THE HUNGER GAMES
q’orianka kilcher → KATNISS EVERDEEN
alex meraz → GALE HAWTHORNE
The Hunger Games
My second ever gif-set. :D Still trying to figure out how to make it not so blurry…
Gale: We could do it you know. Take off, live in the woods.
Katniss: They’d catch us.
Gale: Well, maybe not.
Katniss: We wouldn’t make it five miles.
-I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay right here and cause all kinds of trouble.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say (as a veteran of the tracked tag, if nothing else) that the way huge swathes of ‘The Hunger Games’ fandom talks about Gale Hawthorne is super problematic.
It’s a tough thing to do, to talk about any of the characters in the series and do it fairly when the narrative itself is rife with problems - both in terms of what it picks up on and what it leaves out. But I think fandom tends to ignore those problematic aspects which aren’t convenient to their reading of the text, at the expense of misunderstanding several of its key figures. If I was someone looking in from the outside, who had never picked up a single copy of the books, I would, from fandom’s response, infer that Gale was the villain of the piece (or at least the final act) - the volatile, bloody mirror to Peeta’s good. And when you think about that contextually, when you think about that in conjunction with the fact that if we accept Katniss to be a POC then Gale is too, it follows that the portrait that we get in the books of one of the sole male POC characters fighting for his homeland is one who is paranoid, militant, downright violent. Which isn’t just problematic, but offensive as well - to put such a one-dimensional face on the subjugated people of colour partaking in the revolution, as well as feeding into long-held stereotypes of what a person of colour fighting for their rights looks like.
The fly in the ointment being - despite the fact that Collins drops in the racial commentary without ever exploring it any further - that is simply not who Gale is in the text. Yes, Gale is uncompromising, yes, he resorts to violence but if he’s not one of the heroes of the series, he’s certainly not one of its villains either. And for fandom to dismiss him as such is a disservice to his character. For fandom to single out Gale for his possessiveness, claiming that such a character trait is in evidence in the ‘Gale is mine. I am his’ line - a line not spoken by Gale, but by Katniss - is not just a disservice to his character, but completely baffling. And for fandom to glorify Katniss’ racial heritage whilst erasing (via ignoring) Gale’s, is adding insult to injury. Sure, you have your favourites, you have the ship that you prefer - but that doesn’t mean you get to prioritise which character of colour’s experiences have more intrinsic value, that’s neither a sensitive nor a respectful reading of these books.
And Gale isn’t a poorly hewn together caricature of what a POC revolutionary might look like either, all overflowing anger and inflammatory action - Collins’ writing has its faults, but that’s still never a place it goes. His character is not just defined by a single act - by the violence of the bombs he creates or Prim’s death - his character is informed by what he spends his life experiencing and what he shapes that to mean. Yes, he is single-minded in his determination and he believes that the ends justifies the means (in contrast to Peeta who sees the ends as the means) and if you don’t think that’s the right way to run a revolution, well that’s your prerogative. But that doesn’t mean Gale’s anger is without justifiable cause, that we can blame him whole-heartedly for his actions without charting the multitude of steps it takes to get him there, and it certainly doesn’t mean that his characterisation is of a man of colour who revolves solely around his anger.
Gale is angry, I won’t deny it, but he’s romantic too - romantic in the sense of being an idealist, after all he falls in love with the girl who is yes, his childhood friend but also the symbol of the whole goddamn revolution. He is hopeful and he is penitent and he moves back to District 2 - to the very district he helps destroy, because he knows that sometimes the cost of a revolution can be the soft spots inside you but you don’t need to carry that cost, that weight, for the rest of your life. He’s a complex character, he’s multifaceted and contradictory and I think his race charges his narrative as much as Katniss does hers. To ignore that part of him (whilst exulting that part of Katniss) is blatantly unfair and to flatten him into a stereotype that he’s not, is as offensive as it is nonsensical.
Also, just to briefly add —
I’d also further argue that this fandom is left with a choice. Interpretations of texts are about choices, and should we agree that Katniss is a woman of color (which not everyone in this fandom does, but I do) and that, therefore, Gale is a man of color, we are left with options. We can choose to recognize that in the moments that Collins deplores Gale’s revolutionary positioning and in the moments that she posits political revolutionary violence as just as oppressive as state-sponsored violence, she is establishing an incredibly problematic racial and political rhetoric and note the problematics of the text as such, or we can choose to buy into that line of thinking and condemn Gale for it as well. Extratextually, Gale’s actions are all completely within the scope of any ethics of war you want to look at bar outright pacifism; it’s only intratextually that he’s condemned for it, and this fandom needs to examine why that is and what that means for this series. And we have a responsibility to examine the problematics of all that and recognize that even if Collins is willing to take a disparaging position toward a man of color for revolutionary violence with the goal of liberation from state-sponsored and endemic oppression, we as readers do not have to do the same.
I do think that Collins is unsure of her political rhetoric in most of Mockingjay. At times she invokes the need for revolution and at other times she condemns it, ultimately suggesting that the rebels may be just as bad if not worse than the ruling regime which is often the case in real life but given the paradigms of this series is, frankly, mortifying. But no matter how she ultimately comes down on that issue — which she doesn’t, really, because Mockingjay has no space for resolution of any kind — for fandom to flatten Gale down to a one-dimensional villain who manipulates Katniss (which is not in any way textual) and who uses violence to attain his goals (which is textual) within the constructs of a racialized narrative is a problematic of the fandom itself. His violence is political. It does not happen in a vacuum, and it is not hapless. To say ‘oh, Gale is violent’ without looking at what kind of violence he performs or why he does it is overwhelmingly limited thinking.
this is kinda how i pictured them!
Hopefully you will get the gif of Danny Pudi.
THIS is exactly why I think he’d make a fantastic Gale Hawthorne. Whatcha think?
submitted by pluckyduck