Romance, Girlhood, and Society in The Hunger Games (by Francesca B. and Christine F.)

Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games heavily focuses on the budding relationship between its protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark. Both characters must embellish their onscreen romance to appeal to the people of the Capitol, who crave a love story. However, it is still treated as a legitimate romance in which teenage female readers could get invested, fulfilling expectations of YA literature starring young women. Through its romantic subplot, The Hunger Games simultaneously critiques and reinforces society’s over-emphasis on romance in the lives of girls.

In “Metamorphosis of Katniss Everdeen: The Hunger Games, Myth, and Femininity,” Kathryn Strong Hansen writes, “[one] of the ways in which a young woman’s identity can register positively with the Panem audience is through her sexual desirability” (Hansen 168). This can be seen after Peeta declares his love for Katniss on television, when Haymitch says, “The most I could say about you after your interview was that you were nice enough, although that in itself was a small miracle. Now I can say you’re a heartbreaker… Which do you think will get you more sponsors?” (Collins 135) Despite Katniss’s unforgettable flaming dress, her unusually high training score, and her heartfelt sacrifice to save her sister, she was ultimately not appealing enough to the Capitol until she had a male suitor, therefore becoming “desirable.” This could be compared to modern societal attitudes toward girls; often, a girl’s romantic feelings toward boys are considered the most important and interesting part of her life, no matter how numerous her talents and interests may be. Later in the novel, this over-emphasis on romance is one again highlighted by her sponsors’ eagerness to send her gifts when she plays the part of a lovestruck teenage girl: “One kiss equals one pot of broth” (261). She finds herself having to continually exaggerate her onscreen feelings for Peeta in order to hold the Capitol’s interest, receiving more rewards for kissing a boy than for her hunting prowess. The Capitol’s attitude toward Katniss before and after Peeta declares his love for her, as well as the gifts in exchange for kisses, therefore draw attention to society’s obsession with romance in adolescent female life.

While Collins is able to critique these attitudes through her writing, the plot of the novel simultaneously plays into them, as Katniss and Peeta’s romantic subplot is frequently given precedence over other important aspects of the story. For example, after fleeing from the Cornucopia, Katniss and Peeta spend time apart and she forms an alliance with Rue. During this time, Katniss gains an advantage in the Games and shifts to a more offensive strategy: “for the first time, I have a plan… An offensive plan” (207). Despite the progress she makes with Rue, however, Katniss’s newfound ally dies and the Gamemakers change the rules so that Katniss and Peeta could potentially win as a unit. She then spends the final third of the novel either by Peeta’s side or thinking about him. Because Katniss and Peeta’s romance is given such emphasis during the climax and denouement, it leaves more of an impact in the reader’s mind than any other relationship Katniss has once the novel is over. This carries an implicit message that the most important aspect of a young woman’s life is her romantic interest in boys.

The precedence given to this romance can be seen as Collins adhering to tropes of young adult fiction, because they “often include (and even privilege) romantic elements – love triangles such as the one made up by Katniss, Peeta and Gale are common features” (Day 10). Collins creates this love triangle early on in the first book, with Peeta claiming after his declaration that Katniss is “just worried about her boyfriend” (Collins 136). Katniss’ cheeks then “burn” at the thought of Gale being her boyfriend. These initial mentions of Gale and Katniss being a couple set up a love triangle that continues and is given priority in the later novels. It can be argued that this trope found in YA dystopian fiction is used because it engages the target audience, adolescent girls, who become invested in which of the suitors Katniss will choose. The fascination with love triangles and choosing “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” fuels the attitude that the most important aspect of a young woman’s life is her romantic interest in and appeal to boys. Furthermore, the obsession with the love triangle potentially distracts a reader from the strength and power of Katniss and creates a representation of her as a stereotypical “boy-crazy” girl, as society might expect her to be.

One of the most significant details of the novel is that the games are aired on television, allowing the Capitol to become obsessed with Peeta and Katniss’ “star-crossed lovers” (135) story. This obsession the Capitol has with their onscreen romance can be read as a critique of our current western society, where we have become obsessed with celebrity relationships and watching these play out through magazines and television shows. Because of the romance aspect of the Games, they can also be compared to reality television shows such as Bachelor in Paradise and Love Island. These shows focus on pairing up and forcing romance, which viewers never know whether is real or not, between young men and women. This demonstrates how Collins’ novel critiques society while still appealing to her target audience by presenting stereotypical aspects of girlhood.

Through Katniss and Peeta’s developing romance, Collins is both adhering to conventions of Young Adult fiction and subtly critiquing current society. The Capitol’s obsession with romance reflects western society; people view the most important aspects of a girl’s life as being her romantic interest in boys and her desirability. Simultaneously, however, the importance Collins places on the romance instead of female friendship or survival at times demonstrates how prevalent romance is in young adult fiction due to fixed expectations of adolescent girls’ interests.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you feel that the Capitol’s behaviour toward Katniss’ onscreen romance is accurate to the way that we treat girls in modern western society?
  2. Does the novel change the way you view your own attitude toward things such as celebrity relationships and romantic reality TV shows, especially the young women within them?

