The Love Lives of Warrior Women

…and Why #TeamPeeta Is the Only Choice

By Hannah Paasch Cosand

 

I really expected to be over the Games by now. I really did.

 

But I am not over J Law and I am not over revolutionary feels so I went and saw the last film, hoping, I think, for closure—from more than just the dystopian series itself.

 

I’m not here to talk about if the movie stayed true to the book or whether it’s an important piece of lasting cinema or any of that crap. I’m here to talk about our lives, as viewed through the lens of Katniss, because I think, consciously or not, we do this. We project our pain and hurt and life and love onto the characters we care about, as a sort of self-therapy device that only sometimes works. We have all been the warrior woman—broad-shouldered and impenetrable; we have all learned to stand our ground in our own little wars. We have all been Katniss, one day or another.  

 

I’ve broken my impressions into three separate pieces, because I think there are three incredibly poignant points that jumped out at me off of the screen, alone and weepy in the alarmingly empty theater, and this one is about love.

 

Ugh, I know. But let’s get into it. Because #TeamGale vs. #TeamPeeta will always bear more weight to me than all the Edwards and Jacobs and unconvincing tween-angst love triangles in the world. I get this one. I have lived this one.

 

Here’s why.

 

Gale and Peeta are both completely valid options. They both hit Katniss in different places, and even they—in a surprising moment when they think Katniss is asleep and not hanging on their every word—acknowledge that they aren’t sure which one of them is better for her. Gale is strong, powerful, decisive. He’s the ideal man, really. That head of the hair and those piercing blue eyes? GONE. Most women would be GONE. Katniss never entirely loses her head over him, though, despite being drawn in by their childhood intimacy and the obvious reasons why they make sense. In nearly any other movie, Gale would be the obvious choice. He is a warrior. He would “fight for her”; he would protect her and her family, at all costs, and honestly, he HAS. He would be the “man”.

 

The only trouble? Katniss is kind of the “man,” too.

 

In the last installment of the movies we meet Peeta again at a cruelly unsettling moment in his journey—he’s been brainwashed by the Capitol to hate Katniss and to try, drone-like and unaware of himself, to bring about her demise. Katniss is heartbroken, obviously, which is clear from her barely quivering lower lip and unceremonious exit from the room in which he is caged. She is an outwardly stoic character—which causes even those close to her, namely Haymitch, to believe she is both callous and insensitive—but warrior women know better. If her impassioned speeches as the Mockingjay were not enough to prove otherwise, in her final decisions as she confronts the totalitarian faces of evil in both the obvious Snow and the rather more subtle Coin, Katniss errs on the side of love and justice and humanity every time.

 

But Katniss knows that her life is war, and she doesn’t have time to waste on weepy Netflix hideouts & long midnight drives to clear her head.

 

“That’s not Peeta,” is all she gives us.

Turns out, it’s enough.

Warrior women feel her. We feel her so hard.

 

I think #TeamGale truly gets their answer towards the beginning of the film when the soldiers of the revolution are discussing whether or not to bomb a Capitol stronghold. The people inside the stronghold are true to the Capitol, but they are largely civilians, after all—unarmed and unaware. As Katniss tries to object, Gale quickly rebuffs her with: “It’s war, Katniss. Sometimes killing Isn’t personal.”

 

“It’s always personal,” Katniss bites back, signaling the fork in their roads as Gale goes on to become the decorated soldier and Katniss finds herself more and more marginalized in a war where both the institution and the revolution are becoming increasingly indecipherable from one another.

 

The further away Peeta gets from the Capitol’s control, the more we see the boy we loved creep out again. He admits that he can’t tell anymore what is true and what has been planted in his head by the Capitol. “You’re still trying to protect me: real or not real?” he asks Katniss.

 

Real.”

 

Because that’s what you and I do, keep each other alive,” she replies.

And that’s all love really is, after all, isn’t it?

Keeping each other alive?

 

What is charming to me is how helpless Peeta often is, in physical situations—Katniss rescues his cute little butt more often than not, almost relegating Peeta to the “damsel in distress” trope usually (read: ALWAYS) reserved for pretty women.

 

It is in between battles that Katniss’s need for him is put into sharp relief.

 

My favorite moment in the film is at the end, when Katniss has come home to an empty home and nothing to live for and no distraction from her grief and PTSD and we watch her, quite unsurprisingly, unravel. She’s never had to make a life in peacetime; her emotional needs have never been allowed to take a front seat and her only response to a cavernous need for self-care is to throw stuff at ugly cats and go run around in the hills with a bow and arrow and hope that it all goes away.

 

It’s kind of adorable but it’s a little too real, isn’t it?

 

Warrior women suck at self-care.

 

She comes home from one such venture, looking grey and worn and years-too-old, to Peeta kneeling over a flowerbed, planting PRIMROSES. It was the dearest, housewifiest thing I have ever seen a romantic lead male under 60 do in any film that I can remember ever, and I felt my eyes welling up in spite of myself.

 

He remembered.

 

He not only remembered, but he knew exactly what to say and what not to say to pay homage to the departed and help Katniss grieve her loss. Paralyzed at first, she flings herself into his arms moments later, overcome with emotion. It was time to hang up the bow, to cry, to rebuild and plant flowers and heal, and she could not do it without him.

 

Gale told Peeta in the first half of the film that Katniss would pick the man she could not survive without. I’m sure he imagined that would all turn out differently, I suppose, being that Peeta could hardly keep himself alive, let alone Katniss—but what every warrior woman knows is that oftentimes what we need most is to be taught how to put down roots.

How to plant flowerbeds.

How to sit still.

How to heal.

 

Reading the series the first time, I didn’t have a lot of hope Katniss would ever get there, and let’s be honest—without Peeta, she was probably doomed to a similar fate as Gale. When your only skills are impassioned speeches and hitting stuff with arrows, how do you “find the life of a victor” when the war is over?

 

Find your baker, of course.

 

Find the partner who is not afraid of aprons and looking housewifey and holding you in the middle of the night, when the nightmares come alive and you need someone to ask What Is Real.

 

Find the one as committed to keeping you alive as you are to them.

 

Find the one who helps you grieve your losses and let them go quietly into the night.

 

Find the one who can help you transform your dirty, empty, chaotic house into a home.

 

Find your Peeta,

all wise warrior women will tell you.

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