thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Re-visiting “The Hunger Games:” Beauty, Mourning, and Resistance

In girl culture, Hunger Games, violence on September 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

Phoebe B.

Much has already been written on GLG about The Hunger Games movie. (For example: here, here, here, here, and here. Also, here.) But re-watching The Hunger Games, I began thinking about how the film connects mourning, beauty, and resistance. I was particularly struck by the care both Katniss and the camera take in the scene of Rue’s death and subsequent funeral, which comes amidst the violence, fear, and speed with which the games happen. The close-ups of both Rue and Katniss’ faces showcase the tragedy of Rue’s death. And the mourning, which follows, creates space within the film to see the horrifying and devastating consequences of the games.

Up until the moment Rue is killed by the Careers, everything in the games is fast and fraught with anxiety, from the fireballs and crashing trees that lead Katniss directly into the path of the Careers to the moment she releases the tracker jackers onto her pursuers. But when Rue suffers a devastating death, everything slows down. The series of close-ups that alternate between Rue and Katniss let us in and move us from merely being objective viewers, like those in the Capitol, to caring participants. The silence that surrounds them further emphasizes the discomfort and sadness, as it suggests the very real consequences of these violently constructed games.

The care Katniss takes in arranging Rue’s funeral and the odd space given to her to mourn by the gamekeepers (potentially also entranced by her and Rue’s narrative) feels out of place amidst the violence of the games. The sequence is beautiful: the camera lingers on the small delicate white flowers that cover Rue’s body, cuts to different angles of Rue lying in the forest, and then stays for a while with them. In this moment, the speed and terror of the games is trumped by Katniss’s grief over Rue and her enacting a ritual of mourning. It is an act that defies the logic and narrative of the games in that it relays a human connection and relationship forged amidst terror. Their alliance, unlike the Careers or even Katniss’ romance with Peeta, is a real rather than strategic and so unexpected.

This small ritual of gathering flowers and laying Rue to rest, amidst games that refuse her humanity, are the first seeds of resistance. The effect of the edits and close-ups puts us as viewers in the forest with the tributes and so both in harms way and as participants in Katniss’ mourning of Rue. Connected by a mournful soundtrack that accompanies Katniss’ singing, this sequence incites revolution in District 11, Rue’s home district. As the whole district stands and watches Katniss’ funeral for Rue, so too does the district attend the funeral through the large screen. Given space to mourn and reflect, the District then erupts in protest. And like District 11 so are we perhaps meant to revolt (although not really because then we wouldn’t finish the film). In connecting Rue’s death, Katniss’ mourning, and District 11’s revolt, the sequence relays the complicity of those that merely watch in the death of this young girl.

Katniss’ mourning here becomes an active brand of resistance to the games and the Capitol more generally. She understands Rue’s death as tragedy rather than an inevitable part of the games or as some kind of entertainment. The beauty of the sequence and the sadness it conveys in the senseless death of this young and awesome girl allows a space for reflection on the very system that demanded her death. And that space of mourning and for thought, the film suggests, is the spark for revolution and thus perhaps poses the greatest danger to the Capitol’s violent order.

  1. Oooh, good post, Phoebe! I wanna talk more about this scene 🙂 As a product of control and separation, the Games are just one piece in a machine that fosters an “us vs. them” mentality between and among districts. But when Katniss, a resident of 12, mourns 11’s Rue, she’s making an implicit argument for Rue’s humanness & an attendant refusal to participate in dehumanizing her. That Rue is one of the youngest tributes further underscores the senselessness of her death; the reader/viewer just cannot feel anything but horror and sorrow. In recognizing Rue (and by extension the entirety of district 11) as a full human being who is deserving of funereal rites, Katniss effectively crosses lines that the Capitol works constantly to keep as rigid and impermeable as possible. Katniss & Rue’s alliance during the Games, then, is a kind of microcosm of affinity-based coalition building, the beauty and sadness of which 11’s revolt and the subsequent larger rebellion continue to reflect throughout the series…

    • Thanks, Mary!!! And yes and yes! This scene is so compelling and I definitely agree with you that Katniss’ mourning forces a recognition of Rue’s humanity but also I think of Katniss’ own humanity. Both Rue’s compassion for Katniss (when she helps her dump the tracker jackers on the Carreers) and Katniss’ compassion for Rue and mourning of her become the basis for an affinity based coalition (like you say! and i like that phrasing too) that denies, rejects, or maybe even transcends the Capitol imposed narrative and structure …

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