In Defense of Peeta Mellark Melanie Schmitz

It recently came to my attention, with the release of Lionsgate’s and Suzanne Collins’ Catching Fire, that certain people out there are not, in fact, rabid fans of The Hunger Games’ meek hero, Peeta Mellark. The woman in question was inquiring about my reaction to the latest installment of the film-trilogy and queried, “So, are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?” As someone who’s never read the books (Gasp! I know… sorry), I had never been posed that question before nor had I been confronted with that sort of hasty decision-making regarding ridiculously handsome fictional characters. I’m a big fan of the movies, however, so I figured I’d at least attempt an answer. “Neither,” I smiled diplomatically. “I’m Team Katniss.”

The look of incredulity on the woman’s face made me want to take it back. “Well… you have to choose a side,” she remarked, slightly confused, as if no one had ever answered the question in that form before. “You know…” I scrambled. “Because the stories are about Katniss… how she’s there to fight for Prim and her mother and her District and come back breathing… I don’t know if Suzanne meant for the stories to be about a ‘love triangle’… I’m sure she wanted the books and movies to be focused on more than that…”

There was a three second delay before my friend stepped in and said, “Yeah, but there is definitely a love triangle no matter how hard you deny it. So who are you for? Gale or Peeta?” The other woman glanced over at her quickly and said, grinning, “I’m ALL for Team Gale. He’s so hot.” After a brief survey, everyone else in the room seemed to be of the same opinion. A part of me thinks if they had been a few years younger, they all would have marched over and promptly scribbled “TEAM GALE 4EVAH!!!” on the walls of the nearest bathroom stall (although they’re right– total hottie).

I’d love to say I answered back with majestic tone and sentence structure so flawless that the angels wept and gold coins rained from the sky, but alas, this wasn’t meant to be. In the end I decided upon awkwardly changing the topic to fruit or barnyard animals or something because I definitely wasn’t ready to put up my dukes and do what I really wanted to do, which was to fight the good fight for Peeta Mellark.

I suppose, if I had actually vocalized it, I just might have said “Team Peeta”. I’m not sure when my brain made that decision for me or if I’ve just been slowly converted over the course of the two movies, but there’s the truth. Team Peeta Mellark. 100%.

I know, Gale is the “hot one”. Gale is wonderful and sweet and loving and would do anything to protect Katniss and her family. He allows himself to be captured and, quite literally, tied to the whipping post all in defense of a fellow citizen. He is heroic and wants to fight and join the ranks of the rising revolution. Gale is, in most ways, the hero that Gotham nee—uh… wrong movie. Sorry. But really, he’s the hero’s-hero of the District, despite never having been reaped for the Hunger Games.

Does that mean he’s right for Katniss, though? I don’t know. Honestly, I’m not sure if Katniss was sure for a long time. I think, when he asked her if she loved him enough to run away with him and start anew, she balked for just that reason.

It’s like when you start dating someone with whom the chemistry just isn’t right, but who is wonderful and adorable and sweet, and you want to fall for them because isn’t that what people are supposed to do? Fall in love? Choose the “nice guy”, the “good citizen”, the “golden boy”? “Perfection”, however, does not equal a perfect mate. On paper, Gale was the best choice for Katniss: he had an amazing work ethic, protective qualities, and most importantly, he was crazy in love. Unfortunately for him, Katniss was crazy about Prim. It was always about Prim, after all. That was “love” for Katniss. She would have done anything—kill, fight, die—for her Little Duck.

Enter Peeta Mellark. Peeta is so unassuming that you sometimes forget just how desperately in love he was with Katniss from the beginning. Maybe he didn’t know how deeply he had succumbed until the two were thrust together in the Arena, but it was always there, from the moment he threw her that blackened loaf of bread. Peeta’s love for Katniss isn’t orthodox in any way. Peeta loves Katniss for a plenitude of reasons, romance being only one facet.

