‘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.


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.


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.


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.



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****



11 thoughts on “‘Catching Fire’ torches Hollywood’s gender stereotypes

  1. I yesterday watched the Pacific Rim Blu-Ray for a second time this time with my 13 yo
    daughter and another girl,friend of hers,who is 11.You are right-amazing what an effect a movie with a heroic female who saves the world can have to a girl. After the end they were both feeling like they can achieve anything.
    Pacific Rim has 2 leads a male and a female but the film is made that way as they are both equally important.They pilot the Jaeger,the massive humanoid war machines you can see at the posters of the movie.Each Jaeger has 2 pilots in our case one male one female and they are the 2 main characters.Seeing a woman piloting in battle this colossal nuclear-powered metallic machine is in itself spectacular.My daughter and the other girl were amazed-and yes they both like action movies.
    Actually after seeing the film for a second time and noticing all the details i see that Mako (the female lead) is in fact better that her male co-star.She beats him at the dojo scene.She saves him and the mission (and the world) both times thanks to her exceptional skills and determination (she is the one who controls the “sword” weapon not the male character)
    She is wiser (their talk about the difference between “obedience” and “respect” )
    In the start of the film Mako is not ready yet,she fails in the simulator,we watch her go through a transition,face her fears and triumphing . After the middle of the film she is more capable than any of the men.The only thing her male-co pilot has more is battle experience in a Jaeger.
    The Jaeger the 2 main characters operate is superior to any of the other Jaegers BUT-and this is the key point-this is mainly b/c Mako is one of the 2 pilots.I get the feeling that the male pilot can be replaced-he is really good but not that unique -but Mako is irreplaceable. The main hero of a film is like that-irreplaceable.
    Another scene i noticed is when Mako returned from her first mission,the male commanders shaking her hand and acknowledge her as a true warrior.I hardly ever see this in a US movie.
    She’s not sexualized at all but the male co-lead clearly finds her bravery and skills very attractive.Mako herself is too focused in the mission to bother with romance and stuff (we only take a taste of that in the last scene)
    The dojo scene
    Before the final mission.Suit up and ready to save humanity.

    I only wish there was more screen time given to the other female pilot,and i would have loved a scene where Mako and her are talking.I’d also prefer it if one of the two scientists in the lab was a woman.The film needed one more main female character.

    • Mecano,

      I wish I saw the same movie you did. Mako is an interesting, dynamic character but she is is not co-lead. She is the sidekick to the boring white guy. When they work in tandem it is boring white guy who calls out what they do. At the end of the movie it is not the two of them standing together, it is boring white guy saving the day by himself.

      It’s an exceptionally weird case. She’s not quite “minority feisty”, instead she’s clearly the hero in a film where the filmmakers don’t realize that they are following the wrong protagonist.

      You are right in your other comment when you say that with rare exception hollywood does not make movies where women are the flat-out lead. As parents and as viewers we have to make compromises. I just want to make sure we see the compromises when we make them.

      I will absolutely show Pacific Rim to my daughter (in a year or two) because she will love the robot fights and she will love Mako. But the whole way the film is structured says that even though she is more interesting of a character she is not equal to boring white guy lead and our family will have a conversation about how much that sucks.

      You are right to point out that Mako is a great character but co-lead she isn’t.

      • Hi Isaac

        To put it another way.Who is the hero of the film?Actually its the Jaeger piloted by Mako and the “boring white guy” (I don’t even remember his name lol) .Who makes this Jaeger so good? My daughter and even the 11 year old girl could easily see its for the most part b/c of Mako.In the first mission boring white guy was dead in the water-it was her who completed the mission. (boring white guy does give many orders but this makes sense since he has more experience).The finale does show him initiate the core’s overload sequence but this doesn’t need 2 people to do it or any skills.Any average pilot could do it.

        All characters call this Jaeger (named “Gipsy Danger”) as “she” (“She is ready for another mission” is a line from the film.).And this b/c it was Mako who supervised and designed the whole reconstruction of the old destroyed Gipsy Danger with new technology (titanium hull,chain swords, new cockpit and many updates).Boring white guy did nothing.
        You are so right that Mako is the hero and the filmmakers are following the wrong protagonist.But this is nothing new.Giving more screen time to a man,even though the woman is more capable/interesting ,is typical Hollywood sexism and we see it in other films too.My daughter knows it well.
        So compromises have to be made by us parents and make it clear to the kids why we make them.

      • A follow up up to make some things clear.
        She is not a “sidekick” (in the sense of “Batman & Robin” way).We saw the same film??? Sidekick implies that the guy is some kind of “master” and the sidekick is inferior.This is not the case.She’s equal or more capable than him in everything except battle experience .In “Gipsy Danger” Jaeger he was the one giving most orders b/c he is the senior pilot.This is how a military 2-person crew works.Not b/c they are like Batman and Robin-they aren’t.
        Him and her do stand together in the end.The hardest part of the mission was to go through the portal and they did this together.Actually it was Mako who had to lead towards the end since the right part of the Jaeger (operated by the guy) was damaged.This is why the guy says to her ‘Hang on!’ twice while she gives everything she has to finish it.
        In the finale guy ejects her from the Jaeger and stays for a few seconds to manually arm the nuclear reactor to self destruct and then moves to escape in his own pod.Staying behind to do this has nothing to do with sexism or who the ‘lead character’ is.He didn’t ‘steal’ the ‘saving of the day’ from her.He has seniority over her,it is his job to arm the reactor and be the last to leave.Not hers.
        Its a military mission,he is a veteran soldier and these are the rules,senior member is the last to leave.
        He simply did his duty just like she did hers.Who pushes the button in the end is rather trivial .Getting through the portal together was the real ‘saving of the day’.
        After the end parents should mention this to the kids.
        BTW If we wanted Mako to be the one who ‘pushes the button’ then we would have to completely re-write the characters,make him a young brilliant Japanese engineer and Mako an older woman,boring and with a dubious past.No,i prefer Mako just like she is and i wouldn’t change anything about her.
        Also who the filmmaker see as ‘protagonist’ and who has the most impact and is the hero are 2 different things.
        The director follows the guy a lot but his character doesn’t have the charisma to be a real ‘lead’.He is just another soldier between many other soldiers.He has the screen time but not enough impact.In contrast Mako is unique and way more cool as a character than him thus has more impact.And of course she is the hero for all the reasons i’ve mentioned.

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  3. Regarding recent hollywood films I also enjoyed Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Secret Service agent Carol Finnerty in White House Down.Maggie has 10 times the charisma of Channing Tatum.
    Also Mireille Enos in World War Z.

  4. There is a new Disney Junior show featuring a female animal protagonist. Her name is Callie and she is the titular character of Sheriff Callie’s Wild West.

    Here are some good feminism-related points about the show.

    1) The name of the female protagonist is in the title.
    2) She is not a “Ms Male Character.”

    What rating on your Heroine Rating System would you give the show?

  5. Margot everyone says its better than the Hunger Games.I’m jealous,here in south europe i’ll have to wait ,release date is 27 November. It’s so great to see women who are strong and not overtly sexualized in recent big US films,like Katniss and Mako in Pacific Rim.

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