11:00 am EST, November 19, 2015

5 times Johanna Mason was the hero ‘The Hunger Games’ deserved

(But maybe not the one it needs right now…)

Johanna Mason doesn’t have ideals; she has goals. Katniss gets all the credit for the revolution, but we know that while the Girl on Fire was often a pawn in other people’s plans, another young woman was choosing to spark flames on her own.

Johanna Mason is a hero because she is willing to make choices. She makes difficult choices, and sometimes she makes the wrong choice, but either way, she doesn’t allow herself to be defined by the people who surround her. She is the one who chooses. When other people get scared, Johanna gets angry. But it’s this anger that let’s her push through, survive, and under the most horrific circumstances, find a reason to fight to be alive.

So here’s five times Johanna Mason was the unsung hero of the Hunger Games trilogy.

When she sized up the Mockingjay with an elevator strip tease.

“Isn’t my costume awful? My stylist’s the biggest idiot in the Capitol. Our tributes have been trees for forty years under her.”

Our initial introduction to Johanna is a brazen one. We were already well aware that the girl who won the Hunger Games by playing weak before slaughtering the remaining tributes with an axe was a sly one, but her elevator introduction only confirmed that Johanna Mason is so much more than what she seems. Her elevator strip down was both an amusing way to disarm Katniss, and a quick and easy way to find out firsthand what the girl everyone is risking their lives for is made of. Can Katniss handle being their call to arms?

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When she sparks the seeds of rebellion by reminding the Capitol citizens that their beloved Victors were all about to die.

Johanna Interview

“Make him pay for it, okay?”

The Victors put on quite the show during the interviews for the Quarter Quell, but Johanna manages to not only ignite a spark of fury at the Capitol betraying its bond to the Victors, she also begins a subtle call to arms, asking the Capitol citizens to seek change for this cruel situation. At this moment, she probably knows there’s nothing left to be done about the Quarter Quell — the games must go on — but she is slyly sowing seeds of doubt in the minds of the Capitol Citizens in a very polite, calm, and articulate manner. If President Snow could betray the Victors — Panem’s champions who played by the rules and won fair and square — what other betrayals might befall the Capitol’s citizens in the future? They think they are safe from the Capitol’s clutches… but the Victors thought that too.

When she shouted out blasphemies during the Hunger Games Quarter Quell like she didn’t give two flying f*cks the gamemakers could blow her up at any second with the push of a button.

Johanna Catching Fire arena

“Whole country in rebellion? Wouldn’t want anything like that!”

Johanna Mason has had enough playing nice, and with this little stunt, she makes it perfectly clear to the Capitol and to the world that she’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore, consequences be damned. She’s been a good little actress up until this point, wearing silly costumes and waving when she’s supposed to, but in the arena watching her friends fall apart around her, she lets the facade slide away. With the world’s eyes on them, she has the perfect podium, a chance to be heard, and she’s going to use it to make a statement, because even though she is technically in the most vulnerable position imaginable — her entire life is literally a piece in someone else’s game — she wants to make those monsters who put her here realize that the world knows the Capitol’s finally vulnerable, too.

When she risked her life to save the Mockingjay even though she thinks Katniss is a prissy, ‘brainless’ tool.

Johanna Catching Fire

“It’s everybody’s job to keep you alive.”
“Is that why you hate me?” I ask.
“Partly,” she admits. “Jealousy is certainly involved. I also think you’re a little hard to swallow. With your tacky romantic drama and your defender-of-the-helpless act. Only it isn’t an act, which makes you more unbearable. Please feel free to take this personally.”
“You should have been the Mockingjay. No one would’ve had to feed you lines,” I say.
“True. But no one likes me,” she tells me.
“They trusted you, though. To get me out,” I remind her.

Although they do eventually bond when they become roommates in Mockinjay, Johanna doesn’t particularly like Katniss all that much when they’re in an alliance together during the Quarter Quell. But Johanna Mason is the girl you want on your team to get things done. She risks her life time and again to save Katniss, because Johanna is fighting for a goal, and she knows that the revolution is better off with a rallying cry like the Mockingjay to get behind.

Johanna Mason might be a wild card when she’s on the prowl, but to her friends and to her comrades, she’s as dependable as they come. She was the one the rebels trusted to be strong, smart, and reliable enough to remove Katniss’ tracking chip, and make sure the Mockinjay got away to safety. Bitches get it done, they say, and Johanna Mason is queen.

When she fought to remain true to who she is, no matter what the Capitol did to her.

Johanna Capitol

“Are you going to miss a chance to let Snow see you dancing?”

The Capitol has destroyed every Victor’s life, but Johanna has always been determined that President Snow would not destroy her spirit. After winning the Hunger Games, she refused to become a pawn in the Capitol’s plans to prostitute her out, and ended up paying for her uncooperative nature with the deaths of everyone she loved. Still, she pushed through, determined to fight back instead of giving in. When she’s captured and tortured by the Capitol after the Quarter Quell, she doesn’t give up District 13’s secrets, and when she does make it out, she’s determined to continue fighting.

The Capitol has taken everything from Johanna, but she’s determined that it won’t away who she is. Even her dark humor is an attempt to keep herself intact and true to herself. When she proclaims that she and Peeta are “old friends” because they’re “very familiar with each other’s screams,” it unsettles everyone at the dinner table, but though Katniss finds it horrifying, it’s just Johanna reverting back to her cunning nature that finds amusement in unsettling others. “My head doctor says I’m not supposed to censor my thoughts. It’s part of my therapy,” she responds, almost with a wink, and we get a glimpse of the girl who thought it was funny to strip off her tree costume in an elevator full of people. The Capitol will not destroy Johanna because she refuses to be destroyed. And even when she feels like falling apart, she’ll get up and dance, if only out of spite and to prove to the world that she believes she is worth living for.

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