The Hunger Games is a trilogy that takes place in Panem, which is a country with 12 districts that are controlled by the Capitol. Panem used to have a 13th district, but the Capitol destroyed it after the people in the 13th district rebelled. As a result, every year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. These participants are known as tributes, and they must kill one another in an outdoor arena until only one winner is left standing.
Before taking this class, I wouldn’t have paid attention to the fact that these tributes are basically each district’s sacrifice in order to maintain “peace” for Panem. But now, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Some tributes, known as Careers, will voluntarily offer themselves for the games because they were trained for them from an early age. But do they consider themselves as some sort of martyrs? Or is this some sort of twisted suicide? I know there is a lot of fame and benefits that come from winning the games, but these children are basically offering themselves up as a sort of sacrifice. But for what? Panem doesn’t need to use children to keep peace, but the president thought that it would be the most effective way. This is even shown in reality because we are more outraged or sympathetic or empathetic when children are killed, sacrificed, hurt, or abused than adults. If our children’s lives were at stake, I can see people either causing an uprising or complying to the whoever is in power. Children evoke stronger emotions and opinions than any other age group. I would assume it’s because they are seen as powerless and naive, but there’s nothing powerless or naive about the tributes.
The tributes make me wonder why some of them are excited about the games while others fear them. I understand the fear more than being excited. I don’t think I could ever be excited about sacrificing my own life for a competition that falsely promotes peace and forces me to kill others if I want to stay alive. I really enjoyed the trilogy (both the books, and so far the movies!), but I definitely see them in a different perspective now.
In the season 8 finale of Grey’s Anatomy, a plane with many of the leading doctors of Seattle Grace crashed in the middle of nowhere. Everyone is injured and scattered throughout the forest they crashed in. Meredith Grey, Mark Sloan, and Cristina Yang are searching for Meredith’s half-sister Lexie. They find her crushed under a piece of the plane. Although Mark, Meredith, and Cristina are injured as well, they try to move the piece of the plane off of Lexie. Realizing that they can’t remove it, Sloan holds her hand while she’s dying. She realizes and understands that she’s going to die and tells him that, but he refuses to believe it. He tells her that she isn’t going to die because they are going to spend the rest of their lives together. Eventually, Lexie passes away while still holding onto Sloan’s hand.
When I watched this season finale in the past, I didn’t think much of it. It was sad that Lexie passed away because she was a major character in the series, but I didn’t realize how she was accepting her death while Sloan was in denial of it. It raises the question of how to console your loved ones when you know that you’re dying and they don’t want to accept it. Are you supposed to attempt to comfort them as much as possible? Or is it okay to pass away knowing that at least you accepted your own death even if your loved ones didn’t? Most people would probably say that being at peace with your death is considered “good,” but I wonder if that is valued more than whether or not your loved ones are at peace with it. I also wonder if people who accept their death feel unsettled if their family or spouses don’t accept it as well.
Last week’s season 10 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy centered on saving Dr. Weber and Heather’s lives after they were both severely electrocuted. Dr. Weber is the former chief of surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital, and Heather is a surgical resident there. Although the doctors were able to save Dr. Weber, they weren’t so lucky with Heather. This clip shows her fellow interns grieving her death, but the interesting thing is that they don’t seem to be grieving. They openly discuss how they didn’t know her very well or even like her very much, but they still grieve for her death. As they’re reminiscing on their time with her, the interns are trying to think of what to tell her mother when she comes to the hospital.
Stephanie and Jo grieve by trying to think of stories about when they liked Heather or when Heather did something for them so that they can tell her mom that she was loved or cared for while being an intern with them. Leah on the other hand grieves by telling the other interns about all the things she didn’t like about Heather, like how Heather made her white sweater pink and caused her to be late to work. But even though Leah didn’t like Heather, she admits that she didn’t want Heather to die. They eventually decide to drink alcohol as the solution since they don’t necessarily know what to do. When they see Heather’s mom, they tell her made up stories about Heather just to console her.
The person who grieves the most differently is Shane. He isn’t depicted much in the clip, but he grieves in a different way because he feels responsible for Heather’s death. He was the one who was supposed to go find Dr. Weber in the basement of the hospital, but he lied to Heather and told her that an attending had asked her to go instead. When Heather reached the basement and found Dr. Weber unconscious on the floor from electrocution, she accidentally stepped in the electrocuted water as well and fell victim to it too. In this episode, Shane doesn’t tell anyone what he had done, but it will be interesting to see if grieving and guilt will combine to cause him to admit to sending Heather down to the basement. Even when Heather’s mom comes, Shane is silent. Heather’s mom assumes that this silence and sadness from Shane is because they were good friends, but Shane doesn’t refute this assumption.
But this raises the question of how to grieve someone you interacted with daily but never really knew or cared to like. Do you even grieve at all? Is there a right way to grieve? How common is it for people to grieve a coworker’s death if he or she wasn’t close with the coworker? Is it different to grief the death of a person when it’s unexpected rather than if you knew they were dying of an illness or fatal condition?
This blog is a platform of communication for a college course at Emory entitled "The Anthropology of Death and Burial". The purpose is to use this blog to invite the world into our classroom by drawing on current events or phenomena that surround us and that are relevant to our exploration into the topic of death and how people deal with it.
The course is explicitly cross-disciplinary and besides anthropology we also explore the topic of death through the lens of biology, history, religious studies, medicine, law, philosophy, sociology, literature and art. Feel welcome to explore and participate!
Who we are
The contributors to this blog are all undergraduate students at Emory University in Atlanta GA (USA).
The course is taught by Dr. Liv Nilsson Stutz who is an archaeologists with a special interest in mortuary archaeology and ritual studies. She is also a regular contributor.