Katniss Everdeen was portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014), and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015).
I have had many different heroes. Ever since I was young, I have been drawn to heroes and over the course of my life, there are have been many that I have either looked up to and/or have idolized in one way or another. Sometimes that hero was a real person, but more often than not that hero tended to be a fictional character. One that I had read about in a novel, a comic book or one that I had seen and watched in a movie or a cartoon television show.
I have often wondered what makes a hero as there are many different interpretations and many different understandings of what it means to be heroic. Is it the mask they wear, the one they shed off. Could it be the cape they drape or the way they take a stand. Perhaps it’s the selfless acts they perform. The helping hand that reaches out or the extra leg that gives support. The values they stand by. The cause they fight for. The difference they make.
Presumably, it is all of these things and more.
I’m not drawn to these types of characters because they put on a costume and go out and fight crime or beat up bad guys. That is what I saw when I was younger but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I am drawn to these characters for a very different reason altogether. Of course, these fictional characters don’t always necessarily represent who I am, but rather they affect what it is that I want to be and who it is that I am striving to become.
I’m drawn to who they are because of their journey and how that has shaped them into becoming who they are. Their stories are told with morals and underlining undertones, but those stories are only meant to act as a guide that help lead the way when it comes to making my own decisions in those times when I myself hear the call to become “heroic”.
The most important thing that a hero does is inspire. Whenever their name is brought up or their symbol bears down, the first thing that should be thought of is their traits and their characteristics that they embody. As I walk down the path on my own journey, hopefully the inspiration that I take from my heroes will inspire me to be the best version of myself.
I wanted to write about Katniss Everdeen because there is a lot of talk about the “strong female character” in terms of both the trope and the architype. There have been a few female action characters who have graced the silver screen over the decades, with even fewer of them being able to stand out or make a mark on cinema. I feel that Katniss Everdeen is worthy of being called a strong female character because that is what she is.
Out of all of the young adult novels that have gotten movie adaptions, The Hunger Games franchise is my favorite. It spoke to me in a way that the others weren’t capable of. They might not be the best set of films and they are not perfect, either. But I’m not here to talk about the quality of the books or the movies, nor Jennifer Lawrence‘s reputation. I want to talk about the character of Katniss Everdeen and the journey that she went through.
There are a few things that drew me to Katniss. More so when I was younger, when these movies were being released. It’s only after all of this time can I look back on Katnisss’ journey and reflect on just how she was able to inspire me with whatever it was that I was going through. I wouldn’t say that I always related to Katniss as a character but there are a few things that she taught me and was able to learn about myself that I also saw in her.
I’ve never related to a character by what it is that they look like nor the weapon that they wield. I’m drawn to the complex nature of who they are on the inside and what has shaped them into becoming who they are. The thoughts and the decisions they make. The best heroes are the ones whose journey not only defines who they are as a character but it also should make them grow, adapt, learn and evolve from their experiences along the way.
The Hero(ine)’s Journey
The Hunger Games doesn’t give Katniss an overall universal message, and her story doesn’t necessarily follow ‘The Heroes Journey’ but what her journey does is give her internal and external challenges to overcome. More importantly, the decisions that Katniss makes are based off of her own experiences as well as her own outlook on the world. Her actions are solely based off of who she is and they are what shape her into who it is that she becomes.
The Hunger Games
The first thing that drew me to Katniss is her bravery. This is probably the first thing and more important attributed when it comes to defining what it means to be a hero. This shows that they aren’t afraid. It’s not that they aren’t scared, frightened or fearful, but rather that they aren’t afraid to take a stand for what it is that they believe in. Bravery can also provide many different contributions when it comes to a heroes’ mannerisms which mainly has to do with how it is they behave towards the people around them, one such example is by performing one, or many, selfless acts and how they willing choose to put others needs before their own.
