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The Rebel Warrior and the Boy with the Bread: Gale, Peeta, and Masculinity in the Hunger Games

I'll admit it: I'm somewhat of a latecomer to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. Having missed the first wave of buzz when the books came out, I waited until now to read them so they're fresh in my mind when I see the movie on March 23rd. Which is to say, I've spent the past few days in a Katniss-induced haze, strung out from doing little else but inhale this story (there must be a term for this—Hunger Games Hangover? Hungover Games?), and I'm left with a few thoughts. Yes, obviously Katniss is badass and I'm psyched to see a strong heroine get some much-deserved attention, but what really struck me about the Hunger Games trilogy was its complex portrayals of masculinity, embodied by the characters of Gale Hawthorne and Peeta Mellark.

Just as Gale and Peeta give Katniss two very different boyfriend options, they give us as readers two very different ideas of what it means to be a man in Panem.

Gale and Peeta from the Hunger Games movie, with text that reads Gale or Peeta: The choice is yours
See what I mean about the two totally different masculinities happening here?

Spoilers abound from here on out. You've been warned.

Gale "Born a Rebel" Hawthorne

Gale is undoubtedly the most conventionally masculine character in the Hunger Games. Physically strong, emotionally hotheaded, known for his rebellious spirit and sense of obligation to protect the women and children around him, he's basically the Marlboro Man of Panem. (Note that the promo photo above depicts him as being too manly even for his shirt.) When the trilogy begins, we learn from Katniss that Gale is her best friend because they're hunting partners—even this, though it foreshadows love and romance, follows the "masculine" logic that men form bonds through shared activity as opposed to shared feelings (the woman's way of bonding™).

At the start, Gale is a rugged individualist (a masculine stereotype if there ever was one), making traps and shooting animals and living off the land—a Survivorman for the District 12 set, with the added bonus of extreme handsomeness (strong hands, strong arms, strong jaw—we're constantly reminded how much ladies love this strong dude). As the series progresses and Gale joins the rebel forces, his outdoorsiness turns to anti-Capitolist radicalism and he begins setting his snares for humans instead of animals. Not only is this transition from lone wolf in the woods to military revenge specialist believable for his character, it's also very much in keeping with the idea of Gale as a Man's Man. The deal is sealed with his choice not to listen to Katniss when she questions the ethics of his "compassion bomb," which proved his dedication to the cause at all costs—he's not one to let emotions get in the way.

Speaking of Katniss—when it comes to their relationship, Gale is ever the strong silent type. He only barely alluded to his feelings for Katniss before the games, and when they ended he kissed her once—without conversation—and didn't bring up his undying love again for hundreds of pages. We as readers can tell he wants to be with Katniss through her descriptions, but Gale—not one for talking about feelings—hardly ever mentions it. When he does, he often uses metaphors of competition, talking about who will "win" in the end between he and Peeta. As his conventional masculinity dictates, Gale is a hard-to-get, emotionally distant bad boy.

Peeta "Boy with the Bread" Mellark

When Peeta Mellark loses his memory and is brainwashed by the Capitol, Katniss tries to remind him who he really is by saying, "You're a painter. You're a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces." Where Gale is conventionally masculine, Peeta is decidedly unconventionally so. Yes, he is strong, but he got that way lifting bags of flour at a bakery, where he also honed his skills as the best cake decorator in District 12. With beautiful blond curls and blue eyes, Peeta possesses many traits we associate with femininity—he's artistic, he's intuitive, he cries in front of people, he wears his heart on his sleeve—he's emotionally vulnerable in a way we don't think of heroes as being emotionally vulnerable. Pretty and sensitive—like a post-apocalyptic version of Leonardo DiCaprio's Romeo from Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

Peeta is also known for his way with words and his ability to make connections with people. He's funny but not at others' expense, he cares about his peers, and he's a good listener. When a tribute who's addicted to morphling (morphine, as far as I can tell) is dying, he sits with her and describes the colors of the paints he uses in his art, confessing that he "hasn't figured out a rainbow yet. They come so quickly and leave so soon." These qualities, this sensitivity and regard for the pain of others, are not typically masculine characteristics, yet Peeta is indeed portrayed as masculine. Like Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash before him, he is manly but not necessarily in a traditional sense (see: description of rainbows).

At the start of the trilogy, Peeta is the sheltered son of a baker with a crush on a girl from the Seam (District 12's wrong side of the tracks). Through circumstances and strategy, he ends up a victor in the Hunger Games and then a prisoner of the Capitol, used as a mouthpiece and a pawn to manipulate Katniss. Once rescued, he needs help rehabilitating and dealing with the trauma he experienced. Unlike Gale, the rebel warrior, Peeta often needs help from those around him to get by—especially Katniss. She comes to his rescue many times, and he never would have survived the Games without her (though to be fair, she needed his help plenty of times too).

