And here’s what I think is so remarkable about the trilogy: The division between public and private life is framed through a manipulation of Katniss’s femininity, but that femininity is seen as a means to an end. The books aren’t so much a critique of the construction of femininity as a critique of the ways it serves the existing power structures. It’s a Marxist/anarchist feminist critique, and though I consider myself neither a Marxist nor an anarchist, I’ll say this: The more material illuminating that feminism exists not because men want to keep women down but because the status quo has an investment in keeping people divided and with diffuse power so as to keep power concentrated where it already is, the better. Katniss is taught to use her “feminine wiles,” but those wiles are exposed for what they are: favor-currying tools that keep women scrambling over false power while the real power lies elsewhere. The manufactured Katniss-Peeta romance only gets the pair to the point where they have to rely on their actual strengths—ingenuity, solidarity, and rebellion. The currency of compliant femininity, in the end, is worth little.
I’ll probably stop posting Hunger Games reviews pretty soon, but this point just bears repeating. THIS is why these books are so good.
I’d say that “wiles” and public performance in general are written not so much as worthless, but as necessary yet fickle friends, especially for women. but maybe that’s splitting hairs.
on that note, let’s talk about what it means that Peeta is so much better at playing to the crowd than Katniss. (mild spoilers for the rest of the series if you care about that stuff?) it’s like duh, people love him because he is a straight white somewhat class-privileged dude, but also and not disconnectedly because his private and public feelings happen to be pretty similar, i.e. his private feelings are mostly deemed acceptable for public consumption. he really is a natural extrovert, and really does have a pre-public life long-standing crush on Katniss, whereas she has to play up whatever feelings might be there to the point where she can no longer distinguish the authentic and inauthentic. that’s some goddamn gender divide in your public performance of desire right there. (see also: this great article by subanishi on the hunger games and compulsory heterosexuality).
Peeta rarely actually lies the way Katniss has to. when he does, he constructs a lie that could be true or is true on a metaphorical level, and draws the strength of his performance from his genuine emotions. both Haymitch and Katniss keep a lot of information from Peeta when they deem it necessary to ensure that this remains the case. The more naturally reserved Katniss is not actually that bad at the “concealing information” kind of lying, just at performance; but her performance is a lot more difficult than Peeta’s, so it’s not really a fair comparison. when katniss starts to get better at playing to the crowd is when her various managers start to find a way to do the same for her, i.e. put her in situations where her natural reaction is what they need, and keep the cameras rolling. but it’s still PR.
For kthread: it’s complicated.