Katniss Everdeen, portrayed by Jenifer Lawrence in Hunger Games, plays a complex, and a rather unusual role, especially in the backdrop of Hollywood’s reputation for stereotyping and objectifying female characters. Archetypically, women are relegated to the roles of damsels in distress, as films habitually focus on the action of male heroes saving the day (Gauntlett, 2008).
However, several of the predominant character archetypes portrayed by Katniss in this particular film are traditionally masculine. The contention of this paper is that Katniss engenders the hero, adventurer, and caregiver archetypes, which allow her to play a masculine role without losing her femininity.
In most films, the male lead is depicted as physically dominant and emotionally unavailable, presumably to allow him time to focus on the “important” heroic role he is playing. Conversely, in Hunger Games, Katniss naturally assumes this ideal after she volunteers to risk her life in a deadly game to save her sister (Schwarzbaum, 2013). In most cases, a hero possesses an exceptional skill or weapon, which is acquired from a mentor or parent figure. Katniss easily fits into this mold with her bow, which she got from her late father. She is also incredibly adept at archery and at one point, demonstrates this by hitting an apple while it is still in Crane’s hand.
During the games, she distinguishes herself both as a heroic and noble character and becomes the peoples’ favorite by pursuing a moral path and only killing in self-defense. Despite the inherent cruelty of the games, she manages to get through them without acting immorally. Like a bona fide hero, she rallies the audience behind her course, and after Rue’s dies, she uses their emotional attachment to incite riots in District 11.
On the other hand, besides being a hero, Katniss also displays a soft side in her profound capacity for compassion and care. Although she and Rue are technically foes, she cares a great deal for her, and when the young girl dies, she is clearly grief-stricken. In addition, she tends to Peeta after he is wounded and risks her life to get him medication. She even reciprocates his Love, although she had not given much thought to it at first, which reveals a romantic streak in her character. Ultimately, these instances serve to compensate for her apparent prosaic nature and remind the audience that she is, after all, still a girl.
In the exposition scenes, Katniss’s adventurous spirit is exposed when she defies the laws imposed on citizens and goes hunting. Moreover, she accesses parts of the forest that her people are banned from entering. From this, one can deduce nearly all the archetypes that apply to her. Her heroism is manifest in her taking personal risk for others (Schwarzbaum, 2013), and she is clearly a caregiver as she is doing it to save her family. Finally, her adventurous nature is personified by her seeming to enjoy the risk involved in breaking the law.
While there are undoubtedly several other archetypes that could apply to Katniss’s character, the ones described above are the most readily observable. The combination of traditional male and female elements have contributed to establishing her as an all-round character. The result is a rare occurrence in a film, where the female lead is dominant and independent, without needing validation or support from male figures.
Gauntlett, D. (2008). Media, gender and identity: An introduction. London: Routledge.
Schwarzbaum, L. (2013). The Hunger Games: Action-film feminism is catching fire. BBC. Web.