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

Day, Sara K. “From ‘New Woman’ to ‘Future Girl’: The Roots and the Rise of the Female Protagonist in Contemporary Young Adult Dystopias.” Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sara K. Day, Miranda Green-Barteet, and Amy L. Montz, Ashgate, 2014, pp. 171-186.

Hansen, Kathryn Strong. “The Metamorphosis of Katniss Everdeen: The Hunger Games, Myth, and Femininity.” Children’s Literature Association quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 161-178.

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20 thoughts on “Romance, Girlhood, and Society in The Hunger Games (by Francesca B. and Christine F.)

  1. I agree that society overemphasizes romance in the life of girls. The probable excitement from the Capitol over the star crossed lovers from District 12 caused for a rule change to occur that two tributes could win. Although the love is real for Peeta, Katniss acts out this supposed romance for the Capitol to ensure the survival of her and Peeta because she values human life. The romance in this book is over fanaticized, especially because only one person is truly interested in the romance.

    However, I disagree that the Capitol does not see Katniss as desirable before Peeta announces his love for her. Before the interview, Katniss is considered the “Girl on Fire” and impressed the audience with her high training score. When Peeta reveals his love for Katniss, it added another appealing aspect to Katniss. It also intrigued the Capitol since no tribute had confessed love for their fellow tribute before.

    I believe that the representation of the importance of onscreen romances accurately represents the way that relationships are treated in our modern society. Girls are expected to always have a man in their life and if they are single then people expect the girl to want to have a male in their life. My mom is a good example of this. She has been divorced for 6 years and is completely happy being independent and single. However, she gets ask regularly by a lot of people in her life if she is dating somebody. Some people cannot accept that relationships are not something that everyone wants.

    The novel does not change the way that I view celebrity relationships and romantic reality TV shows because I already look at these critically. I tend to avoid anything to do with that type of media because I know already that most of it is falsified for the benefit of the person pretending they are in a relationship. This novel reinforces my views on reality television and celebrity relationships.

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    1. It is possible to think of Suzanne Collins as mocking the current standard that a romantic relationship is necessary in order to keep an audience’s attention. An example is the way she sets up The Hunger Games – the Capitol watches the games and they are basically an overinflated version of today’s rich or high society. I completely agree with you Brianna, in TV shows there are always romantic relationships, and this is true of books as well. I think we should consider the possibility that Collins chose to challenge this romantic relationship trope, as she does the high versus low society. Collins chooses to show us a girl who is forced to fall in love in order to survive the games – that her skills and talents mean nothing if she’s not pining for a boy in the middle of a battle to the death. I disagree that Collins was trying to emphasize the importance of a boy in a girl’s life. By showing how difficult it is for Katniss to act like she loves him it just reflects the pressures girls feel from society to find a man.
      I personally hated reading The Hunger Games when I was younger because I really did not like Peeta, I wasn’t as interested with the love story as I was everything else that was going on. Peeta bothered me because he wasn’t doing anything to help Katniss save his life. I am arguing that this relationship actually helps Katniss’ image because of the lack of power Peeta shows. I agree, I’ve never paid attention to media because it bothers me – Media is too focused on current celebrity relationships and even though it tries to show that it is accepting of different standards of beauty, it really hasn’t changed. This book hasn’t changed the way I view media because I already see it in a negative light. That being said, I do see the way shows are a response to society’s needs. Society asks for the romantic relationship, even as it’s trying to change its standards, we can’t deny that a really good romantic plotline is entertaining.

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  2. Although I do agree with the majority of your argument, I disagree with your analysis of the romance plot as a reinforcement of the idea that “the most important aspect of a young woman’s life is her romantic interest in boys.” As you discussed, the construction of the games as a reality television show functions as a critique of our own society. Of course, in order for the reality show in the book to reflect problems within our society, it must incorporate aspects of our society. By including the romantic subplot between Katniss and Peeta, Collins criticizes the idea that from a young age, the primary focus of women and girls is romantic love.

    Because we are given the privileged position of Katniss’s internal perspective, we as readers know that she values survival and that she must participate in the television romance with Peeta to ensure her survival, as well as Peeta’s. Collins makes it very clear that Katniss is using the audience’s investment in their love story to manipulate them into supplying her with gifts. While Katniss occasionally stops to assess her feelings, most of her mental energy is spent strategizing (kissing Peeta at the right moments, declaring feelings for him to draw in the audience, etc.). Thus, the prevalence Collins gives to the romance plot cannot be separated from her focus on Katniss’s desire to survive, her critique of society’s expectations of women, or her critique of how reality television operates. Collins constructs the romance not simply to satisfy the expectations of the YA genre, but more importantly, to critique the society that created those expectations.

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    1. Completely agree with this. By having the novel be in first person narration, the reader is exposed to Katniss’s true thoughts and feelings; we don’t get that with Peeta. Katniss plays into the audience rooting for their love to be real, even though she is not nearly as invested. It’s how she plans on winning the Games, by playing her own game. Our society is obsessed with romantic love and all its aspects, just as the Capitol is. Katniss knows she’s being watched and plays up her strategies for the cameras. While Katniss does feel a closeness and a friendship towards Peeta, she definitely does not have the same romantic feelings that she appears to while playing up for the cameras. In essence, she is fooling him though, because he DOES have those feelings.