When it comes to his relationship with Katniss, Peeta has nothing to hide. He confesses his feelings for her freely and often (once they enter the Games, at least), and is openly upset—"wounded," to use his word—when he thinks she doesn't feel the same. He even brings her her favorite cheese buns every morning! Where Gale is emotionally distant and hard-to-get, Peeta is honest and willing to share his feelings—sometimes to a fault. If Gale is the bad boy, Peeta is, well, something else. Not the good boy exactly, but maybe the nice boy at least.

None of this is to say that Gale is evil and Peeta is virtuous, or that Gale is strong and Peeta is weak—far from it. (As Peeta would say, "Having an eye for beauty isn't the same thing as weakness.") Only that I find it interesting that the two male heroes of The Hunger Games are so different from one another, and that they embody such different ways of being men. While Gale is the character we might typically think of in a story like this one—a story with plenty of violence, high stakes, and sacrifice—Peeta is not. Which makes Katniss choosing him as her partner all the more significant.

Mr. Katniss Everdeen

I've read feminist discussions of the Hunger Games that question why Katniss ends up with anyone at all at the end of the story: After all, Katniss is strong where others are weak, and since she said she never wanted to get married to anyone, the books should've ended with her alone. While I understand this argument, I can't say I agree. Maybe it's because I love the complexities of Peeta, my favorite character in the series (please, like you couldn't tell whose team I was on already), but I think the fact that Katniss ends up with him in the end not only made sense within the context of the trilogy, it strengthens the notion of Katniss as a feminist heroine.

Says Jessica Miller in her essay "'She Has No Idea. The Effect She Can Have.': Katniss and the Politics of Gender" which appears in The Hunger Games and Philosophy:

Gale fits the stereotype of rugged masculinity but Katniss chooses Peeta, the baker, along with the dandelion, the sunlight and warmth—and she not only chooses him but protects and rescues him time and again.

Bucking the popular culture trend of the helpless girlfriend who needs to be saved by her man, Collins presents Katniss as the strong one. Yet Katniss still needs Peeta's warmth and decency. Even their postwar domestic life bucks gender expectations: Peeta begs for children and Katniss relents; Peeta bakes and Katniss hunts. The romance between Katniss and Peeta offers a welcome foil to the many romances in popular culture that hew closely to the expectations of stereotypical femininity and masculinity.

By choosing an unconventionally masculine partner who will support her in her unconventionally feminine ways, Katniss also chooses a feminist marriage. One where she can hunt and Peeta can bake, and they can share parenting responsibilities. It's a feminist YA fan's dream! (Well, within the confines of this heteronormative narrative, anyway—maybe feminist fanfic can give us an alternative ending where Katniss and Johanna run away together and start their own radical zine library, though.)

Outside of Panem, in the real world, Katniss' choosing of Peeta also sends an important message to millions of Hunger Games fans: that being the boy with the bread is OK, and that you don't always have to be strong and aggressive to be a man. Peeta cries and he loves frosting cakes and he tells his crush how he feels and he needs help sometimes and he supports others and he paints beautiful pictures of flowers—and he and Katniss get to ride off into the sunset together. Which is perfect, because we all know sunset orange is Peeta's favorite color.

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Comments

35 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Peeta.

Peeta had me at "cheese buns."

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Andi Zeisler, cofounder and editorial/creative director

Comments Policy: Like to hear it? Here it go!

Excellent break down of the

Excellent break down of the HG love triangle. And I, of course, completely agree with your preference for Peeta. He's so utterly kind and good-hearted but is still just as strong as Gale in my opinion.

but...

While I agree that Katniss represents a strong female character, I cant say I agree that she is a champion of feminist rights. She becomes a much weaker character in the end of the trilogy than she is in the beginning. She starts out as Xena and ends up something more akin to Bella from twilight.

Also she doesn't really "choose" Peeta. Gale leaves and never comes back after what he did to betray Katniss. So Katniss, feeling so alone and weakened by her loss, releases herself into a life with Peeta she says for 3 books she would never want. I would be happier with her choice of Peeta than Gale, but she didnt really make a choice. She just stopped fighting convention and let domestic life take her away.

Feminist heroine vs feminist partnership

Chris,

I agree with you that Katniss is strong but not necessarily feminist. I do think, however, that her partnership with Peeta—based as it is on equality and not gender roles—is a feminist partnership.

