How The Hunger Games Series Defied Gender Norms

Ever wonder what made “The Hunger Games” so captivating? One possibility is the reversal of gender roles. While some characters, such as Haymitch and Primrose, fulfill almost every gender stereotype, the characters of Katniss and Peeta are certainly less traditional.

Panem, the foreign country the series is based in, defies many cultural stereotypes. Its citizens are certainly not perceived the same way as modern Americans. Because of the nature of Panem, Katniss is allowed to break away from the typical female role and merge into an almost fatherly role.

The first instance of her masculinity is after her father’s death when she inherits the duty of providing for family. She fulfills this role through hunting and gathering, as well as serving as a paternal figure for Primrose. It can also be noted that she inherited many of her father’s traits, while Primrose takes after their mother.

Katniss continues to defy gender norms when she volunteers for tribute in place of her sister, a generally protective action more typically associated with men. Lastly, her ability to compete in the games and ultimately be victorious defies the stereotype of women needing men to protect them.

Peeta, on the other hand, takes a more feminine role in the series. He is kind, compassionate and his femininity could be viewed as a perfect pair for Katniss’ masculine traits. His main skill in the games is his artistic ability (recall his use of camouflage to disguise himself), which is generally thought of as a feminine characteristic.

Additionally, gender roles are defied through the character of Finnick. Initially introduced as an egotistical playboy, it is late revealed that he was forced into prostitution by President Snow following his Hunger Games victory. Traditionally, females are portrayed as the victims of sexual assault or even rape, yet Finnick is a strong masculine character who was subjected to sexual behavior against his will.

While gender roles in “The Hunger Games” are certainly non-traditional, I believe that if the series were set in modern times, they would be less accepted. As soon as the plot begins to resemble anything like modern society, people tend to shy away at such radical approaches to norms. The foreign nature of the setting, however, allows for author Suzanne Collins to manipulate gender stereotypes while still intriguing viewers of all backgrounds.