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Portrayal of Woman in 'The Hunger Games'

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Pop culture refers to the traditions of a particular society or a group of people. In America, pop culture is usually associated with the entertainment industry, which varies from music, art, fashion, and literature to film, television, and radio. A majority of people consume products from these sources which has a significant impact on them. However, pop culture has contributed to a great extent in challenging the dominant gender stereotypes.

Gender stereotypes have always dictated that there is a sure way that a woman and a man should behave and qualities and behaviors belong to each gender. People expect girls to wear dresses or skirts and boys to wear trousers or shorts. Girls are also likely to be nurturing, be shy, and stay away from roles that require much physical exertion. Boys, on the other hand, are viewed continuously as always reliable, should be authoritative, and should not be emotional. These stereotypes also see ladies as people with less intelligence than men and that the ambition of ladies should not overshadow that of men. These stereotypes start forming at an early stage in one's life (Bian et al., 390). The primary agents of socialization, such as education, the media, family, and friends, have been an influence that dictates how girls and boys should behave. These agents also outline the potential consequences if such norms are challenged (Trier-Bieniek, 4). For example, “a parent may consider buying a mini truck toy for their child who is a girl or a mini kitchen set for the boys Christmas present” (Kapur, 1). What would people say about this? People think that the opposite should happen; the truck for the boy and the kitchen set for the girl. These stereotypes are real, but naysayers might argue and say that they are harmless. However, people have agreed that such stereotypes are outdated, mythical, and archaic.

​The entertainment industry has been very vocal in challenging gender stereotypes. I will focus on the sci-fi movie, The Hunger Games, which ran the period from 2012 to 2015. Science fiction movies are the best examples to show how gender stereotypes have been challenged, especially by women. The film trilogy is set in a dystopian future (Kapur, 7). Many writers and artists of these sci-fi movies have challenged people’s gender norms through their works. Gender has been one of the major themes explored in these films. These movies range from science fiction, fantasy, superhero, and supernatural. These movies depict a lot about gender perceptions during the time they wrote the film. Many young people, especially teenage girls, love The Hunger Games series because the main character, who is portrayed with a lot of strength is a girl. Popular culture has refuted the rigid male-female gender roles that involve stereotyping and sex roles. The movie Hunger Games focuses on two main characters: Katniss and Peeta.

​Katniss, ‘The Girl on Fire’, is one of the main characters. Firstly, the name ‘Katniss’ “comes from the centaur of mythology, Sagittarius the Archer, whose name in Latin means ‘he who throws the arrows’ (Sagittarius, 2017). This description fits her perfectly because of her high skills in using the bow and the arrow. At the beginning of the movie, Katniss is portrayed as a fierce and robust person who is self-sufficient. She can take care of her mother and sister by providing for them. Her excellent archery skills demonstrate her physical prowess. In another incident, citizens are randomly picked to participate in the game. Katniss bravely steps forward and volunteers to take the place of her sister. Such a step indicates that Katniss is a bold girl who is ready to participate in such games. The naysayers have always argued that much meaning should not be attached because it’s just a movie.

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In another incident, Katniss bids farewell to her mother before leaving for the game, and she shows no emotion at all. She assures her mother, 'Don't cry, don’t.” (Kapur, 2017). When a participant dies in the games, Katniss is unable to console or even cry. She is depicted to watch her friends perish without having a single emotion for them. Ladies are expected to be very emotional in such cases, especially when a person dies. Katniss has opposed the volatile emotional stereotype generally associated with females that they have to console people and cry in case of death. Katniss also does not care about fashion and beauty. The movie depicts that Katniss is not interested in the glitz and glam of the capital (the name of the ruling government). Most girls like fashion and beauty, but Katniss is portrayed as a new woman who defies these odds. Katniss is portrayed to push the boundaries in fields that are dominated by men in society.

The second gender transgression is portrayed by the character Peeta, who is seen to be having ‘feminine’ traits. He challenges the norms of what it means to be masculine. Peeta is very ‘pretty’ with blonde hair and blue eyes. At the beginning of the movie, Peeta does jobs that are traditionally a preserve for women- baking and painting. Peeta is seen to be emotional and in touch with the pain of others. Peeta is portrayed with a character that fits a traditional woman or even that of a mother, especially during fights. In one of the heart-touching scenes, Peeta is seen comforting a dying participant who Katniss couldn't even comfort. He tells the stranger, 'Lookup. Look at that. Isn't that incredible? All those beautiful colors. Don't dare look at anything else,' he tells the stranger. He is portrayed to care about people and also shies away from violence. Peeta also knows how to connect and help others.

From the above, it seems that Katniss and Peeta have transgressed the usual male-female stereotypes. The contradictions scratch the surface and clearly show how gender roles have been changed in the movie. Katniss is seen to display ‘manly' traits with her impressive bow-action. However, she learns to develop emotional attachments and interpersonal bonds, which are traits commonly attached to women. Through her archer skills, she brings all women in the game together and forms a sister-like bond. Through her powers, she can build a strong alliance that enables her and the team to win. At the end of the movie, we are shown how Peeta’s sensitivity becomes his liability. Peeta is easily brainwashed, and his positive mind is replaced with evil and inaccurate ones of Katniss. His feminine side is replaced with a hyper, masculine version that goes to the extent of trying to strangle Katniss to death with his bare hands. All the emotional sentiments that he once said are replaced with an unemotional ruthless version of him. His change is as if he is being punished for stepping out of what society expects. In society, women are portrayed to be the weaker gender bringing feminity, whereas men are considered to be healthy without any emotions.

The stereotype of gender roles is one of the social problems we have in our society today. The media has been instrumental in demystifying these stereotypes. Such movies like Hunger Games have portrayed women as courageous people who have the will and strength to fight. Men have been described as being weak and emotional at times. This study is crucial for ladies to show them that the color pink or blue should not limit them to specific roles.

Works Cited

  1. Bian, Lin, Sarah-Jane Leslie, and Andrei Cimpian. 'Gender stereotypes and intellectual ability emerge early and influence children's interests.' Science 355.6323 (2017): 389-391.
  2. “Sagittarius.” N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2017.
  3. Kapur, Aanya. 'Popular Culture: Questioning or Confirming Stereotypical Gender Roles? |Accessed from
  4. Trier-Bieniek, Patricia, L & Adrienne M., and Gender & Pop Culture: A Text-reader. Rotterdam: Sense, 2014. Print
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