Have We Everdone it?

cat tacopinaIf there’s one thing I know as a Long Island-native, it’s the “no-homo” culture internalized in every straight-identified man I’ve come across.

I know more than half of you reading this column are from Long Island and know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s that hyper-conformist masculine identity which refuses to show any sign of dancing along the lines of “effeminate” and being irrationally afraid of sexuality coming into question. This includes a refusal to acknowledge liking any female entertainer on the basis of talent alone, but instead always bringing in appearance, as if that is the be-all-end-all to whether or not she’s worth your time.

It’s exhausting. Long Island is frustrating.

But over Thanksgiving, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Let’s Talk about “Catching Fire.”

I am 21 years old and have seen the newest installment of “The Hunger Games”  trilogy once. My 24-year-old brother has seen it twice and has only seen it with his guy friends.

Several kids I know who bask in masculinity as if it’s the fountain of youth have seen it in groups with just their guy friends. My 15-year-old brother has, to my knowledge, read the first book and actually enjoyed it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing more and more men openly admit to seeing it and, even moreso, loving it.

After seeing enthusiastic responses to the movie, and even the franchise as the whole, I can’t help but be elated. It leaves me to beg the question; have women characters finally done it? Are we now finally seeing the shift in accepting female characters as more than an extension of men?

Of course, there is a romantic subplot in “The Hunger Games” which involves the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. On the surface, and how the story is sold to audiences, it would seem there is more of a focus on that storyline than their should be. But, for anyone who really knows The Hunger Games, they know that storyline is fairly minuscule in regards to the story as a whole.

The reason I  ask whether or not female characters have finally broken ground as leading roles, capable of carrying a movie on their back, is because of the story of  the series. “The Hunger Games” is Katniss’ story. It’s about her transformation and sacrifice and unraveling as a person put through extreme circumstances. I saw it the day it came out and I was so pleasantly surprised by how this installment of the series took into account that “The Hunger Games” isn’t about some silly love triangle that has been blown out of proportion., but rather about how Katniss changes and navigates through a world where her survival is constantly under threat.

I think what I love so much about Katniss is her self-sufficiency and value on self-reliance. Katniss’ only goal and objective in the first installment  of the series is survival, which eventually leads to returning to her sister. In the second installment we see the same thing, but the stakes are higher and the love triangle grows organically.  Director francis Lawrence did an exceptional job in showing the story was about campus, and the relationships she has with both Peeta and Gale are organic and make sense in the context of Katniss’ situation.

I’m not going to go on an say we’ve done it and Katniss is the end-all-be-all of fictitious heroines. However, her success at the box office is a message audiences invested in female characters  need to reinforce. For too long we’ve been told that a heroine who is the star of a movie would never sell and that this would never work for mainstream audiences.

Katniss is proof that not only are heroines carrying a movie are capable of being interesting, but that they can be the most successful in the box office games.