With Catching Fire coming on DVD soon (yay!) and the film world abuzz about the next Hunger Games movie coming out in December, Mockingjay: Part 1, the Hunger Games has been on my mind a lot. Spoiler alert: this post will reveal parts of the story.
Katniss Everdeen is one of my favorite heroines in any novel I’ve ever read. It’s particularly enlightening to see such a strong female role model for the trilogy’s teenage audience. But what I like most about the Hunger Games how the books implicates modern politics and gives way for strong female characters.
In the story, Panem is a post-apocalyptic version of our society, divided into twelve (initially thirteen) districts run by the Capitol. In Catching Fire, we discover that the thirteenth district, initially thought to be defunct, has gone underground and is planning an attack on the Capitol to overthrow the totalitarian government.
Katniss Everdeen is used as a sort of figurehead for the revolution, motivating the other districts to stand against the Capitol and to boost morale. But Katniss’ strength, intelligence and diligence makes her a real-life figurehead for the modern feminist movement. She’s a lead female hero, a soldier and a de facto leader. Despite her initial reluctance, she becomes a key player in the overthrow of the Capitol.
The politics of Panem has clear parallels to that of our society. The revolutionary group does not have a purely democratic objective. The president of District 13, Alma Coin, wants to take over the Capitol and form a republic, but Katniss (and the reader) detects other motives as well. Once it is revealed that Alma Coin ordered the hit on the Capitol that killed Katniss’s sister and plans to keep the Hunger Games going, Katniss realizes that Alma’s motives are no better than President Snow’s. She kills Alma Coin, and another character, the district 8 leader Commander Paylor, becomes the leader of the new government of Panem.
There are subtleties within the novels that should be praised, mainly in the portrayal of the female characters. The leadership throughout the novel is predominantly female. Because their is minimal discussion about the somewhat unconventional situation, a sense of normalcy is placed on the issue.
This communicates the notion that women as head of state is normal, not unconventional (Katniss the figurehead, Alma Coin the revolutionary leader and Paylor the eventual president of Panem). This is important because it explores possibilities of female leadership beyond what we currently believe is possible. Without even trying, Suzanne Collins gave us a glimpse into a future of a new social structure.