I have to disagree that she let domestic life take her away at the end of the book, though I know what you mean about Gale conveniently disappearing at the end. Even though I thought the ending felt a little rushed, I also thought that after everything they'd been through together, it made perfect sense that Katniss would want to be with Peeta, and that she did choose him. Plus, her biggest reason for not wanting to get married was the Hunger Games, which were ostensibly over forever at that point (well, we're led to believe that, anyway).

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

See to me she talks so much

See to me she talks so much in the books about how she wishes she could just disappear into the wilderness and not be tied down by tradition. She verbalizes many times that if it weren't for her family she would be gone in a second. But the second her family is gone she returns home and settles down with Peeta.

I also agree that Peeta should have been her choice. He is by far my favorite character in the books, but I wish he had been an active choice, not a passive one. People say its more realistic but I dont read fantasy novels cause I want to feel like a character settles for someone. I read fantasy cause I want them to be unlike the real world in those ways. If Peeta had to be her choice I wish there was a way that she could have MADE the choice in the end. To me it just seemed like she gave up and gave in, she was too tired and settled for what was in front of her. Even if it was a good choice its not very entertaining. It oddly reminds me of when a highschool girl gets pregnant by a boy she just started seeing and decides the easiest thing to do is get married. Its like....accepting tradition. In this way I dont think she is very feminist.

Though I do agree that her gender roles were a fantastic and much overlooked plot point in the books.

I completely agree ...

I completely agree ... Katniss seems to resign herself to Peeta ultimately. In the end she's not even happy. She needs to continually remind herself about the goodness in the world. Not a very satisfying happily ever after for a girl full of fire. It's not very satisfying to me as a reader

Katniss IS happy in the end,

Katniss IS happy in the end, with Peeta and their two children. She's just scared she could lose it all, because everything she's been through had left its effect on her, and she's still dealing with PTSD. I'm glad that SC acknowledged this rather than give them all a convenient happily ever after (hppy endings don't mean happily ever after). The main theme of the stories was war, and she stayed true to the emotions in all of it. She didn't condescend to her audience by giving them a customary satisfying ending. That wasn't the point of these books.

Katniss, because heroism sucks

There you go anne_o, i'd like to reinforce your point.

Katniss came in telling us everybody can be made of fire. That was amusing as not many main female characters are designed to fit into this fire archetype. She would have been perfectly able to live this amazonic lone-wolf life many feminist readers desired for her, but as anne_o says this wasn't the point.

As the author pointed at the end, this story was a setting to show the devastation and unfairness of war. The weird thing after this would've been a full recovery, a big smile and an unamused return to the woods. She ends up damaged, burned, as burned as that Gale macho, but she's self-aware enough to feel it and choose retirement, healing and the faith in life Peeta always symbolised in the books. I say "chooses" because getting the Bale guy would've been as easy as going on with the fighting. It would be a classic "hero rises, fights and falls" story if it wasn't for the main dish: Katniss never wanted none of the fights she was put into. She was strong, but she was never a hero, which ultimately means being a super killer of what your side points out as evil.

So maybe the point of choosing a female heroine was showing that strength doesn't equal being a warrior, which is a prolongation of the patriarchal war-domination-competition mind and which, in my own heteromale opinion, has previously happened in the feminist movement. I recall the superwomen who burned themselves shouting "We can do everything, everytime, simultaneously and we don't even need a sleep, besause we are women". After labeling men as "enemy", they grabbed the "weak woman" stereotype, found it all in them and labeled it too as another "enemy", so they tried to dominate it with the same patriarcal cold iron fist they had culturaly internalised.

Actually, the whole "hero" concept western culture carries was created like 5000 years ago to legitimize the invading male supremacy, and it only meant "superkiller". In those times, in those legends, the hero killed diferent symbolic faces of the wild femenine: snakes, dragons, The Hydra, Medusa, different goddesses like the Valkyrias... So I really like the fact that a female character can't just take easy the hero role, because it means she's not disconnected enough of her core to just stare, spit and go killing again on a sequel.

PS: If anybody knows about any texts talking about those pre-patriarcal times which had their own 20000 people cities without neither armies nor defensive walls nor heroic symbolism, and/or any material about the patriarcal invasion and how it created it's own mythology to diminish the femenine... Anything like that would be greatly apreciated. I have some of my own, but it's all in spanish and I can't share it with english speakers. Thanks!

