Comment | Why we need Jennifer Lawrence
The second instalment in the hugely popular Hunger Games trilogy ‘Catching Fire’ is out in cinemas at the moment. I for one will most definitely be taking advantage of Orange Wednesdays to go see it, but not just for Liam Hemsworth’s face. One of the main reasons why I am a huge fan of The Hunger Games is down to one lady: Katniss Everdeen, aka, Jennifer Lawrence. Both Lawrence and the character she plays are a breath of fresh air for women everywhere, showing us what we can be and what we don’t have to be.
Katniss Everdeen is smart, brave and doesn’t let men define who she is – a rare occurrence in films today. In fact, I would struggle to think of any female character in a film I’ve seen this year which represents a woman in as positive a way as Katniss. One of my favourite aspects of Katniss’s character is that she doesn’t want to get married or have children. Where are all the other fictional representations of a woman who, like Katniss, are open about a perfectly normal decision that many women in the real world make?
Then there’s Lawrence herself. She’s refreshingly funny and honest, amazingly clumsy and swears like a trooper. We need more female celebrities like this, who display the real attributes of real women whom the rest of us can identify with. How many of us feel that the impossible images of Hollywood women in magazines are actually representative of us? Probably not very many. In contrast, when Lawrence joked with the press at the Oscars about her concern that her strapless dress might fall down, we can laugh with her, having probably experienced this same issue on a night out ourselves. She humanises the idea of Hollywood perfection with a few words.
With this is mind, I think one of the most important roles that both Lawrence and her character play is in promoting a positive body image. While Katniss is resolutely unimpressed with the falsity of the Capitol and resists changing her appearance to suit anyone else, Lawrence has frequently defied and spoken out against Hollywood’s expectations of how women should look. My favourite example of this came when she essentially gave Hollywood the middle finger at the Oscars this year by asking an interviewer straight away where the food was, as she was ‘starving’. Similarly, in a recent live Q&A session hosted by Yahoo, when asked for her advice to girls struggling with their body image, she replied, ‘[…] you look how you look and be comfortable. What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb’. For many therefore, Lawrence is a small ray of hope in a film industry which propagates harmful and often sexist ideas about how women should look and behave.
Lawrence and her character encourage a sense of self-worth in women, which I believe is absolutely crucial in a world where women are regularly deprived of any kind of empowerment. Let’s hope that a fictional, arrow-wielding huntress and a real-life, empowered A-lister will continue to inspire women around the world. It would be a great loss to society of Lawrence were to back off now, when she’s already making us re-evaluate how women – whether they are real or imaginary – should be.