Lauren Barack, a regular contributor to the Digital Shift, writes this time as a mother
Why am I taking my nine-year-old to see The Hunger Games tomorrow? Yes, I’ve read the books. And I’ve read the reviews. But rarely have I had a chance to show my daughter a female hero like Katniss.
She doesn’t need protecting like Bella. She isn’t just smart like Hermione. And quite honestly, she’s far more defined than Percy Jackson’s Annabeth. Here is a female teen who’s physically powerful and mentally sharp, enduring a rite of passage that’s fiction (the reaping) and one that’s eternal: discovering who you are. Katniss walks the two with a sense of self-possession I could only wish for my child.
Why don’t I just let my daughter read the books? For starters, she’s not interested. This despite her room, in fact, our entire home, lined with bookcases brimming with tempting titles. No surprise—she’s a voracious reader. The Hunger Games hasn’t caught her attention yet, but will soon enough. So why don’t I wait on the movie?
I don’t want to wait. Like all mothers, I was once a little girl who hungered for role models to emulate. There was Wonder Woman and Madonna (do I need to be sexy?), Jane Fonda (do I need to be strong and sexy?) and Gloria Steinem (do I need to be intellectual and sexy?). I come from a generation that, in many respects, seeks approval of what makes us female.
But now I’m a mother of a young girl who has yet to even know what ‘sexy’ means. She runs. She reads. She plays freeze tag with boys. She works fractions, writes fiction, and is discovering what makes her happy. She knows she’s a girl, but the idea of what that will mean—or what she decides that will mean —is still far away in the future. As she searches for role models, I’d like her to add Katniss.
Visual imagery is a powerful tool. As readers, we create a mental picture of what the words weave on the page. As writers, that’s our goal. Some may see a movie as a cheat sheet for a book—a story whittled down, interpreted for us through a subjective lens—perhaps some of us imagined Harry Potter a bit taller or Percy’s hair shorter. Maybe we pictured Katniss not as pretty. Still, films can open up another dimension to a story, a way to experience it differently.
For my daughter, numerous movies have led her to books: Matilda, Black Beauty, Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlotte’s Web and yes, Harry Potter. I expect The Hunger Games will lead her to Suzanne Collins’s books as well (I have them ready, stacked on her shelves.) But what I really hope for is that the movie opens up another perspective on how to model herself as a girl—as a strong, thoughtful, self-reliant creature who may not have all the answers, but will never stop fighting to find them.