Katniss is not domesticated

Chris:

I don't believe Katniss let domestic life take her away. I think Suzanne Collins wrote Katniss from a 16 yo's point of view of never wanting to get married or have children because as a 16 yo that's the only solution she could think of that wouldn't let people she cared about end up in the Hunger Games in the future. That changes by the end of the trilogy. Katniss grew up and wasn't a tunnel visioned teenager anymore by the end of Mockingjay. Gale didn't just leave, he knew because of what he had done Katniss would never pick him. He said as much to the effect of his job was to protect her sister and mom, and he didn't do that. Also, Katniss didn't want to get married, but that didn't mean she thought she'd end up alone. She was going to go back to her mom and sister. When that didn't happen she was older and wiser and the veteran of a war and she picked the best companion for her, Peeta. She wasn't going to end up alone like Haymitch. And like anyone when they get older your priorities change. So yes, when she is in her early 30's she decides she can now have children.

The last book is partly about

The last book is partly about how war changes people. And it changed Katniss. As I see it, she didn't want anymore challenges (which is what Gale is about - he challenges her) and just wanted to be with someone who is safe and knows what she's gone through (as they both have PTSD). I don't see her as weak at the end. I see her as tired.

But she does choose. She and

But she does choose. She and Gale have a discussion in which she tells him she can never look at him the same way again knowing that his invention killed Prim. That's why he leaves. I believe Katniss would have chosen to be alone if she had wanted to be with Gale and Peeta had just been around and available.

Thanks for this post. There's

Thanks for this post. There's been so much coverage focused solely on Katniss (which is great! don't get me wrong). I'm happy to see the gender represention in The Hunger Games discussed more widely. Analyzing the presentation of male roles is just as important. I think looking at the whole picture -- how both genders are expressed -- is necessary to better understand conditioned expectations of gender identity and gender roles (in ourselves, in others, in the media).

SPOILERS!

WHOA -- I had only read the first book -- YOU NEEDED A SPOILER ALERT at the top of this post! I am really bummed now because there are plot elements I didn't want to know about (so I didn't finish the article). Lovelies, PLEASE remember these!

Sorry you missed it!

There is a spoiler alert at the top of this post, right under the image. Sorry you didn't see it in time! (I still recommend finishing the books though.)

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

While I agree that it's great

While I agree that it's great that the unconventional version of masculinity "wins," I have to say that before Gale started to go off the rails as the revolution progresses, I was rooting for him. It was less about their versions of masculinity than about reliability. Yeah, Peeta showed up with bread in an emergency, but Gale was out hunting with her every day. That seemed a lot more romantic to me than the occasional grand gesture.

But as the series went on, it became clear that Peeta would be the inevitable better choice, and I was ok with that. However, as others have said, I wish she had actually chosen. Instead Gale was gone, and she just sort of defaulted to Peeta. The balance of their relationship is great overall but I wish she'd actively chosen to be in it.

I'm not sure what you mean by

I'm not sure what you mean by Gale going off the rails? Is it because he chooses to fight for freedom instead of just focusing on Katniss? Is it because he knows that losing the rebellion is not an option and knows what it takes to win, no matter how harsh it seems? And let's not forget, Gale does chose Katniss when he says he won't let Katniss go after Snow alone. Plus, there is that point where Peeta wants the knightlock pill but Gale won't allow it. He could have said nothing but instead he won't allow Peeta to have the pill because of Katniss and what Peeta means to her. I think it's unfair to say he went off the rails.

This is why I fell in love

This is why I fell in love with Peeta. He was a nice combination of the things I'd find appealing in a partner. Gale was interesting at times, but his temper alone got irritating enough for me to stop wanting him around. Not that Peeta never lost his temper, but Gale just made me want to start skipping his scenes at times.

So that fact this whole thing

So that fact this whole thing started by Peeta confessing his undying love for Katniss without even telling her first is okay with you? Or the fact that he lies about her being pregnant is okay with you? Interesting.

She turned away from Gale

I didn't feel like Gale was just gone, or that Katniss simply passively chose Peeta.
I definitely agree the last book is about how war changes people, and that war is not simple.
Another factor in her choice was that, ultimately, Katniss and Peeta's beliefs and actions on what it is tolerable to do in war were pretty close. They understood and could accept each other's actions in that context.
Because of Gale's actions in the war, Katniss turned away from him. She very clearly chose to do that.

I was going to bring this up

I was going to bring this up later but what you're saying is that Gale doing what needs done to win freedom for the people of Panem is worse that Katniss being judge, jury and executioner of Coin? And let's not forget, Katniss kills Coin out of revenge.

She says 'For Prim' when she agrees to another Hunger Games. Consensus is that she did this to get a shot at Coin which makes what she did a revenge killing. But that's better than killing combat troops and civilians that align themselves with the capitol (the guy in train says as much)?

