Hunger Games–Disturbing? Indeed…

Last night, feeling the pressure to get a post up on the blog because many were asking my opinion of the movie, I published a 1300+ word post (reading it now, it seems like a bit of rant) about why young children should not see the movie of The Hunger Games.  I have to admit that it was a hurried writing and not the most logical or organized. It was passionate, though, and it seems to have resonated with many readers. Thank you to those who have shared it with others. I am honored any time a reader thinks something that comes from these fingers is worthy of sharing.

Obviously, I hit some kind of nerve, or else I just finally boarded The Hunger Games trend cycle.  Right now #HungerGames and @TheHungerGames as well as many variations are all over Twitter.  It’s times like these that make me realize why Twitter has its name: when we like something, we go all “a-twitter” about it, and we get “twitter-pated.”  But seriously – I published the post at 7:01 p.m. last night, and at that time only 18 people had read my blog on Saturday.  By midnight, over 200 people had read just the post about The Hunger Games with readers from Thailand, Canada, Australia, and Japan.  Wow!


In some clear thinking after publishing the post and in reading some of the comments from readers (as well as those from many Facebook friends), I wanted to follow up on a thought that was simply lost in all of my ranting yesterday.  In other words, why was I so passionate about young children not seeing the movie?

Marilyn, a friend whose blog is Communicating Across Boundaries (I know her in the flesh as well as in the blogosphere although we have not had the same state of residence for over 10 years now), made the following comment on yesterday’s post:

…you were disturbed because we are supposed to be disturbed. Suzanne Collins wanted to make a point, and she did it well. It sounds like the movie is accurate in that it made it so real. That’s partially the issue – if kids are too young to understand the concepts then it’s not appropriate to show them. A last thought – I’ve never liked reality TV and we have never watched it (our tv watching is limited anyway, probably because of so many years overseas) but the books push reality TV to a whole new level that, given human nature, may not be that far off.

This comment made me glad that I had ranted. There are some things that kids should not read. There are some things that kids should not see.  Even if children have read the books, they may not be able to handle the screen images.  I had a hard time with it, and I am nearing 40 years of age!  And, as Marilyn stated, I should have a hard time it!!  It really should not matter how old we are, the deaths of children at the hands of children (or in any way, really, but especially in this way) is disturbing.  There is no other way around it.

Marilyn’s comment made me sit back and think really hard.  Our family is similar in that we do not watch much TV.  What we do watch tends to be rented seasons of shows after we have heard or seen from various sources that we missed out on something great.  We are also the devouring type (example: we watched the entire season of Lost from April to September two years go). We are also not really into reality TV although the girl and I did catch an episode of The Bachelor which made me wonder, “Why does anyone watch this?”  That is abusive – even if there is no physical violence occurring.

I decided to consult one of my favorite parenting “check” sites for movies – PluggedIn – and found that one of the Scholastic editors, David Levithan, concurs with my friend Marilyn about the purpose of the violence in the books and the movie.

“What Suzanne [Collins] has done brilliantly is create a series that is a critique of violence using violence to get that across and that’s a fine line.”

I found the books and the movie disturbing…importantly so.  The books are like a shake awake, but the movie – with its images – truly drove it home.  Watching one of the tributes stung to death by a swarm of genetically engineered wasps was disturbing.  I literally covered my eyes, held my breath, and nearly prayed for the fictional character.  Even watching Katniss shoot her arrow and kill a tribute to defend little Rue was disturbing.  Their government was making them kill each other off, and the country watched on Times’ Square sized jumbo-trons in their districts’ main square.  This is disturbing.

But what are some of the messages that we are to take from this trilogy and this movie?  Are we just going to “enjoy” this movie for the sake of the violence because we have come to enjoy that as a society?  Or – are we disturbed by what we see and understand the critique of violent acts?  And what are we supposed to do with our understanding?

Have we, like the first century Romans, become so caught up in violence that it is the only thing worth creating for television?

A Facebook friend with whom I also attend church stated it this way: “In two thousand years we’ve only gone from ‘gladiators’ to ‘teenagers’ and from ‘coliseums’ to ‘theaters’.”

Will the viewing of The Hunger Games make us ready to act?  Or do they only feed our “hunger” for violence?

Are we ready to act?  Seriously – the networks would not make violent shows if we, as a society, would stop watching them.

In The Hunger Games, Gale (good male friend of main character Katniss) asks, “What if one year everyone just stopped watching? Then they wouldn’t have the games.”