Over the course of The Hunger Games, there are many different ways that showcase just how brave Katniss really is. The first one that is shown to us is during the reaping in District 12 when her little sister Primrose is called upon as the female tribute. When breaks threw the crowd and cries out “I volunteer as tribute”, she is not thinking about herself or what this action is ultimately going to lead to, her only concern is the protection of another person.
The second thing that drew me to Katniss was her honesty. It’s not only important for a hero to speak the truth, but it’s important for a hero to speak their truth. Words can have many different interpretations, especially how one chooses to use them and hen a hero speaks, they choose their words wisely. Words can hurt, but words can also inspire. A heroes words can inspire people in many different ways. They give us something to fight for and something to believe in. A hero has many feats, but their strongest power is in their words. When a hero speaks everybody listens, because the words that are being spoken are coming directly from their heart.
Katniss isn’t afraid to speak her mind and to tell it like it is, even if what she says makes her unlikable. But this is exactly what does make her likeable. Katniss doesn’t go around saying that she doesn’t care what people think of her, but she also doesn’t need to. Katniss is honest with herself, which makes other people appreciate her honesty. She is able to say the ugly truth because the truth is, she doesn’t care if anybody thinks anything about her.
Mockingjay – Part 1
The third thing that drew me to Katniss is her unwavering spirit. The human spirit is a fickle thing. A hero is born with an innate passion that they are able to channel and use as a driving force in order to preserver. This isn’t something that can be taught, they either have it in them or they don’t. The one true test of a hero isn’t so much in how often they get torn down, but in how they are able to build themselves back up again. This isn’t something that happens only once, it happens over and over again. No matter how often a hero gets knocked down, they have to be prepared to stand back up again, to put one foot in front of the other to keep fighting.
Katniss had every reason to abandon the cause of the Mockingjay and being the face of the revolution. Being pulled in every which direction by so many people, telling her what she had to do and who she had to be, she almost lost herself in the process. But she knew that if she were to succeed in releasing the hold that the Capitol had on the districts and reliving the hardships of its citizens, she was more than capable of enduring this awful moment.
Mockingjay – Part 2
The final and most important thing that drew me to Katniss was that she stayed true to herself. A hero doesn’t become a hero because the job is easy. More often than not, a hero is forced into making the tough decisions. It’s important for a hero to remember who it is that they know themselves to be as well as what it is that they are trying to accomplish. There are times when a hero needs to reach out for support and there are times when they have no other choice but to rely on their intuition when they doubtful if the cause they are fighting for is truly making a difference and the change they have set out to make is going to benefit the greater good.
There are many times when Katniss doubts herself, if the cause that she is fighting for was worth the agony and trauma that she is being put through. With being a pawn in so many other people’s games, she was unsure if what she is being told was a lie to the point where she didn’t know who it was that she could trust. But Katniss was able to stay true to who it was she knew herself to be and when it came crunch time, she made one final decision that was based off of the belief of the only person who she knew she could truly trust; herself.
There are many ways in which The Hunger Games proved the Katniss Everdeen is a hero. Her journey had many hurdles or endure and obstacles for her to overcome that showed that she didn’t just survive on luck. We were shown that she is a skilled hunter who has a natural gift with a bow and how she was able to survive in the wilderness all on her own.
Throughout everything, she was able to use her bravery to stand up to those who would seek to keep her down. She used her words to speak her truth that would spark a revolution. Time and again she had her spirit pushed to the limits where she would break down, get up and break down again. When she was finally faced with the ultimate test and unsure of what to believe, it was her inner truth that she looked toward and relied upon to make sure that she would never forget just exactly what it was that she had been fighting for all along. Katniss Everdeen is a solider and no matter what comes her way, she will keep on fighting.
There have been a lot of “strong female action characters” in movies with many of them portraying the trope and failing to resonate with audiences. It’s an architype that hasn’t fully been defined because “strength” itself isn’t the only trait that a character should have when it comes to being defined as a hero. Not only does a hero need to have strength but they also need to be vulnerable … because true strength can only come from weakness.
