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Why There is Only Team Katniss

by Hayley E Lavik on March 22, 2012

Love triangles are a funny thing. People love them, or people hate them. I’ve had multiple people tell me, after reading The Hunger Games, that they loved the book, but shame about that whole love triangle thing. Others are filling their social media streams, in the days leading up to the movie, with proclamations of “Team Peeta!” or “Team Gale!”

Both these responses, it seems, are missing the point.

Choosing a team implies pulling for one side or the other of a great conflict. Hoping your horse in the race comes through. Hoping the sports club from your area defeats the sports club from the other area at the match this weekend (yes that is the extent of my sports lingo). It’s Team Frodo vs Team Sauron. Team Harry vs Team Voldemort. It’s not Team Ginny vs Team Cho.

(I have now typed ‘team’ so much that the word looks funny.)

The Hunger Games is Katniss’s story, the story of a girl trying to survive against incredible odds. Catching Fire and Mockingjay as well carry on this same theme, and expand with conflicts I won’t go into with so many new people venturing into the series for the first time as the movie hits theatres. It’s a trilogy of hardship, sacrifice, bravery, trauma, and a deeply flawed character doing the best she can for herself and the people around her. Those people include the baker boy and her poaching buddy, but they also include her family and all the members of District 12, and even her uncertain allies in the arena. This is Katniss’s story, and the ultimate goal is to survive, and maybe, one day, thrive. Romance, she explicitly states at multiple times in the narrative, is a liability right now. Not an option. The person Katniss chooses to attempt a relationship with has no impact on the outcome of the story.

I’ll say that again. The person Katniss chooses to attempt a relationship with has no impact on the outcome of the story.

Katniss’s feelings for Peeta and Gale impact her character, they impact her decisions throughout the story, but her feelings do not, in and of themselves, alter the outcome of the novels or the trilogy as a whole.

Katniss cares deeply for Peeta and Gale, yes, but she also cares deeply for her sister, for all the people she struggles to protect. Her story is not one of being pulled between two rival suitors, but of being pulled between wanting to live and facing death. I know who I’m rooting for in that conflict, and it’s the girl on fire.

The trilogy is, however, a story with a romantic subplot, and those people who feel the love triangle was a waste of time miss the point for two reasons.

Firstly, there is nothing at all wrong with a romance adding a layer of complexity to the story. The feelings Katniss struggles with bring additional depth and conflict to her character, they push her into situations she might otherwise never face, and they bring out the heroism and bravery in her. Without Peeta, there would be no Feast, and we learn a great deal of Katniss’s courage and resourcefulness through that moment and situations like it.

Secondly, and people may disagree with me on this point, this story has no love triangle.

I’m going to borrow from Wikipedia just so we can have a functional ‘definition’ here: “Split-object triangle, where a lover has split their attention between two love objects.” I think that’s what most people mean when they refer to the love triangle in The Hunger Games. It’s like the love triangle in that other fandom with the teams.

Here’s the problem for me though…Katniss rarely, if ever, actually splits her attention and romantic feelings between her two love objects.

[Fair warning here, I will try to avoid spoilers as much as humanly possible, but to illustrate my point, I will have to speak in broad terms about all three books. If you don't want spoilers, just skip down to the grumpy kitty.]

Over the course of all three books, Katniss’s struggling affection comes not as simultaneous desires pulling her in opposite directions. Instead, it comes in waves. In The Hunger Games, Katniss does not even register Gale as a romantic option, and hardly knows where she stands with Peeta. In Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Katniss has stretches of time where she feels a bond with Gale and is hardly on speaking terms with Peeta, then has no contact with Gale and intense contact with Peeta, then no contact at all with Peeta and tons of quality time with Gale, then conflict and hostilities and way bigger priorities than who might be a nice person to spend time with if everyone doesn’t die, then…you get the idea.

This does not in any way resemble a love triangle to me. This resembles the natural cycles of enjoying someone’s company and getting fed up with them or hurt by them, the way all our friends and family and romantic partners can make us, magnified by the backdrop of an incredibly harsh, extreme, dystopic society. Seriously, I can’t think of a single point in the whole trilogy that sincerely feels like two suitors both happy with and wanting to be with the same protagonist at the same time, and that protagonist simultaneously feeling happy with and attracted to both suitors at the same time. And in the end, even the books make it clear it isn’t about a character sitting down and choosing. Vividly so.

Okay, spoilers over.

So what about that other fandom? The one with all the ‘team’ stuff?

For the vast majority of the Twilight series, the love triangle is the point. The big question, the big conflict, is which of these supernatural dudes Bella will choose. Other conflicts, such as the Volturi, are subplots to the main overarching conflict between the three principle characters. The big, fraught question sustaining you through these ever-increasing tomes is, “Who wil she choose?”

The big, fraught question sustaining a reader through The Hunger Games is “How will she survive?”

That’s why I’m on Team Katniss.

And I’m not the only one.

From → Books, Fandom, Movies, Women

5 Comments Leave one →
  1. YES. THIS. EXACTLY.

    I read The Hunger Games a few months ago, and I had braced myself for a love triangle of Twilight-proportions, based on some of the chatter I had heard about Gale vs. Peeta. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the purported love triangle wasn’t the focus of the books after all.

    The feelings that Gale and Peeta have for Katniss, of course, make a huge impact as far as the plot is concerned… but like you said, the driving conflict in this novel is how Katniss will find a way to survive. The whole question of survival, and of navigating through a world thrown into disarray by intense warfare, is what is the most compelling (and heartbreaking).

  2. Robin Rasmussen permalink

    Yes Gale and Peeta are definitely sub-bits in the context of the horrific event Katniss throws herself into. It is about her nobility and heroism mixed up with her very human angry and fed-up sides, and just her will to survive.

  3. I went to the movie yesterday, and was happily surprised. The movie was very close to the book, and the emotional impact was immense. Brilliant.

    It made me want to write a novel like that, where the focus isn’t on the love triangle, but rather on the character and her epic struggles.

    Way to go Suzanne Collins. TEAM KATNISS (and Team Jennifer Lawrence, too)!

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