Okay...

One, Katniss didn't agree to go to another Hunger Games, she had no choice. Two, she wanted to kill Snow - who she didn't actually kill - for revenge, she hadn't met Coin at the start of the 75th Hunger Games.

Three, she killed Coin because she thought she was bad for Panem.

"Because of Gale's actions in

"Because of Gale's actions in the war, Katniss turned away from him".

What do you mean by this? Do you mean the bomb? There is no way Gale could have known that his design could be used the way it was by Coin. Plus, should we really beleive Snow? Coin was a bitch but up until that scene, there was no indication that she would resort to killing children like that. She was aware of Panems population problem. Plus, we'd already seen the capitol kill children. For all we know, Snow could have still been playing Katniss. Maybe that is why he was laughing as he died.

Do you mean the scene at 'The Nut'? The rebels had been trying to break into that place for a long time. What were their other options? They left the tunnel open and when The Nut people came out, they came out with guns-a-blazing and they shot Katniss. In a war, you have to be resposible for your own people first. If killing alot of the enemy and enemy sympathizers at once will bring a quicker end to the war, then that is the right call. More people will be save in the long run.

Do you mean that Gale chose the rebellion over Katniss? But he didn't. He was not going to let Katniss go after Snow alone. Plus how many times did he put her first while they were at D13? Let's see, there was getting in Boggs way, kicking Boggs, rescuing Peeta, going after Prim. Plus he tried to make her feel better when Peeta mad comments about her.

And don't forget, Katniss is saying how they're movng through the capitol basically kllling people at random.

Thanks for this post on

Thanks for this post on masculinities which is not one of the themes I spent much time dwelling on - I personally didn't like Peeta at all, so maybe another reading with this in mind would give me more insight into why he's so well-liked.

I would be interested not only in a breakdown of characters and themes, but in how ironic this film really is. It seems unfortunate that the message and themes of the book seem to have been lost on most people who are now consuming excessively for a book/film that addresses the outcome(s) of mindless consumerism and viewership (particularly teenagers, and if Goodreads message boards are any indication, most readers of these books don't seem to understand that these books apply to their lives in any way - "OMG! I'm so glad this isn't happening NOW!").

I do not oppose the making of them film - I'm as excited to see it as anybody - but I feel that the promotions are tasteless, and I find myself shocked that Suzanne Collins agreed to allow such a fuss to be made. Welcome to the Capitol, people.

"Yes, obviously Katniss is

"Yes, obviously Katniss is badass"

That's interesting. While I agree that Katniss was a badass in the first book, I think she clearly lost her badassness by the end of Mockingjay. She was no longer that same girl at the beginning of The Hunger Games. I think one of the problems with the book is that Katniss lost that badassness. She was not even allowed to defend herself at her trial. At the end, she was made out to be an unstable person. I thought that was a major disservice to her character.

"Outside of Panem, in the real world, Katniss' choosing of Peeta also sends an important message to millions of Hunger Games fans: that being the boy with the bread is OK, and that you don't always have to be strong and aggressive to be a man."

But what does all the other things about Peeta say to young girls? It's okay for a guy to put you on a pedastool even though he doesn't really know you? I contend that if Peeta wasn't chemically altered by the capitol, he would have kept Katniss there. And to an extent, he did.

Or what about the fact the he just announces to a national tv audience that he has an undying love for Katniss or worse yet, that she's pregnant? Without even telling her first. He basically forced her into a fake romance. How is that good. You can argue that she grew to love him but what if this was the real world and girls were forced into a marriage that they really don't want (not that Katniss was forced into marriage but into the relationship)? Could you use that argument?Actually, this does happen in some cultures still today.

Gale and Katniss's relationship took hold the right way. They met one another, started a friendship which eventually grew into love. There was a mutual respect and caring for one another. Gale always treated Katniss as an equal. Never coerced her and never forced her into something she didn't want (even at the end he stays away). I never got the sense that Katniss saw Peeta as an equal. She seemed to see him as someone needing protection. Almost like a surrogate for Prim and her mother. Even after she kills Coin, she is looking to Gale to help her (albeit by killing her). You could say that was because Peeta failed but I think it means something that even after the bomb (terrible plot device by the way), Katniss is looking for Gale to do was she thinks is best for her. On a side note, I wish we would have found out if Gale tried to shoot her and was stopped, or he couldn't because he didn't have a weapon, or if he just couldn't do it. That might have given the Gale story a little more closure than we got.

It seems to me that girls are in love with the idea of Peeta and overlook the way the relationship came together.

