Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why Katniss Everdeen is So Flipping Brilliant

When I’m not writing, I teach A Level English to sixth-formers.  The other day, one of them – a girl – said to me, ‘I love Jennifer Lawrence.  I LOVE her.  I think I’m ACTUALLY obsessed with her.’  And then she’d gone pink and looked a bit confused.
I just smiled.  ‘You’re not the first teenage girl to tell me that,’ I said.  ‘Shouldn’t think you’ll be the last either.’
Because it’s true.  Since the first film instalment of The Hunger Games, I’ve heard it loads of times.  Girls in my classroom chat about Salinger or Twain or Shakespeare or Miller and then – when they think I’m not listening – their conversation drifts off and takes another turn and they discuss their love of Lawrence instead.  Don’t think I’m talking about DH because I’m definitely not. 
And sometimes – like the other day – they just tell me up front.
I don’t blame them.
I’m a bit in love with Jennifer Lawrence myself.
Although it’s not really Jennifer, is it?  Don’t get me wrong, she’s a fantastic actress.  And she’s beautiful to look at.  And she looks like she eats the right amount of food.  And wears proper clothes.  And doesn’t dance around in her undies and ‘twerk’. [Shudder.]  But actually – although we love you too, Jennifer – it’s Katniss Everdeen we’re TRULY awe-struck by.
Because she’s strong and she’s brave and she protects the people she loves.
And she can climb REALLY high trees.
And she’s AMAZING with a bow and arrow.
And she’s got two blokes both falling over backwards for her but – you know what - she’s not ACTUALLY all that fussed about being in a relationship right now…
And she knows her own mind and sticks up three fingers in the face of tyranny.
And she’s cool and dignified.
And yes, she has THE FACE of Jennifer Lawrence.
But WHAT a lead character for a box-office-smashing film franchise!  This is no Harry Potter or Jack Ryder or James Bond.  This is a GIRLl!  And one who doesn’t play second fiddle to a male lead.  And unlike Twilight’s Bella Swan, her decisions aren’t made by a rich, controlling and – quite frankly – DEEPLY CREEPY boyfriend.  No one needs to protect Katniss.  She can protect herself thank you very much. And if I were one of those spoiled, pampered reality TV junkies in the Capitol, my money would TOTALLY be on Everdeen.  She is tougher and smarter and spikier than anyone else in the arena.  And as for men…  She likes some, she hates some and – awkwardly – she loves two of them.  But she doesn’t NEED them or anything.  She’s not made of chocolate…
And that’s why I love her.  And I think that’s why loads of other girls and women love her too.  Because – finally – after an eternity of being dealt a deliberately dodgy hand of cards, we’ve achieved some sort of equality.  In the world of fiction, at least.  Katniss can play games with the boys and win.   Of course, it’s all thanks to Suzanne Collins for daring to give such a heroic role to a female character.  It seems a fitting reward that she’s allowed to have her name on the cover of her books and boys aren’t bothered.  
And more than one hundred years after Emily Wilding Davison was trampled to death under the feet of a racehorse in order to fight the cause of equality for women, it seems to me that the arrival of Katniss hasn’t come a second too soon.

Emily Wilding Davison: Read more about her by clicking here.

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