Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Bella Swan (Twilight), Tris Prior (Divergent), and other strong and resourceful characters have decimated the fairytale archetype of the helpless girl waiting to be rescued. Giving as good as they get, these young women access reserves of aggression to liberate themselves—but who truly benefits? By meeting violence with violence, are women turning victimization into entertainment? Are they playing out old fantasies, institutionalizing their abuse?
In Hunting Girls, Kelly Oliver examines popular culture’s fixation on representing young women as predators and prey and the implication that violence—especially sexual violence—is an inevitable, perhaps even celebrated, part of a woman’s maturity. In such films as Kick-Ass (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Maleficent (2014), power, control, and danger drive the story, but traditional relationships of care constrict the narrative, and even the protagonist’s love interest adds to her suffering. To underscore the threat of these depictions, Oliver locates their manifestation of violent sex in the growing prevalence of campus rape, the valorization of woman’s lack of consent, and the new urgency to implement affirmative consent apps and policies.