Walkerdine: Thinking of orphan Annie and Katniss

Helen, great post. Your comments about Missrepresentation in Hunger Games: Catching Fire reminded me a lot of the Valerie Walkerdine article Popular Culture and the Eroticization of Little Girls that we read, specifically the section on “Eroticized Femininity and the Working-Class Girl.”

In the Hunger Games reaping, the poor are at a disadvantage, because they often put their name in more to get more rations. Additionally, all of the districts are poor in comparison to the Capitol. Katniss, like other tributes, goes to the Capitol after the reaping; she is not supposed to act pissed off or angry; rather, she is supposed to appeal to the Capitol, act feminine, non-threatening, charming, in the hopes of getting sponsorship from wealthy citizens in the Capitol.

orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks

She is not supposed to change the status quo, but maintain the ideological structure. She is supposed to seduce the Capitol: gain sponsors, putting her at an advantage in the games, and then win the games, putting her at an advantage in life—with celebrity and money. This reminded me so much of Walkerdine’s discussion of Shirley Temple and the orphan Annie figure, whose “role was to soften hearts of the wealthy so that they would identify her as one of the poor, not dirty and radical, but lovable, to become the object of charity through donations” (327).

Walkerdine describes Annie as “figure of immense transformative power, who can make the rich love, thereby solving huge social and political problems . . . improve her own life in the process” (327). As the face of the poor class, she shows the only way out is “embourgeoisement” (327) therefore becoming “the epitome of the feminized, and therefore emasculated, less threatening, proletariat” (327). This is what Katniss is supposed to be in the first games when she puts on her charm for the Capitol audience to get sponsorship. Unlike orphan Annie, Katniss does not become what Plutarch claims: “one of us,” although Snow tries to make her this way, “the Capitol darling” as he has made the other victors.

Katniss’ attitude toward her newfound wealth, her forced participation in the Hunger Games Victory Tour, which reproduces the corrupt ideology of the Capitol, is not like orphan Annie at all—orphan Annie is grateful to Daddy Warbucks’ generosity and her entry into the upper-class. If Katniss were orphan Annie, she’d probably say, “Screw you, Daddy Warbucks,” and if orphan Annie were Katniss, she’d probably love President Snow and feel indebted to him, even though his system is what put her down in the first place.


Katniss, addressing Finnick

It’s worth mentioning that Walkerdine also notes: “the sexual coquettishness of Shirley Temple.” And in the Hunger Games, many of the Victors, who have done well in the Capitol are seen as sex-symbols—including Finnick; although his sex-god persona and participation in the Capitol culture seem willing, we later find out that in actuality, Snow made him a sex-slave to the Capitol elite. Finnick was fourteen when he won his game and with Quarter Quell exception all of the victors are children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Katniss, however, does not want to be sexualized, does not want to be a “Capitol darling” which makes her a threat. Snow tries to transform her, take away her power, “feminize” and “emasculate” her like orphan Annie transforms to make herself and her class “less threatening” and when he realizes he can’t, he must eliminate her.I know we talked a little about this in class, but I would love to hear more comments!


2 thoughts on “Walkerdine: Thinking of orphan Annie and Katniss

  1. Great post! I think that with characters like Finnick, President Snow definitely had power over their lives and forced them to become “darlings” of the Capitol. Johanna Mason didn’t go that route and it’s implied in the book that that’s why she doesn’t have anyone left who she loves; Snow probably had them all killed. He couldn’t really threaten to make Katniss into a sex slave in the same way he did with Finnick, though. Katniss had Peeta and because they had to keep up their love story, Snow wasn’t about to break them up so that Katniss could become a toy in the capital. There’s this great post on tumblr (that I’m desperately trying to find) that has a picture of Katniss as she’s walking into the presidential palace. Remember how that one capital person not-so-subtly touches the top of her address. The person who posted that screenshot argued that if weren’t for Peeta, she would have already been sold like Finnick.

    But Pres. Snow still manages to get his way by trying to disempower Katniss through the wedding. It’s weird though that we’ve come to see the process of feminization as one of disempowerment. Displaying Katniss in a elaborate Capitol dresses is supposed to distract people from the real problems, but why is it that she must be feminized for that to happen? To make it seem like Katniss cared about nothing but her appearance like the people in the Capitol? There’s some real gender critiques going on here that I think have largely been ignored. Too bad we can’t have any more of these conversations in class!

    Aaaaand…..like I said, if it weren’t for Peeta, Katniss may have become a sex slave already. So I GUESS he finally did something useful……

  2. I hadn’t not even thought of applying Walkerdine! Great post. Your subverted metaphor of Katniss and Annie is spot on.

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