20 March 2012

There is Only Team Katniss

Jamie asked me, "Have you finished 'Mockingjay' yet? What do you think of the ending?" And it reminded me that I had to get some fandom stuff off my chest, even if I probably have unpopular opinions and, in the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter.

Don't worry, I tried to make this blog entry as spoiler-free as possible.

First, let's get the "you're a snob / you're a loser" bits out of the way first. I'm late to the "Hunger Games" party. When the books first came out years ago, I avoided them for two reasons: they were only available in hardback, and there was a blurb by an author I dislike on the cover. Worse, I only decided to finally pick the books up after seeing the trailer for the movie.

That this should bother anyone is kind of ridiculous, but I know it would have bothered 15-year-old book snob me, who was livid at the sight of other girls reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone," only then, and with a cartoony-looking edition cover to boot. So, if you're one of those people who thinks I can't *understand* the books because I didn't read them first, you might not like what I have to say next.

I really, really, really, enjoyed the books, but I just don't get this Team Peeta / Team Gale stuff. For me, there is only Team Katniss.

Unlike that other popular contemporary YA book/film series with a female protagonist apparently torn between two guys, the "Hunger Games" books are not really about a love triangle but about survival. Team Peeta vs. Team Gale is really just a side attraction to Team Katniss vs. Team Government. And I'd go as far as to say that anyone who thinks the series is about the love teams is missing the point. This, IMHO, is why:

1. Katniss says, repeatedly, that she does not want to get married and have children. Having children means the possibility of seeing them off to the Hunger Games, where they will probably die like every child contestant from her district for the last 20+ years.

2. Katniss is too busy with the day-to-day task of making sure her family doesn't starve to worry about getting a boyfriend. While her best friend and hunting partner Gale is apparently a six-foot-plus beefcake, her thought processes suggest that she's avoided thinking of him as anything more mainly because of #1.

But, why go with what her thoughts merely "suggest?" She says outright in the first book that there's never been anything romantic between them. If Katniss and Gale came from Filipino families, she'd probably have called him "kuya" (older brother) all those years. She doesn't see him as anything else until he presents himself to her as something else. I can't really think of any other reason a sophomore spending all that time in the woods with a cool senior wouldn't be all, "OMG!? Does he like me or like-like me?!"

3. Everything Katniss does during and immediately after the deadly Hunger Games, even the parts involving the charming Peeta, is to stay alive. Sure, she acknowledges that she's come to care about "the boy with the bread," but she doesn't really have time to think about how deeply that care might or might not go. For the most part, she's thinking, "Try not to die now, work out my feelings later — if there is a later." She says as much in the "I can't care about him because I might have to kill him" and the "separate out my feelings" parts of the first book.

And when you think about it, reason #3 is the main reason Katniss doesn't pick a guy until long after the action ends in the last book, "Mockingjay." As cheesy as this sounds, before she can decide who to love, she has to decide whether to love at all. It's a huge risk for her; nearly everyone she cares about can be (and is) threatened, used, tortured, and/or killed by the government.

Then there's the fact that she's undergone a great deal of trauma herself. She would like to be left alone so that she can feel like a human being again, yet the movement she didn't mean to start demands that she be their leader. A person like that just isn't up to be anyone's girlfriend at the moment.

When, in the middle of all the action, she does seem to lean toward one guy or another (notably during that "drunk" moment in "Mockingjay"), it's not an, "OMG we're so made for each other," strings-sunsets-roses moment. She's a damaged, confused person looking for a new way to deal with her loss.

All this is why it takes years for Katniss to finally be able to love someone, and when she does, it's for the right reason. It's also with a good person — maybe the right person, maybe the wrong person, but still a good person who loves and is lovable. Maybe it's anticlimactic or not very romantic, but given the things she and her loved ones have suffered, it's still a lot better than she could ever have hoped for.

So, did I like the series? Sure, parts of the plot could have been tighter, especially in "Mockingjay," but yes, I enjoyed the "Hunger Games" experience as a whole. I was on Team Katniss.


If you do ask me about the love triangle, though, I'm on Team Peeta. Brooding ranters are overrated.