Films / Women and Gender

‘The Hunger Games’ Review in Conversation Part 1: Female Protagonists, Body Image, Disability, Whitewashing, Hunger & Food

As I’ve written before, I love The Hunger Games, both the book and film adaptation. We desperately need more strong female protagonists like Katniss Everdeen on-screen. The riveting young adult series contains many complex social issues. But just because I enjoyed it, doesn’t mean the film didn’t suffer some problems. As we both love talking about films, Amber Leab, Bitch Flicks Co-Founder & Editor, and I decided to post a Hunger Games Review in Conversation for Bitch Flicks.

As we had so much to say, we decided to split our convo into 2 parts. In Part 1, Amber and I discussed Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, strong female protagonists and female franchises. We talked about Hollywood’s whitewashing of Katniss, body image and the media’s toxic bodysnarking of Lawrence’s body. We debated the choice to have a 20-year-old woman playing a 16-year-old girl, which can “create unrealistic expectations for teenage girls and conflate girlhood with womanhood.” We discussed class and how its “rare to see an impoverished protagonist and a film contend with economic inequities.” We talked about the film’s “sanitized violence” and its erasure of the protagonists’ disabilities. We analyzed the importance of food, hunger and consumption (both literally and as a metaphor) in Hunger Games and how the film  diminished it.

Here’s an excerpt of Part 1 of our conversation:

Megan (The Opinioness)’s Take:
“Jennifer Lawrence’s powerful performance as the “Girl on Fire” has been lauded by critics. And rightfully so. She’s stunning, perfectly conveying strength, rage, fear, and vulnerability through her body language, a flick of her eyes, never needing to utter a single word…The casting call, however, wanted an “underfed but strong” actor, and was limited only to “Caucasian” women. What. The. Fuck. I mean really, Hollywood?? No, women of color could even audition?! Collins describes Katniss’ appearance in the book as olive skinned with black hair. Hello…that could be tons of female actors of color! Why the hell must she be white?!…Lawrence is receiving an assload of toxic bodysnarking from the misogynisitc media...The media constantly tells women we must be skinny. This toxicity destroys women’s body image.”

[…]

Amber’s Take:
“In the book, Katniss eats and enjoys the plentiful food provided to her in the lead up to the game. She finds a particular lamb stew rich and delicious and she enjoys eating it until she’s full. For a girl who’s been hungry much of her life, the food available on that train trip would be irresistible. Yet in the movie, Katniss seems uninterested, even immune to the lavish spread. Is there a reason Katniss can’t enjoy a hearty stew to fortify herself for the impending game? This de-emphasis of food changes the character of the story dramatically…The story of nourishment and consumption takes a major hit when the movie doesn’t permit Katniss to eat and enjoy food and, for me, this might trump whatever positive body-image message might be implied by the decision to cast Lawrence without regard to the “underfed” description in the casting call, and without regard to her adult status.”

[…]

Megan’s Take:
“As a feminist vegan, I’m passionate about food justice and our relationship with food. Food and hunger are vital themes in the trilogy. Food is used as a reward while withholding food a punishment wielded as a weapon against Panem’s citizens. While the movie hints at these themes through the Capitol’s citizens’ garish costumes versus District 12’s simple garb or the lavishness of food at the Capitol, it doesn’t fully capture the book’s themes of food justice, food shortages, hunger and class inequities.”

[…]

Amber’s Take:
“While I realize that a filmmaker must make difficult choices when adapting a book (series), every choice made about The Hunger Games made it safer — and more likely to not put off, offend, or disturb mainstream viewers. In essence, making it a successful blockbuster.”

Read the entire post, The Hunger Games Review in Conversation Part 1, at Bitch Flicks ->

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