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  3. Although you make a strong argument about the ‘romantic’ side of The Hunger Games, I cannot fully agree with your assessment. Although the romantic relationship plays a large role, especially in the later parts of the novel, I don’t believe that it reinforces romantic relationships for girls. Although Katniss does enter into a kind of relationship with Peeta it can be seen that this is purely for the benefit of their alliance, and therefor to save their lives. Although we may believe that Peeta is fully invested in this relationship we do not know for sure, and can only base our opinion off of the inner dialogue that we receive from Katniss, which is often not romantic but critical.

    You stated that: “the obsession with the love triangle potentially distracts a reader from the strength and power of Katniss and creates a representation of her as a stereotypical “boy-crazy” girl, as society might expect her to be.” However, I don’t believe that many would see Katniss as ‘boy-crazy’ while reading the novel. Although she focuses on her relationship with Peeta, and friendship with Gale she does not do this exclusively and thinks about it in terms of survival. Therefore I think this is quite different then the treatment we see of girls in western society. Although girls are encouraged to enter romantic relationships this is not the sole focus for women, and as a society we are becoming more accepting of different types of relationships. I think your description would better suit a woman of the Victorian era; especially in relation to your statement: “The Capitol’s obsession with romance reflects western society; people view the most important aspects of a girl’s life as being her romantic interest in boys and her desirability.” Although this still has an unfortunate effect on the treatment of women it is not as enforced as you make it out to be.

    In relation to western television and media I have to agree with your assessment. Television and film, more often then not, deliver to us this kind of romantic story that we are meant to take to heart and replicate. However we often understand, especially with celebrities and reality television that a lot of what we are seeing is fake. For example when Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston were dating many people thought it was purely a publicity stunt. In this way many of us have developed a critical eye for these types of ‘relationships’.

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    1. Angie, I agree with aspects of your argument against the romantic relationships portrayed in the novel, including the portrayal of Katniss as not a “boy-obsessed” character. However, while creating allies for the Hunger Games are encouraged, tributes are aware they are a façade. In the arena, allies will turn against each other if it means their survival. Katniss mentions this façade when she reminds herself that Peeta is “planning to kill [her]… [by] luring [her] in to make easy prey” (Collins 72). It is important to keep in mind that Katniss never plans to be allies with Peeta until Claudius declares two tributes from the same district can win the games. In fact, she is appalled Peeta would ever join the Career Tributes. Therefore, I agree with the original post that the third part of the novel focuses on the romantic relationship between Katniss and Peeta.

      That being said, I do not agree with the original post’s argument that Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is so closely examined that “it leaves more of an impact in the reader’s mind than any other relationship Katniss has once the novel is over.” The argument must consider how Katniss remembers Rue in the third section of the novel. After Thresh spares Katniss’ life, she recalls Rue’s death by “promis[ing] to remember him and, if [she] can, do something to help his family and Rue’s” (309). Likewise, Katniss mentions her “old camp with Rue” (315) and reflects on Rue’s song with Peeta (329). I agree Collins does prioritize Katniss and Peeta’s relationships, however, Rue is not completely forgotten in the third section. Additionally, it is difficult to assume that all readers will only focus on Katniss’ relationship with Peeta, considering her relationship with Prim is the reason she became a tribute for District 12.

      For the discussion questions, I believe Collin’s depiction of the Capital accurately represents the treatment of girls in Western society. As we discussed in class and as mentioned in the original post, society stereotypes girls to be obsessed with boys. Various media outlets reinforce this stereotype of a girl. A headline in a popular magazine for girls, Tiger Beat, states, “A Ranking of Dream Celebrity Boyfriends, in Order of Hotness.” While this headline seems ridiculous, this type of media content is what I imagine would occur in the Capital during the Hunger Games.

      In terms of how the novel changed my outlook on celebrity couples, I agree with Angie. Although, the example of Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleson, to my knowledge, is the one of the few times the media became critical of its own content. While many individuals are critical of celebrity couples, I would argue it is unusual for the media to question these romantic “relationships.” If the media became more critical of its content like relationships such as Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleson, then Collins’ depiction of the Capital’s passive entertainment would no longer represent Western society. However, such form of realization will take years maybe even centuries and will only occur when the cult of the celebrity is abolished.

      Work Cited:

      Barton, Lindsay. “A Ranking of Dream Celebrity Boyfriends, in Order of Hotness.” Tiger Beat, 14 Oct. 2016, tigerbeat.com/2016/10/shawn-mendes-dream-celebrity-boyfriend/. Accessed 15 Oct. 2016.

      Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

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      1. I am very interested in the idea of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship overriding any other relationship that Katniss develops by the end of the novel. I also disagree with the original post’s argument that it leaves more of an impact than any other, and this is greatly due to her relationship with Rue, as the previous post outlines, but it is also due to her relationships with several other characters which readers do not completely forget about. Besides Peeta and Rue, I believe that Katniss’ other significant and memorable relationships are those that she has with Haymitch and her sister, Prim. Katniss’ relationship with Haymitch is one that is greatly loved among fans of the series, due to how similarly cynical the two are. Katniss and Haymitch understand each other in a way that Peeta will never be able to understand. Katniss can decode the reasoning behind why Haymitch sends her sponsor gifts at certain times, and she can use that to her advantage. Haymitch is the only one that can get through to Katniss when she is angry, like for example, when she is furious at Peeta for his profession of love for her during his interview with Caesar. This key relationship continues throughout the series and Haymitch remains a strong support system for Katniss – more supportive than Peeta is ever able to be for her. Thus, a platonic relationship has the capability of fulfilling a person’s needs that may never be fulfilled by their romantic partner.
        Katniss and Prim’s relationship is arguably the strongest in the entire series, for Katniss has made the decision to risk her life for her little sister, and her volunteering for her at the reaping was not the first time she did so. Katniss risked her life every single day in District Twelve when she went underneath the fence and hunted to keep her small family alive. Katniss loves Prim like she loves no other character, not even Peeta, and she would do anything to keep her alive, safe, and happy. This is the relationship that jolted this entire series into being, and it would not exist without it. A romantic love is not the same as a familial love, and despite the prominence of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship in the series and how Prim is technically a minor character and a plot device, the love between the two sisters is one that cannot be dismissed, regardless of the presence of a love interest.
        It is very clear to me, and to several others who have commented on this topic, that despite the genre’s tendency to focus on the romantic relationship between the protagonists, this focus in no way diminishes the significance of the other relationships in the novel.

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  4. I was most interested in the discussion around romance while reading The Hunger Games so I was glad to see a post delving into some of the ways it was problematic. However, I think it can be argued that Katniss was actually subversive by using the romance plot as a tool for survival. She appears to be aware of the expectations placed upon her and she performs flawlessly to garner support from the Capitol. The reader is made quite aware that Katniss’ actions reflect strategy and calculation rather than head-over-heels romantic love for Peeta despite his intentions being much more ambiguous. As mentioned in class, I’d agree that it almost seems as though Katniss is asexual – lacking any explicit romantic feelings towards any character; Gale and Peeta exist as her friends and allies more than anything else.

    I found the connection between romantic relationships and (celebrity?) spectacle very interesting. It continues to frustrate me that Katniss exploits herself in the romance, and to take it further, it frustrates me that Suzanne Collins wrote the ending the way she did. I adored the friendship that Rue and Katniss built – however brief – and I thought it was a poor decision on Collins’ part to abandon that. With that said, I disagree with the notion that “because Katniss and Peeta’s romance is given such emphasis . . . it leaves more of an impact in the reader’s mind than any other relationship [she] has,” because regardless of the incessant efforts to highlight their relationship, I never felt particularly invested in them as a couple. In fact, the relationships that I enjoyed and remembered most happened to be with the Avox girl, Cinna, Rue, and Haymitch.

    Lastly, regarding the similarities drawn to celebrities, I think it’s blatantly obvious that our society is obsessive about directing famous young women (and men) towards romantic, heterosexual relationships. Examples of this present themselves whenever a child or teenager is interviewed and asked whether they have a boyfriend/girlfriend; I think it’s entirely unnatural to impose such expectations on children and therefore is very reflective of our current cultural moment. The example of Taylor Swift is suitable as a model for how young women are treated in the media too since she was and continues to be criticized for every relationship she engages in. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the novel changed my perspective regarding celebrity relationships but it definitely reminded me how superficially relationships are understood in mass media and celebrity culture.

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  5. I agree with many of the arguments that you have made here. I would like to elaborate on and dialogue with your discussion questions. The way in which our society approaches romance and relationships follows a very public discourse. We are trained within societal heteronormative structures to seek out and celebrate heterosexual relationships. Within the context of the Hunger Games and Katniss in particular, she becomes more likeable, and relatable once her relationship with Peeta is exposed to the world. Before the romance, Katniss is seen as a girl who is emotionless and cold. After, she is seen as the sweet young girl in love and fighting for the survival of her love. As readers, we know from Katniss’ perspective that many of the romantic acts are a show for the capitol, but it is evident that the character develops some feelings for Peeta over the course to the novel. Modern day society expects girls to prioritize seeking out heteronormative romance and relationships. Through mediums such as magazine tabloids, television shows, and books, girls are taught about what to do to “get the guy” and keep him. Starting in the early stages of girlhood, girls are often asked by friends and relatives if the have a boyfriend yet and other invasive questions. Society loves to know everyone’s business, especially romantically. It has become normalized to ask individuals about their romantic lives.

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  6. I found your parallel between romance in “The Hunger Games” and our own society’s treatment of celebrity couples and reality dating shows to be very interesting. Reading “The Hunger Games” critically, I find that there are a lot of parallels that Collins draws between the Capitol and Western society. While initially, I was only focusing on the idea that the Capitol highlights our society’s high-levels and dependences on consumerism, I find the romance parallel to be even more interesting.

