And what makes this particularly disconcerting is that it’s good, well-written fic that exhibits this tone of their relationship. Why is that? Because this is the relationship between Katniss and Peeta that is found in the text.
Let’s consider that for a second. Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen were reaped alongside each other, did what was necessary in the arena, and endured the aftermath. Although their narratives are twins in terms of events, Peeta is morally better than Katniss. This is explicitly stated in Catching Fire.
“You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know,” says Haymitch.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say brusquely. “No question, he’s the superior one in this trio.”
Now, Katniss is by no means a reliable narrator and I understand that a parallel between her and Haymitch is being drawn here. But both Haymitch and Katniss believe that they are inferior to Peeta. Peeta Mellark, the son of a baker and a merchant who had enough to eat while Katniss starved. Peeta Mellark, who is white.
Katniss and Haymitch both have internalized the idea that Peeta is better than them after being told by the society they live in that merchants are better than people from the Seam, after experiencing a vicious class divide and being dehumanized for their race. Moreover, he is better than them by virtue of his morality. They believe this when it was Peeta who inveigled himself into the Career pack, who has the ability to manipulate a crowd to his advantage and is not unwilling to use it. And like them, he has suffered prior to the Games. It wasn’t starvation, but he was subject to abuse from the woman who was entrusted to protect him. And this leads me to ask the exasperated question, What makes Peeta better, really?
The answer is nothing. Nothing but the text’s self-woobification of him and how Collins places him as a nonviolent protester, a beacon of the right way to fight a revolution, in comparison to certain other characters who serve the purpose of demonization of violent revolution or protest. (I promised myself I wouldn’t mention Gale Hawthorne’s name in this post.)
Can you imagine how horrifying it is that people use this quote to promote their love for this ship? That indeed many, many Everlark shippers engage in their ship in a problematic way? Now, I’m not saying that shipping Katniss and Peeta is problematic. It’s not. I ship them myself. But refusing to recognize the text’s problematics and subscribing to them without acknowledging how harmful they are to Katniss, not even necessarily from a race and class point of view, but in propelling her to self-loathing because of her partner is essential. This isn’t Twilight, but The Hunger Games is a problematic text, and that’s unfortunately apparent in one of its most popular ships.