Thu
Mar 8 2012 3:00pm

Team Katniss: The Only Real Team For The Hunger Games

The days are flowing away and it’s coming: the movie event that has everyone from pre-teens to former Harry Potter addicts looking up and taking notice. The YA community is rising to the theaters — along with everyone else — in support of the upcoming Hunger Games movie, making it one of the most anticipated films of the year. That’s not to say that it hasn’t had many controversies — such as how much resemblance the Suzanne Collins book has to a certain book/film called Battle Royale — but the film is still set to be a visual adaptation delight.

Still, one question has lingered in the air in our post-Twilight Hollywood: in our little Hunger Games love triangle, what team are you on, Team Peeta or Team Gale? Get ready, Hunger Games fans, because I’m going to demonstrate that neither is the right answer.

That’s right, because no matter how Twihard you might be, I am going to postulate that Katniss Everdeen isn’t Bella Swann and this isn’t your typical ’which one will she love’ YA story. In the case of the Hunger Games, the true question for fans who ask if you’re Team Peeta or Team Gale is... why aren’t you Team Katniss?

Katniss Everdeen is a YA female protagonist who has a chance to evolve the teenage female discourse above a simple love story dynamic. The story of The Hunger Games is not about a battle between the love Katniss has for a certain baker boy or a fellow poacher, but a story of survival in the face of adversity in a crushing dystopian future. It is also a story of bravery, sacrifice and self-empowerment in a harsh and repressive world that has no place for such nobility. Katniss embodies a complicated female protagonist who relies heavily on herself to solve her own problems, utilizing her talents and her mind to independently decide her fate. She certainly does not base her future upon the decision of what man to end up with — she’s simply too busy trying to survive through one life threatening situation after another.

Then how can the hype leading up to this film break down for so many into a simple story of Team Peeta or Team Gale, the choice between one boy or another? How is it that fans can miss out on cheering for the female protagonist by declaring themselves solidly on Team Katniss in favor of focusing this female protagonist’s story around the men in her life? For that, we must look at the Twilight phenomenon.

The entire hype of the Twilight stories focused on a female protagonist whose entire choices relied upon the men in her life, with no other relevant decisions to be made. Yet where Bella Swann’s story began and ended with a vampire and a werewolf, Katniss Everdeen transcends the trope of the damsel in distress to become so much more than the heart of a love triangle. She is a powerful, thoughtful, complicated character all her own that deserves consideration as such.

Consider this instead for comparison: in Harry Potter, did we get people running around in Team Cho and Team Ginny shirts (or even Team Hermione)?  Perhaps a few, but there was nowhere near the same kind of hype that we’re dealing with in Hunger Games. The fact is, The Boy Who Lived was considered his own character without the need for breaking down his rich story into a simple love story. I submit that a character like Katniss deserves the same consideration by Hunger Games fans. I submit that a hero is a hero despite his or her gender and deserves a Team all her own, romance plot aside. Katniss Everdeen needs no qualifying by the men in her story, and trying to do so takes a lot away from a powerful female character whose time has come. 

So when heading to the cinema, consider rooting for Katniss herself without her love plot consideration. The girl’s on fire, folks, she doesn’t need a man to light this match. 


Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com

This article is part of The Hunger Games on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
23 comments
Natalie Winters
1. Natalie Winters
I totally agree that the love connection is over-emphasized, and that this story is more about Katniss overcoming her problems as a capable young woman. That said, I thought that Katniss was the least-likeable character in series; I liked her less and less as the books progressed.

I wanted to see her win, but I also wanted to see her grow in ways she ultimately didn't.
Natalie Winters
2. WestacottMD
She IS on fire. That's why she hunts and Peeta cooks. She owns it. I just read the book for the first time this week (the first two books, actually) and I tweet-reviewed them for my students. I didn't like Katniss as a person, but I respect how she takes care of her family; she made my inner feminist grow.

I posted my thoughts here:
http://freshwestideas.blogspot.com/2012/03/review-in-tweets-hunger-games.html

and here:
http://freshwestideas.blogspot.com/2012/03/review-in-tweets-catching-fire.html
Jason Gruber
3. jmgruber
This needed to be said. I've been annoyed by the team thing, but thought I was just being a sour old man about it. Now I don't feel so alone.

