Hawt or Not

By now many of you have seen, if not Catching Fire, the second in a planned four movies made from the Hunger Games trilogy (insert your own joke here), then the Onion’s parody-review of the movie.  You may go look. There are no spoilers for the movie.

I saw the movie (my company is owned by Scholastic, the trilogy’s publisher–it was a field trip for the office).  I enjoyed it.  It is not ground-breaking SF, but it is fast-moving, decently acted, and enjoyable, IM, as they say, HO.  But it does give rise to a serious debate, and one I think that is different for people who have read the book, and who only know the characters from the movie.

Who is cuter: Liam Hemsworth (who plays Gale) or Josh Hutcherson (Peeta)?

Okay, as human males, they’re both fairly high on the attractiveness scale–Hollywood does not cast uglies as romantic leads–in very different ways.  But consider their faces in the service of the roles they play.

Readers of the book may, quite reasonably, overlay their image of what the characters looked like in their heads as they read, on the images of the actors playing the parts.  On that basis, Peeta (Hutcherson) totally wins, for me.  He’s sweet, self-effacing, painfully in love with Our Heroine, and while he’s a baker, not a fighter, in the first book/movie, by the time the second movie comes around he’s learned a few things and is definitely not helpless.  Gale, while competent and fierce and equally crazy for Katniss, is… how do I put this?  Byronic?  No, he’s a teenager, let’s call it what it is: sulky.

Gale pouts.

I’ve done my time with sulky, pouty, inarticulate men, and I am so over that, as the young folks say.  Heathcliff makes me want to throw something.  Byron?  Pfui.  Of course the character is written that way (at one point in Catching Fire the book Katniss is given a photo of Gale and comments that he’s actually smiling.  When this is a point of astonishment for your heroine, you know you’ve got a Broodypants on your hands).  As far as I’m concerned, a pouty boy is not a cute bow, no matter how chiseled his profile or his pecs.

Your mileage may vary, of course.

What of Peeta?  He is the sunshine to Gale’s storm-clouds. Generous, romantic, a persuasive talker and an all-around non-pouter.  He could be mistaken for the kind of nice guy who finishes last–but as written (and to some extent, as Hutcherson plays him) he’s got a core of steel.    I find that more attractive, so it’s hard for me not to root for Peeta, and to find him the more attractive of the two guys.

Even in the books, it’s easy for everyone–particularly for Katniss–to dismiss Peeta because of his kindness, his niceness.  Perhaps she doesn’t feel she deserves a guy who is as nice as Peeta.  Peeta’s so nice that he accepts that maybe Katniss loves Gale and not himself, and he’s still concerned about her happiness.  I know.  Insanely nice.  How can you trust a guy that nice? Isn’t it more romantic to yearn for a guy who is willing to scowl at you to let you know how miserable he is?

This is the sort of messaging that makes me a little crazy.  Think of the girls who avoid a smart, sensitive, nice guy because they feel that he’s not edgy enough, not the romantic choice.  That the sulky, sullen, sorrows-of-Young-Werther boyfriend is the one they should shoot for.  Never mind that sulky, sullen men very often bring their own less-than-lovely baggage to a relationship.

In real life Hutcherson’s a little dorky, and Hemsworth does know how to smile quite fetchingly. They are not the characters they play.  Without the overlay of their characters on them,  I might have a different opinion about which one is cuter.  If I really put some thought into the matter.

But honestly, I’m already spending all my time thinking about Tom Hiddleston.


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


Hawt or Not — 12 Comments

  1. Yeh, but Hiddleston played Loki – the ultimate sulky bad-boy; and remind the both of us again why we shouldn’t be mooning over the sullen ones…?!

    I remember reading somewhere that J.K. Rowling was mortified that so many girls developed a ‘thing’ for Draco Malfoy, despite the fact that throughout most of the series he was a vile little troglodyte. It seems she never factored the laws of physical attraction into the equation: you can describe a person any way you want in your writing, but once the casting directors get involved, all bets are off.

    • I admire Loki’s cheekbones, and his cheerful embrace of his own nature…but it’s Tom Hiddleston dancing that got me. And that’s him and not Loki (I cannot imagine Loki dancing…)

      • Problem is, I’d even dance with Loki if he looked like Tom Hiddleston (I can imagine Loki executing a very elegant tango…).

        But no worries – I actually did marry a Peeta, so no Loki Hiddleston for me, even if I was young and available, and he was at all even vaguely amenable…

  2. Going off on a tangent, none of actors who have been cast in these movies so far even remotely resemble the characters as I imagined them while reading the books – with the possible exception of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Every time I think of Haymitch, I get a very clear image of a slightly younger Christopher Hitchens in my head (not an actor, I know, but that’s who I see – go figure). I suppose Woody Harrelson was a good second choice…

  3. The fictional problem with the nice guy is that you need to give him some reason why the heroine doesn’t just skip all the trouble and complications.

  4. The Deverry series has been out long enough for many of its first readers to grow up. I hear from some of them that while they thought Rhodry was so cool and heroic and romanatic etc as teenagers, as grown women they see him for what he is, spoiled, arrogant, and more than a little crazy. So there’s hope! Some at least will long in high school for the Gales but marry the Peetas.

    • Yeah, but it’s kind of too bad for the Peetas who have to wait for the girls to grow up.

      (I’m having absurd flashes of a 40s Hollywood-style movie poster with a title blazoned across it: “I Married a Peeta!”)

  5. I must say, I knew something was special about The Hunger Games when a boy like Peeta could make it all the way to the end. I put off reading the last 50 pages of the first book because everything Collins wrote about him screamed “Expendable!” My niece had to break it to me — the outcome — and then I thought: Now, I would never have anticipated THAT ending! And then I became a committed fan of Suzanne Collins, forever.

    About Loki: Thor never stood a chance. The minute the camera zoomed in on Hiddleston’s eyes — that was it! His gaze has such smoldering intensity. Loki is more interesting than Thor.