Hunger Games: the will to live and dismissing gender stereotypes

How many movies have you seen where the female lead needs "rescuing" from the male lead or she feels she is nothing without him?

More than I can count.

Being the nerdy reader I am, of course I had to write about the movie "Hunger Games,” based on the international bestseller by author Suzanne Collins.

The book/movie takes place in the futuristic nation of Panem, or what was North America, where a single group of people, or city, (The Capitol) runs the rest of Panem through a dictatorship. Panem was devastated by global nuclear war and/or major climate change, and 74 years before the start of the first novel, the districts of Panem rebelled against the Capitol.

The Capitol won this war. In turn, to remind the districts of  the Capitol's power and to keep them living in fear, two children (a girl and a boy) between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen at random each year from each of the 12 districts to fight until the death...until only one of the 24 survive.

I think my favorite part of the movie (definitely not the killing of children) is the main characters' (Katniss and Peeta) fight to survive and, also, the dismissing of gender stereotypes in this movie.

I think it's a human reaction: the will to live — much like jerking your hand away from a hot stove. When faced with a gun to the head or someone who is about to hurt you, it's our first reaction to either run away or fight back, and not just lay down and say, "Just take me."

In "Hunger Games," no matter how much Katniss and Peeta don't want to be there, when faced with death, they fight back. Peeta’s leg was cut open, Katniss was stung by a poisonous mosquito-like creature and they both had to watch as people, whether friends, family members or peers, died.

I think that's the number one sign if someone suffers from depression or is considering taking their own life — they no longer have that intrinsic will to live.

This is a sign that you need someone to talk to, and you need some help. And if you hear someone talking about losing the will to live, don’t take it lightly. To me, this proves that depression is a sickness and not a weakness. When the will to live is something we are born with, a reaction, when you’re missing that reaction, it’s not your fault.

I’ve been there, so I know what it feels like. There was a time in my life where I went through depression. For me, my body felt all the symptoms of being sad — yet I didn’t know why I was sad. It felt like something was wrong, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

There is a cure for depression, whether it’s just having someone to talk to or medication. If you seek the help, in no time you’ll be fighting for your life just like Katniss Everdeen.

The other thing I like about the movie/book series is it dismisses gender stereotypes. Katniss doesn’t rely on a man’s love in order to feel worthwhile or give her reason to live. Instead, she is the one to save Peeta’s life, and not the other way around. Katniss is the strong, silent type, while Peeta is the one who is good with words and describing his emotions. Katniss is a hunter and an expert with a bow and arrow, while Peeta is a baker. And of course you can't forget Cinna, the costumer designer for the "Hunger Games," who wears gold eyeliner (which is, honestly, the most understated male costume of anyone in the Capitol).

In most media, these personality descriptions would have been reversed. But to me, in her novel, Suzanne Collins tries to change the stereotype that each sex has to act a certain way.

I think gender stereotypes contribute a lot to depression and suicide. Each sex has their own tragic statistics. Women are two times more likely to suffer from depression than men, according to statistics, and about 1 in 4 women will suffer from depression sometime in her lifetime.

Research shows that one reason for this susceptibility to depression is because of the hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Other reasons, according to, are:

• “Little girls are socialized by their parents and teachers to be more nurturing and sensitive to the opinions of others, while little boys are encouraged to develop a greater sense of mastery and independence in their lives. This type of socialization is theorized to lead to greater depression in women, who must look outside themselves for validation.”

• “Studies show that women tend to use a more emotion-focused, ruminative coping style, mulling their problems over in their minds, while men tend to use a more problem-focused, distracting coping style to help them forget their troubles.”

•“It has also been theorized that women who become housewives and mothers may find their roles devalued by society while women who pursue a career outside the home may face discrimination and job inequality or may feel conflicts between their role as a wife and mother and their work."

But, don’t get me wrong – men don’t have it so easy. In Oakland County only, men are over three times more likely to lose their life to suicide than women.

Why? I think it’s because many men are less likely to talk about their problems than women are, keeping their feelings locked inside and therefore projecting their feelings physically upon themselves.

I remembered, when I first moved into my apartment, my boyfriend was doing dishes and cooking while I pounded nails into the walls. He made a comment about how we were doing opposite gender roles. And it felt good that, even in this small way, we were defying stereotypes. 

What if men and women felt like they could be whoever they wanted to be, without being judged by society — whether a hunter or a baker, a stay-at-home mom or a stay-at-home dad? What if men felt more free to talk about their feelings, and women felt free to fight and show off their strength...and not be made fun of for their driving abilities?

I think if this could happen someday, it would lower the rate of suicide and depression.

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