I recently read an article that said that Katniss Everdeen from the teen books and film series ‘The Hunger Games’ is the greatest heroine of our time. That is…ridiculous. For real, that is the most insane thing. I genuinely don’t get who buys into that. Obviously, the lunatic teen girl fans of the book would. Naturally. But who else? Well, we do live in the era of Twitter and Tumblr feminism, and her character is practically made to please that type of person. Now, to preface this, I am going to talk about her character in the films. In the books, there were definite flaws to address. But in the movies, she is stoic, overly-strong, stone-faced and needs no man to help her. In other words, she’s the ubermensch for women. But is she the greatest female protagonist of our time? Well, the answer to that is easy – no. There is another who comes off the top of my head who kicks her ass in every way. I shouldn’t need to say this, but *spoiler alert* or the content ahead. The character is Ellie, from the greatest game of last year, ‘The Last of Us.’
First, let’s examine Katniss, so we can get all our ducks in a row. She is part of a world that is oppressive to poor people. Unnecessarily so, considering how they have technology that can spawn animals out of nowhere. Katniss is a poor person who, in the films, is in remarkably good health. For real, I didn’t see a single sign of starvation on that girl. Though that wouldn’t appeal to the teenage girl audience – a girl who looks anorexic. Might send the wrong message. She is involved in one of the stupidest systems of picking someone ever, that would be so easy to fuck with. For real, if the amount of entries controls how much food you get, why not have the entire town declare someone to be the candidate, train them to be the ultimate killer and then share the wealth of the food. Later on in the first film, it seems that other Districts might have figured this out. But I digress.
Katniss’ sister is picked, and she then volunteers to go instead. So, self-sacrificing to save her family. That’s cool. She gets picked, and is shown to be willing to take stupid risks to impress potential benefactors, like when she shoots the space next to that one dude’s head. I would have thought that that was a failed assassination attempt, given how they just watched her miss a shot in a big way. Also, she has no backbone. She is in a car with a rich woman, who is clearly unarmed and defenseless. Given that her entire part of the world is oppressed, it never occurred to her to kill her? Or maybe hold her hostage? Anything? Not to mention – she is on a television show that everybody is watching before the Games, and she doesn’t go all George Carlin and scream “what the fuck is wrong with you people?! Seriously, do you all not realize how crazy this is?!” For all the stoic strength she is supposed to have, there are a TON of instances where she doesn’t do shit when she should obviously have done something. But then we wouldn’t have the PG-13 violence that is really unbelievable. It makes the fact that Katniss routinely avoids danger by running or hiding look that much worse.
When she finally is the victor, the girl is like a lost puppy. She sees everything going to shit all around her, and she does jack-diddle. In the second film, up until Hunger Games II (for real, it’s the exact same thing over again), she does nothing. It’s kind of pathetic. Districts are rising up, looking to her as their inspiration, and she does nothing. There is an instance with a dude getting beaten, but that’s it. You volunteered for a death battle to save your little sis. How’s about throwing in for the people risking their ass because you inspired them?
And don’t even get us started on the “romance” between her and Peeta. For real, that is the most forced relationship ever. EVER! There is no chemistry. They never seem to grow. The only reason she kissed him was because a sponsor told her to, if she wanted some of the stuff he could magically teleport to her. It lacks all believability, but they’re attractive, so people buy it. Teen girls are dumb like that. Oh, and could she PLEASE look something other than serious? For real, have some kind of other emotion. You’re like Bella Swan, in that regard.
Now, let’s look to Ellie. This girl grew up in a world that is infinitely more oppressive than Katniss. It is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. She lives in a walled city that is defended by the remnants of the military, who make up a dictatorial government. All children are raised in a special “school” that is more of an orphanage and training facility, where they are raised and trained to kill dissidents, like the Fireflies. Unlike Katniss, Ellie is thrown into her situation by circumstances out of her control. When she discovers that she is immune to the fungus that has destroyed humanity, she faces that down and wants to do what she can. This is partly tied up in how many people she has lost in her lifetime, but that’s a whole other thing.
This girl is not like Katniss. She is not just strong and stoic. She’s a kid. She has childish moments and childish views on certain things. But she isn’t above sticking up for her people. When she first meets Joel, she tries to stab him, because she believes that he has hurt the woman looking after her, Marlene. When she sees that Joel is cold towards her, she is the same to him. But, like a real kid, she tries to be his friend. That’s how kids do. They want to bond with someone that they feel they can trust. But her companion has his own baggage that he is dealing with. But the two grow on one-another. That’s another defining character trait that differs from Katniss. Ellie isn’t just super-strong, able to face down the world. She needs help, and she knows it. Part of her fear in being alone is that she has lost so many people who have tried to help her.
Which brings us to her relationship with Joel. The defining relationship of the game is between the two of them. It is the center around which the entire game revolves. At its core, ‘The Last of Us’ is a story about two people who find something in one-another that makes them able to live again. It’s not some big story about saving the world, though there are elements of that in there. It’s about two people and the love that forms between them, along with how far they will go to save each other. Some have said that Ellie has “daddy-issues’ because of certain segments of the game where Joel looks after her and she breaks down with him. These views are from people who have clearly never played the game, so they have no context.
See, in real life, nobody is just self-assured and able to take on all elements of the world stoically. In real life, people have problems. People have flaws. People have baggage. People have weaknesses. Ellie has a deep-seated fear and belief that she will always be alone. Time and time again, people in her life die, often in terrible ways. Whenever she feels that she can hope, something comes into her life to break that. Joel is the only person who has stuck with her. He has risked his life for her. The paternal relationship that develops between them is strong specifically because it is believable. You can feel the span of time that their love grew. The passing seasons mark a change in their dynamic.
But Ellie is no pushover. Despite being a kid, she’s been toughened up by the world she lives in. When Joel is injured, and she is alone, you see a side of her that is scared, trying to hold together. She can not only handle a bow. She can handle a pistol, a rifle, nail-bombs and a shotgun. Let’s see Katniss do that! For real, let’s see her blow some bandit’s brains out. That would have made the BORING Hunger Games PG-13 violence more interesting. Not to mention believable.
So yeah, Katniss has got shit on Ellie. Can Ellie get some recognition, now? Oh, wait, she’s a video game character. I forgot that video games are still looked down upon by the academic and mainstream types. Silly me…
Until next time, a quote,
“Everybody I’ve ever cared about has either died or left me! Everybody, fucking except you! So don’t tell me that I’d be safer with somebody else! ‘Cause the truth is that I’d just be more scared.” -Ellie, The Last of Us