Believe the hype: ‘The Hunger Games’ is amazing

I just saw it. LOVED it! The acting is so great. It is perfectly cast from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss to Wes Bentley as the gamemaker to Donald Sutherland as President Snow.

I was concerned that Hollywood would mess up the book somehow, but I was so impressed with this adaptation. Here are some aspects of the movie that I was especially grateful for:

Hollywood does not sexualize Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss in any way: When I was reading the book and came across certain scenes, I was sure this would happen.  When Katniss strips down before she meets her stylist, Cinna (another perfect casting, played by Lenny Kravitz) I thought to myself: Here’s where they’re going to show her naked. But they didn’t. Not even a bare shouldered camera shot to hint at nudity. In that particular scene, she’s shown wearing a hospital gown. In the book, where a female tribute traces Katniss’s lips with her knife, I thought: In the movie, there’s going to be some kind of S & M lesbian vibe going on. Negative thoughts, I know, but so many great books have been ruined on the screen. Turns out, in the movie this knife scene is only frightening.

They are an equal number of male and female tributes: A male and female are chosen from each district.  I thought about this because when I get upset about the lack of females in Hollywood roles, I get comments all the time like: Do you want equal rights in drafting? Do you want equal rights for characters who play dumb people? Yes and yes. I’m against drafting, but also against men being drafted and not women. As far as men playing more dumb people (I just got this comment again in response to my criticism about the lack of female characters in the upcoming, animated “Pirates!”) I don’t want females to be only portrayed as smart, brave heroines. Women are no better than men. I want women portrayed as the complex characters that they are. In movies, often different character traits get assigned to different characters. I want women to get to play all the parts. I want women to exist. In “The Hunger Games” females span the spectrum: they are lethal, kind, cruel, weak, brave, shy, serious, superficial and complicated.

There is no mention in the movie that Katniss is the exception of her gender: So often when you see a female protagonist who you could call a feminist, she is portrayed as the exception of her gender. You’ll see her surrounded by males or even see her dressed up as a male, Mulan style. I don’t mind this once in a while, but it happens too often. Never in “The Hunger Games” does any character say that Katniss can fight as well as a boy, is as smart as a boy, acts like a boy, or can do anything a boy can. No character reacts to her skill or bravery with: “Wow, a girl can shoot!” In this way, “The Hunger Games” breaks free of Hollywood’s gender matrix to create a truly feminist movie.

Females work together to save each other: It is so rare in Hollywood to get to see two females in an action adventure movie act bravely in order to save each other. The scenes with Katniss and Rue were my favorite in the book and my favorite in the movie. (Part of what is so great about these scenes is also the lethal Tracker Jackers, genetically engineered wasps whose poison stings make the victim go mad with hallucinations before she dies.)

Besides my own personal feminist take on everything, this is such a great movie. All of the acting was impressive. I’d read the book so I knew what was going to happen, and I was still on the edge of my seat. The filming was engrossing, it was done with lots of close camera shots; everything seemed so close and real, it was terrifying. I loved the scenery, watching how the Capital was depicted as well as the Districts and the arena. The whole commentary on reality TV and selling out to please the crowd is well communicated. Hollywood added just a little more perspective from the Gamemakers than is in the book, and I thought those scenes were also really well done. If you’re concerned about violence, the movie is not gory. Also, please remember that violence in the imaginary world is metaphorical. Don’t take that metaphor away from females. Katniss shows us how to be a survivor without losing your soul, how to play to win but keep your morals. That’s a universal, human lesson. Katniss is a great heroine,  a modern day Artemis. I can’t wait for the next two movies.

Reel Girls rates “The Hunger Games” ***HHH*** (I’m replacing Gs for Girlpower with H for Heroine in Reel Girls’ rating system. Girlpower seems over used and to have lost its meaning to me; I’ll change it throughout Reel Girl when I get a chance)

Girl gone missing: Where is Katniss on ‘The Hunger Games’ movie poster?

Here’s the movie poster:

Here’s the book cover:

At least the book isn’t by S. Collins, right? I suppose we should be grateful for that.

According to Google images, there are other movie posters that show the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, but I haven’t seen one anywhere around the Bay Area. Have you? Please let me know if you do see one and even better, send me a photo.

According to the Wall Street Journal: The publisher, Scholastic, considered dozens of cover designs, including portraits of Katniss, before settling on a more ‘iconic’ image of a bird pendant that plays a role in the story.

Lion’s Gate is hopeful that in spite of the female protagonist, males will go see “The Hunger Games:”

“Set in a dystopian future, “The Hunger Games” centers on Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl who is called upon to fight 23 other teens to the death in a twisted annual survival competition that is televised to the nation of Panem. The quick pace, strong characters and blood sport of author Suzanne Collins’s trilogy helped attract a robust male readership.”

In some ways, I think that the marketing strategy is great news, because they are not playing up the romance to attract females to the movie.

“They’ve taken away the love story and focused on the hero, who, by virtue of her altruism and fire, is going to stand up against this situation,” says Vincent Bruzzese, president of Ipsos MediaCT’s Motion Picture Group, which does market research for movie studios and filmmakers. “What they are doing is marketing the archetypal themes that are gender-neutral.”

If “gender neutral” means not playing up the love story to attract females, I’m all for that.

Jezebel posts: “Maybe, though, it’d be encouraging to see a movie with a dominant female lead transcend the demographic corrals studio analysts have split us all into.”

Absolutely! Moving past those limited “demographic corrals” would be great. If I have to give up Katniss on the movie poster, I suppose that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I have high expectations for this movie.

I’m half way through the book and I love it. Katniss is smart, cool, complex, beautiful and a total bad ass. She is not a Token Feisty. In the narrative, she is never referred to as unusual or an exception of her gender because of she’s brave and skillful. I’ve continually asked on this blog if there are imaginary worlds where sexism doesn’t exist. Though Panem is a dystopia, this may be it.

I do look forward to the day when a female protagonist can show up on her own poster or book cover without scaring boys away.

Also, while I understand the marketing strategy for “The Hunger Games” it’s unacceptable for the exact same kind of invisible female sexism have such a powerful influence on movies for little kids. Parents should not let five year old boys have the power to make five year old girls invisible. And this isn’t really about five year old boys anyway, but their parents. It’s parents who buy books, buy movie tickets, and buy toys. It’s absurd for movie posters for kids to continuously picture no girls at all or girls on the sidelines as do almost all of the children’s movies in 2011. Just because adults live is a sexist world doesn’t mean our kids have to. At the very least, adults should be trying much harder to present the next generation with imaginary worlds where females are not a tiny minority. Girls are, after all, half of the kid population. It’s time for Hollywood to recognize that.