Female Action Heroism in The Hunger Games

Jeffrey Brown’s article on action heroines and gender, Dangerous Curves, looks at the role of women in traditionally masculine roles, specifically in action films, where men tend to be the hero, while women are often portrayed as the damsels in distress. The article uses films Alien and Terminator 2 to show how women action heroines outplay this stereotypical role of many female leads in an action role. These films portray believable heroines that are not, “really only ‘boys’ in ‘girl’s’ clothing” (21), but actual ass kicking women that can be taken seriously and on the same level of their male counterparts.

OneKatniss everdeen 1 of the newest action/adventure film franchise to present to the public and millions of impressionable young girls, is the Hunger Games series, which features a teenage girl as the action heroine. The films are arguably some of the most positive portrayals of a female lead role taking the part of a traditional male role. In the above quote that suggests “hard body heroines as a male impersonator” (21), it is claiming that these action heroines may really only be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Let’s take a closer look at the Hunger Game’s female lead, Katniss Everdeen. One of the first scenes of her is when she is out in the woods hunting for food to bring back to her mother and younger sister. Katniss does not have a father, which seems to be important to her role in the story. Without an older man in her life, it is as if she takes on the role herself in the way she provides for her family and offers herself as tribute to the annual hunger games, in place of her sister Prim.

The appearance of Katniss is significant in her portrayal in the story. She does not have ripped abs or bobbed hair, and she even wears dresses and occasionally makeup. Her hair is often kept in a braid, which retains feminine elegance but is practical for hunting in the woods or battling in the games. Her clothing remains practical throughout. We never see her wearing clothes that are overwhelmingly masculine or foolishly tight or revealing that seek to show off her womanly curves. The outfits remain appropriate to the character’s life. Neither is her mental state exaggerated. We see her cry, but we also see her make decisions and even kill other human beings. Her doubts and breakdowns throughout the trilogy make Katniss resemble who she is: a teenage girl who is not immune or pretending to be immune to trials. She is both tough and weak at times, showing the fact that she is simply human, not necessarily a male impersonating a heroine role.  Katniss everdeen 2

Along with its honest portrayal of Katniss, the story does something else that is interesting in respect to the story. Here we turn to the role of men in The Hunger Games. There are two, Peeta, the bakery boy and chosen male tribute for the games, and Gale, Katniss’s best friend and hunting companion. As both males fall for the lead female, the story plays with this love triangle in interesting ways. Throughout the series, Peeta and Gale are portrayed as side shows to the story, the story being Katniss’s journey to overthrowing the tyrannical Capitol. The drama revolves around her, because she is the one who defied the Capitol in the end of the first story. It is as if the traditional roles of women, as distractions and loves interests in action films revolving around male heroes, are being switched to that of men (Peeta and Gale). It is appropriate to add in here the significance of Katniss and Peeta’s start of friendship and eventually romance.

During the early stages of the games, Katniss stumbles upon a wounded Peeta. Here Peeta portrays the stereotypical role of damsel in distress. The woman, who also happens to be the hero of the story, nurses the man back to health. At the end of the games, she saves his live again by refusing to kill him and threatening to eat poison berries if the Capitol did not allow them both to live. In this stunning reversal in traditional action film gender roles, the character, Katniss, carries the role well.

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