    The relationship between The Capitol, the Games, and Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is exactly like our relationship to shows like “Bachelor in Paradise” where we are the capitol, “Bachelor in Paradise” is the Games, and Katniss and Peeta are the couple that we want to either fail or succeed. I admit, I somewhat avidly watch “Bachelor in Paradise”, as well as the other shows in the franchise “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”. However, I call these shows my guilty pleasures and I have no intent of taking them seriously. Instead, and perhaps this is my years of education and critical thinking that makes me do this, but I find myself watching “Bachelor in Paradise” fully aware of the problematic elements its contains to issues such as gender, sexuality, race, and class and being able to call the show out when it is problematic. However, regardless of how critically I watch the show, I still find myself enjoying it and rooting for couples to succeed, which strangely means falling in love.

    Reading romance in “The Hunger Games” critically didn’t necessarily change my views on reality dating shows such as “Bachelor in Paradise”, but instead reaffirmed my skepticism in the ‘reality’ of it all. Where Katniss and Peeta’s relationship is constructed as a plan to win the games by manipulating the society that can give them life-saving gifts, “Bachelor in Paradise” is partly scripted based on what the producers know will get them more ratings, and thus more money. Thus, just like Peeta constructs a love story between him and Katniss, knowing that it will help win over the audience, gaining him more sponsors, and helping to ensure his survival, producers of “Bachelor in Paradise” create storylines and characters that will win over the audience and ensure the show’s ‘survival’ of getting enough viewers and coming back for another season.

    When in the games, Katniss exploits her romance with Peeta in order to get the supplies they need from the sponsors. She knows that one more kiss, or a longer, more passionate kiss, will get them supplies that will save their lives. Katniss then uses her romance to get something else. This is seen in our society in “Bachelor in Paradise” and other reality dating shows, where contestants are frequently asked if they are there ‘for the right reasons’ or are they manufacturing a connection and manipulating their partner in order to, in most cases, gain fame or money. This notion of the “right reasons” comes up in every season of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” at least once, where one character who is usually more confident and assertive, is singled out as possibly crafting a romantic relationship just to get their five minutes of fame.

    Watching “The Bachelor”, “The Bachelorette”, or “Bachelor in Paradise”, I question how much the relationships are real and how much they are manufactured by society. While we don’t see this active questioning by the Capitol in “The Hunger Games”, we as readers find ourselves debating the authenticity of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship over and over again. Where the Games are an extreme version of a reality TV show in Panem, they echo narratives in our society’s reality dating shows.

    Lastly, Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, crafted or not, began as the building of a brand. Commodifying Katniss and Peeta, the two tributes had to create a brand that would sell well to the Capitol. Just like romance sells well in our society, romance sells well in the Capitol. The commodification of Katniss and Peeta echoes the notion that celebrities are not only people, but also a business. Having images to uphold, products to sell, people to motivate, and millions of dollars to make, celebrities are constructed by their team of managers, PR personnel, agents, and stylists. This management team that each celebrity has is responsible for maintaining the brand that is ‘Taylor Swift’ or ‘Beyonce’ or whatever other celebrity you choose. In this instance, the commodification of Katniss and Peeta is extremely similar to the commodification of celebrities in our own society as we treat them as a business that needs to be managed and maintained. Of course, romantic relationships play a large role in this. For example, Taylor Swift can’t be seen dating the ex of one of her ‘squad’ members because that would directly contradict her ‘squad brand’ that her team has built up. In contrast, it might help her image if she is seen dating someone that the public universally loves. While this is all speculation, the same theme applies regardless of the example. Just like Katniss and Peeta are commodified brands that use romance to gain sponsors, celebrities are businesses that have definite brands that can be helped or hindered by the right or wrong romantic partner, or in the case of “The Hunger Games”, by the presence of a partner at all.

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  7. I found that while I was reading the blog post and the comments I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with several points that have been raised. A point was raised in a previous comment that focused on the idea that Katniss was viewed as desirable before she was placed with Peeta as she was the ‘girl on fire’ and impressed the Capitol with her training score; this point countered the blog post, which claimed that Katniss was seldom desirable to the Capitol ‘until she had a male suitor’. I would like to extend this argument by disagreeing with both. I believe that Katniss was always desirable to the Capitol, not because of her training score but because she had romantic potential. Katniss was a young teenage girl who held the possibility to be set up and forced into a heterosexualsexual relationship – the Capitol was not in love with her as an individual, they were in love with what she could offer and what would aid their gratification and satisfy their needs in the sense of entertainment, thus a comment on society’s obsession and reinforcement of young girls and romantic relationships.
    Additionally, I have to agree with the blog plot and its argument that romance as a subplot ultimately reinforces romantic relationships for young girls. If we were to critique Katniss as a character, then yes it would be valid to argue that she challenges the idea romance and young girls through her initiative to use her ‘relationship’ as a way to survive, however if we are to critique the novel’s approach as a whole, then it would be arguable that Collins has created a society that does in fact perpetuate the stereotypical idea that romance should play a significant role in a young girls life. Although Katniss uses her relationship with Peeta to her advantage, the very notion that she has to manipulate society into this romantic illusion merely epitomises the fact that society is obsessed and has to be satisfied with young girls relationship. I do understand the argument that Katniss does not reinforce this as an individual, but if we are to focus on the idea that she has to pretend that she is in an artificial relationship for survival and approval of the Capitol, then surely this comments on the evident expectation that this society has placed upon young girls in reinforcing romantic relationships.

