With the recent release of "The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes," my thoughts have been happily consumed with memories of the book series that has been a part of me for eight years. Although the books are written for children ages 11-13, their impact on me in the fourth grade has left me forever changed. So, in honor of Suzanne Collins and all of Katniss’ glory, here are some of the biggest lessons I learned from "The Hunger Games"!
1) Traditional Gender Roles Are Bullsh*t
Up until the fourth grade, I had been surrounded by the overwhelmingly sexist and gender-normative “fairytale” notion of the female character waiting to be “found” by the male character. However, "The Hunger Games" taught me that this notion of females needing to be “saved” by men is purely fictional.
Throughout the series, Katniss is seen saving Peeta (multiple times) and fighting for their relationship, playing the traditional “male role.” On the other hand, Peeta is often seen being saved and taken care of by Katniss. While expecting someone to fit a role in a relationship based purely on their sex is wrong, seeing the use of “non-traditional” roles in a massively idolized fictional relationship changed how I viewed relationships as a kid.
Through Katniss’ multiple savings of Peeta and the emotional vulnerability of Gale, ten-year-old Joshua was able to break down the traditional gender roles I deemed “normal.” Men didn’t have to always be the strong and independent one in the relationship. Men can be vulnerable and be taken care of. Also, women don’t always need to be taken care of. Women can be strong and courageous.
Strong and independent female protagonists, like Katniss Everdeen, would serve as role models for me moving forward. They taught me that you didn’t have to be a certain thing to do something and that everyone is valid. Because of Katniss, I learned that anyone can do anything.
2) Fight For What You Believe In
Growing up I was always told, “you can do anything you want, as long as you put your mind to it.” Despite this constant reminder, I never believed it as a kid. I had just assumed that those who accomplished things in life were either “born with it” or better than me in general. But Katniss’ constant perseverance and drive inspired me to want to be somebody.
Though similar to many other fictional quests in nature, "The Hunger Games" taught me that if I wanted something, I had to fight for it (without killing anyone of course!). As Katniss quickly became a role model for my younger self, I began to look around and ask myself what I believed in. The answer was very simple. I believed that I was meant for great things. Furthermore, I believed that I wasn’t meant to stay where I was, which ignited a fire inside of me to work hard so I could study wherever I wanted (and I’m pretty proud of where I ended up 😁).
Coming up in an environment where I was often considered “different," it would’ve been very easy to give in to the voices telling me that I wasn’t good enough or that I’d never be somebody. Yet I was able to persevere, like Katniss, and overcome this setback. So, while I will never have to fight for my life in a televised blood bath (fingers crossed), I strive to have a similar internal fight to Katniss. No matter what life throws at me, I want to win. I want to be a victor.
3) It's Okay To Stand Out
Lastly, the concept of tributes having an advantage because they stood out during their time in the capital is applicable to the world today. In the case of our flame-wearing and bow-shooting protagonist, being labeled “the girl on fire” worked to her own benefit, as she was able to receive sponsors from those who remembered her. Had she not stood out from the rest, she would have definitely suffered or probably have died.
This concept of standing out is something that can be so scary as a kid, but over time I learned to embrace it. I distinctly remember deciding that I wanted to stand out in my own way. I wanted to have fire, figuratively. This fueled my confidence moving forward, making each transition into middle school and high school much easier. Because I admired the unique personality of Katniss and the one-of-a-kind outfits of Effie Trinket, I wasn’t afraid to stand out. In fact, I strived to be different! I let my voice be heard through raising my hand, music or by questioning the opinions of those around me. I wanted to be “on fire,” just like Katniss. Without that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.