Bright Lights Film Journal

Straight arrow? Not Exactly. Jennifer Lawrence in Suzanne Collins’ <em>The Hunger Games</em>

Why do lesbians have to be so boring?

Let me say first off, before I get beat up, that not all lesbians are boring. I have known, or at least stood next to, some very cool lesbians, some even with tats and metal.1 And let me also say that I have no way of knowing whether anyone, or everyone, associated with The Hunger Games is a lesbian. But still. I mean, a guy can wonder, right?

Naturally, I have a theory. I don’t know if it qualifies as a queer theory, but, anyway, here goes. Gay guys have to be more stylish than straight women, which can, at times, be quite difficult. Lesbians, on the other hand, have to be more boring than straight men, which is almost impossible. But, it seems, in The Hunger Games, they tried pretty hard.

The film opens in deepest Appalachia. We’re supposed to be sometime in the mid-twenty-first century, but it looks a lot more like early twentieth. I mean, where did they get the gingham? They must have set up hundred-year-old looms to get cloth this cheap.2 If you go far enough into West Virginia, well, it’s not going to look like suburbia, but the folks sure don’t dress like this anymore.3 They wear jeans and t-shirts, like everyone else.

We quickly meet up with superslayer Katniss, so butch that she’d even shoot a deer — Bambi’s Mom, for God’s sake — and butcher it too!4 Katniss has this really cute guy who thinks she’s really cool, but mostly she’s concerned about her little sis, for whom she has a diminutive — “Little Duck” — in part because she has to be, because Mom’s kind of out of it. You know how moms are.

If you don’t know the plot of The Hunger Games, well, I guess you need to see the movie. Katniss volunteers as a substitute tribute in place of little sis Primrose — how quaint is that! — and off she goes to the big city, the “Capitol,”5 which turns out to be a lot like high school — a place where you have to learn how to be “popular,” where you have to get your legs waxed and learn how to make people like you. Worst of all, you have to wear a dress!6

The handlers that Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are given — Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) — remind us of the straights in Brokeback Mountain. Effie is grotesquely artificial and entirely sexless, while Haymitch is a drunken boor. Amidst all the schmucks and phonies, Katniss does find one sweet black gay guy — getting to be a very standard twofer in movies these days — who naturally makes her the prettiest girl at the ball, with a “flame” dress, yet. And, naturally, the cutest guy at the ball (Peeta, of course) is crazy about her!7 Talk about eating your cake and having it too!

Once the Hunger Games actually get underway, the rich kids,8 who have all the advantages, form a sort of clique and they go around killing everyone else, which, again, is a lot like high school. Naturally, “Rue” (Amandla Stenberg), a sweet young black girl, gets a huge crush on Katniss, and, naturally, she tragically dies. Also, we watch Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss’ back-home boyfriend, watch her make out with Peeta, reminding us that this film is basically made for 13-year-old girls.

There are three more “Hunger Games” in the pipeline, but unless they promise to get rid of all the gingham, I don’t think I’ll be watching.


Like the Harry Potter and Twilight series, The Hunger Games has generated an enormous amount of online comment from fans who have read the books half a dozen times. There is a pretty big split among the aficionados as to whether the film is great or terrible, but I guess that’s to be expected. Anyway, a lot of people are getting rich, and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it.

  1. Once I stood in line behind a pair of very attractive young lesbians, who were chatting amiably about la vie lesbien. One of them mentioned that she was in a gay bar and she asked the waiter why almost all gay bars catered to men. He explained that when gay guys come to a bar, they get drunk, spend a lot of money, flirt with the waiter, and leave a big tip. When gay women come to a bar, they don’t get drunk, they don’t spend a lot of money, they don’t flirt with the waitperson, and they don’t leave a big tip. Also, how to tell if you’re in a gay neighborhood: lots of pet stores and flower shops. []
  2. The look of the film is taken quite obviously from the famous Walker Evans photos associated with the Depression classic James Agee’s Now Let Us Praise Famous Men, which mostly drew on the sharecroppers of the Deep South rather than the coal miners of West Virginia and Kentucky. []
  3. But they did into the sixties. A woman I know told me about going to a funeral in West Virginia in the early sixties. She and her mother and her sister were the only women attending who wore store-bought clothes. Miss the good old days? I don’t. []
  4. Fortunately, we don’t see this. []
  5. The “Capitol” is sort of Art Deco Punk — lots of thirties-style streamlining. Instead of planes, people travel in 200-mph trains. []
  6. For me the primal agony of adolescence was dancing with girls, made more primal by the fact that none of them wanted to dance with me. “Oh, gross, it’s Alan.” []
  7. “The way he looks at Katniss will make girls all over the world envy her, just like it’s supposed to be,” writes “Liniara”, who understands how young adult novels, and movies, are supposed to work. []
  8. Since I haven’t read the books, I don’t know why some of the “rebel districts” are richer than the others. The way the film is set up, you assume that they’re all equally deprived. But apparently that isn’t true. []