Mar 27 2012
Katniss and Her Friends: Why "The Hunger Games" Resonates



So every teenage girl, it seems, wants to be Katniss.

I'm not surprised.  I would, too.

The Hunger Games is about culture, and more specifically, Katniss vs. Culture. And it's our culture, of course, through the lens of caricature.  

It's our culture, and every teenage girl, it seems, would like to pick up a bow, and fire an arrow directly into the heart of it, and watch it die.

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In the books (I haven't seen the movie, yet) Katniss is substance, and adult culture - embodied and enforced by the Capitol - is all about appearances. It's mean, it's selective, it's heartless, it's cruel, and it pits one-teen-against-the-other.  

Katniss cares about her appearance, but not very much.  It's the Capitol, the culture, that cares very much, foisting makeup and fashion experts upon her, each charged with making her understand how important outward beauty is to her survival. They convince her: Change, and change outwardly, and extremely... or you will not survive.

Katniss has romantic feelings, but they don't control her story. It's the Capitol, the culture, that wants romance to control her story, to define her, and give her meaning.

Katniss wants to protect her younger sister from this culture. No girl, she thinks, should be drawn into this, but certainly not one so young. But to her horror, the Capitol, the culture, wants to draw in the youngest, the pre-teen, girl.

Katniss wants to provide for her family, in the absence of her father. The Capitol, effectively, took her father from her, through his work. Forced to work in mines, he was killed in an explosion.

Katniss wishes she didn't need to hunt, but she is willing to do what it takes to make it work. The Capitol, the culture, literally sets up barriers to stop her.

Katniss finds a boy/man who is flawed, but self-sacrificing, protective, warm, and committed to not being changed by the culture. He will not, he says, become a self-seeking "monster." The Capitol, the culture, is patronizingly charmed by that... as it is fully committed to changing him into a self-seeking monster.

Katniss knows truth matters. She's no philosopher, but she knows loyalty matters. She knows sacrificing for the vulnerable matters. She knows there is such a thing as Good, even if she can't articulate it. The Capitol, the culture, tries to convince her otherwise.

Katniss loves her family. The Capitol finds that quaint, and valuable only in that it adds to an entertaining storyline, since amusement is, of course, the ultimate goal. And a human, a teenage girl, only has value to the extent the Capitol, our culture, is attracted to her.

No wonder Katniss wants to kill it.

And millions of teenage girls want to help her.