Nerd.Vomit.: Twilight & The Hunger Games
(This post is a part of my Nerd.Vomit series, which will analyze popular television shows from a feminist perspective and analyze the portrayal of female characters in terms of character development and plot device.)
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
When I was 14, I read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Guys, I fell in love.
When I was 15, I read Breaking Dawn and threw all of the books in the trash.
When I was 18, I read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, I was like, holy shit, this is awesome!
When I was 19, I read Mockingjay and was like, this is awesome but also depressing because *spoiler alert* literally everyone dies horribly.
However, what I find interesting is the two series is the theme of feminism and how it is represented in each.
The first cover design for Twilight featured pale arms holding a red apple–alluding the parable of Adam and Eve from Genesis. It’s the story of how Eve ate the forbidden fruit and totally fucked up humanity’s chances at being like, totally awesome and stuff. It alludes to the notion that women are often irrational, are provoked more by emotions than logic and need men in their life to steer them in the right direction. Sounds awfully familiar to Bella’s character traits, doesn’t it?
The cover art for The Hunger Games series, before the films, were more “boyish,” featuring dark colors and basic but sharp designs–which is one hell of a coincidence seeing as how The Hunger Games has a lot of violence and sadness in it. It’s strange how in a series in which the female lead is a strong and *mostly* rational character, the cover design has a “tomboy” look.
Ugh, cover designs.
Bella Swan’s name means “beautiful,” so essentially her name is Beautiful Swan. It’s very traditional. She’s a beautiful girl with a name that means beautiful, who gets the beautiful guy and they have a beautiful baby and life is perfect. It’s a fairy tale. It subtly carries the belief that if a woman is beautiful she somehow loses the power of strength, independence and rationality–but also if you’re beautiful, you get everything you want.
Katniss is named after the plant, which means “belonging to an arrow,” which is fitting because she is a skilled archer. Of course Peeta and Gale have much cooler names that mean, “rock” and “foreigner,” respectively, but whatever. Katniss is a name that carries so much power, which is awesome.
In Twilight, there aren’t a lot of strong female characters–despite the novel being written by a woman and the central character being a female. Bella Swan’s world is entirely dependent on men.
When she meets Edward Cullen, she is immediately taken aback by his sparkles and stalker-like romanticism. Edward initiates most of the conversations, he takes the role of the protector and the savior.
At the end beginning of the second novel, New Moon, Edward terminates their relationship for Bella’s safety.
Bella lives in a world that is entirely ran by men. Her mother is off with her new husband and Bella stays with her father–where she cooks and cleans for him.
In the glittery vampire world–the patriarchy is no different.
In Breaking Dawn, Edward is the one who initiates the consummation of their marriage. And even when Bella’s child could literally tear her a part when giving birth, Bella decides to keep the child–sacrificing her life for the baby’s.
The only choice Bella really has throughout the series is when she’s going to be confused about which guy she loves. Most of the decisions she does make are irrational and often put her in danger–such as jumping off a cliff to see Edward or going to Europe to save him from suicide.
In the Hunger Games, men also have most of the power.
President Snow is the ruler of Panem, the host of the show is male and then of course, there’s Haymitch.
Katniss survives the first and second Hunger Games mostly because of her fake relationship with Peeta, because it makes her seem less intense to the viewers.
What I like about the Hunger Games, specifically in Mockingjay, is when Katniss assassinates Coin instead of President Snow.
I not only like the series for it’s morally ambiguous character, but for the fact that it introduced the fact Coin wasn’t the good guy, in fact, she was worse than Snow, and therefore she was killed.
Like a boss.
Both of the female characters sacrifice almost everything for their own versions of a happy ending. Bella has her perfect family, but she must also deal with the transition watching everyone she has ever known in her human life die–that’s her sacrifice for Edward–that she does willingly and without much hesitation.
By winning the Hunger Games, Katniss sacrifices the safety of her family, and eventually all of the districts and the capital to defeat Snow and maintain her role has the poster child for the revolution. She loses everyone, including her sister Prim. In the end, the only people she has left are Peeta, Haymich and her mother.
Being the Hero
Although both women are heroes in their story– their journey, sacrifice and ending are ultimately background noise.
At the end of Breaking Dawn, Bella gets her happy ending, but there’s nothing more too it. There’s more discussion about the weirdness of Jacob imprinting on Renesmee than there is on how Bella is dealing with her new life–if she has any regrets or sadness.
Katniss finally admits her love for Peeta and they start a family in their home in the former District 12. She’s not famous, she’s not rich, she’s just like every else–while Gale has the big job in the capital.
Both women got what they wanted–at least most of it in some way or fashion, but the trophy at the end doesn’t carry the same awe and reward that we see in stories where the male lead characters succeed in their journey.