Gale (a much more developed character in the books than in the movie) recognizes the power of the people (which, by the way, becomes even more of a message in the second and third books). He realizes that there is a way to firmly say no to the Capital, but he knows that it will take the masses to do it…he cannot do it alone.  And I cannot do it alone.  My one voice…my ten fingers…will not change our society’s hunger for violence.  Child psychologists can say all they want, but they have little power.  Parents and children have the power.

What if one day everyone did not watch television, did not rent movies, did not stream movies, and did not attend movies?  One day – a burn out – could we do it?  How about one month?  One year?  Could we stand up and say, “We want quality entertainment.”?

Sadly, I fear we could not do it.  Too many of us do not see the need.  Too many of us hunger for action.  Too many of us have lost the understanding of what is good and what is right… of what challenges our mind rather than numbing it.

It is my hope that we all find the books and movie disturbing enough to take this message and make a change.

Note: there are many more messages in the books and the movie.  Would you be interested in reading more about those messages or have I run this dry?  Please let me know!

43 thoughts on “Hunger Games–Disturbing? Indeed…

  1. Having just seen the movie, with trepidation, with my three teenaged daughters, I’m not sure whether we should have. My girls were able to see the ‘deaths’ like other movie deaths – they just happen, they don’t relate to the characters, they move on. My youngest and most sensitive girl has read the books (they all have), and she covered her eyes when she knew something gory was about to happen. But kids were stereotyped as baddies or goodies early on, and this made some of their deaths easier to objectify.

    I, however, came out traumatised. I guess the concept of kids murdering each other seemed more real to me as a mother – each of those children could have been my own.

    Should we have seen it? I wish we hadn’t, I wish they hadn’t all read the books, and I wish the damn things hadn’t been aimed at the YA market. How am I supposed to vet every book that becomes trendy? And yet as parents, we are held accountable.

    As we arrived home, the girls were exhilarated, and seeing their joy, I could almost forgive the movie. That was until Middle daughter Zoe whooped: “I feel like kickin’ something.”

    • I was disturbed and wont give another penny to the franchise….when we see kids die for real,our hearts sink-when kids die in this,its to get ratings and make money…..I will take my kids to the Avengers. At least no kids are slitting each others throats.
      This is no hHarry Potter-and not entertaining just disturbing.

  2. I have only watched some preview scenes of the movie “The Hunger Games” in Youtube, besides the official trailer. At first, I thought the movie sounded cool, as there was much talk about the great acting performances, which I came across when I was doing research for the movie review for my magazine project, hence I decided to check out the preview videos. But I felt disturbed upon watching a scene of a teenage girl running towards another teenage girl armed with an axe to attack her. Maybe the message of the story is about the sad effects of living in a dystopian society, but nevertheless I can’t help feeling that stories like these based on violence and gore tend to be part of propaganda themselves, and they are probably being marketed to feed the attention of the society that is hungry for action, to stimulate their senses (and perhaps also to escape from having to explore and deal with the inner depths of their own souls).

    Like what you shared in your post, there is a certain danger that “Too many of us have lost the understanding of what is good and what is right… of what challenges our mind rather than numbing it.” Over-exposure to media that are filled with violence can cause people to become numb to our basic human emotions and sensibilities. At the same time, I believe everyone has a dark and light side in themselves, and when people feed only on one side, either light or dark, they tend to harm themselves and others indirectly, by becoming either too legalistic and judgmental (by preaching behaviour modification and enforcing conformity – don’t we all hate moralising and condemning preachers?), or too soulless and callous (by accepting harm done to a neighbour as a necessity in the name of revenge or survival).

    In the face of all this, how can we make a change? I don’t know. I suppose each of us has to find our own answer because ultimately, we do not want to impose our own beliefs or convictions onto other people too. For me, I will choose the way of meditation and contemplation because I am realising more and more that we are all connected as One, so if one being is hurt, the rest of the beings are hurt as well. Similarly, if one of us is peaceful, the rest of us will benefit as well. Maybe the realisation of our interconnectedness and oneness will be able to override the society’s mindset of “us” versus “them” that is based on the illusion of ego and separation.

    I believe peace is possible, and yet it is not something that is boring or ethereal or unrealistic. There is a difference between fake niceness and genuine kindness, which I find lacking in the movie story. Maybe it is intended to be that way, since people will watch and despair at how the characters struggle to make sense of the brutal reality of being ruled by a totalitarian government and having their human dignity snatched away by the harsh circumstances in which they have to fight for survival.

