Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (l) Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (r)

Rotten Tomatoes Trailers/YouTube Lionsgate Movies/YouTube Remix by Caterina Cox

‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ director tries to compare the films’ heroines. It doesn’t go well.

He called Lucy Gray Baird the ‘anti-Katniss.’

 

Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

With the Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arriving soon in theaters, people are naturally curious about what a President Snow-centric prequel might look like—and, for people who haven’t read Suzanne Collins’ book, how the new story or characters might compare. But the film director’s attempt to distill how the new film’s heroine differs from the last series started to backfire after people took issue with how he did it.

Songbirds and Snakes is centered around young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth), who is tasked with mentoring Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), District 12’s female tribute, during Panem’s 10th Hunger Games. Snow starts out at a much lower point as a member of a prominent house that’s seen better days and who sees getting his tribute to victory as a way to turn his fate around; Songbirds and Snakes doesn’t attempt to make him into a hero. But part of what makes the story compelling is how Lucy Gray comes into play.

For Empire Magazine’s latest issue, Francis Lawrence—who’s directed every Hunger Games movie since Catching Fire as well as Songbirds and Snakes—wanted to get at least one point across when it came to Lucy Gray: She’s not Katniss Everdeen 2.0 (the character played by Jennifer Lawrence in the four Hunger Games films. In fact, he explained, she’s probably the “anti-Katniss.”

“Katniss was an introvert and a survivor,” Lawrence said. “She was quite quiet and stoic, you could almost say [she was] asexual. Lucy Gray is the opposite. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve, [and] she really is a performer.”

Lucy Gray doesn’t have the combative or survival skills that Katniss learned out of necessity for survival. This early into the Hunger Games’ run, the Capitol doesn’t put the roster of tributes through a boot camp or ensure they’re healthy enough to play; it’s happy to stuff the 24 tributes into zoo cages and starve for several days until they’re thrown into the arena to kill each other off. At home, Lucy Gray is part of the Covey, a group of nomads that play weekly shows at the Hob (they’re also hired to perform at special events like weddings and birthdays); as a member of that group, Lucy Gray knows how to play the guitar and is a gifted singer.

It’s those skills that come in handy for Lucy Gray when she has to convince people in the Capitol, including Snow himself, to care enough about her to give her a fighting chance.

“She loves crowds,” Lawrence noted. “She knows how to play crowds and manipulate people.”

For some fans, the way that Lawrence described Katniss was offputting.

They took issue with equating being stoic or an introvert to asexuality, noting that she’s “extremely traumatised and in survival mode.” They pointed to both the prevalence of romance in her story—Katniss was at the center of a love triangle with Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and spent much of her time after her first Hunger Games pretending to be in love with Peeta—and how she eventually married Peeta and had children. But they questioned Lawrence’s use of the word asexual and what it had to do with being quiet and why characters’ sexuality was being brought up because the Hunger Games was more about teens and young adults fighting to the death.

A screenshot of Lawrence’s comments also went viral as people further picked apart what he meant by Katniss almost being asexual, with one person joking, “new definition of asexuality just dropped.”

But some people are annoyed by the comparison happening at all.

While Lawrence’s use of the word “asexual” to describe Katniss comes off as clunky, his comments may be more about how Lucy Gray is probably better suited to play the political game than Katniss, who is more skilled in a combat scenario. But it certainly could’ve been worded better.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes arrives in theaters on Nov. 17.

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