(Spoilers if you haven’t read the books)
Much of the buzz around The Hunger Games has been that it’s the “new Twilight.” I could go on and on about how that isn’t true (e.g. Bella wants to be worthy of someone loving her, Katniss is concerned about saving those she loves, which actually makes her worthy of love, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…), but I thought links to some fan tattoos would do as much for my argument as a rant could. Twilight fans (or Twi-hards) are all focused on the love story and the strength of Edward “the lion” to Bella’s “lamb.” I mean, how much more metaphor about female weakness do you need, people? On the other hand, Hunger Games fans, well, they focus on the Mockingjay, the symbol of Katniss and the political rebellion she inspires against a totalitarian regime. So, yeah, totes not the same.
However, one of the things that has concerned me the most surrounding the digestion of The Hunger Games by fans is this whole “Team Peeta” and “Team Gale” stuff, which smacks of the Edward/Jacob rivalry that drives the entire Twilight series. Well, that and unfortunate merchandise like Avox thongs. Yes, The Hunger Games does have romance in it, which I enjoyed. There’s Peeta, the boy who has always cared for Katniss, and who survives against insurmountable odds with her, bonding them for life. And there’s Gale, the handsome boy back home who taught her to hunt, who helped keep her family safe, and who has grown to look at Katniss as a woman. However, the love story is never THE STORY of these books. Katniss is clueless about Peeta until he announces his crush publicly, partially as strategy and partially because, well, why not now? And Katniss thinks of Gale’s feelings about this parading of a “star-cross lovers,” but not for any reason she can articulate. When the two admit their feelings for her, she’s honestly like, wait, what? I’m looked at that way? Well, great, now more stuff for me to think about while trying to survive.
To distill The Hunger Games to a love story does us all a disservice. It undermines the complexities that romantic and sexual feelings cause for Katniss, who clearly is not savvy when it comes to emotional intelligence. It belies Katniss’s motivations, which are not for love or companionship or desirability. It also simplifies why Peeta and Gale have these feelings for her in the first place: because she is so strong and unaware of romantic games. Peeta and Gale admire and respect Katniss as an individual. In fact, Peeta depends on Katniss to save him, time and time again. She is their equal, but never their singular focus in this dystopia. The love story in The Hunger Games is just one of the many emotional variables in the book and breeds conflict not because Katniss is overwhelmed by desire or true love, but because she’s trying to do the right thing. The Hunger Games series is about integrity, not crushes. It is about survival, not romance. It is about all the decisions that make us a person, not just what boys like us. This is why Katniss’s choice at the end of the series resonates with me so much. She is choosing what kind of person she will be, what kind of life she wants, by partnering with Peeta. Loving Peeta is one of many decisions in Katniss’s life that reflect the values and beliefs she already holds.
And that, my friends, is why I’m TEAM KATNISS.