I know this is the male perspective and maybe I'm wrong but my points seem valid. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the type of relationship Peeta and Katniss have. I'm just saying Ms Collins brought the relationship about in the wrong way. IMO, the foundation of a healthy relationship is that both parties treat the other as equal. I never saw that with Katniss and Peeta.

One other thing (a little off topic). .. A lot of people accuse Gale of becoming ruthless, bloodthirsty, and I even seen some posters (not here) use the term war criminal. Yet, they're okay with Katniss killing Coin out of revenge - For Prim. She's essentially judge, jury and executioner. And she does this because of what Snow said? Coin was made out to be a bitch but up until that point, there was nothing in her character that suggested she would murder children like that (yet we've seen the capitol do it). It's one thing to want a perceived political rival dead (Katniss) but another to order the murder of children, And the hovercraft pilot agreed to this?

Sorry for the long ramble. Just came across your site and found your write up interesting.

There is no right way to fall

There is no right way to fall in love. Friendship as a base isn't the only way. Katniss and Peeta walked through fire together (the arena) and they came out the other end forever changed. An experience like that is one only the person who walked beside would understand because they went through the same thing.

I thought Katniss's and Peeta's relationship WAS equal. But it was equal in a way far different than what male-dominated society and culture teaches us is equal. Typically, equality in a fictional relationship nowadays shows the female being alpha, the male being alpha and so on. It is rare to see subversive relationships where equality is expressed quite differently.

I use the example of Superman and Lois Lane in the comics. People who don't read them properly (cough some fanboys) state that Superman shouldn't be with Lois because it's not an equal relationship. That Superman should be with Wonder Woman because THAT is equality. Because he and WW are best friends, they're similarly physically strong, and they understand and respect each other. They completely disregard how Clark sees Lois: as the strongest woman (emotionally) that he knows. He takes comfort and peace in her emotional strength even though she's physically weak. They ARE each other's equals when you take in all the emotional components of what it takes to sustain a relationship.

In the context of the THG and this thematic example, Peeta is Lois Lane (lol not all the details because really Peeta is a lot like Clark Kent who despite his strength is really what would be considered a beta male. He is gentle, kind, good, compassionate and has a lot of female-gendered qualities...)

Katniss and Peeta protect one another in different ways: as physical and emotional supports. It's just in this particular narrative, Peeta is the emotional support that Katniss increasingly leans after the arena, the source she most derives comfort when her nightmares hit, and ultimately the source she clings to as a respite for her weary soul.

That made sense to me. I grew up in a war-torn, oppressed country where a lot of the themes in THG were normative issues for me and my neighbors. I certainly understand the value of someone who can be a port in the storm, someone who went through the darkness just like you and came out the other end.

For all that the Capitol broke Peeta, they didn't make him bend. That quality is rare and it's to be appreciated. Peeta still fought against sending the children of the Capitol into the arena despite what he suffered at the hands of Capitol. He retained and fought for who he was which was the crux of his narrative from the beginning (his statement about not wanting to allow the Capitol to change him). Identity. Even when the identity was taken from him, Peeta retains and struggles for his core self.

....It's hard to go from a full-formed character like that and expect Katniss to be with Gale who was static. He had the same views in THG-MJ and he didn't change. I am a former lit major and I gotta say, as someone with an eye for narrative and thematic intersections in my characters and relationships, there would have been nothing interesting about Katniss and Gale. Gale was kind of basic tbqh and Katniss evolved so much.

As for anyone who thinks that there is only one way to be a feminist ideal, I have to shake my head. Katniss is badass because she survived. End of. She doesn't need to be a rebel leader to be badass. She doesn't even have to pick up a bow. The woman who cooks for her family is just as much a feminist ideal as the woman who is a solider. That's what feminism is. The right to choose any choice and not be derided/stopped from doing so. While I have several issues with the execution of Mockingjay, I don't have an issue with the general choices that Katniss made. She's still a feminist ideal.

I find it condescending to essentially state that girls idealize Peeta. I don't want Peeta but I appreciate the type of narrative role he plays in Katniss's life.

As for Peeta coercing Katniss, do you mean the fake relationship? I think they were trying to survive and the relationship was fake. I think that saying that he loved her or that she was pregnant was a mindfuck for the public and a way for them both, but Katniss especially, to you know, survive Snow's machinations.

Peeta is as controlling of Katniss as Gale is. Meaning, I didn't think neither of them were controlling of her in their REAL relationship with her. Stating one's intentions and one's affections is not coercion.

