Katniss Everdeen is many things to many people. To her family, she is the expert bow-hunter who keeps food on the table. To Gale Hawthorne, she is a companion and friend, a refuge and secret-sharer in a harsh soul crushing world. And, once the Hunger Games starts, she is the girl who was on fire. The dark, brooding, mysterious beauty beside her District 12 counterpart, the fair-skinned, blonde haired, wide-eyed Peeta Mellark.
Katniss’s dark, straight hair and grey eyes are characteristic of the coal mining District she lives in. Peeta’s light complexion identifies him immediately with the small merchant class in District 12, the tiny part of Katniss’s world that eats regularly without risking their lives to hunt and trade illegally. Katniss’s mother was, in fact, of the merchant class and has its pale features; but, Katniss’s coloring comes straight from her father, a dark skinned, grey eyed miner, born and bred to coal miners in the Seam.
Hunting to survive has better prepared Katniss for the Hunger Games than anyone knows, including her. Her skill with a bow is remarkable, and she is used to living with pain and fear. She’s also used to killing. Once, a lynx followed her around like a pet, and she enjoyed it; but, Katniss had to kill the cat because it was scaring away the game she needed to hunt. Katniss can do whatever it takes to stay alive, even if what she has to do is kill.
Jennifer Lawrence was not an entirely popular choice when it was announced that she had been cast as Katniss. On the up side, she had proven her acting chops with a deservedly oscar- nominated performance in Winter’s Bone. On the other hand, though, she was a bit too polished, a bit too curvaceous, and a bit too old. It just wasn’t clear how she was going to play the grey-eyed distopian Artemis of Suzanne Collins’ breakaway best-seller.
Lawrence’s biggest challenge in playing this part will, I think, be telegraphing Katniss’s very limited awareness of herself and of those around her. For all her virtues, Katniss is a bit clueless. She doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. She can’t open herself to her mother. She doesn’t appreciate what she has with Gale. She doesn’t see Peeta for who he is. She takes the good things that come to her and weathers the bad, but she does it from an almost trance-like state induced by shutting down her emotions. But, as repressed as she is, she gives the impression that her soul is intact, waiting to find a way to matter. There is obvious goodness in Katniss, but she has been in survival auto-pilot for too long for it to be a reliable force in her psyche.
How will Jennifer Lawrence portray Katniss’s inner strength and light and outer toughness and shadow? Will we be able to see Katniss better than she sees herself? Will we understand why she has so effectively shut herself off from her emotions? If so, we’re in for a movie that lives up to its substantial hype. Do you think she’s up to it? Check out the official trailer to see just smidge of who Jennifer’s Katniss is going to be.