Why Katniss Everdeen and Arya Stark Are the New Female Role Models
Being dubious about power is not merely the province of right-wing libertarians. (Salon’s film critic, Andrew O’Hehir, has suggested that Hunger Games, however inadvertently, represents a sort of Tea Party view of the world.) But the individualism Arya and Katniss represent is not philosophical. It was not acquired from reading the collected works of Ayn Rand or the speeches of Rand Paul. It’s the province of every woman who did not report a sexual assault because she knew she would not be believed. It is the province of every person of color who did not call the cops because they knew the police were not there to serve and protect them.
The young and the abused feel that tension heavily. The stories in the news about abortion access, domestic violence, sexual assault, and various other crimes against the females of the species don’t have the promise of an ending. They just drag on, for years, decades, generations — never resolved, and also never battled directly. Arya and Katniss are left to live with their wounds — but they know they can live with them. (Those who’ve read/are reading the respective book series know that both of these heroines slowly start rebuilding their battered selves after going into isolation. Alone again, naturally.)
And though Arya and Katniss wield weapons well, they have no superpowers leading them through their physical and emotional minefields. They have only the will to get through this, a thing that ultimately, always, has to be done by one’s self — something you don’t have to live in a dystopic future or face dragons to see. For a lot of us, and young women in particular, imprints in popular culture stick. This kind of battle-weary heroine model feels new because it offers a kind of empowerment template for the Rookie magazine era, one that reassures people that you can live through anything, no matter how bad it gets, no matter if no one’s coming to save you. It’s a dark sort of self-esteem. But it can give you the will to go on.