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  8. Your discussion about sexual desirability as it relates to a young woman’s value reflects the way many athletes are treated in contemporary culture. You commented on how Katniss’ exceptional survival skills are considered secondary to her role as Peeta’s romantic interest in terms of her public perception; other’s perceptions of her elevate her value compared to her ability in the arena. You briefly mentioned how this relates to sponsorship, as Katniss receives more endorsement in the arena due to her romantic partnership with Peeta, despite her clear survival and hunting skills and capacity to win the games.

    The way Katniess receives sponsorship due to her romantic endeavours relates strongly to the endorsement of female athletes; other than the consistent winners and “super stars” in sports such as Serena and Venus Williams and Simone Biles, who excel exceptionally within their sport, endorsements are often given to female athletes who conform to Western beauty standards; for example, “Anna Kournikova does not actually make a lot of money from playing tennis, and in fact, has never won a major tournament. Instead, she has become the world’s most highly paid women’s tennis player through endorsements that emphasize her sex appeal over her athleticism,” (Carty 138). Most female athletes who are endorsed are exploited for their sex appeal and often photographed in scant clothing and advertised through men’s magazines such as Sports Illustrated. While Collins exaggerates the importance a woman’s physical desirability in sport competition by making it a necessity for Katniss’ survival, endorsements help to fund training and resources for athletes as well as act as a significant amount of athletes’ income, affecting athletic performance as well as financial success. Ultimately, female bodies, both in Collins’ world and the real world, are valued based on their sexual and romantic desirability to males rather than their functionality.

    Works Cited
    Carty, Victoria. “Textual Portrayals of Female Athletes: Liberation of Nuanced Forms of Patriarchy?” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, 2005: pp. 132-155.

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  9. The capitol is founded on the ability to control. They control the districts, the resources and most importantly the Hunger Games itself. This interest the Capitol demonstrates toward Katniss and Peeta’s relationship illustrates the ability to manipulate their relationship for the Capitol’s own entertainment. This manipulation reinforces the social constructions of what is considered important to girlhood depicted in western society. This romance in order to survive creates a relationship between Katniss and Peeta that the readers have a difficult time deciphering whether or not it is true. Although shown in an extreme case, this way of situating a young female adult around a boy is very relevant to western society. It could be argued that the way Collins relates this love or death demonstrates that the relationship is the only thing that matters. Similar to western society, it is assumed that, especially within the culture of young female adults, that they are only fixated on relationships – heterosexual ones for that matter. Not only does this assume heterosexuality, it undermines the agency of young girls. It works under the assumption that this is what all girls care about and that it remains more important than aspects that promote their agency – such as skills and capabilities. Much like Katniss when she’s in the Games, her exceptional qualities take a back seat to her relationship with Peeta.

    The novel does not necessarily change the way celebrity relationships and romantic reality TV shows are viewed, but rather reinforce the tropes of heteronormativity within them. This encourages readers to be critical of these aspects of entertainment culture. It is interesting to note how problematic these types of television shows or novel tropes are but they are still highly watched within society. Whether or not people are aware of the underlying social constructions that are embedded with these shows, there is a fascination that keeps viewers intrigued. What does this say about society? There is a continued support for highly sexist shows due to the fixation around romantic relationships.

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  10. To answer your discussion question about whether the novel changed the way that I view my things such as celebrity relationships and reality TV–my answer is no. I have always been very critical of these things and have avoided staying out of ‘pop culture’ because I have always believed that the relationships are constructed. I think the novel does an excellent job critiquing these kinds of relationships.

    This post has me thinking about the romance trope in YA literature, especially the novels studied in our course, specifically compulsory heterosexuality.

    In the Hunger Games series, a love triangle forms between her fellow tribute, Peeta, and her best friend, Gale. Eventually, both put pressure on Katniss to choose between the two of them, disregarding the fact that Katniss does not want to think about romance, she just wants to survive.

    Two other texts that I found had obvious compulsory heterosexuality are Parable of the Sower and Delirium.

    In Parable of the Sower, most of the characters are coupling up and having sex. Even when the characters are in dangerous situations, they take the risk of having sex with the person they couple up with. Most of the characters who have coupled up have already lost a previous significant other, yet the seem to disregard that loss once they have found another person to be with.

    In Delirium, although love is forbidden and viewed as a disease, the people are still falling in love before they have their procedure. Even Lena, who at the beginning of the novel praised the cure and was excited for her own operation, falls into the heterosexual romance with Alex very quickly after meeting him. Even though her character did not want the relationship at the beginning, she changes her views as soon as she begins to spend time alone with a man for the first time.

    I think the romance trope is YA literature is commenting upon how in our society women are viewed as “in need of a man.” So many girls hate family reunions because they are plagued with the question: “Do you have any boyfriends?” by their family members.

