Katinss Everdeen: Undeniably a badass. I am mostly interested in the first Hunger Games book— I found they got less interesting as the series continued. I thought the movies were fine (great cast!) but didn’t have anything of value to add to the books. Female author, check! But the movies? Written and directed by dudes. One great thing about The Hunger Games movies is that they allowed a prickly, young, female protaganist who was not treated as a sex symbol to lead. Yes, it’s true of the book, too, but it’s more unusual coming out of the Hollywood hit machine. But I’m a book person, when it comes down to it. So sue me.
Back to Katniss: she is willing to break rules from the get-go. She is quick to judge — and call out— injustice, which in her future world on the brink of rebellion, is everywhere. She has useful and subversive skills (archery? Neat. Foraging? Maybe even neater). She is undaunted by fear, perhaps to a fault. She isn’t ever cowed by authority (especially that which is taken, not earned). She also views herself as a protector and a provider, stepping into danger without thinking twice when she wants to help family or friends. Even before she is pushed (or did she jump?) into the center of a major situation, she is subversive, slipping out of the allowed bounderies to hunt because food is scarce, and trading in the black market. She’s not concerned about acting like a “girl”, either— she’s willing to be the stronger and more skilled one, unlike a traditional female sidekick. She’s not submissive, she doesn’t need rescuing, and she (spoiler alert) doesn’t have to die for that sin. It’s a low bar, but clearing it isn’t all that common.
Because the book is first-person narrated, we also have a window into her somewhat sarcastic and irreverant worldview. She isn’t interested in her appearence, and when she is groomed and prepped for various hunger-games related events, she seems bemused. She responds similarly with romance, at least at first. Her response is less cinderalla story and more “well, if this is the way it goes, whatever.” She also lacks awareness of many social nuances, and has a political naivte that seems problematic until you remember that she’s a teenage girl who was effectively not parented and was only educated to the extent needed to function as a cog in the Capitol’s machine. Katniss can be emotional, as teenage girls are wont to be, but rather than being lovelorn or throwing tantrums, she gets mad, expressing her anger in ways that aren’t typically “feminine”– like shooting an arrow at a group of powerful adults to get their attention. She is also a warrior, and she grapples with violence and killing— directly, not as some kind of once-removed femme fatale. She’s put to the test, and she’s willing and able to go there for what she believes in. That, reader, is badass.
One more aside before I go: yes, there are some feminist quibbles to be had, particularly if you follow the series through to the bitter end. But that’s not my aim here— I’m a fan, not a critic!