Rue

Rue and a Sacrificed Childhood

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Rue is a sacrificial character. She is arguably one of the most important characters in the text, in the movie, in the culture that has risen from the narrative.

As family: Rue connects Katniss to her sister. Too young to be subjected to the horror of The Games. It is Rue who shows us the mothering instincts in Katniss, her ability to care, a break from a selfish need to simply survive, but a sentimental bond with Rue to keep the child safe. Because Katniss loves her, we love her too. Katniss’ connection and appreciation of Rue is explained, “..I want her. Because she’s a survivor, and I trust her, and why not admit it? She reminds me of Prim” (Collins, 201).

As saviour: Rue saves Katniss, more than once. First, against the career pack about to kill her, pointing out the tracker jackers. Next, soothing the wounds Katniss endures because of her own inability to outrun the wasp-like creatures she unleashes. Their bond is reflected in the feelings and emotion Katniss displays upon the death of the beloved Rue. Not only does this grant her solidarity after the games from neighbouring districts, but from Thresh, who gives Katniss a by in respect for the great kindness she showed his district-mate, Rue. Rue dies so Katniss can continue to fight. She perishes so others may gain freedom and a voice and so others’ lives can improve and Katniss has the sense to create a visual that will stir the pain in others to realize that what is happening is real and tragic and must be stopped, “I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do of force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I” (Collins, 236-7).

As innocent: Rue is as young as you can be to be called upon as Tribute, just as Prim would have been. We ache for her, we would fight for her, as other sympathetics would. She works with Katniss to create the sounds and the symbol of the rebellion. Her sacrifice takes her life, saving her innocence from a world unfit for her. Her legacy lives on, carried on the shoulders of Katniss, “Good and safe, I say as I pass under its branch. We don’t have to worry about her now. Good and safe” (Collins, 238).

As watcher: “How long has she been here? The whole time probably. Still and unobserved as the action unfolded beneath her” (Collins, 184). As the tributes negotiate their survival, others watch from their television broadcast positions. As the career pack watches Katniss, she watches them. Above the gaze of it all is Rue,  undetected and waiting to see.

…………………………………….

Rue represents the innocence and the value of all the children within The Hunger Games. Her appearance and characteristics magnify the meaning behind the children and their role in the society of the story. It doesn’t matter who the children are, they are there for the entertainment of the Capitol.

Katniss personifies the adult – providing food for her family, attempts to create some function in her mother, the protection of her younger sister. Her childhood was taken long before Prim’s name was drawn at the reaping.

The journey of the children in the districts is not about a coming of age, but rather, growing up comes with great possibility of fear, death and suffering. The Games turns children into assets, into commodities. Adults are forced to offer their children as sacrifice to the Capitol, to the Games, in payment for an uprising that they will continue to be oppressed, and starved and suffered for. The system in which the districts exist is corrupted, perverse and repeated each year at The Reaping. Survival and death are linked (Ming Tan). The loss of humanity that is stripped from the children is regained as Katniss decorates Rue’s body to send her away with dignity and love.

Katniss - clear, in focus, a disconnect from any identity she may have had, she is now female tribute for District 12.

Katniss – clear, in focus, a disconnect from any identity she may have had, she is now female tribute for District 12.

Children cannot be seen as adored or cherished in the districts as they are tools used for the survival of the family. Katniss sees this shift in her own district during the Reaping:

“To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim…So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest part of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says they do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong” (Collins, 23-24).

It is in this moment that the adults are shocked, in this moment they are aware of the complacent manner they have been watching their children as they are chosen to die.

Then something unexpected happens. At least, I don’t expect it because I don’t think of District 12 as a place that cares about me. But a shift has occurred since I stepped up to take Prim’s place, and now it seems I have become someone precious. At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love” (Collins, 24).

After her volunteering, Katniss belongs to the people. She belongs to her district now, as their female representative in the Games. They are an extension of the district, their chance of luck of survival, their chance for a victor. As she prepares for the Games, she is presented as a commodity – one that gains the attention and curiosity of the people of the Capitol – those who objectify and see her as a means to their entertainment. To Haymitch, she is a thing that he may be able to mould into a win. To the other tributes, she is a thing that must be destroyed. Upon winning, she is a symbol of hope, of change, of rebellion. To president Snow she is a problem that must be contained, an entity that he would like destroyed.

She becomes an item to be consumed (Ming Tan). Consumer culture is projected back in visual form.

Those citizens of the Capitol have lost the ability to separate what is real from what is not. This is reflected in their appearances, their modifications, their thrill in the deaths and spectacles made of children. They are artificial. There is a disconnect and misunderstanding of humanity between those of the districts and those of the Capitol. Thus, it becomes impossible to connect with the innocence of childhood lost for the sake of entertainment.