I find it amusing and predictable that I see a lot of boys advocate for Gale. I always avowed that if Clark Kent was not super-powered, boys would dislike and/or overlook him. Hell, people dislike him now and call him a "pussy" even though he is Superman. They prefer Batman - who is alpha male, bad ass vigilante - to Superman who embodies a lot of female-gendered qualities.

Hell, Luke Skywalker gets a great deal of grief (he's often called a pussy for laying down his weapon and not fighting at the end and he's also another male character with a lot of female-gendered qualities) as opposed to Han Solo among men. OT: but if one reads the Star Wars books, Luke marries a former Emperor's assassin (who tries to kill him at first and then slowly later sees the value in the kind of man that Luke is) She reminds me a lot of Katniss actually.

I found this article very relevant to my interests because no, there are other ways to be masculine. No, being protected and taken care of by your female love interest does not mean she sees as a child. No, there are other ways to be strong and to be equal with your partner than just physical strength and being conventionally masculine. No, being emotionally open as a man isn't a bad thing. These are the things we need to teach our boys and our men. I see it more and more societally - men who aren't afraid to cry, men who cook, men who'll be stay at home dads while their wives go to work - but more work needs to be done. The love for Peeta makes me happy because a lot of the qualities he embodies as a man are usually derided and/or thought less of than the "shoot them" types.

WOW!

That was beautifully well written. I really liked your perspective. I agree with all points and think a positive role model for young girls (and guys) is important, especially with some much of media portraying girls as weak, in need of saving, and with "Bella" syndrome. Meaning, insecure, low self-esteem, and weak minded. Katniss is strong, smart, and determined. But, of all the things you wrote (which I truly enjoyed the puns throughout) it was the last two sentences that got me, "Peeta cries and he loves frosting cakes and he tells his crush how he feels and he needs help sometimes and he supports others and he paints beautiful pictures of flowers—and he and Katniss get to ride off into the sunset together. Which is perfect, because we all know sunset orange is Peeta's favorite color."

Way to put it out!

Great article. I loved the

Great article. I loved the subversive choice that Katniss made in partners. TBH, I never thought of this as a real triangle. Gale always felt like a best friend. As a girl with a male best friend, I explored if it could possibly be more. That's how I saw Katniss's relationship with Gale. I also thought it was interesting that post-arena SC deliberately paralleled Katniss finding comfort in Peeta's arms now versus how Katniss had ran into Gale's arms before she left for the arena in the first book. The phrasing was near-exactly the same in both instances.

The source of comfort for Katniss slowly changes post-arena and she is shown to seek out Peeta's arms more and more. As for Katniss's relationship with Peeta, I thought she never knew quite how to feel for him because of the taint of the arena and fact that they were playing at a relationship different than their real relationship. What was real and what was not? She hadn't separated out the two.

I thought thematically, it was always going to make the most sense that Katniss end up with Peeta. Also, gale was flat as a character. He never evolved. He never changed while both Katniss and Peeta were never the same after arena. Gale's war-mongering isn't something I take fault with in the context of him being an individual character but relationally, as the trilogy progressed, it wasn't what Katniss wanted.

What was ultimately right for her was not the boy who was okay with perpetuating the cycle of violence and who was essentially another cog in the machine regardless of what side he was on. Today's victors are usually tomorrow's dictators. I've lived through that so I didn't have much faith in the regime change at the end of Mockingjay.

For all the talk of Katniss not wanting domesticity, she didn't want to be a rebel either. She changed her mind in regards to one and ultimately, she was too bone-weary for the other. I thought it made sense. Katniss grew older and she'd suffered so personally. I grew up in a war-torn, oppressed country and I identified a great deal with Katniss's weariness at the end of Mockingjay. Her experiences forever altered her in a way I don't think Gale quite understood.If THG had never happened, it might have been a different story for her and Gale. But it did happen and experiences change people.

Katniss needed someone to balance out her own nature and she recognized that. She didn't need someone spurring her to destruction and fire. She needed some hope and some peace for her weary soul.

Enjoyed your analysis

I was also rooting for Peeta -- I think he brings out the best in Katniss. He has always acted in her best interest (except when brainwashed, of course) and ends up being more noble than Gale in the end. Peeta argues against imposing tributes for the Hunger Games in the Capitol, and isn't afraid to disagree with Katniss.

Gale lost me with the whole "Let's blow up the Nut with everyone inside" gambit. Maybe it's good for young girls to have a role model such as Katniss who doesn't choose the macho, handsome guy in the end. And for most people, having a guy blow up your sister is definitely a deal-breaker!

