‘Catching Fire’ Doesn’t Need a Woman Director, But That Doesn’t Mean it Wouldn’t be a Good Idea

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As any The Hunger Games fan already knows, the director who took on the challenge of bringing the first book in Suzanne Collins’s seminal series to life has stepped away from the sequel, Catching Fire.

While many critics and fans have spent the past month arguing Gary Ross’s handling of the film, it is beyond a doubt going to be one of the most financially successful films of 2012 if not of all time. The trilogy came in with a built-in fan base, something which Ross respectfully acknowledged with his adaptation but that didn’t stop him from adding his own creative flourishes.

Who would have ever thought a character that is mentioned three times in the novel would go on to steal the film with his steely blue eyes and amazing follicle art work? For giving us Seneca Crane, Mr. Ross, the pogonophiles of the world thank you. However what we face now is a three-fold issue: who will take over Catching Fire from Ross, does the next director need to keep the same aesthetic of the first film, and is there a responsibility to appoint a female director to take on the challenge of continuing the story of one of the strongest heroines in 21st Century literature?

Besides being a total badass with a bow and arrow, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) also begins to explore her romantic feelings more deeply in the novelization of Catching Fire. The book spends just as much time discussing her reluctant involvement with the “75th Annual Hunger Games” as it does her love life. This is where Collins beings to reveal a true love triangle, a bit of a plot point that continues to generate just as much fan attention as the book’s later action sequences.

While a woman could relate and interrupt the romantic love story in a way a man’s eye may not be able to see, there is just as much likelihood that she won’t be able to do it any better than a man. Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin), for example, could take charge with a stunning visual and well-considered action choreography, yet leave fans feeling just as cold about Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) interest in Katniss as Ross.

It isn’t the most important aspect of the Dystopian story, but it is an element missing in the first film.

During the weeks following the March release of The Hunger Games tongues have been wagging wildly that if Ross refused to return for the sequel that it was in the best interest of the franchise to hire a woman director. Initially I thought this a genius proposition. Who else but a woman could understand how to remove a heroine from the male gaze and allow her to shine the way Katniss deserves? She is a character who balances between lovable and infuriating, embodying multiple facets of a well-rounded person.

But then I wondered: “Why a woman?” Should the studio hire a woman just to fulfill a quota, or are there true reasons why a woman could do it any better than a man? I’m not really sure there are.

This isn’t to say I want to betray my sex or my emphatic support of all things women filmmaking, but I genuinely wonder if someone like Ramsey, Jennifer Yuh (Kung Fu Panda 2), Mary Harron (American Psycho), or Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) could handle the material any better than a director of their opposite sex. Hollywood.com’s Matt Patches joined Salon.com in presenting these and other woman directors, but their arguments seemed to suggest it was more about saying “it’s about time” over suggesting these directors could actually do better.

Among the suggested women, not many of them have directed blockbuster films, but that’s most likely because none of them had been offered the chance. The four women above have proven track records for producing films that pair complex character development with intense action and but only two have directed films that went on to make Scrooge McDuck levels of money. Their films are wonderful, stunning, and engaging but just because they are women could they amp up the love story in the same way as Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice), or beautifully juxtapose the bleak look of each district with the ornate Capitol of Panem as, say, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men)?

Lionsgate could hire a woman just to do it, but most likely they won’t, believing the series could only flourish under the watchful eye of a man. I would much rather see someone who could bring their own aesthetic and care for Katniss rather than celebrate the decision to hire a woman just to sate critics and feminists, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see a woman do it.

I just believe art is genderless; it’s the people with the money who see gender. And they are the ones who make the decisions.

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