Regarding the Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, they surround us.

The media blitz of this book/series/movie is inescapable. Most or all of you know of them, have read or seen or surely heard about these books and now, the movie. If not, go here (or just open your newspaper or peruse your news feed). I know of them too. I read them, the whole series, last summer when my eldest daughter grabbed onto them. I figured I’d better figure out what they were about. Happily I’m a faster reader than she is and so we could have quite a bit of discussion as she read through them. And, sure, they are a super fast read, a page turner, even as they make you feel kind of sick with the disturbing games… So, I have a lot of thoughts about them, but that would be a whole ‘nother book review post.

The primary topic, for me today, with these books, this movie is this: These books/movie are marketed, hard, to the teen and PREteen set. I understand that, as the main characters are kids themselves. But the storyline is so brutal that I have some serious reservations about that (My rant on the disturbing trends and actions in the advertising and marketing world would be a whole ‘nother post. I’ll spare you, today. You’re welcome.) I’ve read lots of different parental takes on these books/movie. I’ve dithered a bit too. On the one hand, I have support for this stance regarding the series. I respect this mom and her views and she has much parenting wisdom. I read her article and say, “Yup. Yup.” But on the other hand, I think that, as a mom, I can’t hide from it either (I am not saying she is, to be clear). I have to discuss it with my kids. I have to discuss either the actual content and story, and/or I have to discuss they why’s of why I’m blocking it.

When I do block a movie or book series, it is typically due to age appropriateness (ratings) or blatant lack of redeeming…anything. Horror movies, gore, terribly violent movies, overtly inappropriately sexual (these often have that R rating tho, helpfully). However, this series HAS some redeeming themes and actions. The movie is rated PG-13. I have heard the movie shows less on screen violence than the book; though you can still not dispute, the whole issue is kids killing kids. And that is irrefutably evil and disturbing to the core. However, it’s not as simplistic as a Freddy Krueger movie.

All this is to lead up to where I’m at now. After first blocking it, I finally decided to let my Emmy read the book. She knew the story, in detailed retelling from her classmates, anyhow. At that point, we were already having the necessary discussions. The natural evolution of having an informed discussion is to go to the source. So, I figured at this point it might be best to have her read the source. That way we can now have a fuller broader discussion of the good and the evil and disturbing; the “hows” and “whys” and “what about thats?” So. Maybe they will see the movie. Maybe not, I don’t know yet. Yes I will see it before that decision is made. But first, always, read the book….and have lots of conversation. Not lecture. Conversation. Because on a good day, that’s what books should engender: conversation.

And, my hope is that we can mine this media blitzkrieg and these stories for learning…..about the media hype machine, for starters. We can look at the uncomfortable parallels between those very Hunger Games in the dystopian future and wonder if that future is not here, almost, right now as we cheer and boo at the ridiculous and banal on much of reality tv, or on the multitude but yet attention-sucking compelling reality competition programs. And, yes, also about good and evil and sacrificial love and human spirit and even, as Fr. Barron points out, a LOT of historical connections. Fascinating, and cool!

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