Book/Film Club hybrid: Katniss Everdeen and the new Bond Girl

I saw Skyfall, the new James Bond film on the weekend. The rumours were true, it was pretty darned good. However, I was supremely disappointed by the latest Bond Girls, especially the one he meets in Shanghai and Macau. Sévérine is a scared powerless victim; at no time do we suspect that she might be double-crossing him or that she poses much of a threat at all. *SPOILER ALERT: jump to the next paragraph* She’s just a sacrificial lamb who sleeps with Bond (oh hey, so glad you could drop in while I’m showering), takes him where he wants to go, and gets a bullet to the head for her efforts.

The new Bond Girl, Sévérine, played by Bérénice Marlohe

Another thing I did this weekend was read the interview with Jennifer Lawrence in the December U.S. Elle magazine. In contrast to the Bond Girl, it reminded me of how much I like the heroine of the Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen. When I read the Hunger Games trilogy, I thought — thanks heavens teenage girls can read about the adventures of someone other than Bella Swan of the Twilight series! Katniss has real agency, no passive victim she. Rather than being repeatedly rescued by a stalkerish glittery vampire, Katniss is the one having to do all the rescuing, including having to save the life of her love-interest, Peeta, more than once.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

One issue that is addressed in the interview is that of Katniss’s weight. In the first book of the series, Katniss is often hungry and, therefore, underweight. When I saw the film, I wondered that Jennifer Lawrence, who looks healthy, strong, and has beautiful curves, wasn’t asked to lose weight in order to play Katniss. I suspected that the film makers perhaps did not want to condone  hunger and thinness in any way given that they know that teen girls are the movie’s primary target audience. In the Elle interview, Lawrence  says she chose to remain at her healthy weight for the role, but that she, instead, trained hard to be as fit and fierce as Katniss. I think this is super smart and empowering!

In a visual medium, and especially the big screen, things are perceived in an amplified and much more glamourous manner than what words on a page can convey. In The Hunger Games, the author, Suzanne Collins, vividly describes the hardships that the Disctrict 12 people have to endure. And Katniss’s suffering due to hunger is clearly conveyed; in fact, it’s the catalyst for her rebelliousness. She becomes a rule breaker who hunts for food to feed her family and who engages in illegal trade. All of the children of District 12 are described as being smaller than those from the more prosperous districts; it’s really not about Katniss’s body, specifically.

I think that hunger and hardship would have been difficult to realistically portray in the film because, hunger schmunger, Katniss is so beautiful and awesome — Who wouldn’t want to be just like her? The film chooses instead to focus on the twisted drama of the games themselves (children killing children for adult entertainment!), rather than on the backstory of District 12. So, while we do get a sense that the population is destitute, the hunger aspect is sort of glossed over. That’s an artistic choice that I think works and that is in keeping with a healthier looking Katniss.

The second book, Catching Fire, was my favourite.

All that to say, go see the Bond movie, it’s a lot of fun. But if you want to see some bad-ass ladies who can really use their weapons and don’t need rescuing, you might have to wait for Catching Fire, the next instalment in the Hunger Games series, to be released. And I didn’t even mention Lisbeth Salander! That will be for another time…

Comments

  1. I’m planning to see the Bond film this week. I know that some of the Bond girls come off as just sex symbols and cannot fend for themselves, but aren’t all the Bond women in one way simply there for sex symbols who can’t help falling under Bond’s spell (no matter how independent they seem)? I’d like to see a Bond film that features a strong woman who doesn’t end up sleeping with Bond—simply because she is just not interested in him. But then—that wouldn’t be a Bond story.

    • Personally, I like a Bond Girl who both sleeps with him AND tries to kill him! Using her sex appeal to ensnare him, getting him where he’s vulnerable, so to speak.
      The other Bond Girl in this film appears to successfully resist his advanced, but I can’t talk about her too much without ruining a punch line.
      Let me know how you liked the film after you see it, Melissa.

  2. I saw it. Not a bad movie, but they all are original in their own ways. The other girl does do the naughty with him, though, doesn’t she? They just don’t show it. At least, that’s what I inferred.

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