    Why does our society deem women in need of men? Why can’t these girls be extraordinary and rebellious with a male influence? These are questions I ask myself continuously through my read and lived experiences.

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  11. I completely agree that the romance aspect of the book is given more weight than the female friendship aspect of the narrative. I again agree that this is because the interactions between Katniss and Peeta happen closer to the climax of the novel but I also argue that it is because neither of them die in the novel. They both live to the end of the novel, a fact we cannot say for Rue. The female friendship relationship was not allowed to develop further because Rue died. I see her death as a plot tool to further the white protagonist’s development further but that is a whole other discussion. Rue’s death stopped any and all further development of her friendship with Katniss. It follows the YA trope that the friend is replaced with a love interest but in this case the friend is killed and then replaced.

    I am really glad you touched upon how we as the audience also get sucked up in this romance plot just as the Capitol eats it up. I see this as intentional on Collins’ part as she took inspiration from reality tv (along with war coverage) when writing the series. Romance plots feature so heavily in reality tv whether it is a survival show, a game show, or a show about finding romance. Romance is always an aspect of reality tv, whether naturally occurring or constructed by writers and producers. We passively consume these romance plots and are not often critical of their inclusion in our media. What would it have meant if Rue lived on and Katniss and Rue were able to explore their friendship further? How shocking would it have been if Peeta died instead and the friendship between the two girls was explored?

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  12. Hi there,
    The Capital’s behaviour towards Katniss is greatly influenced by her onscreen romance with Peeta, mirroring the ways in which we treat girls (especially celebrities) within Western society. The focus on a romantic relationship for survival within Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ parallels social norms of heteronormativity within past and current Western culture. The Capital’s pinpointed focus on Katniss’ relationship with Peeta looks similar to extended families interest in young girl’s (and teens) relationship statuses. The emphasis on heteronormativity that adults often put upon their children, their nieces, and girls in general is unnecessary.
    In the Capitol Katniss is viewed as desirable and an interesting tribute due to her connection to Peeta, rather than her own physical and mental capabilities. Her importance, identity, and survival within the game (and life as a whole) weighs heavily on heterosexual romance. Western societies intense focus on romance on and offscreen insinuates that girls and women’s worth are determined based on their male counterpart. Collins depictions of the Capitals focus on Katniss’ romantic choices heavily weighs on the ways that girls understand their relationships and their importance within them.
    Collins’ novel didn’t have any impact on how I view celebrity relationships or reality TV. As a kid I was fascinated with tabloids as an escape, but when I realized that they were mostly false, negative influences, and harmful I stopped paying attention to them and started to heavily criticize all forms of media similar to them. When you look closely at the way the tabloids and media portrays women it’s made clear that Hollywood (and Western society) prefer heterosexuality and misogyny. As a queer woman I don’t believe a second of what the media spins when it comes to relationships; the media should keeps its nose out of romantic relationships, especially when someone doesn’t sign a TV contract for it.
    Heterosexuality is forced upon women, pairing them with their male friends and perpetuating the idea that women are important when they are with a man. This also enforces the idea that all women are heterosexual! Which is a bunch of bollocks, the perfect example of this would be the harassment and homophobic reports regarding Kristen Stewart over the last couple years. Her refusal to discuss her personal life until recently serves as a reminder that Western societies heteronormative ideals and general snooping into people’s romantic lives negatively affects women as a whole; when girls experience it from childhood you can imagine the negative effects this can have.

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  13. In response to this blog post, some have argued that the analysis that young girls are mainly viewed as valuable based on their relationship with men, and in that same strain of thought, that Katniss is viewed as desirable by the Capitol only once viewed as intimately tied to Peeta, is inaccurate. These same voices also claim, in support of their argument that Katniss is viewed as more than just her relationships with men, that Katniss merely uses her relationship with Peeta as a way to accumulate public support and desirability. I argue that these two thoughts are not only inconsistent, but also contradictory. If it is argued that Katniss is utilising her relationship with Peeta in order to accumulate support and likeability, then it is in fact because without it, she would be disadvantaged, since without it, she would not be desirable.
    While watching the replay of the show at dinner, Katniss confronts the reality that, despite how she felt during, and despite her continued viewing of herself as seeming “frilly and shallow” it had been a success (136). Through the replay she could witness herself “blushing and confused, made beautiful by Cinna’s hands, desirable by Peeta’s confession, … and by all accounts, unforgettable (136).” The public liked her, and the public liked her only because, as Haymitch had earlier told her, Peeta generously put the effort into making her desirable, since she could never achieve such levels of desirability on her own. This scenario is indicative of two things:
    1. “Proper” expressions of femininity in women result in the general likeability of that woman she is acting in a way that is expected of her, and since that would inherently mean that she is non-confrontational, and gentle, and thoughtful, and selfless, and kind, and docile
    2. No matter how unlikeable the female, her desirability can be increased significantly if it is known that she has a man who is interested in her.

