Gender Roles – Women
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
It’s clear that her experience in the Hunger Games has changed Katniss. When the film opens she doesn’t have much interest in challenging authority. She scares easily and takes orders from President Snow in the hopes of keeping her family alive. She wants no part in being an inspiration or a martyr to the people of district 12. Katniss does regain her instincts and determination by the end of the film, but it’s disappointing to see that her strength is primarily based on self-preservation. She doesn’t have a larger sense of obligation to her community or an interest in fighting for justice.
The film does include a second heroine however, Joanna, who is far more dedicated and charismatic than Katniss. It’s curious, and maybe even strains credibility, that Katniss’ fake love story with Peeta resonates with the starving people of Panem more than Joanna’s rant against the corrupt government that is trying to kill them all. But either way, the Hunger Games: Catching Fire contains two impressive women who are willing to fight against oppression - whether it's to save the lives of the people they love or to secure freedom for the entire country.
Plot: 4.5 Stars (Spoilers)
Katniss Everdeen remains the hero of district 12, and in some ways all of Panem, but more by virtue of her reputation than her actions. She intervenes when Gale is being flogged by President Snow’s peacekeepers, but this is her only real act of defiance. When she's selected to participate in the Hunger Games for the second year in a row, it should be obvious to her that President Snow intends to kill her one way or another - and it’s disappointing that she simply agrees to fight again. At this point, she has nothing to gain by following the rules and appeasing the government. She might have taken this moment as an opportunity to flame the people’s appetite for rebellion. But she agrees to play his game as if she knows she’ll survive the second time around. She doesn’t seem to realize the value of working with her fellow tributes to oppose the government, rather than slaughtering them for her own protection. At least, not until the very end.
Katniss excels during the games, making the right connections and even finding a way to openly defy the Panem government a second time. But all things considered, the real heroes of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire are the other tributes who work behind the scenes to protect Katniss - including Joanna.
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Most of the men in Panem are preparing for combat, whether competing in the Hunger Games or joining the rebellion. The original Hunger Games provided more leeway for peaceful solutions, but the action in this film has escalated to a degree that violence is the only way to survive. As a result, even Peeta, who previously relied on camouflage and flattery to save his skin, has become something of a warrior. The men in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire still portray genuine compassion for those around them and aren’t so tough that they can’t be wounded and experience true pain. But there are few opportunities for them to express themselves openly. To step out of the role of protector and exhibit some legitimate fear or sadness.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
Katniss is still an encouraging role model, both healthy and strong. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire takes more opportunities to dress Katniss in futuristic costumes and action hero make-up, but her overall presentation remains balanced and positive. Unfortunately, this film has less diversity than the original due to Rue’s death.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Katniss shows a bit more emotion in this film than in the original. She struggles with memories from the first Hunger Games and is horrified at the executions and brutality of the Panem government. Unfortuantely, we’re never shown how she overcomes the nightmares and flashbacks. She never talks about the guilt she feels for killing the other tributes, and barely mentions the fact that she couldn’t save Rue. She might have found a way to channel all this excess rage and aggression against the government that had forced her to kill for her own survival, but the film never fully deals with the emotional fallout from her participation in the original Hunger Games. Katniss simply brushes aside her demons and goes back into battle - and the only thing that finally convinces her to defy President Snow and join the rebellion is a simple and predictable reminder about who the real enemy is.
Love: 2.5 Stars (Spoilers)
In the Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss continues to pretend she’s in love with Peeta, until she finds herself falling in love with him for real. This storyline resorts to all the tired clichés that were avoided in the original, insinuating that romantic love is based on little more than the passage of time and some intense drama. Throughout their tour of the districts and up until the eve of the Hunger Games, they smile for the cameras and train for the upcoming battle. But they never discuss the possibility that one of them might die, how they plan to face their families again if they survive, or what they might do with their lives in a safer world. Peeta tries to engage Katniss at the beginning of the film, asking her for her favorite color. The moment is meant to signal the start of a deeper, more intimate bond between them, but as it turns out, this is one of the few personal conversations that they actually share.