I started crying in the reaping scene, and nearly lost it in the riots. I think I got my cardio-vascular workout from the pounding of my heart through the whole thing. My husband doesn’t want to see the rest of the series when it comes out; it made him too angry—angry at injustice, angry at frivolous disregard for another person’s pain, angry at sin.
I’m talking about The Hunger Games. Don’t let the lines of teenagers outside put you off; this is NOT The Twilight Saga or Harry Potter. It is no sappy love story, and it wrestles with issues much closer to our everyday lives than a fantasy allegory.
The premise (in case you don’t watch television or read the news) is teens chosen by lot to fight to the death in an elaborate arena that imitates a natural wilderness, watched by cheering fans on reality TV.
This is a distopian future—“distopia” being the opposite of “utopia” and the current rage in YA fiction. Fighting to the death for entertainment goes back to Rome and beyond, but this has a twist—our current fascination with reality TV. We know contestants are chosen for the conflict their personalities will produce. What greater conflict than the knowledge that only one can survive? Yet like voyeurs, we watch.
The story could easily have been an R-rated movie instead of PG-13, but then it would have eliminated its teen audience. I’m not a fan of hand-held cameras (they make me dizzy), but they were an effective way to suggest brutality while minimizing what is actually shown. But this movie still needs a mature audience. It’s not the graphics, but the concept that is so devastating—kids with pimples on their faces killing and being killed while citizens of the capitol with plucked eyebrows, multi-colored hair and elaborate wardrobes eat delicacies and coo their sympathies for the tributes, sending gifts to keep them alive a little longer and placing bets on who will be the survivor.
Are we any better? Don’t we hang on the news of the latest school killing, shake our heads and read all the gory details? “I would never...,” we say, but Joseph Kony continues to kidnap children in central Africa, force them to commit atrocities and tell them they are nothing but killing machines. I listen to the news while I stick a pizza in the oven for dinner.
In The Hunger Games a corrupt government rules by humiliation and intimidation, pitting its subjects against one another, manipulating hope and fear. Katniss and Peeta choose mercy and cooperation, refusing to be their pawns. “When I die,” Peeta says, “I want it to still be me.”
Whether they were 13 or not, I couldn’t say, but quite a few young kids came out of our showing looking badly in need of de-briefing. Christianity Today Magazine has a great on-line review that includes discussion questions. If your teens see this film, go with them. Print off the questions and talk about them. Another CT article that came out this week discusses how one of the main characters, Peeta, can be seen as a type of Christ--another good topic for discussion with young viewers.
I recommend the movie, but as usual, the book is even better. (I missed the scene where Rue’s district sends Katniss a gift of bread.) Watch/Read and talk about it, especially if you have a teen watching or reading.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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