    As such, I argue that yes, in fact, Katniss becomes desirable solely subsequent to Peeta’s confession of loving her, and that she knowingly uses this to her advantage. With that being said, I came to this conclusion after much reflection and a critical reading of The Hunger Games. I wonder if Susanne Collins’ depiction of Katniss Everdeen’s relationship to Peeta (and as well Gale) is in fact a commentary on the unfortunate reality that women become more generally desirable when a man has expressed interest in them, or if she is simply inserted the love triangle in an attempt to the adhere to the tropes expected of her by the Young Adult Dystopian Fiction genre, and in an attempt to grab the interest of her young target reading audience. My concern is that the average reader would gravitate more towards ruminating about whether Katniss should be “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale,” rather than why it is that Katniss felt she had been, and had in fact been, advantaged by Peeta’s public display of desire for her.

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  14. I do agree that the Capitol’s behaviour toward Katniss’ onscreen romance is accurate to the way that we treat girls in modern western society, to a certain degree. Yes, as a society, we tend to plant the seed in young girls head’s from a very early age, that to succeed and ‘win’ in life, your chances are more probable if you are involved in a heterosexual relationship. The Capitols enforcement of Katniss’ and Peeta’s romance, I believe is indicative particularly of YA Dystopian novels, more so than perhaps our own society, as I do think, all though not fully there, there is an awareness and an active mentality to teach girls that heteronormativity is not the be all or end all, from certain groups in society, i.e. contemporary feminists, and perhaps even our own influences such as the females within our own family. However, Collins transgresses this trope of society, by making Katniss the more ‘masculine’ figure between her and Peeta, which is progressive and unusual considering the heteronormativity of the capitol and contemporary society. But unfortunately, I can’t help but feel let down, by the way Katniss is supposed to come across, as the ‘star crossed lover’, it just further reduces her to the very thing we are trying to criticise society of, but then again, it could be argued that Collins intentionally articulates this to expose the ills and flaws of heteropatriachal. In terms of the novel changing the way I view things such as celebrity relationship and romantic reality TV shows, I would say it actually has not changed my attitude that much, considering I was never really allowed as a child or even teenager, to be exposed to that kind of media, and therefore have always stigmatised it with negativity, I was very aware from a young age, that shows such as romantic reality TV shows were set up, and ‘fake’, in order to produce something entertaining for the audience. If anything, the novel has certified my attitude towards things such as these shows, and has further distanced me from ever engaging in such television.

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  15. In general I really enjoyed this argument of The Hunger Games, in particular accordance to the heterosexual romance between Katniss and Peeta, and on a wider concept the notion of viewing romance within reality TV. The significance of The Hunger Games as a YA dystopian novel is arguably, a platform for social critique for Collins, in regards to politics, dictatorships and poverty. However, I think when viewing this novel in correlation to girlhood and romance, there are other, perhaps more subtle hints that Collins wishes to raise. Although no current reality TV shows force members of society to fight to the death, other concepts within the Hunger Games, such as likeability and investment from the audience, is very much prevalent in contemporary TV shows. Programmes such as “Big Brother”, or “Geordie Shore”, play on the emotions of viewers by forcing them to invest within love plots and romantic twists within the shows, which is echoed in Katniss “star crossed romance” with Peeta. Although necessary to survive, the fact that Katniss is not half as desirable, or likeable unless she is with a man, answers both of the questions you raise. I think that girls are forced to conform to heterosexual romances to fit social stereotypes and reinforce the binaries of gender, femininity and masculinity, and sexuality in both real life and reality TV. Thus the Capitols behaviour towards Katniss’ onscreen romance is accurate to the way that we treat girls in modern western society. Furthermore, this also makes me pity the way young women are treated on reality TV shows as many are sexualised on screen- the shots of girls in their underwear in Geordie Shore for example- and so, the woman are almost expected to entertain audiences through romance, and heterosexual relationships similar to that of Katniss and Peeta.

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  16. When you are discussing how Katniss and Peeta’s romantic relationship takes precedence over others in the novel I think it is important to also consider why it is emphasized to begin with: it is not just to fulfill the YA romantic love triangle. You state that “the Gamemakers change the rules so that Katniss and Peeta could potentially win as a unit,” but I don’t believe they did this just to satisfy ‘shippers’ of Katniss and Peeta, after all they were not the only pair left that could win the 74th annual Hunger Games. Cato and Clove also had a shot at winning together, being from the same district, and one could argue they had a better chance in the Gamemakers eyes because of their upbringings as Careers. This change in rules also stipulates that only those from the same district can win; Katniss and Rue’s alliance would not have worked out in any situation so it makes more sense to have Rue die to lead Katniss to rebellion. While there definitely is an emphasis on Katniss and Peeta’s romantic relationship in the games,I think their relationship goes deeper than that. Katniss is attempting to save a boy from her districts life. This boy saved her, grew up alongside her, and they share a bond that none of the other tributes could relate to because they aren’t from District 12. Katniss also repeatedly denies having any romantic feelings for Peeta throughout this novel, she just wants them both to make it out of the games alive. We, as readers, have the opportunity to look at the deeper meanings to their relationship and how it is not focussed just on romantic love, but on a need for survival. If anything I believe their romantic relationship is only emphasized to appease the Capitol supporters who have the money to keep them alive.

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