Thanks, Internet!
treebee72 _
4. treebee72
Thank you. I can't imagine being on a 'team' for either Gale or Peeta, because from the very beginning I would have been completely happy if Katniss ended up with someone else or even alone.
Natalie Winters
5. Alexandra Dust
Totally agree with you. Romance is pretty much a side plot in Hunger Games, the main action is her solving her own issues by herself. Issues which involve more than Love. Because there's more to everything than just love. She's a strong character and she deserves to be treated so.
Natalie Winters
6. Sarah Wynde
Nicely said! And Team Katniss it is.
Natalie Winters
7. mityorkie
I'm with Natalie @1. The series starts with a noble-if-rough Katniss and then has her march across several moral event horizons w/ perfunctory commentary on same.
Put me down for team Uncynical Society.
Natalie Winters
8. jennygadget
I also find it rather odd how often that question is posed. And worth noting that I mostly see it pop up in places like non-genre magazines for adults rather than fan generated content* or even really many of the magazines aimed at teens themselves. (Girls' Life, for example, is celebrating the movie release with covers featuring the actresses playing Prim, Foxface, etc - rather than Gale or Peeta.)

It seems very much like a hold-over from Twilight, as you've pointed out, but most especially one that is most often perpetuated by people that have not read the books and/or are unfamiliar with YA lit in general, outside of Twilight. I mean, I know teen girls that like The Hunger Games in part because of the love triangle, but it's clearly not the focus of either the books or fan discussions.

Sadly, I think this all shows how rare it is for media aimed at teen girls to make it to the mainstream. The question seems to make it clear not just that people have a hard time wrapping their head around Katniss being her own person, but also that they have trouble seeing teen girls as diverse and full of personality. All they know of media for teen girls is Twilight, and so the bits of The Hunger Games that makes it popular among teens are the parts that are like Twilight, yes? (NO!)

*There does seem to be the obligitory thread on fan forums, but a significant number of the responses are in line with this post.
Natalie Winters
9. katnissE
http://moviecenter.us/news/4-ways-were-already-hunger-games-world

(4 Ways We're Already in the "Hunger Games" World)
Natalie Winters
10. omega_n
Thank you for this post. I've always hated most "love triangle" plots, mostly because they tend to devolve into the two guys fighting over the girl like she has no say in the matter, with the "winner" having rights to her. In the immortal words of Jasmine, "I am not a prize to be won!" The Hunger Games story was blessedly more complex than that, and I hope it doesn't get cheapened in the film. Team Katniss shirts for everyone!
Natalie Winters
11. katniss
i am a vampire hunter that means i hate twilight so thank you for loving team katniss :)
Natalie Winters
12. Rusty Patti
Excellent post. And about time.

And about this idea of female heroes and the "likeability" factor:

1 What is likeable? I never once thought when reading The Hunger Games – “but I just don’t like her.”
2 Why do female heroes have to be likeable?
3 Why are three of my favorite female heroes -- Katniss, Buffy, and Xena – often dinged for being “not likeable”?

Likeable female heroes? Keep 'em.
#TeamKatnissBaby
Debbie Solomon
13. dsolo
If Katniss was "likeable", like Prim or Rue, she would not have survived. I sometimes found Katniss irritating, but I always liked her. She did not give up. She is a role model for girls to show that you can survive. Her mother's reaction to her father's death was very similar to Bella in New Moon when Edward left, total shutdown. That's fine if you live in Forks, and your father makes sure you eat and function, not so good if you live in District 12 and have two young daughters depending on you. Katniss stepped up to the plate, and saved her family and she was only 11 years old. Did she do it by being "likeable"? No. She did it by being pragmatic and tough, even though she had lost her beloved father.
What I liked best about Katniss was her devotion to Prim. She knows that she's tough and Prim is not. She doesn't try to toughen Prim up, she protects and nurtures that gentleness. Is she suspicious and distrustful? Yes. Is that a survival skill for her environment. Oh, yea!
Natalie Winters
14. mr. awesome
Team Rue is better than all of these.

Although I also think this entire series is overhyped. It was nice, but it doesn't deserve comparisons to Harry Potter. The books are maybe 150 pages each? And it's not like there's any original material in them, all of the plot elements have been done before. (Awaiting my trial for heresy.)
Debbie Solomon
15. dsolo
re: Katniss "moral event" horizons - every one that Katniss ever loved was lost to her in one way or another. That's a lot to put on a teenager, who's had to fight for survival for most of her life. She didn't so much "grow" in the last book as recover. I can't imagine ever having to survive all the horrors that she did, and still come out reasonably sane. I actually found the epilogue of "Mockingjay" very believable.
Rob Munnelly
16. RobMRobM
I had a thought about this subject the other day - whether K ultimately chose Gale or Peeta mattered a ton to the two guys involved, but not a heck of a lot to K. Peeta is fully prepared to give up his life for hers in the arena. Gale has a complete freak out when K comes home over her ultimate preference. K is too busy staying alive and keeping her family alive to care overmuch about romance. This stands the usual romance trope on its head and helps enhance K's status as a strong protagonist.

So... Team Katniss for the win!
Natalie Winters
17. wingracer
Team Haymitch for me.