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As the audience connects with Rue, they connect with the children in the arena. Their losses are universal and painful and these connections help to restore humanity to the districts. It is because of the gestures of Katniss that this is allowed to prosper. As much as she lost before the games, and considering her appearance in the Games is a result of a volunteering to save a sister of certain death, she is playing on a different level with a different perspective from the other Tributes. It is difficult to see some of the other district’s children as innocent or pure. Cato and Clove, who are ‘career’ tributes, come from districts that have embraced the value of their children and train them to win, even though two winners are not possible. District 2 accepts the loss that will come as manageable with a win that seems more likely. When the connection is made, however, that they are all children. They all bear the weight of the survival of their own districts upon their own backs, their journeys within the arena are horrific, tragic and unfair. The terror that they face, when compared to the elation of the Capitol creates a meaningful distaste for those who are unable to recognize what is real, compared to those forced to live it each day. This serves to bond us with all the tributes, to fear for their loss and to hope, right along with those left to survive in the districts, that order can be restored, children will cease being consumed and they will once again be protected, precious and pure.

 

SOURCES USED IN POST:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, New York. 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02352-8

Ming Tan, Susan Shau. “Burn with us: Sacrificing Childhood in The Hunger Games.” The Lion and the Unicorn 37.1 (2013): 54-73

They are who they represent

 

- Greek Aphorism think ancient Greece....Gladiators...Tributes...Hunger Games

– Greek Aphorism
think ancient Greece….Gladiators…Tributes…Hunger Games

It is youthful actors who are the visual and characteristic embodiments of the characters that Suzanne Collins brights to life in the pages of her Hunger Games Trilogy. These actors make the decision to bring the characteristics to the screen, to immortalize the story by way of film, to give a piece of themselves, moments of their lives and take on the lasting effects forever. It is the problem that comes from an inability of those watching, those who have a stake in the narrative, who derive meaning from Collins’ words, who live and breathe and embrace those characters. The relationships that are formed are not real. The people who portray the characters are real, and they give up themselves to become that which is not true, and for some, the results last throughout their entire, lives, some their entire careers.

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Jennifer Lawrence / Katniss Everdeen. As an actor with critical acclaim for Winter’s Bone before being cast in The Hunger Games was entitled to public recognition before filming began. Now, she is Katniss. Even though she has won awards for other roles, in the age group that often rules the box office, she is the girl on fire. Did she realize what would happen before she became her character? She could have watched the same thing happen to Kristen Stewart as she became Bella Swan. Walking down the street, instead of being recognized as who she really is, she can be called by a name of a fictional character. We blur the lines between what is real and what is not. Katniss Everdeen is not a real person. Jennifer Lawrence is. There is hope, in time that she will be seen as the person she is, not the person she played in one of the largest grossing franchise films and novels in history.

1266_6164_1Sht_Peeta_ab01_gryJosh Hutcherson / Peeta Mellark. Although a successful child actor, it wasn’t until landing this role that mass public recognition occurred. And from now, until most likely years following the release and judgement of the final Hunger Games movie, he will hear the name “Peeta” shouted or whispered in his presence. Will he mind embodying the character that plays a part in saving Katniss from others, saves Katniss from herself, keeps her safe for us and for himself? Perhaps not. The role has opened more doors and provided more roles and caused more notice.

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Amandla Stenberg / Rue. Besides one other small part in a smaller movie, Stenberg’s first major appearance on film is as Rue, the doomed female tribute who aids Katniss and is sacrificed in song and flowers in the area. Not only does this child appear for mass consumption in this film, she was at the centre of racial backlash because of what she looks like and the decisions of casting directors. She will forever be Rue, at least in this piece. But she is not Rue at all. For Rue is not real, but Stenberg will carry the character and all the weight that comes with her forever.

The depiction of her likeness is also interesting to note. In comparison with the other characters whose likenesses are shown on the movie posters, Rue is thoughtful, her gaze downcast. Others are looking forward, standing ready. Rue is gaining our sympathy before we watch her perish. She is connecting to our sentimentality before the movie begins. She is beautiful and thoughtful and wise – and this is an actor who was hired to characterize her, to portray her, to be our visual representation. And for that, Amandla and Rue will forever be one. But who will we see as more real?

 

This blurring of identities comes at a higher price for the youth of the blockbusters. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) and Donald Sutherland (President Snow) are less likely to be called by the names of those who they represent on the screen. They are not the characters who the audience is meant to build lasting connections with. They have bodies of work that demonstrate their range. We have seen them before in different roles at different times. This is not their first time at or in the show. There are reasons that big franchises will make the choice to cast unknowns into the roles that will change the trajectory of their careers and forever imprint on their identity. We embrace them as the characters we have imagined and connected with and wish to connect with further. We value them not exactly for who they are, but for who they are to us. Consider the choice of Lenny Kravitz. An rockstar bad-ass. Do we not want to see Cinna as a little bit of that as well? The purveyor of design and fashion and the one task with getting the audience’s attention. Kravitz’s persona lends credit to the fiction he is meant to portray and connects the audience with Cinna without anything more than an mention.