Why Every Girl Should Have a Little Katniss in Her…

Last night I had a dream that I was Katniss Everdeen, à la Skyrim-themed Hunger Games. Needless to say, with all the mixed political intrigue, I had a hell of a headache in the morning, and a boyfriend asking why I’d kept elbowing him in the side all night (Because I was shooting arrows of epic sneak skill, DUH).

Now re-read the title of this post. Now back to me. This is not the post of Hunger Games love that you were looking for. On the contrary, I’m not an avid Hunger Games fan (which I regard as a great position for a grown lady such as myself to be in). There is no reason for adults to hold these young adult novels in such high esteem. And no, I’m not harping on the Hunger Games as a story that’s been told better before, I’m just saying that the quality of writing is meant for teenagers, not adults with the greater range of life experiences to help them better understand and appreciate more sophisticated science- and dystopian-fiction.

What I am here to explain is why I think Katniss could serve as a great role model (in SOME aspects) for young women just starting to think about their grander purpose in life. I think that Katniss is unique in her personality, or at least far more unique than that dreadful Bella Swan whose personality is simply whatever you imagine it to be (I’ll make this comparison several times, so bear with me). Tread carefully, here be spoilers.

Katniss does not ask to become a heroine. In fact, as she muses several times, she ISN’T much of a heroine at all. She’s actually kind of a stone-cold bitch. She knows that she’s not affectionate, or understanding, or feminine, or even particularly nice. A girl after my own heart…

When I first picked up the book, it was several months before the movie was set to release, and I hadn’t a clue what I would be in for, plot or otherwise. I honestly, did not 100% realize Katniss was a girl until she put on her mother’s dress to attending the Reaping. That is true literary gender-equality right there.

Katniss has a certain feminist facet that isn’t even apparent to her. She uses men to her advantage, such as Peeta, because she knows that her own personality is not going to get her far in achieving her goal – survival. She does not expect anyone to protect to her, she independent, strong, and overall a decisive human being. If she was not fictional I’d guess that her independence was a function of the death of her father. I was impressed when she said goodbye to her family in the first book and had the balls to tell her mom that she wasn’t allowed to get depressed again. Katniss took charge, told it how it was, and would not accept failure.

One particular scene which stands out in my mind as a solidifying moment in Katniss’s development is in the third book when she overhears Peeta and Gale talking about her. Throughout the books there’s been this contrived love-triangle between them, and the boys agree that Katniss will choose the one she can’t “survive” without. Instead of crying about what she hears, Katniss gets angry. She can survive without either of them, and how dare they try to demean her like that! I find it highly unfortunate that she ends up with either boy at the end of the book, but in this moment, her independence from others, particularly men, is solidified.

Katniss is talented. She can actually do something practical and physical. She may not have a single romantic bone in her body, but she does have an ability that she honed and improved over years of practice. She may have had a slight talent for the bow as a child, but she worked on the skill diligently. Peeta also has a talent, which originally served as a point of humor, but also saved his life in the end. These serve as reminders that hard work pays off. If you have a skill that you’re proud of, it may just become invaluable to you one day, so don’t you dare give it up.

The entire plot of The Hunger Games hinges on Katniss’s sacrifice of herself to inevitable death to save her sister from the same fate. She didn’t do it to stand up to the unseen political forces bearing down on her, and she obviously didn’t do it because she felt prepared for it. She did it because she didn’t want her little sister to suffer, a point that became sadly in vain later in the series. She volunteered because it was the right thing to do. Often I felt that Katniss was the only character, aside from Peeta, who had any moral compass at all. Yes she killed people, yes she was a practical, desperate, even ruthless participant in the slaughterfest, but she functioned on something I see as a primal moral code.

Katniss has the capacity to challenge young women. As opposed to Bella, who is nothing more than an amorphous shell who lets readers mold themselves to her submissive and co-dependent character, Katniss makes readers compare themselves. What would they do in her situation? Would they pretend to love a boy, just to survive? Would they throw a tracker jackers’ nest at him at the slightest hint of betrayal? Would they question their best friend’s motives and have the courage to call him out when they seemed less-than moral?

What I’m trying to say is not that every girl should act like Katniss, but rather that they should examine themselves and decide what exactly they determine as “moral.” Katniss isn’t always strong. She breaks down, has fits, does stupid shit, and hurts feelings. But she is real. Real in the sense that she is goal-driven, purposeful, and talented. I hope I can teach my daughter to be that way without throwing her into a maliciously political pit of death, but we’ll see.

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