Disclaimer: If you haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy then you should know this post is full of spoilers!
There seems to be a lot of Peeta-bashing around. He’s been called weak, boring, and useless—stuff that is neither true nor fair.
Peeta Mellark is a wonderful character all-around. Here’s why:
He’s clever and silver-tongued.
He knows how to play the audience. He came up with the idea that he and Katniss should be presented as lovers, which played a big role in how they became victors. His on-air admission of his love made her an object of desire, someone the viewers, and more importantly, the sponsors, could truly root for. Then, in Catching Fire, he presented Katniss as pregnant to gain sympathy from the Capitol audience.Katniss herself admits this: Peeta’s greatest power is his ability to manipulate people’s emotions using his words. When the Capitol had Peeta and broadcast his anti-war propaganda, the rebellion was worried because they know how powerful Peeta can be, how his words can move people.
He’s strong and brave.
Never mind his physical strength enabling him to throw a hundred pounds easily. He’s strong because he faces his problems even if the odds are against him. Got chosen as a tribute? Train like crazy even if he doesn’t have a chance at being victor. The girl he loves doesn’t love him back? Save her life anyway. Useless to the rebellion after tracker jackers made your mind all loopy? Ask to be separated so you can at least serve as a distraction to the Capitol’s forces.
He’s also courageous. Is there an instance where he refused to do what he felt was right because he was afraid of the consequences? Um, no. He teamed up with the Careers even though it was dangerous, just to save Katniss. He alerted District 13 about the impending air attack even though he knows he’ll get punished for it by the Capitol. He’s a BAMF is what I’m sayin’.
Slight digression: I think a big reason why people say he’s weak is because he’s a man. If he were a woman, people wouldn’t be scrutinizing this so much, but since Katniss—a girl—is the savior here, he’s labeled useless. Apparently, being rescued by a woman makes a character weak.
He’s warm, compassionate, and has a way with people.
He gave Katniss bread when he saw she was starving. In the sewers with the other rebels, he was the only one who made Pollux feel better about being trapped there for years. Hell, he managed to break through Katniss’ emotional guard and made her happy again. And it was he who broke through Haymitch’s alcohol-induced haze and won him over. Not even Gale could hate him—that how good a guy Peeta is.
Even when he’s in pain, he manages to joke around. Haymitch says he has a natural, “self-deprecating sense of humor”. So how is he boring? Just because he’s not as emotionally damaged as Katniss or as fiery as Gale? A congenial personality can be more winning than one full of anger.
His emotions run the gamut.
Okay, sorry, Gale fans, but I think Peeta is far more complex. Throughout the series, he’s shown under several conditions and with a variety of emotions: hurt, angry, confused, happy, hopeless, sad, you name it.
On the other hand, I can’t remember Gale not being angry/angsty. You might say that he suffered more than Peeta and his rage is justified, but it doesn’t excuse his lack of other emotions that would make him an equally complex character.
He has principles.
At the very start he wanted to be more than a piece in the Games. That was him fighting back in his own way, which is more than what Katniss ever thought of before being the face of the rebellion. Then, when he painted Rue, it was to hold the Capitol accountable for her death, if only for a few minutes. Who says he doesn’t have fire?
He’s selfless to a fault.
Reading THG made me want to shake Peeta and say, “Stop this madness! You’re risking everything for a girl who doesn’t even love you!” It wouldn’t have done any good, though; he’s steadfastly unselfish. Examples?
He teamed up with the Careers to make sure Katniss was safe—his only goal in his first Hunger Games was not to win, but to protect Katniss.
When the two-victor rule got revoked, Katniss immediately pointed her arrow at him but was ashamed to find that he wasn’t putting up any fight at all—he wanted her to kill him so she could go home.
He volunteered to be in the arena in the Quarter Quell so he could keep trying to protect her. In the arena, he even let Katniss know that she could have a life with Gale. He let her know that she shouldn’t have second thoughts about letting him make this ultimate sacrifice for her, because he loves her so very much that all he wants is for her to be healthy and happy.
He is “the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on no matter how bad our losses.”
That’s a direct quote from Mockingjay, after which there really is nothing left to say. Peeta isn’t fueled by rage and hatred, righteous as it may be. Instead, he is naturally gentle and kind, recognizing that violence begets more violence.
When President Coin suggested another Hunger Games for the Capitol citizens’ children, Peeta put his foot down forcefully. He wanted something other than revenge: an end to the cycle of bloodshed that wracked his country for decades. In the end, it is Peeta, not Katniss, who remembers that the war was fought so that future generations would not have to endure the same suffering and destruction as they have.
So when you go, “Peeta Mellark is boring. Useless. Weak, even. Real or not real?”, I’d have to emphatically say, “Not real.”
Note: However impassioned my defense of Peeta is, I readily and with a heavy heart concede that Movie Peeta is very bland as compared to Book Peeta. Hopefully, Catching Fire the movie will remedy this.