Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

Pop Culture Paradox: Hunger Games’ Katniss as Barbie?


A pop culture paradox: Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen as a Barbie

BarbieCollector.com has announced the arrival of the Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen clone, but replicating the character as a Barbie doll feels at odds with the very essence of the character’s power.

 Progressive or Regressive?

Joining the ever-growing pop culture collection, the Katniss emulation is sold alongside other blockbuster-inspired dolls: classic favorites like the belly-baring I Dream of Jeannie doll, royalty replicas of Wedding Will and Kate, and the ubiquitous Twilight duo. Part of this assortment also surprisingly included female versions of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

So of course the powers that be at mega toy giant Mattel know a good business decision when they see one and the Hunger Games is no exception. To be fair, the actual doll version has Katniss dressed in her Games attire, the pump braid trailing down her back, a mini Mockingjay pin affixed to her coat lapel. She even has her signature bevy of arrows slung in a collection across her back, bow and quiver in hand, combat boot clad and poised for action. With a purchasing limit of five and a price tag of $29.95, the doll isn’t the doe-eyed damsels typically associated with the traditional icon. But, I am still skeptical as to whether or not morphing Katniss into a brand of Barbie is reductive to all the empowerment and aspiration her character represents.

Barbie dolls historically have symbolized deeply embedded female stereotypes, the pinnacle of femininity and arguably a historical pop culture mark of objectification. Not to mention how they model unrealistic body proportions and reinforce specific standards of beauty and attractiveness. While the diversity in terms of race has expanded in years, it is still drastically unequal. The majority of Barbiecollector.com’s offerings pander to the classic collector and are not sold in stores, which is unfortunate. It is the non-traditional dolls that should be adorning shelves, not the countless, carbon copies of the same Malibu crew.

In comparison to the other characters that Mattel has modeled their dolls after, Katniss is ostensibly progressive. Sure, she isn’t a twin of Happy Birthday Barbie in a bejewled ball gown, or her Mermaid cousin clothed in swaths of iridescent shimmer and sporting a frilly fin.

But the aim of the doll isn’t to combat the inherent stereotype deeply embedded into the Barbie identity. But rather as creating designer, Bill Greening told Entertainment Weekly, he “chose to dress her in the outfit she wears during the games, since this is where all the non-stop action takes place and is instantly recognizable by fans.” So, the fact that she is not rivaling her Barbie cohorts in her Reaping dress has less to do with honoring the positive and empowering attributes of her character and more to do with character continuity.

Also what about the anti-corporate beliefs that the character in the film holds and her commitment to rebellion against the Capitol?
Barbie is famously a mark of mass merchandising efforts on so many fronts. Surely Katniss would be against becoming a product in the same way she frequently states that doesn’t want to be an object, a pawn in The Games. Isn’t making her character into a doll, doing the same thing?

Mattel’s aim is certainly more of a calculated business decision rather than any attempt to offer up a more realistic role models or combat traditional stereotypes about their dolls and what they mean for girls and women.

Furthermore, BarbieCollector.com indicates that this is a doll geared towards the adult collector, but the brand is inextricably linked to children. The entire plot of Hunger Games rests on youth death battles which is certainly not kid-friendly.

Sure, Katniss is a welcomed sight among the sparkly swimsuits and glittering garbs that adorn many of the other selections on the site, but isn’t reducing her to a Barbie to begin with problematic? Mattel has been complicit with culturally commodifying women for decades. Now when they appear to softly step outside the box to capitalize on Katniss and grab a slice of the prosperous pie that is the Hunger Games, they to be lauded? I don’t think so.

While the doll’s dress resembles Katniss, her proportions still remain ridiculously unrepresentative of reality. Little girls who play with Barbie’s are still subconsciously receiving the message of an ideal body type and definition of attractiveness. Under those cool clothes, Katniss is still a plastic product of unattainable perfection.

Do you think this doll reinforces stereotypes or combats them? Should we give credit to a company who unintentionally produces products that go against a stereotype they have spent decades creating and reinforcing? Is this is a zero sum game; same “Barbie”, different “cover”?

Don’t be fooled: beneath the warrior wear is the same manufactured mold.

Glamour’s Jennifer Lawrence is not what I’m “hunger”ing for

My latest from About-face:

Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

The cover of Glamour’s April issue features Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who portrays the Hunger Games‘ heroine Katniss Everdeen, in a bosom-bearing one piece outfit. In the book, Katniss is a symbol of strength, but this photo subdues that strength with a side dish of sexy.
Is it not enough to be a strong female, that we must sexualize Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

The upcoming movie adaptation of the first installment of the behemoth book trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set to open this week. While the Glamour piece is obviously showcasing the actress (not the character), the prop she’s holding (a bow) blurs the line.

The central plot of the novel involves a futuristic nation, Panem, where the government creates an annual, reality show-esque game involving two individuals under 18, randomly selected from each of the nation’s 12 districts, to complete in a fantastical death match where only one victor comes home alive.

I’m only on the second book, but I have yet to come across a description of an outfit resembling the one featured in this picture. Sure this feature is giving us Jennifer Lawrence and the article is about her, but, really, Glamour? We could see this in a men’s magazine, many of which notoriously disarm powerful women with some element of sexualization.

I was drawn to The Hunger Games because of the heroine. Katniss was resourceful, and lauded for her strength and skill, not for her beauty or body. There was little emphasis appearance. In fact, the book makes a point to say that thinness is equated with poverty, as many of the geographic sectors do not have easy access to food. Katniss hunts, using her archery acumen to provide for her family, until her little sister’s name is drawn during the annual “reaping.” Katniss offers herself up in her sister’s place.

The only references made to “beautifying” are related to the prep work she must undergo prior to her public appearances, where the aim is to make a splash in the memories of viewers. The author describes these beauty regimens as painful, not glamorous; a process of being scrubbed and plucked after which she is fitted into outrageous outfits conjured up by her innovative stylist, Cinna.

The prospect of a movie adaptation with a young, female protagonist (and a female producer too!) whose success came from determination and courage thrilled me. Here was a strong, positive paradigm for young women. However, photos like that on Glamour‘s cover are reductive, given the otherwise positive role.

 Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: Embodying strength and skill.

The series falls into the Young Adult genre, so undoubtedly, millions of girls will be looking to emulate this actress. This shot is objectifying; when a young girl sees a photo like this, it reinforces the fusing of self-worth to appearance, a connection to a specific standard of beauty and attractiveness that is unconsciously strengthened through repetition. The pervasiveness of media messages and how many we are exposed to from birth makes this deeply disturbing. It contributes to the sexualizing of females and supports the normalizing of self-rejection.

There is also a clear double standard at work: It is not enough to simply be a strong female — you must also be sexy in a very specific way.

I guess I just didn’t expect such an obvious and gratuitous representation from the mag that touts itself as honoring beauty outside the box of one-size-fits-all. This photo brushes dangerously close to a Maxim-style cover. So, Glamour thinks it’s not okay for Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I do realize they are not the same) to simply be bad-ass and not breast-bearing. Because not fetishizing or objectifying her might make her power too potent, right? Oh the horror! Not cool, Glamour; not cool at all.