“Ambiguity, up possibilities for girls beyond the

“Ambiguity, Ambivalence and Extravagance in The Hunger Games” by Kelly Oliver arguesthat “Katniss’s ambivalent desires and ambiguous gender identity open uppossibilities for girls beyond the traditional patriarchal constraints of wifeand mother.”(2) It is yet another feminist reading that employs psychoanalytictheory to analyze the Freudian notion that desire and identity are alwaysfilled with ambivalence and ambiguity. TheHunger Games promotes open-ended ambiguity rather than traditional or fixedgender roles or ideals are what Oliver observes throughout the series from atribute in the beginning till her domestication in the epilogue. A feministaesthetics of ambiguity presents and represents multivalent meanings for femininity,girlhood, and womanhood that allow girls to imagine futures for themselvesbeyond those traditionally circumscribed by the roles of lover, wife and motherwithin patriarchal culture.

The essay is important to locate Katniss within thegender framework and determine that she is neither completely masculine andpaternal nor feminine and maternal. But it fails to discuss anything furtherfrom this notion of ambiguity and arrive at definite conclusions. While theCapitol is discussed briefly in terms of its extravagance, Oliver fails toestablish links between the subject and the realm, which is what my paper wouldaim to do.

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Multiples articles by readers of the series on theinternet have established that the novels contain a strong female protagonistwhich is essential to constructing the text as feminist by critics. Her nuanceddepiction is revolutionary in her “skills of battle as well as acting as motherand protector of her younger sister, Prim.”(Thaller).

Katniss has been praisedby critics and readers alike for her iconic feminist depiction and strength.The female protagonist has always experienced a bias in terms of treatment fromothers and Katniss’ negotiation of it is commendable in many ways. She ispraised for her refusal to conform to typical feminine stereotypes. During herfirst outing at the Capitol, her response to Prim’s “You look beautiful” is”And nothing like myself” showing her detachment from traditional attributes ofbeauty, and is one of the many instances where she destroys any ideas offemininity.Her scorn of feminine frills extends to the Gamesarena, considered a “gender neutral space” where she “learns to recognize,value, and eventually embrace feminine strengths.

“(Stark) Within the arena, shebefriends other female characters and “forms an feminist archetype: an allianceof women who support each other in the face of oppression.” Her alliance withother strong female characters contrasts with the distancing from her mother,who is seen as emotional, a nurturer and healer– all the features of aconventional female figure. The responsibility she has shouldered since herfather’s death includes “hunting, trading, and keeping the house in order, astrong role for a young child to hold.”(Zeitchik) This obligation forced hergrow up as independent, calculating and almost hostile of her surroundings.

Herjaded perception of the world helps her survive and this “tough-as-nailsexterior seems to hint at a vulnerable teenager who is just confused and unsureof the future”(Ellis). The Hunger Games is also considered feminist due to thereversal of gender roles. Peeta, Katniss love interest “is soft-spoken, gentle,a baker, protective, and caring.  Hedoesn’t do well with weapons, is almost never rude to anyone, and his strengthin the arena was camouflaging himself, skills he learned from icing cakes andcookies in the bakery.” (Knyfd) These reveal the common perception of mostreaders of the series who epitomize the feminism displayed in the series as onethat is to be sought by holding Katniss as a role model. This understanding iscrucial to establishing the actual nature of this feminism and to look atinstances that negate popular opinion.

“The Role of Women in Film: Supporting the Men– AnAnalysis of how Culture Influences the Changing Discourse on Gender Representationsin Film” by Jocelyn Nicole Murphy analyses the changing representation of womenin films. She states that “research is still revealing that women areoverwhelmingly valued in film based on their identification as a mother, wife,or lover” (8). Using the methodological framework of objectification, Murphyscrutinizes sexual objectification such as revealing skin and innuendosdirected towards women. She links it to racial representation, as Caucasianwomen tend to be objectified to a greater degree than others. Objectificationis also experienced through the gaze of one or more significant malecharacters. Murphy’s study includes the Hunger Games series which ranks low onthe scale of sexual objectification i.e. there is little such demeaning ofwomen within the text.

Most papers on objectification within film, media orliterature deal with ideas along the same lines. The use of objectificationwithin my paper would be focused towards the denial of autonomy, and violationof choice and consent of the female protagonist, following Martha Nussbaum’spaper on objectification. This includes sexual objectification to a minorextent, but also includes other aspects of agency, commodification andsubjectivity.

 

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