‘Catching Fire’ torches Hollywood’s gender stereotypes

I could not have loved ‘Catching Fire’ more. It’s even better than ‘Hunger Games.’ I want to see this movie again, and I never see a movie a second time when it’s still in theaters. It’s that good.

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I saw ‘Catching Fire’ yesterday with my 10 year old daughter at an IMAX. I’ve never been to an IMAX before, and I felt like I was in the movie. I was stunned by the whole thing. In this installment, all the characters get more depth including two-dimensional ones from Part One like Effie, Katiniss’s mom, and Prim. It was great to see Prim grow up and use her medical skills in a crisis and also, fascinating to see Effie finally getting that the Capitol is evil.

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The deadly arena design is one of my favorite parts of Catching Fire, and the movie’s rendition of it does not disappoint. My favorite scene was watching the poisonous fog creep towards Katniss. It’s hypnotizing and terrifying and gorgeous.

There are so many great female characters in ‘Catching Fire.’ Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, tributes include Mags, who is older and courageous, Wiress, a tech-wizard, and Joanna, who is even angrier than Katniss.

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Watching Joanna and Katniss walk off together, two skilled warriors, I felt like I was viewing something revolutionary in film. I was thrilled that my daughter got to witness this scene as well.

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Even details of this movie, like the male tributes and the female tributes wear the same costume, black and gray– no frills, exposed midriffs, or cleavage for my kid to have to see. And still, without all that “feminine” bullshit, Katniss has two men in love with her. Those heroes love Katniss for her brain and courage, not as separate from her beauty, but they find that beautiful.

Jennifer Lawrence’s acting is top-notch, as always. All her quotes on her PR tour, about how she wasn’t going to starve herself to play Katniss , not to mention her short hair cut, make me even more grateful she’s playing this part. I could not have imagined a better role or actress to play her. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, also makes empowering statements about female characters and young women. If an actress gets to play someone strong, it’s easier for her to become a role model in public. How many actresses get that chance?)

The male characters are also great. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is as believable as he always is. Lenny Karvitz’s Cinna is one of my favorite characters.

As with ‘Hunger Games,’ the violent scenes in “Catching Fire’ are brief. There is no lingering over blood, assaults, and death. Same with the kissing scenes. With this kind of stuff, as far as deciding whether its OK for younger kids, it really matters how long the camera spends on it.

“Catching Fire’ burns through gender stereotypes but not in a way that seems contrived or forced. Watching this movie, all you feel is captivated by the story of a brave girl saving the world. The narrative is a metaphor, about a protagonist facing her deepest fears and triumphing, something kids hardly get to see a girl do. My daughter is afraid of elevators, and after the movie, when she stalled in front of of one, we talked about Katniss in the arena, and she jumped right in.

Reel Girl rates ‘Catching Fire’ ***HHH****

 

 

Stunning YA trilogy: ‘Graceling,’ ‘Fire,’ and ‘Bitterblue’

In the last few months, I was able to finally finish the Harry Potter series, then the Hunger Games series, and last night, finally, Kristen Cashore’s excellent trilogy: Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue.

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I love this series. Every book stars a brave and complex female protagonist. Every book also features a panoply of strong and fascinating female characters. Females are spies, fighters, queens, healers, on and on. There are also great male characters. The books also have heroic gay characters and disabled characters.

These books are disturbing. They deal with rape and incest, not directly, but implied and discussed in the book. If the reader doesn’t get the horror of those acts, she misses a lot of the story. Also, each book features a passionate love affair. My oldest kid is 10, and I would not let her read these because of the rape/ incest parts of the story. I don’t yet know what age would be appropriate because I’ve learned not to trust the recommendations I see around. In fact, that’s why I started Reel Girl. IMO, Cinderella¬† gets a triple S for major gender stereotyping/ not appropriate for kids. I’m thinking 15 for Bitterblue because the sexual violence is central to the plot, but Graceling and Fire, age 12? But then again, rape and incest happen in the real world, so if this is going on or has happened in kids’ lives, reading about it would be a good thing. It’s such an individual choice.¬† Let me know if you or your kids have any experience with these books.

Reel Girl rates Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue ***HHH****