It’s no secret that I have a mild obsession with The Hunger Games. I love nearly everything about the series – the characters, the action, the commentary on the state of our country and the media. I absolutely adore Katniss Everdeen. I want to be her – minus the whole having to kill people or be killed thing, of course – so much that when a Google offer for archery lessons appeared in my inbox the Monday after the movie was released, I jumped at the chance. The funny part about this is that for seven years, I was with a guy who adored hunting, especially archery, and tried repeatedly to get me into it. I would have none of it, and trust me, I still have no desire to ever go out in the woods and shoot at an animal, but after reading about and watching Katniss be all badass with her bow and arrow, I want to learn how to be badass too.
The thing I love most about Katniss, though, is that she’s far from perfect. She’s impulsive, she doesn’t follow directions, she’s often blinded by emotion and acts irrationally, and she doesn’t trust anyone. She’s also fiercely protective of her family, determined, selfless, brave, and smart. And what I love most about The Hunger Games is that, while there is a love triangle in the story, it’s not the focus. Katniss, like Hermione, is defined not by who she is with, but who she is. She takes action and doesn’t rely on anyone else. She’s the anti-Bella Swan.
Even though Katniss isn’t defined by those guys, man, what guys they are. I just finished re-reading the trilogy after seeing the movie. On my first read, I didn’t pay all that much attention to their characters, to be honest. I was tearing through the pages just to find out how it ended. On second read, though, I was able to pay a little more attention to the details. And though I’m decidedly Team Peeta, I can see the Team Gale side a little more clearly. (SPOILER ALERT – just stop here if you haven’t read all the books and have any interest in doing so.)
Gale is fiery and passionate and impulsive and stubborn. He has one goal and one only – bringing down the Capitol. (He’s your typical hot revolutionary figure; see also Enjolras, from Les Miserables). He’s a strong hunter, a provider for his family, very individualist and focused on survival. He’s described as attractive in the tall, dark, and handsome sense.
Peeta, as these things often go, is initially portrayed as the opposite – whereas Gale is a hunter, Peeta is a baker. He has no experience out in the elements, and while he’s described as strong from hauling bags of flour, you get the feeling he’s a little weaker than the other guys in the book. But what Peeta has going for him is an electric personality – a natural ease in front of the cameras, a knack for manipulating people’s perceptions with his words. And what he really has going for him is an undying, unrelenting love of Katniss – no matter what she does, or what obstacles are in his way, he adores her. He will stop at nothing to protect her, whether she wants to let him or not, and by the middle of Catching Fire, Peeta somehow becomes the most amazing man on the planet, and I wanted nothing more than for Katniss to just realize what she had right in front of her and give in already.
There’s a great passage near the end of Mockingjay, where Katniss realizes who she wants:
That what I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
I read that on the train this morning, and I had a revelation. I tend to go for the Gales of the world. I, like Katniss, am stubborn and impulsive. I don’t trust very easily these days. And I seem to be attracted to the guys like me – the ones who are equally stubborn and don’t back down from fights. The ones who are also screaming at whatever sports event is on TV. The ones who are strong, yet unattainable and even closed off, who have their priorities elsewhere.
What I need to do is look for the Peetas. They may not be the life of the party. You might overlook them at first. They may not be the strongest, or the sexiest, but they will fight for you with every fiber of their being. And if you just give in and let them, it will be so worth it.
Now if only Peeta Mellark was a 30 year old man living in Manhattan. Don’t think the odds are ever in my favor on that one.