Photo via Lionsgate Films/trailer cap

Photo via Lionsgate Films

Sure, Peeta has all the same types of qualities as Gale, just not as magnified. Where Gale is fierce and defends others by taking the whip, Peeta does the same by playing a clever game of Keep-Away and leading Katniss’ enemies from her, all the while knowing full well that they could turn on him at any moment. Where Gale is passionate and urges Katniss to run away with him, Peeta instead offers himself up (multiple times), so that she would return to her family and, more importantly, Prim. As far as the antiquated argument that Gale is “manlier” or that Peeta is weak or shows little evidence of masculinity (aside from throwing that huge spiked bowling ball thing—oh, baby…), to hell with that. Peeta is strong in non-traditional ways, his disdain for having to prove his manhood being first and foremost. He understands that being strong isn’t just physical. He is talented and uses those talents to his advantage. He has a calming presence and listens when most people would try to talk big.

Peeta knows why Katniss is in the arena. He knows her love for her sister surpasses any childhood crush or unrequited adoration and he respects that, rather than testing Katniss’ ability to emotionally stretch herself thin. When he reveals the pendant containing photos of Katniss’ family, he proves that, even in his last request to Effie, his only concern was in reminding Katniss why she needed to survive. Hell, he even includes a photo of his “rival” Gale. Talk about classy.

Photo via Lionsgate Films

Photo via Lionsgate Films

As beautiful and kind as Gale may be, Peeta Mellark is what Katniss needs: someone who understands her heart and motives and respects them, no matter how hard it is for him to put his own feelings aside. He doesn’t try to compete with Gale or put him down or prove to Katniss why he is the better choice. He is kind and has a deep understanding of the complexities of life. He stands next to Katniss in that arena as an equal partner and a friend first and foremost, a hopeless romantic second. Peeta Mellark isn’t perfect but that’s why he’s right for Katniss; together they help one other navigate the perilous ways and remind one another that there is still good in the world.

So yeah…Team Peeta, I guess.

Whose team are you on? Team Gale? Team Peeta? Or hopefully… Team Katniss?

Photos courtesy of Lionsgate films. Featured image photo credit: Murray Close

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  1. i will say this – Josh Hutcherson has been able to make Peeta infinitely more compelling than i ever felt he was in the books. maybe i just didn’t understand the character on paper and needed an actor to illuminate it for me on screen. in the end i’m on neither team. i’m not just on Team Katniss, rooting for her from the outside, i wanna be on Katniss’s team, if you’ll catch the subtle difference.

  2. I am totally team Peeta!

  3. I have to say I’m team Katniss all the way and the fact that she’s keeps feeling pressured into a choice she doesn’t want or need to make is so sad. I’ve read the books, quite a while ago now but I’m learning to love the films just as much. As far as Gale and Peeta are concerned, I have to disagree a little. While Gale does appear to love Katniss, she isn’t his top priority, when he had the chance to save her he wouldn’t he wanted to be the big hero, to be HER hero was simply not enough for him. Peeta has always been all about Katniss, whether his love has been returned or not everything has been about her, saving her, making her happy, protecting her and those she loves so if I was on the team of one of the boys, it’d be Peeta.

  4. Peeta. Who wouldn’t love someone so selfless and kind?

  5. Team Katniss 1000%!!! :)

  6. Nope, nope. Everyone loves Gale in the movies because Peeta “appears” useless. But in the books, Peeta is actually the smart one who thinks through things and is the charming one while Katniss is stubborn and not as charming.

    In addition, if you read the books, you realize that Peeta, while he is jealous and angry at first, accepts Katniss’ choices and basically lets her choose. Gale on the other hand, (it’s not shown in the movies yet), but he’s always super pissed off at her.

    Spoiler alert:
    When Peeta returns from being tortured, Gale gets mad at Katniss for spending so much time with Peeta. If Gale actually cared so much about Katniss and wasn’t so possessive, he’d understand that PEETA IS HER FRIEND and she HAS to be with him. Peeta didn’t get pissed off at Katniss when she spent time with Gale after he got whipped.

    Ultra ULTRA SPOILER ALERT:
    In the last book, Gale becomes blinded by ideology and the point is that, he is so blinded, that he becomes just as cruel as the government was, which is why WHAT he did backfires and hurts people. Even Suzanne collins straight up wrote that Katniss couldn’t look at Gale anymore because of what he did. She basically says Gale represents anger and passion but Peeta represents rebirth and healing which is what Katniss needs.

