3. Katniss Everdeen, The Androgynous Hero
Katniss is a poor girl with archery skills and smarts whose civilization calls for human tributes for a ruthless survival contest, the Hunger Games. When Katniss’s little sister is chosen for the games, she volunteers to take her place. In the contest, she saves herself and her male counterpart. In victory, she becomes a symbol of rebellion against the tribute state and battles on in the revolution.
Katniss admirably survives on her brains and nature skills. But if author Suzanne Collins had chosen to write the books with a male hero, she would only have needed to change a few details. The only womanly theme doesn’t appear until the epilogue when we learn that Katniss is married with two children. But even her dilemma about children — whether to bring them into a harsh world and how to explain what part their parents played in the revolution — is generic.
In a sense, Katniss is the ideal feminist heroine, gender neutral, but Collins had to ignore much to get the story to work. For instance, despite the brutal nature of the games, rape is never even mentioned as a threat. Collins did not give Katniss any superpowers which would make rape unlikely, but she doesn’t have Katniss out-think potential aggressors, either. Collins simply ignores the threat. Real women don’t have that luxury and so holding up Katniss as a female role model promotes a false sense of security for the women who admire her.
Katniss is a champion of individualism, but not gender.
Gender neutralization isn’t the only problem with modern heroines. Stories that claim that women’s relationships amongst themselves take priority over other relationships have exploded. “Men come and go, but your girlfriends, sisters, and mothers will always be there for you” — so sayeth the Sisterhood of the Steel YaYa’s in the City. This is true even if being there for each other means holding hands in a double suicide. That Thelma and Louise regularly rates as an admirable female heroes movie horrifies me. We deem any woman’s actions heroic if done for herself or another woman. Pixar’s Brave illustrates this infallibility of the sisterhood.