The Hunger Games’ Gender Role Revolution

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From the Harry Potter series, where the “hero” in the story is a boy with magic powers and big brains to other superheroes stories like Batman, Superman, and Spiderman, where the hero who saves the town from the evil is always a male with manly characteristics such as physical fitness, aggressiveness, smartness, and braveness.

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On the other, in most of the Disney stories that we grew up watching, thinking how amazing it is to have female main characters whom the stories revolve around, the female is either a princess whose step-mother treats her bad and is waiting for a prince charming to sweep her off her feet for good, or a very “beautiful” young lady who sacrifices her beauty to marry a beast in order to save her dad. But these norms change with one Dystopian series published in 2008 (later turned into a series of movies) where the guys are no longer in Blue and the girls are no longer in Pink. The Hunger Games is one of the “young adult” most popular series in recent years, the story portrays our reality in what looks like a future time where a nation of 12 districts of different races, social classes and cultures fight to survive a televisioned war of 24 volunteers from each district and win a lifetime of luxurious life. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are the volunteers from District 12, the poorest of them all. Katniss is not your typical superhero, she has no special powers, yet she is fearless, independent, she is a killer, a survivor, she fights boys and even rescues boys.

Katniss Everdeen, also known in the series as “the girl on fire”, is a female character that defies all gender roles stereotypes; she is neither “girly” nor fragile. She is physically taller than her partner, and she hunts for her family. She is a feminist character and it is her ability to find strength and empowerment in other female characters that make her a true feminist. Katniss breaks all expectations of female characters being weak, dependent, and someone who is easily likable. She is not what we have all been socialized to be and that is the power of her character. Throughout the movie, not only does Katniss break every stereotypical norm, but so does Peeta. Peeta Mellark is the partner of Katniss Everdeen and he is not your tall masculine guy, he is someone who enjoys baking and painting. He is unique in the way he displays traits usually ascribed to female characters. He is not the violent, aggressive and emotionally detached male character, he is rather sensitive and attuned with his feelings. He is not the prince who appears on a white horse to sweep the princess off her feet, he is the male who survives because of his female partner. Observing Peeta’s characters leads the reader of the book to change their perspective on boys’ femininity being a sign of weakness or “gayness”. Society imposes so many norms and stereotypes on us that shape our behaviors and values and most of these norms are sexist not only towards females but also towards males.

Gender stereotypes are one of the things the societal norms impose on us, weakness and emotions are attributed to women and aggressiveness and independence are attributed to men. “Stereotypes create such a strong general belief throughout our world that the sight of a female acting more in favor of male stereotypes and a male acting in favor of a female’s stereotypes is something that comes as a shock that everyone talks about and everyone notices because it is the complete opposite of what is expected” (blogc. ubc, 2013). Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are a perfect illustration of defying stereotypical gender roles making most of us aware of our own stereotype thoughts and raises the question in our heads, why does our society impose such stereotypes on us and how do they become the norm? This series sends an important message to the readers which is that genders do not have to conform to anything. Women can be fighters, protectors and providers for their families while guys are bakers, painters and more expressive of their emotions than their female partners and that feminine or masculine traits are not an indication of people’s sexuality.

13 January 2020

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