World of May -
Nov. 21st, 2012
In a discussion online about The Hunger Games a friend posted to this link, which points out that Peeta is a feminized male and claims that fact is a problem in the story. I’m not touching how insulting it is that that writer separates character traits into female and male roles, and then paints the female traits as negative ones. Oh wait, I just did. There is a problem with Peeta, but it’s not that his strengths are the more traditionally female ones.
To counter, I want to look at Brave. Brave was a movie I was worried about because I thought it was going to be a tomboy princess movie, where the heroine completely rejects any traditional feminine traits and is idolized for that. However, it wasn’t that movie at all. Instead Brave is a movie where the heroine has to learn to value those traditional female traits, without having to embody them. In other words, the movie is about a girl and her mother, their two ways of being female and it then points out that both of those ways are valid. The movie is all kinds of awesome for this.
One of the things I’ve seen a lot of people castigate Peeta for is that he hides from the more powerful tributes after his injury. Rather than fight back he slips down into the mud and waits to die, though people take to be waiting to be rescued a very traditional female role in stories. But we need to remember that when Peeta hid the games master hadn’t announced that two tributes could live if they came from the same district, therefore I’d argue that Peeta was waiting his death not rescue. Peeta says earlier in the book/movie that he doesn’t want to lose himself in the arena. He also acknowledges that his only real chance at survival is to outlast all of the other tributes. So when he is fatally injured he decides to hide, denying the Capitol a chance to revel in his death the way they do the deaths of all the other tributes. It’s a quiet fuck you to the people who have killed him. This quiet act of defiance, choosing the way that he dies, is not negated by the fact that he is rescued.
This kind of quiet defiance, patience over action, is traditionally given to females in stories particularly if that defiance happens mostly off screen as it does in The Hunger Games. That our society finds that type of patience to be a weakness is problematic. It is not an active form of defiance, but I wouldn’t say that it’s weak either. Peeta is not weak for hiding and not taking direct action. He is displaying a different type of strength, much like Eleanor in Brave. And like Merida, we need to learn to appreciate that type of strength.
However his hiding does highlight the main problem with Peeta, in that he is a passive not an active character. This is a completely separate issue. It has nothing to do with strength or weakness, or even female characters and male characters. The Hunger Game’s is not Peeta’s story, it is Katniss’s and thus the actor of the story is always going to be Katniss*. However if you wish to argue that you don’t like Peeta because he is a passive character, then those are the terms you should use, not that he is weak because he is a feminized male. It is insulting to equate passivity with femaleness. To say that passivity is a female trait in stories is to say that females belong in passive roles. Thanks but no thanks and fuck you.
* At least in the first book, my issues with the last book revolve around this issue.