This morning I read a post on the Women Media Center’s blog, written by Melissa Silverstein. Ms. Silverstein’s post focuses on the current Katniss vs. Bella comparison, and she laments that such comparisons are pointless. She concludes that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with films such as The Hunger Games and thus turns the comparison between Katniss and Bella into a “cat fight.” You can read her entire post on the WMC blog.
I have trouble with Ms. Silverstein’s conclusions, and I submitted a response to her post. I thought I would republish my thoughts here for your consideration:
“I would like to think there is something more to the Katniss/Bella juxtaposition than a mere cat fight. Both The Hunger Games and Twilight series amassed massive fan followings and provoked similar fan “mania,” if you will. Both began as young adult novels. Tenuous similarities to be sure, but I suppose those are a few of the reasons why people are comparing the two characters.
Twilight, whether you loved or hated the series, catapulted Kristen Stewart and her character of Bella into the media spotlight. Bella was the most recent megastar of fiction until Katniss came along. Perhaps this is another reason why the two characters are being compared. These characters have risen beyond their textual and cinematic confines and have become pop culture figures. Icons, even. What other young female characters have risen to this level of public and pop culture awareness within the past few years? Maybe Hermione Granger, though she was usually bundled together with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.
You write that comparing these two characters makes no sense. In regards to theme, style, and franchise, you are absolutely right. However I have found the comparison between Bella and Katniss to actually open up conversations amongst young women about the differences found in these two characters. Teenage girls are identifying the traits within Katniss that they like – those they want to emulate. She is fierce, strong, independent, resilient, resourceful. Girls find her strength attractive and compare it to Bella’s weak passivity. They admire Katniss’s independence instead of Bella’s willingness to remain in a violent relationship. Through this activity, young women are recognizing for themselves what kind of young woman they want to be—and, in turn, what kind of character they want to support. My hope is that this will translate into a dialogue about how these young women want themselves to be represented in media.
If nothing else, I think that the Katniss/Bella comparison offers a tremendous opportunity to encourage feminism within girls and young women. Instead of dismissing the comparison as silly (even though it certainly appears so at first), let’s turn the conversation around, note the differences, and encourage women – of all ages – to aim for strength and confidence.”
Have you encountered Katniss/Bella comparisons? What do you think of them? Share your opinions below!