Alex Witt   |  December 01, 2013

Does 'Catching Fire' promote gender equality?

Alex Witt talks to reporter Ashley Fetters about gender equality in the new Hunger Games movie and throughout Hollywood.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> well, "catching fire" is galvanizing the public on two fronts. for the second weekend in a row, it is dominating the box office , racking up more than $250 million so far. now a new article published in "the atlantic" highlights how the movie reverses gender roles to shatter stereotypes. joining me now, the associate editor with "the atlantic." ashley wrote this article. thank yous for joining us. here's what you say. the fact that the central pairing in the box office record-shattering hunger games film franchise features a woman who's casually and unapologetically taller than her designated man is equal parts transgressive and reassuring. you also called this a small measured step forward. explain what you think.

>> to understand just how transgressive it is for katniss to be taller than peta, you have to understand just how rare it is both on film and in real life for a woman to be taller than her male relationship partner. in real life , there's a study that shows just how rare this is. in 1980 , some researchers looked at 720 real-life married couples and found that only one in those 720 couples had a woman who was taller than the man. so then they looked at how often it would occur statistically if you took those 720 men and 720 women and paired them up randomly. you'd find 1 in every 29 couples had a male shorter than the female. so there's some anxiety, you can see, in the selection process of, you know, men and women being anxious about women being taller than men, right.

>> well, this one woman i read in the article, she says she feels like an amazon if she's next to a man --

>> that's right. there really is anxiety among women about being taller than their relationship partners. another study in 2008 found that when almost 400 undergrads were interviewed, almost a quarter of men said they would be okay being shorter than their female relationship partner, but only 4% of women said they would be okay being taller. so there is this very socialized, very pervasive norm that women should not be bigger or should not be taller than their male relationship partners.

>> how much do you think hollywood is aware of this? are they trying to change it, or is it just something that's coming out of the hunger games?

>> it's something that i've noticed in the hunger games that i don't notice in other films where an actor is shorter than the actress cast next to him. sometimes you'll see films where tom cruise is, you know, mysteriously taller than his co-star, when really in real life he's a lot shorter. like ethan hawke , like in "gattica" who is taller than uma thurman . even in the hunger games, you see there are a couple scene where is mysteriously peta is the same height as katniss. it's not a consistent thing all the time.

>> it is hollywood . they do have an ability to change things. i mean, it's hollywood . they're creating it. anyway, it is a great article, ashley. i really enjoyed reading it. thank you so much for your time.