Isabella was the number one most popular name for baby girls born in the US in 2011. Its popularity derives in no small part from Isabella (“Bella”) Swan, the heroine of the Twilight series, whose fifth and final movie will come out next year. From the books to the kitsch to the films, we’ve tolerated a surfeit of Bella-bilia for years, along with posters of the two hunks who head up Team Edward and Team Jacob.
Observers have agonized over the adoration of this Bella character, passive to an extraordinary extent (while she’s still human, anyway), who puts up with a stalker boyfriend (yeah, he’s also a vampire) and a boy who wants so desperately to be more than a friend that he cannot seem to leave her alone despite her lack of romantic interest. Her dad, the local cop, is oblivious to the very real dangers surrounding his daughter – her mom has remarried and conveniently moved to Florida. Dysfunctional, much?
Now someone’s nipping at Bella’s heels as the latest tween and teen admiration figure, a character who’s got more courage in her little finger than Bella on her best day, who can catch small animals to eat without needing vampire fangs.
Will the infant girl name of choice soon be Katniss?
The Hunger Games, the first book of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins — a trilogy hailed as “mesmerizing” – has been made into a film that will release on March 23rd. Whether the next two books in the series are made into movies depends on whether “Hunger Games” catches fire. I hope it does. Not just because it’s a great trilogy, but because I’d like young girls to be presented with a better role model than Bella. That’s Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss lives in a post-apocalyptic North America where a centralized government holds absolute power. Every year, each of the twelve districts in the country of Panem must send two children aged 12 to 18 – one female, one male – to enter the televised Hunger Games, a “Survivor”-style contest where death comes to all but one. Katniss volunteers herself as a replacement for her younger sister. As the Games’ contestants try to survive, making allies and enemies, avoiding traps and false promises, Katniss and Peeta (her district’s male entrant) manage to alter the rules and attract support where they least suspect it.
Katniss is a refreshing change from Bella. She doesn’t wait for events, she enters them. Bella’s vampire beau, Edward, saved her from a marauding truck. Peeta, the boy who claims to love Katniss, is just as stuck in the games as she is. No superpowers here. Just wits. Wits and a frenetic desire to live.
Yes, live. As a human, with all her pain, fear and hope. Contrast that to Bella, who wants to be morphed into a vampire in order to spend eternity with Edward, who would really rather she stay human. Excuse me? Is this the best Bella can do, hang around for eternity with the yummy Edward? Even Arwen the immortal elf did better than that, in Lord of the Rings.
So, yes, bring on Katniss, her bow and arrows, her love for her little sister (“Greater love hath no man…”), her fierce determination to retain her beating heart, her panting breath, and show the Capitol what courage is.
Perhaps by 2015, newborn infant girls will bear the name Katniss.