… and that right there is what separates Katniss Everdeen from the pack and makes her stand out from the many so-called strong female characters who acquire that label but just don’t have the journey to back it up. Katniss Everdeen isn’t a strong female character for the sake of being a strong female character, she has a complete story arc to back it up. Katniss is a source of inspiration when she is strong but she is relatable the times when she is weak.
The Girl on Fire
The biggest thing that makes Katniss stand out from the plethora of other is the fact that she is emotional. She is brave but she doubts herself. She is honest but she is insecure. She has an unwavering spirit but she also questions whether or not she is doing the right thing. She is true to herself but she also breaks down into tears, she builds herself back up only to fall apart once again. Katniss is relatable because this is what makes her human.
All of these weaknesses are just as admirable when it comes to being defined as strong, because inner strength just as much, if not more important then outer strength. The struggles that a character goes through to find the motivation to endure and preserver is what defines them to be truly heroic. So when the time comes for Katniss to show her strength after a moment of weakness, it’s not only warranted … it’s more than justified.
Katniss Everdeen isn’t a hero because she was able to save the day, she had a series of trials and tribulations that put her through the paces. She is a hero because she has the qualities of what make a character heroic. Katniss is brave, she’s honest and she is true to herself. When we look to heroes, these are some of the traits that see our heroes embody and what we too aspire to have in ourselves. These are the traits that make Katniss inspirational.
What also makes Katniss a hero is the fact that she didn’t always win. There were times where she felt defeated. She felt hopeless. There were times when she felt lost and confused and unsure of herself. Times when she didn’t know if she had what it took to be the face of the revolution that everybody was looking toward as a source of inspiration. She had to dig deep down and find that inner strength and motivation to keep on fighting.
This is why I wanted to talk about Katniss Everdeen, because she isn’t just a strong female character for the sake of being a strong female character. She wasn’t just thrown into a situation and suddenly she was miraculously able to come out the other side victorious. Throughout everything that she went through, there was a viable reason as to why she was able to earn it, which is what makes her heroic journey one for the cinematic history books.
Katniss Everdeen would make a heroic sacrifice but it wouldn’t be because she wanted to be seen as a hero, it would be out of love because she wanted to save the life of her sister. She was thrown into an arena where she was forced to fight to the death. When forced with an ultimatum, she made a decision which would be viewed as an act of defiance. Through this one action, she would become the spark that would inspire countless others to believe in her as well as themselves to change their circumstances. Reluctant at first, she would decide that this cause was bigger than herself. She accepted the role of becoming the face of a nation wide revolution. She stepped into the role of a leader and becoming the people’s champion. With a group of others, they would take the fight all the way to Panem and would be responsible for defeating those who ruled over the oppressed.
In the end, through her one heroic action, Katniss would end up losing the very thing that she fought to protect: her sister’s life. A lot of people seem to forget that saving Prim was the entire point and driving force of Katniss’s story. It defined everything that she went through, every decision that she made, everything she fought for and everything she had to endure. She ultimately ended up in the exact same place where her story first started.
It might not seem like it, but this is what “full circle” looks like.
Katniss Everdeen was able to grow, adapt, learn and evolve from the experiences that her journey provided her. She has thoughts, feelings and emotions and a unique perspective on life that make her stay true to herself. She is no longer the little girl from the Seam who struggled everyday to survive, she is now a solider who is capable of doing things that she never dreamed were possible. Katniss is a female action character who actually feels real.
This is what draws me to Katniss Everdeen and how she inspires me. No matter what it is that I am faced with that I have to preserver and endure, I know that I will eventually be able to come out on the other side; scarred but healed, tattered but intact, broken but repaired, wounded but secure, damaged but whole, flawed but complete. These are traits that I feel make a hero worthy of being called “heroic”, and that is why I believe that Katniss Everdeen is one of the greatest female action characters who has ever graced the silver screen.