Where's my liquor?
Natalie Winters
18. Finn McR
I was a Buffy TVS fan back when it was only a crappy movie with Christie Swanson, let alone the even better show with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern and Crystal Singer books (female central heroines) were favorites of mine. That said, I am totally sick of the teen girl heroine as the only valid protagonist in a story. This has gone too far. Adults can be heros too, as well as, gasp, males.

Oh, forget it. I'll go re-watch "Band of Brothers" for some representations of some actual heros.
Natalie Winters
19. mjkerpan
@Finn McR,
To a certain extent I agree with you, but the market clearly thinks differently. For whatever reason, female reader make up a MUCH larger portion of the YA audience than males, so YA fiction is going to continue to mainly feature teen heroines simply because they are what the majority of buyers can best relate to.
Natalie Winters
20. mityorkie
Harry Potter, that other series that was made into a Nic Cage movie, and various other YA show that there isn't a drought of boy protagonists in addition to all the girl protagonists.
It is hugely unsurprising that YA is dominated by the bildungsroman, after all the target audience are those who are in the midst of their bildungs.
Overall, though, I would be happy to see more books told from the perspective of grown-ups. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a great example.
Teresa Jusino
21. TeresaJusino
What's interesting to me, though, is that the "Team Peeta"/"Team Gale" stuff seems to come mostly from either mainstream media looking to compare the film to the Twilight series, or from people who are interested in the movie having not read the books. Because anyone who's read the books knows that the "love triangle" is such a small part of the story. Do you know why? Because Katniss is too worried about not dying. :) She has bigger things to worry about than a boyfriend. However, it's handled realistically. It's the kind of thing a normal person's mind would drift to - and hers does - but then she pulls her focus back to the task at hand as she should. Katniss is a girl who has her priorities in order, and for this, I will always be Team Katniss.
Natalie Winters
22. Howl3
I think people are going way too far. I don't know why this is being compared to Twilight, because it isn't. Nowehere near being close. I've always hated triangles because it always makes the female book characters act really stupid. I agree that Katniss is an extremely strong character that pulled through and actually made you believe in her unlike other female book characters even though she really isn't that likable.
I can relate to Katniss in her emotional scale but other than that I'm not really on Team Katniss. Why? Because as awesome as she was, how strong and useful she was, to me, their were other characters far more awesome than she was that never get the spotlight like she does because everyone's so focused on her.
Finnick for one thing. Johanna. Even Prim. I really respect Prim because that girl lived life. She wasn't going through the motions like Katniss was. I don't blame her for that, and I understand that it was different, but it took some real strength and courage to live, to find things to smile and laugh about in a place like that.
If I had to be on a team, it would be Team Peeta. Not because of the love triangle. Hell, honestly, he still deserved better than Katniss but to me, he's the survivor. Katniss only really knew how to survive which was why her being able to survive wasn't surprising. Not so much for Peeta who reminded me so much of Prim because even after dealing with a family not as close as some, being in the Hunger Games twice, almost dieing quite a few times, losing his leg, being rejected, being tortured by the Capitol, losing his family and being Hijacked he somehow still retained himself. He was able to pick himself up again to continue to live. He never quite shut down the way Katniss did. His gentle, sweet nature somehow survived throughout the whole series. He never willingly became a piece in the Capitol's games.
In ways, Katniss showed how much stronger she was than him but in other ways Peeta showed how much stronger he was than her. Love really wasn't a place in that kind of world, and people say that Katniss could have been alone and all would end well because she didn't need a guy to define her, but that isn't all that true. Why?
Because love was what saved her. Her mother's love for her father caused her to realize what she needed to do to step up to support her family. Love is what saved her entire family from starvation when Peeta gave her the bread. Love is what saved her when Peeta protected her in the Games from Cato. Love is what saved her when Peeta continued to give himself fully to holding her when she couldn't sleep from nightmares, or when she needed someone to help keep her family alive. Love is what helped her continue to survive when all of it was over when she was in trouble of losing herself to ghosts. Hell, people might think that love was a side peiece to everything else but honestly it was the fundemental peice that made all kind of impressions in the story.
The love triangle thing isn't as hardcore as people are trying to say because hello, their were other things going on. Much more important things but both guys weren't only thinking about that. Not at all. They both played an important part in shaping things and shaping Katniss as much as people refuse to believe so but Peeta isn't a selfish, "Oh you have to love me nothing else matters," guy and how would their even be a story if he hadn't given her the bread?
My point? Yeah, Katniss is a female character people can look up to, but she wouldn't be who she is without the people that loved or followed her, the people who supported her and died to make sure she survived. She wasn't a one woman show.
Natalie Winters
23. gab
I LOVE THE HUNGER GAMES

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