How ironic that just when Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum wants to put women back in the kitchen and off contraceptives, the strongest pop culture female of a generation, Katniss Everdeen, is about to become a hugely celebrated icon.
Sorry Rick Santorum, but you wouldn’t stand a chance against The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, who is completely embodied, not just played, by Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss, 16, is as pure of heart as the rulers of her post-apocalyptic nation, Panem, are cruel and corrupt.
She is a member of the repressed 99 percent in Panem, and survives in one of the country’s very poorest areas, District 12. Her father, a miner, was killed in an explosion in the District’s mine several years ago, leaving Katniss to care for her mother, who became catatonic with grief , and her beloved younger sister, Primrose, 12.
Katniss isn’t some Annie Oakley type trying to keep up and one up the guys, because she’s full of bravado. She’s become a master hunter and wilderness survivalist simply because her family depends on it. Plus, she thrives on the feel of the fresh air and freedom in the forbidden woods on the other side of the fence.
In a way, she’s actually the embodiment of the new Republican ideal. She’s not the least bit dependent on the government, and the government does virtually nothing for District 12. The place is a run-down dump with no paved roads and no college for anyone. (Be careful of what you wish for, Tea Party activists).
But the government — based in the one-percent’s ultra-modern and fancy Capitol — does make ONE demand on its subjects: It forces each district to send a male and female “tribute,” between the ages of 12 and 18, to fight to the death for the nation’s entertainment in the annual Hunger Games. It’s Panem’s version of the Roman Colosseum, and one-percent Capitol residents, love it.
But once again, be careful of what you wish for, one-percenters! The Capitol’s creepy President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is trying to reinforce the repression of the districts by forcing the 99 percent to watch their teens tear each other to death every year. What he didn’t count on was the pureness of Katniss and her fellow tribute, Peeta’s hearts.
Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is the baker’s son from District 12, and is Katniss’s competitor for survival. But neither Katniss nor Peeta — because they are compassionate and devoid of cruelty, and they also happen to have Katniss’ survival smarts in the woods — end up playing the Hunger Games the way President Snow wanted.
Creepster Snow, whose heart is obviously black, is flummoxed by Katniss’ moral strength; she’s unwilling to kill, except in the direst of self-defense. And in the midst of the hateful Hunger Games, she finds and gives love.
But while you may have read that three Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins already, actually seeing the film pulls you into Katniss’s terrifying and claustrophobic world. You feel her heart pounding as Prim is chosen to be tribute and she volunteers to go instead. You run and hide along with her inside the arena. My throat felt like it was closing end from the tension. But what I miss from the books most is Katniss’s inner voice, narrating her feelings.
Katniss is not exactly a woman of many words, but Jennifer Lawrence does a tremendous job of conveying the turmoil of her emotions on her plain, unmade-up face. And I also miss more explanation in the film about the lessons learned from her father, and the deep, but confused feelings she has for Gale.
Still, none of that takes away from the power of Hunger Games on screen. Nor from the power of Katniss Everdeen.
So Rick Santorum, and the other Republicans waging their nasty war of women, watch out!
Like President Snow discovers, it’s hard to keep a good woman down, especially when they’re fighting for all the right reasons!
– Bonnie Fuller
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