By now you've probably seen the final installment of the Hunger Games saga, and read all of the articles recounting each and every difference between the film and the book. If you haven't you'll want to bookmark this for later as there are oodles of spoilers ahead.
The noteworthy differences in the film for me are few: Katniss doesn't kill a citizen in a Capitol apartment, there is ambiguity about Gale's responsibility for the bomb that kills Prim and Katniss receives a heart-wrenching final letter from games-maker Plutarch, which was written into the script after the untimely death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. While the movie mostly clung to the text, a small part of me hoped the film might go off book entirely for the final scene, and give us all the feminist conclusion to the Hunger Games saga that we deserve, one which I will share with you here.
Before I offer you my fanfic ending, I should say that the same weekend I saw Mockingjay Part II, I spent hours binging on Marvel's new female-driven offering Jessica Jones, which paints a world driven by fierce women. The show doesn't just pass the Bechdel test, it fails a reverse Bechdel (Translation: at no point are there two named men in conversation about anything other than a woman). So my disappointment in the Hunger Games' ending may have been a result of being amped up on the Marvel series' feminism fumes, but even if so, I wasn't the only dejected audience member. The rest of the theater did not erupt into applause at the end of the film, instead stumbling out meekly, tripping over half-eaten bags of popcorn, looking dazed rather than triumphant. Why, in a movie franchise that had me clenching my fists, holding my hands to my heart, and flat out weeping over the years, was there not a more emotional climax to the final scene?
Even in the book, which never lets you forget that Katniss is plagued by PTSD, I felt that the epilogue was too neat and too pink a bow for what had otherwise been a complicated story. In the book, I could accept the idea of Katniss ending up with Peeta, but the movie goes even further, promising any young would-be Katnisses that on the other side of the war against the patriarchy is a future of marital bliss and a certain quality of golden light previously reserved for Renaissance canvases.
In a film series where I can count the number of times our hero smiles on one hand, this ending feels less like a triumph of happiness for Katniss than the fate President Snow menacingly promised her. Even wardrobe betrayed our hero: my Katniss wears a hunting jacket, not a ditsy floral dress, even if she is from Appalachia. What was intended as a fast-forward scene felt more like rewinding from the dystopic Pan Em, to a pastoral fairyland of yore, where everyone lives happily ever after.
One of the strengths of the series is that is shies away from these sorts of easy answers. They resisted the temptation to make the engine of this story a Twilight-like love triangle. Sure, the triangle is there, but it is not the reason for the story. Not even killing the villain dictator was going to solve the real problem. The subversion of familiar endings is part of what makes this movie feminist.
If that is too theoretical, consider for a moment the real world implications of the films: these movies gave Jennifer Lawrence the platform and earning potential to really throw her weight into the fight for equal pay for women in Hollywood. When Katniss raises her final arrow and takes aim at Coin, I cannot help but see J-Law locking her sights on wage parity. To be clear there is a long road ahead, but think for a moment about how this role has contributed to the conversation in ways we couldn't have predicted. It seems to me that a story with such an unexpected real world ending should have a less predictable finale. This ending, presumably fashioned to satiate fans, is indicative of Hollywood's failure to understand what a happy ending for a woman looks like.
Look, I'm not suggesting that she shave her head and run off with Cressida; though, for the record, I would read that fan fiction. What i'm suggesting instead is this:
The scene opens on Katniss running through the forrest in her hunting jacket, bow in hand as we've seen her so many times before, but this time she's not running away, she's running towards the sound of crying. She reaches an opening and we see she is back in the wilds of district 12.
Katniss sees her two young children, a boy of 6 and a girl of about 9 standing in the middle of the clearing, the younger one crying. Katniss slows her pace as she recognizes the children are not in any immediate danger. As she approaches she sees that the older girl, with blonde hair like her father, braided into a familiar plait, has shot a quail with her bow, and the sight of the lifeless bird has brought her younger brother to tears. Katniss puts a proud hand on her daughter's shoulder, knowing how happy Peeta will be to cook up her first kill once they return home.
She kneels by her son and wipes a tear from his eye, thankful that this is his first brush with death, and sings him the same lullaby that she sang for Rue…
"deep in the meadow, under the willow … here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true, here is the place where i love you"
We see a smile come over the boy's face, which spreads to Katniss, and as we zoom out a mockingjay flies through the frame, repeating the last four notes of her song. This new song echoes throughout the forest.
It may not be a perfect ending, but it's the ending I wanted for my favorite hero, and maybe that is the true feminist lesson: we all get to write our own stories.
Cara Rose DeFabio is a pop addicted, emoji fluent, transmedia artist, focusing on live events as an experience designer for Real Future.