Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Thoughts: What about Team Bella?

(Title shamelessly stolen from Broadsheet)

I'm sure someday we'll stop talking about Twilight - but today's not that day!

Kate Harding's latest article at Broadsheet really struck a chord with me, because it perfectly articulates the reason why the Team Jacob/Team Edward argument (that has spilled over to what feels like every other book that features two men for the woman to choose from) drives me up a wall.

The marketing campaign for the movie pits "Team Edward" (the vampire) against "Team Jacob" (the werewolf), but as Carmen D. Siering wrote in Ms., "few young readers ask, 'Why not Team Bella?'" That's because the whole point of Bella's existence is earning the suffocating love of supernatural hotties; even if you think her obsessive devotion to Edward might waver in the face of were-love, you know you're never going to see her throw them both over to stand on her own two feet.

When this Team Edward/Team Jacob stuff was limited to Twilight, I didn't much care, because that does really seem to be Bella's great moral dilemma: which guy to choose. She doesn't seem to have any agency outside of the two guys.

But then I started noticing other books being discussed in a similar vein. I had to stop following the Hunger Games Trilogy group on Goodreads because the threads ultimately devolved into shouting TEAM GALE and TEAM PEETA endlessly, with no other content. When it first started happening, I was annoyed, but couldn't quite describe why it bothered me so much. Because Katniss is placed in positions where she has to choose between the boys - or at least, try to figure out how she feels about each one.

Harding's article helped me fill it out: it annoyed me because it ignores Katniss' own agency, and the fact that she has a hell of a lot more going on in her life than romance. Bella's life in Twilight boils down to romance, and that's fine - her books clearly fall into the romance genre. Hunger Games, however, is much more of an action-adventure story, with a dash of political intrigue and just a hint of romance for Katniss. Debates over why Katniss might choose one guy over the other could be interesting and fun as one part of discussion of the novel, but boiling everything down to "Team Gale" and "Team Peeta" misses the point of the novels. I, for one, am firmly on Team Katniss (after Catching Fire, I just want her to stay alive through the end of book 3!)!

Coincidentally, when I was hunting down that link for the Goodreads forum, I found a topic on there that reminded me of another blog post I read today: a discussion comparing Twilight to Hunger Games seems like it would hit several squares on Justine Larbalestier's Paranomral/Fantasy YA Review Bingo. Remember that horrendous Entertainment Weekly review of Catching Fire? Yeah, I think the comments there firmly proved that about the only similarities between the two series is that a teenage girl is the protagonist!


Anna Rhoswen said...

I also vote for Team Katniss, because Gale and Peeta have been driving my kind of nuts (I'm about four chapters in currently). In way, those two remind me of Bella, with all of the emotional angst, etc. Of course, it's *boy* angst, so it's silent and brooding and annoying as crap. :P

Angela Craft said...

Ahahaha, I hadn't thought of them that way. Yes, Peeta especially can get a little angsty - though at least he has a life outside of Katniss. After Katniss tells him that she was just pretending, he doesn't go cliff diving or anything stupid to try to get her back and protecting him again.

Tell me when you finish!

Eric said...

The Hunger Games is an awesome book, and the last book comes out August 24th 2010 i am so excited and the movie comes out sometime 2011. Can't wait


Rachel Stark said...

Great point, and I'm glad you articulated it -- that's been nagging subtly at me, too.

I never feel like I have an answer when asked if I'm Team Gale or Team Peeta. I mean, I like them both, and I think Katniss's choice will mean a lot for the outcome of the series. But while reading, I felt Katniss's indecision and her pressure to choose between the two boys, but I never felt I had to choose, myself. I think that's because I, too, am firmly Team Katniss.

I find her the most interesting character. The boys are lovely, but I will love Katniss wholeheartedly, whichever of them she chooses, or even if she runs off with a half-wit ape (just not a gorilla -- I'm afraid of gorillas).

Angela Craft said...

Rachel - Honestly, I'd rather that at the end of it all Katniss not be embroiled in a romantic relationship, at least not with the two of them. As Suzanne Collins pointed out, she's only 16! A little young to be thinking about a lifetime commitment (I would say this is another symptom of Twilight-influence, except I remember when I was writing fanfic in middle school for Animorphs there would be hell to pay if you broke up the "established" couples, so it might just be a teen-girl-thing). Of course, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm an anti-hopeless-romantic so things will never go my way in that department.

Anna Rhoswen said...

I think I agree with you, Ange, but only partially. Yes, Katniss is 16, however, given the way the world has made her, she is much, much more mature than your average 16 year old. I don't think that a budding romance (or two) is too out of place, given that people in desperate situations tend to have and hold love a lot closer (and at younger ages). But I do agree that it isn't really necessary for this story and could actually be distracting, if Collins chooses to make that more than just a subplot.

(Still haven't finished Catching Fire... it's due in three days. Boo.)

Angela Craft said...

Britt-how are you functioning with the book left unfinished?!?!

And I'm not saying the romance is completely out of place, especially given the dramatic circumstances life has handed her (I remember similar conversations, again, back with Animorphs, that *of course* Jake/Cassie and Rachel/Tobias would be together forever because of the bonds forged in wartime). Undoubtedly Katniss and Peeta will always have a special relationship, whether or not it continues as a romance. Gale and Katniss might be a little trickier to keep as a friendship if she chooses to stay romantically with Peeta, but there will definitely still be the bond of being old friends there.

Get to the end of Catching Fire! Seriously. Because then you'll understand why I would be extremely disappointed if Katniss' romantic possibilities became more than a subplot!

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