By Janessa Palmer
Distinguished Young Woman of Minnesota for 2013
If the title doesn’t give it away, I just saw the latest installment of the Hunger Games trilogy in theaters, Catching Fire. Not only did it break the Thanksgiving box office record previously set by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but it managed to be praised as one of the best book-to-movie adaptations in the last decade. Being a huge fan of the books, I was amazed at how much I loved the movie – but for many other reasons.
1. Ah Finally! A movie with realistic relationships. It only took a post-apocalyptic country and the brutal murder of children to come to this, but it happened. Katniss was a simple district twelve girl who loved nothing more than her younger sister, Prim. Her friendship with Gale was one built off of shared talents, sufferings, and a need to survive – although it turned towards romance, it was kept realistic by both of their abilities to focus on the problems in front of them. Katniss’s relationship with Peeta is over-done for the capitol audiences, but behind the scenes they are connected by past experiences in the arena and of their home in district twelve. And despite these ‘distractions’, Katniss remains focused on the reason she volunteered in the first place, Prim.
2. The ‘eww’ factor. The ignorance of the capitol, the horror of the games, the brutality of the peacemakers, and the vileness of those in charge made my stomach churn throughout the entire show. I was ready to jump into the games myself and take a stand against the injustices the characters were suffering. It made me think again about inequality, misunderstandings, trust, and how Katniss was made a symbol against her own will. The bloodshed and beatings that the film showed only furthered the emotions felt, causing the audience to think more intensely on the actions taken by the characters.
3. Ladies. Let’s face it, this movie has a stunning cast. While I must credit the men with some great performances, it was the women that rightfully stole the show. Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason was snarky, independent, and understandably passionate. She was a woman who was not afraid to call out the capitol’s unfairness on it’s own show. Although some might say she was overdone, I believe her passion and attitude is something young women can take note of, along with her obvious confidence in her body, as seen in the elevator. She shares her desire to survive with Katniss, who also is unafraid of standing up to the capitol and more notably, President Snow himself. Katniss is made a symbol against her own will (which many fans forget) which makes her even more angry, and at times she rebels against the ideas of her own friends, such as Haymitch. Furthermore, she understands that she has bigger problems to face than a love triangle, and also that she is more than just a symbol to the districts, but someone for them to look up to. Not to mention that Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing young woman herself for her stunning acting and for speaking out on body image and the entertainment industry.
4. Feminism. The movie itself broke out of the stereotypical female roles portrayed by the entertainment industry. It was one of many this past year to pass the Bechdel Test for Sexism in the film industry, making 2013 the most successful year for movies that have two or more women who talk to each other about something other than a man, the basis of the test. I hope this trend continues to change as we move into 2014 with movies like Catching Fire – filled with deeper, more diverse characters prepared to take on the world and push the limits of what women are capable of according to society.
Janessa Palmer is a college freshman at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota majoring in Animal Science (pre-veterinary) and minoring in Spanish. Originally from Willmar, Minnesota, Janessa was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Minnesota for 2013. Learn more about Janessa here!