in books and movies, especially if she deftly uses weapons and kills off the bad guys, we often look to her as a hero. Look at how strong and brave she is!

In the books and movie, America has been destroyed, and in its place is Panem which consists of thirteen districts. Each of these districts must send two people, called tributes - a boy and a girl - to participate in the annual Hunger Games. These games are in retaliation to a failed revolt, and are meant to quell the masses. It will be a fight to the death and there is only one winner. The sole survivor wins food and supplies for his or her family and district.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, volunteers to take the place of her little sister in a tournament that will be broadcast on television. To have a chance of surviving the reality game, she has to use her sharp instincts.

The movie is based on a bestselling trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins, called Mockingjay.

Led by rising movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Australia's Liam Hemsworth, the flick is about a broadcast for TV fight to the death in a post-apocalyptic America.
Led by rising movie stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Australia's Liam Hemsworth, the flick is about a broadcast for TV fight to the death in a post-apocalyptic America. | Source

Morals and Messages in Hunger Games

Incompetent Adults

Hunger Games, as well as many other books and movies made for teenagers and young adults, feature lead characters who must overcome obstacles despite, or sometimes because of, evil or incompetent adults. In this case, children are allowed to be offered as pawns, 24 of them each year, without the adults revolting. I would think that that would be a very strong incentive to have a revolution, a stronger reason than the ideology that causes many real life revolutions. Why are the adults not protecting the children, and why can't they offer any help from watching these games every year?

Violence Makes You a Hero

It's Katniss's ability to run and use weapons that seem to make her a hero. The concept of hero is very manly, so it is often male character traits that are revered. The ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, climb trees, run and fight are valued. These are, of course, worth appreciating, but oftentimes they are many female character traits that are blatantly ignored.

Katniss as a Hero

Even when you use the aforementioned definition of a hero, Katniss still does not seem to be a hero. Sure, she can use her instincts to create a strategy that gives her a chance to last longer in the game. For example, at the beginning of the game, she patiently lets her competitors get through the start of the game, and their weapons and avoids the initial killing. This was a smart idea, but was presented to her by her mentor. The mentor, although an adult, was diminished in stature because he was a drunk.

Instead of killing everyone off that she can, she uses strategy to avoid being killed. My daughter pointed out that this was because she didn't have the weapons to utilize a different strategy.

At the end of the movie, she makes a decision that seems brave and heroic. I won't give away the ending, but as you can see in the trailer, the idea was actually given to her by another tribute.

Hunger Games Premier in Sydney, Australia
Hunger Games Premier in Sydney, Australia | Source

Women Heroes

For me, people, particularly women, don't become heroes because they save a life or do any other brave thing. A hero isn't someone who did one thing one day. A hero is someone who thinks about someone else, and does it regularly, even every day, day in and day out.

Heroes are mothers who stay by their children, even when times are tough, and make sure they have something to eat and a warm place to stay. They are the nurses who help people when they are ill. Heroes are teachers who educate children on the things they need to know as they make their way in the world.

Sure, Katniss did some heroic things in the Hunger Games. But what makes her a hero in my mind is not what she did during the game. She is a hero for what she did before the games even started. By hunting for her family and making sure that they were fed, and by volunteering to take the place of her sister, she earned my respect. These things may not make great movies, but they show far more character than using a bow and arrow.

Hunger Games Trailer

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