Team Johanna: the Hungry-for-an-Alternate-Ending Games

[spoilers ahead]

Love this Bitch article by Kelsey Wallace about “complex masculinities” in The Hunger Games:

Yes, obviously Katniss is badass and I’m psyched to see a strong heroine get some much-deserved attention, but what really struck me about the Hunger Games trilogy was its complex portrayals of masculinity, embodied by the characters of Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark.

I’m Team Peeta all the way, but I think Wallace doesn’t quite capture just how complex Peeta is as a character – how passive-aggressive and even manipulative he can be, in that “it’s okay, I’ll just love you from afar, don’t pay me any mind” kind of way. But I’m thrilled that she acknowledges some of the lesbian subtext in a brief parenthetical:

. . . Katniss also chooses a feminist marriage. One where she can hunt and Peeta can bake, and they can share parenting responsibilities. It’s a feminist YA fan’s dream! (Well, within the confines of this heteronormative narrative, anyway—maybe feminist fanfic can give us an alternative ending where Katniss and Johanna run away together and start their own radical zine library, though.)

Thanks to Summer McDonald I’m basically convinced that Katniss is gay, or mostly gay anyway, though not too gay to settle down with Peeta in a post-traumatic marriage that is NOT this feminist YA fan’s dream. I think by the time Katniss gets through with all the book-three trauma, she’s not exactly ready to “blossom” in any direction, gay or straight. Her life with Peeta is all about the comfort he was always able to give her, starting before they had even met, way back in her childhood, where he provided for her in a way that her mother couldn’t. There’s a strong motherliness to Peeta. He’s a nurturer. (And he also likes bossy women, perhaps because his own mother was an unpredictable c-word with a nasty temper.)

Anyway, I’d like to think that in a perfect world, or even a slightly less completely horrible world than what The Hunger Games becomes, Katniss and Johanna would indeed have run away together, and Katniss could eventually have gotten over her whole I’ll-never-love-anyone-but-my-sister thing, and Johanna could have gotten over her whole I’m-angry-about-being-beautiful thing, and they could have had Prim over for tea sometimes, and maybe even Gale and Madge once they discovered they were in love, and Peeta . . . well I don’t know, Peeta would probably stay a lonely sad-sack bachelor, or maybe eventually he would have fallen for Prim, Little Women-style. Anyway THAT’s my feminist YA fantasy ending. (Did I mention that in my head Johanna looks like Keira Knightley from Bend It like Beckham? So throw in a darker-skinned actress, which is how Katniss should have been cast in the first place, and now my fan-fic does double-duty as Bend It like Beckham fan-fic. Mission accomplished!)

Two shell-shocked vets helping each other to not cry hysterically every single day do not a successful feminist marriage make. That’s all I’m saying.

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5 thoughts on “Team Johanna: the Hungry-for-an-Alternate-Ending Games

  1. Roy Danger says:

    Johanna’s not exactly a bundle of joy, though. It seems like a combo Johanna/Katniss relationship would be at the very least emotionally abusive.

    By the end of the books, I was just kind of expecting Katniss to go off into the woods on her own.

  2. I’ve just read the first Hunger Games book, and this post had basically spiked the whole thing for me (in a good way). I don’t think I would have been team Peeta anyway – I like his character but he pushes too many of my own buttons, in a romantic context. I mean, obviously I haven’t read the relevant other books (just snagged them from a friend: weekend reading). But it was nice to read it with the ‘they must be coupled at the end’ thing looming too much (I’m looking at YOU Garth Nix/Sabriel series).

  3. The idea that the person you love at 18 is going to be the one you love forever is so crazy to me. In life it happens so rarely, but in books it’s THE STORY. Love stories are overwhelmingly about falling in love. Boy meets girl. They fight and make mistakes, but by the end of the movie they’re together, ready to start their life together. The story ends with marriage. The beginning of their life is the end of the story, the interesting part. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin. But most of all the idea that the choosing is the hard part, and the rest is the happily ever after. Choosing is the fun and easy part. It’s the happily ever after that’s takes effort and challenges you and constantly becomes something new and reinvents itself. And sometimes ends and starts over again.

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