Having devoured the second instalment of The Hunger Games at Cineworld Wood Green as an early Christmas present, the girls at number 37 settled in to take it all in again with the release of the deh veh deh. We gasped, we cooed, we fist punched the air. Go J Law.
But as the credits rolled, the real bombshell was dropped:
“This is a girl’s film”.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and read that again.
We are all guilty at certain moments of accidental (or not so) anti-feminism, but this is a concept I can’t get my head around. The Hunger Games may have an audience largely made up of teenage girls, but why is it inherently a girl’s film?
Is it because the protagonist is a girl? If we’re working on that basis, then all films (practically every film ever made ever) with male protagonists must be boys’ films. Harry Potter is a boy’s franchise and so I couldn’t possibly like it, Four Weddings and a Funeral is a boy’s film so stay away oestrogen, and Romeo + Juliet is the ultimate boy’s romance, back right off that classic tale.
If that’s the argument then it’s the worst I can think of. Katniss is a decent role model and the embodiment of strength of body and mind: this is the ideal message for both girls and boys. She is multi-faceted, headstrong and tender. Why should boys not enjoy a hearty battle scene led by a bright, beautiful girl who could take them on and the rest? Is it less appealing to them because she should be weaker? Meeker? Is she a threat? How insulting that we assume she can’t be their idol too.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire features dystopian horror, battles to the death, gruesome executions and plenty of good old gore. If we look at this from the traditional standpoint of Hollywood market audience, who is it appealing to? Maybe many girls wouldn’t like it at all. Maybe girls and boys who watch it aren’t bothered that the hero is female, because in a story of hell and high drama, of love stories and family ties, of gratuitous violence and living on the edge, maybe it doesn’t really matter that she’s a girl – other things are more important.
Those who see The Hunger Games as a girl’s film are still looking through a gendered lens. It’s sloppily anti-feminist and anti-equality. You’ve immediately shoved a great story and a marvellous film into a box labelled ‘girls’ and dismissed it based on overbearing, old-fashioned ideals of which films suit who.
In an industry that has just 29% of speaking characters as women in U, PG and 12 films, only 17% of crowd scenes as female, and ladies six times more likely to be sexualised than men even in children’s films, why are we criticising an empowered character who drives the action, the narrative and the soul of the film? Because that’s what we’re doing when we say this is a girl’s film. We’re taking away Katniss’ relevance, stereotyping her, limiting her.
Maybe girls love The Hunger Games, and so they should. And so should boys. They should not be questioned or judged or mocked. Ask yourself why you think this, the impact it might have on boys and men you know, and what it means for our future generations that some among us still invest in the binary division of entertainment down the (blurred) line of sex and gender.
“Feminism” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but equality is. How about: “you’re not allowed to watch Bond/Pulp Fiction/Edward Scissorhands.” We’ve come so far, don’t undermine it with throwaway comments based on thoughtless prejudice.
“Destroying things is much easier than making them”
-Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games