  7. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by a) not reading the books and b) posting about which team you are for, why, and defending Peeta. The books reveal so much more about their character and I really feel that your stance would be better supported if you had read the books.

    So, go read the books.

  8. i love this.

  9. I am totally team Katniss.

  10. First of all amen, the amount of important subjects and issues that are tackled (governement control (through fear, which in our society is a very real thing), media control and manipulation, the dangers of being swept up in an ideology, the dangers of our realityshow obsessed culture and how it may numb us into spectating actual murder and violence for our viewing pleasure) in this book to me are much more relevant than a love triangle. But I guess it’s what sells.

    SPOILERS from here on for anyone who hasn’t read the books (please do, they give a much better insight in the characters IMHO, although the 2nd movie was mostly spot on :-) )! AGAIN SPOILERS from here on out (nothing too specific but still..)

    The emphasis of the movies hasn’t been on this yet, but to me Gale is not so much a hero but more someone who’s blinded by ideology and will do literally anything to see that ideal come to realization (not realizing that what he initially fought for her has been as corrupted as what he was fighting against). Which considering what he and his fellow district people have been through all those years isn’t surprising. I think his heart initially is in the right place but he’s also angry and bitter (again rightly so). It results in a fierce determination, a blind believe in an ideology and ultimately disaster (said disaster isn’t even why he’s no hero to me and why he isn’t the right choice, but it does symbolize the reasons why he isn’t to me).

    See Katniss is also idealistic but all she wants is peace and for her family, and people in general, to live without the dangers of a regime. She’s idealistic but without subscribing to a specific ideology whether it’s Snow’s or Coine’s. She’s more of a listen to your gut and march to the beat of your own drum kinda gal.

    Looking at the entire series Peeta is my favorite character. He’s got this gentle, loving nature. I mean he can be a total badass like the rest but he’s much more level headed and he acts primarily out of love (not just for Katniss but love, compassion, mercy for his fellow people).

    My point is while Peeta acts from love, Gale acts from ideology and a bitterness and anger. I personally feel Peeta is the best choice for her, he balances her out and inspires her to be a more realized version of herself (I don’t wanna say better, because she’s fine and kick-ass enough on her own but he has a very positive influence over her, he offers her hope, peace and love). Add this to all the sacrifices he’s made for her, every act of protection, all the suffering he went through to keep her safe. I mean his love is truly unconditional. So yes, team Peeta all the way.

  11. Thanks for all of your insightful comments and awesome thoughts! Happy Giggling. :)

  12. Peeta. Always.

  13. it’s frustrating when people say that peeta “isn’t strong” like gale. they confuse strength with capability of violence. peeta is both physically and emotionally strong, and an excellent male character for people to take after.

  14. Team Boy with the Bread ALL the WAY!

    His love for her is unconditional and steadfast. He’s perfect for her.

  15. I like your response of “Team Katniss”. Yes, the Hunger Games has a love story and Peeta makes my heart go all a pitter patter. However, the overarching story is so much more than just Team whoever. Katniss doesn’t ever lose sight of her goal, to protect her family, even with two hotties declaring their love for her, and I respect that (even if my inner hopeless romantic was VERY frustrated). A good heroine, who won’t drop everything for love, is hard to find but I think Suzanne Collins wrote a very strong and unique one in Katniss Everdeen.

    But, come on, Team Peeta all the way.

    …Also READ THOSE BOOKS!

  16. I definitely prefer Peeta. For one thing, I think Josh Hitcherson is HOTTER than Liam Hemsworth…

    But Gale is generally so annoying, with his inability to make up his mind about anything, and the further inability to do anything about it! And Gale’s evil act at the end of the book (shhhh) causes me to dislike his even more intensely…

    Peeta, on the other hand, is a sweet and good natured boy, and the ability to bake cakes is obviously an added bonus…

  17. Exactly! Team Peeta. Think Katniss acknowledges in the last book her and Gale are too similar and have too much anger. She needs someone to balance her out. Plus after the weapons/prim she was never going to be with Gale.