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!

Take a look:

>The big stuff: Go figure

>This is a painting Coffeedoc brought back from Haiti. It is a favorite of ours and the photo doesn’t do it justice. But it brings up stuff we’ve been talking alot about lately.

What do you do about the hard stuff? The big stuff? How do you reconcile the whole concept of suffering? How do you endure it and not succumb to it, meaninglessly? How do you not just wither into it and wallow in your pity party (ok, me)? How do you factor it into a life: suffering, joy and all the in-between?

We have had a year of the highest highs and lowest lows: bringing home new child, our toddler, from Ethiopia and losing a beloved Grandma, Coffeedoc’s mom. And all around us too, we find friends and family in different variants of hard and happy….just like the rest of the world. And I think it’s human nature to want to make sense of it all, as best we can.
And we talk around and around this. And pray through it, for it, about it…..it seems that there is not that much we can figure out except this: Suffering comes in many forms and it’s hard. It hurts! It can be pervasive or precise, overwhelming or simply pointedly excruciating. Joy too, comes in many forms, also broad or the perfect pinpoint moment.
But they are connected.
They are utterly connected.
This I know. This we are taught in our faith. It is scriptural.
I forget it, just about every darn day. When I am fearful, I am forgetting. When I am controlling and trying to shape every thing that happens, push, pull, heave, ho, I am forgetting. I tend to want to jump over, and protect my loved ones, from any bit of suffering (unless it’s the dishes…). The idea of their suffering is ever much more awful to me than my own, of course.
And that path, it is all about the fear.
And when I talk about suffering, I am almost always, really, talking about fear. I know, you’re thinking I’ve already hit on this, a few posts back already! I know. Bear with me. Because, I am a slow learner and I learn and process by talking and typing. So here we are. Again.
We are taught, and I need to be reminded, again and again and again, that even through suffering, we are transformed, and with that, we are brought into joy. In fact, I can point to some of the greatest suffering we have experienced, personally and as a family, and I can say, that is where we grew into ourselves, our joy. We are taught that our sufferings, especially when we are trying, giving and pouring ourselves out for something beyond us – stretching, that we will be returned good. Shaken, tamped down and overflowing good abundance. But first we have to walk through the fire of a given or accepted suffering. And, well, that is hard. Often “hard” doesn’t even begin to describe what it is.But in faith, I know, that it is all for a greater good. For MY good, even if it is good for anything beyond me as well. But it is so easy for the fear to stymie that. To stop the whole process or accepted effort in it’s tracks. So, I need to be reminded. Again and again and again.
It’s about the JOY, stupid. That’s for me.
That’s where it is. That’s what I forget. That’s what I need to remember to tell folks, to tell myself, to tattoo on my forehead so I won’t forget.

It’s about the Joy. The real stuff. Go figure.Heb.12:1… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,[2] looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.