I absolutely loved this

I absolutely loved this article, this breakdown of the triangle, and the discussion of each boy's masculinity. I must admit that I did personally flip back and forth a couple of times between who I wanted Katniss to end up with, but deep down, I knew it should really be Peeta. He was by far my favourite character, because he is always so decent, so kind, so in love with Katniss .. Not that Gale didn't love her too!
Gale embodies what I have always thought of as a "man's man", he's tough, independent, cool, a fighter, a rebel (in all senses). Peeta might be slightly what used to be referred to as a SNAG, but at the same time, his toughness and independence was just as obvious as Gale's.
In the end, though, and actually quite often during the series, I felt that it came down to how Katniss sums it all up - she needed somebody would help her see the goodness in life, not start another fire. It's interesting that never once was Peeta referred to as "The Boy who was on Fire" .. Peeta had fire in his soul, but the life-giving type, not burning, raging destruction. Gale's anger and, whether deserved or not, remorse over Prim's death, would have destroyed any relationship he and Katniss could have forged.
I refuse to believe Katniss "settled" for Peeta, or ended up with him by default. She could never admit to herself how much she loved him because she could not see a way for them to end up together. When he was returned to her in District 13, poisoned by tracker jacker venom, she started to see what he meant to her, but again the possibility of them being together was nonexistent.
Whilst I loved Gale, and how he cared for Katniss and her family, he was never the one she needed to survive. The boy with the bread, with the unconditional love and the safe arms, healed and needed her every bit as much as she did him.

I absolutely loved this

I absolutely loved this article, this breakdown of the triangle, and the discussion of each boy's masculinity. I must admit that I did personally flip back and forth a couple of times between who I wanted Katniss to end up with, but deep down, I knew it should really be Peeta. He was by far my favourite character, because he is always so decent, so kind, so in love with Katniss .. Not that Gale didn't love her too!
Gale embodies what I have always thought of as a "man's man", he's tough, independent, cool, a fighter, a rebel (in all senses). Peeta might be slightly what used to be referred to as a SNAG, but at the same time, his toughness and independence was just as obvious as Gale's.
In the end, though, and actually quite often during the series, I felt that it came down to how Katniss sums it all up - she needed somebody would help her see the goodness in life, not start another fire. It's interesting that never once was Peeta referred to as "The Boy who was on Fire" .. Peeta had fire in his soul, but the life-giving type, not burning, raging destruction. Gale's anger and, whether deserved or not, remorse over Prim's death, would have destroyed any relationship he and Katniss could have forged.
I refuse to believe Katniss "settled" for Peeta, or ended up with him by default. She could never admit to herself how much she loved him because she could not see a way for them to end up together. When he was returned to her in District 13, poisoned by tracker jacker venom, she started to see what he meant to her, but again the possibility of them being together was nonexistent.
Whilst I loved Gale, and how he cared for Katniss and her family, he was never the one she needed to survive. The boy with the bread, with the unconditional love and the safe arms, healed and needed her every bit as much as she did him.

The Rebel Warrior and the Boy with the Bread: Gale, Peeta, and

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I found that really

I found that really interesting and entertaining. Team Peeta all the way!

Team gale

I was. Team gale throughout the books and it didn't feel like she chose peeta because gale left. Gale left because he understood she will never forgive him for his involvement in creating the device that killed prim. Even though, in the end she kinda had a moment while sitting at the rocks in the woods back in 12th : '“I sit on the rock where Cressida filmed us, but it’s too wide without his body beside me. Several times I close my eyes and count to ten, thinking that when I open them, he will have materialized without a sound as he so often did. I have to remind myself that Gale’s in 2 with a fancy job, probably kissing another pair of lips.” But i think this meant she finally let go of gale completelly.

But she started to drift apart from gale when she left for the 75th.

Katniss did choose..

Katniss did choose..she chose to heal over dying. Katniss only became a tribute and a victor in her efforts to save Prim. Saving Prim was the catalyst that began the entire metamorphosis of Katniss into the Mockingjay. When Gale caused the death of the most important person in her life, Katniss forever changed the way she viewed him. Without Prim, Katniss was lost-her main reason for living died with her sister. By making the choose to be with Peeta, to rebuild herself and create a future, she chose life over death. Peeta and Prim shared many characteristics--they both loved openly and compassionately, and placed a higher value on the lives of others than own their own. By going forward in life as Peeta's partner, Katniss could also honor those traits in Prim. Peeta is the only future that could have made sense for Katniss.

#TeamPeeta

You nailed it, Hun!

I'm really happy i went across and have read this, made my day ;)
This is just exactly what I was thinking (oh im a new THG fan btw, kind of late because of schooling and business)
and oh! My fave character is Peeta too! (: