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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen - Foucault: Fearless Speech and Parrhesia

Katniss Shooting

This is not a review review.

In a pre-introduction before the games, just as an American Idol selection or other somesuch reality show, Katniss is to show her stuff to the audience who isn't paying attention - she has been advised to get their attention -  as she sinks arrows into flat human body targets. So she aims at them, or rather the apple in the pig's mouth at the banquet table, aces it just whizzing by the head of the Master of Ceremonies of The Games. I can't find this image of Katniss in her sexy black leathers and marvelous hair arrangement with a bow and arrow, but you get the idea. The above image is in the beginning of the movie, when she is aiming at a deer.
The Evil One is on the Far Right
There is silence as her arrow goes to the heart of the apple. Astonishment. Shock. And then she bows  forward, making an age old gesture with her arms stretched out to her sides. She might be holding a ball gown in her fingers, making obeisance to a king. This is her gesture of utter contempt, as she inclines her head and says, "Thank you for your consideration," contemptuously utteredjust before she turns and leaves the stage/platform.

She wows them and when they vote she gets an almost perfect score.

What has she done? She has performed an act of parrhesia. And her insolent words complete her performance of parrhesia. She has "spoken truth to power," which must, by definition, include risk. It is a Greek term, and it often involved death for the speaker. 

Foucault discusses this in his book Fearless Speech as he does a genealogy of parrhesia.  Ayn Rand in her defense of William Hickman said, "He was condemned to death, not for what he did, but for what he said." (Journal of Ayn Rand;Letters of Ayn Rand)

Katniss is condemned to death for her audacity and her courage, giving too much hope to those watching screens, from the fringes of this world.

My intention was not to deal with the problem of truth, but with the problem of the truth-teller, or of truth-telling as an activity....  who is able to tell the truth, about what, with what consequences, and with what relations to power.... With the intention  of the importance of telling the truth, knowing who is able to tell the truth, and knowing why we should tell the truth, we have the roots of what we could call the "critical"tradition of the West. - Michel Foucault

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