#WeNeedDiverseBooks, Feminism, and Mockingjay Part 1

If you haven’t seen the latest installment in the Hunger Games film franchise, quit reading and go do that right now. I’m serious. There aren’t going to be major spoilers in this post, it’s just common sense to go see such a good movie.

Done? Good.

The Mockingjay

While I could probably go on and on about how wonderful the adaptation is, how magnificent the special effects, or how deep the symbolism, what I care about right now is the hot-button topic on the Interwebz as of late: representation in literature and in movies.

Before going to see Mockingjay, I read this excellent post about making Hollywood less sexist. Basically it said to do two things to the scripts you write:

  1. Take a few characters and change their names to female names.
  2. When a crowd gathers in the script, add, “which is half female”.

Boom. Women will be represented in multi-faceted roles. They will show up to crowds. And you know what? Suzanne Collins (who wrote her own adaptation, so we shouldn’t be surprised at how amazing it is) was there and listening.

To start out with, she laid an excellent foundation in the book. We have Cressida, the no-nonsense director in charge of the propos. President Coin, whose character is even more nuanced in the movie than in the books, with some background information the books didn’t have. Commander Paylor, the leader of District 8.

Cressida

But the movies could have ruined all that by oversexualizing the women, leaving them out of crowds, or making them all the same. Instead, what we get is phenomenal, as far as representation in Hollywood goes. Here’s a still of Commander Paylor.

Commander Paylor

I was so, so happy that they cast a Black woman into a leadership role, especially considering how Part 2 will play out. How many Black women do we see in movies at all, let alone in leadership? Paylor is compassionate, intelligent, and a strong leader. Probably the very best leader in the series. So to see her cast this way is fantastic.

Neither she nor President Coin (pictured below) are sexualized by the movies. President Coin wears a uniform similar to the one her people wear. She is also a competent leader, and a well-drawn character, if a bit more empathetic in the films than in the books.

President Coin

But what amazes me most is in the background. Take a look at this District 13 Headquarters screenshot. While the women-to-men ratio isn’t equal, it’s certainly far better than the typical shot would be in such a high-tech, high-profile background.

District 13 Headquarters

I can’t find image grabs of many other crowd scenes, but the representation of women and minorities, while not perfectly equal, didn’t fail to impress. Women were neither ignored nor sexualized (unless you count the scene where they fail to do Katniss’s propo in front of a green screen, and slather her in too much makeup, but that has a line that says “take off the makeup. She’s just a kid.” so…).

So if you’ve ignored my earlier advice and not seen Mockingjay yet, this post is over. Go see it. Now. I will be seeing it again as soon as I can.

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