    Maybe a buddhist might willingly give his or her life in such a scenario. Or anyone who has awakened to the truth of our oneness. To die in such a brutal reality may seem like losing, but then again, much of the society tends to think only in terms of good and bad, or us and them. We can move beyond the concept of duality in order to embrace the totality of our existence. Life is more than “winning” or “losing”. In a war, no one is truly a winner. No wonder by the end of the story (the third part of the trilogy), even those who survive the war (Hunger Games) through bloodshed and violence are left feeling forlorn, each a jaded and crestfallen being. Why? Because the senseless killing of one another does not honour our true Self. I feel that each of us intuitively knows we are designed to be loved and to love. We are beloved and innocent children of Divine Love at our innermost core, when all else is stripped away, when all the conditionings of the society/religion/politics are removed.

    Like what you shared at the end of your post, “there are many more messages in the books and the movie.” I believe you certainly have not run dry about the messages. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this movie. Thank you for your post too.


  3. Sorry, I do share the noble opinion of Suzanne Collins. Why would anyone write, or read or see a book or movie with the theme. “Kids forced to kill kids while others are forced to watch”.

    I thankfully have a choice and after a brief review of the subject and reading a few short excerpts have done my best to discourage anyone (especially younger friends) from considering this as “entertainment”.

    I do not want to sound self righteous. I do have many faults and wrong desires. However I can truthfully say, I would rather be dead than be forced to see or read “Hunger Games”!

    • I saw this movie tonight with a friend and it simply confirmed my original belief that this is garbage. There was no redeeming quality to the story or how it was presented. I had to lie to my friend who also read the books that is was decent, as I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. But honestly, if this is considered quality fiction and cinema, then I think maybe this nation has truly turned a corner towards a real dystopian future.

  4. I totally agree with what you are writing, I think the entire movie is disturbing. What worries me is that there are millions of people who find this movie entertaining, both adults and teenagers. How sick have we become as a society. The persons who wrote the book and made the movie have some serious problems if this is the only thing they can create. As the good book says, “As a man thinketh, so is he”. These people are the reason society is so numb to things that are so sacred, such as life, regardless of age.

    • I’m glad there are some sane people on here who get how morally bankrupt this trilogy is.

  5. Pingback: Some thoughts on “The Hunger Games” | Real Rest is the Best

  6. Pingback: When Kids Kill Kids « communicating.across.boundaries

  7. Pingback: Hunger Games: More Thoughts from Others | slowingtheracingmind

  8. I was one of the few who had no clue what this movie was about but was sucked into the hype of The Hunger Games movie release. 20 minutes into the movie, I am already disturbed and in tears. I am a mother of two daughters, so you can probably understand how the beginning with Katniss and her younger sister struck a chord. Throughout the movie, I felt myself being pulled into the story and then I would stop and remember that these were children with parents watching and probably hoping that their child survived. Even as good as the movie appeared to be, it wasn’t good enough to negate the disturbing idea behind it.

    I, too, was traumatized after watching this movie. Most people say I didn’t get it because I didn’t read the books. Would that have sucked me in even more? To accept the idea of children having to live in fear in this type of society? I don’t see how all the people sitting in the movie theaters watching The Hunger Games is any different from the spectators in the movie who were watching on and enjoying this and calling it entertainment.

    The best part of this movie was the line you quoted, “What if one year everyone just stopped watching? Then they wouldn’t have the games”. How ironic.

    I look forward to hopefully reading more of your thoughts on this movie. Also, thank you for easing my mind. I am glad to know I am not alone.

    • I cried through the entire movie…and I knew what was coming…

      Your comment has made me think about something that crossed my mind earlier. Did you see “Schindler’s List”?

      • It’s funny ou mention Schindler’s List. I had the same physical/emotional affect from that movie as I did while watching The Hunger Games. The connection immediately clicked. I couldn’t tell anyone for fear of being labeled a crazy person by comparing the holocaust with this film. I’m 21 by the way and I (just started) working in the film industry. I can handle violence. I love Dexter for goodness sakes. But this hit a nerve for sure.

      • I did not see Schindler’s List. Coincidentally, at the beginning of the movie I was trying to figure out what the movie was about and the setting made me think they were Jews in a concentration camp.

      • My feeling as I watched (some of it, as I left the theater for a while), was that I’ve seen enough Holocaust movies and real footage that I can’t find this anything but sad and painful to watch. Some movies will use the emotions connected to children to dab a little pull on our heart strings and shape the emotion (as in “Boy, I hope our hero survives because he has a son at home!”). This lays it on so thick that it’s impenetrable sadness for anyone who feels empathy for the characters. The director in standard fashion tries to coax us to feel relief when our “favorite” character survives the games. But while the movie tries to objectify the other children, my brain cannot. I did not read the book, but I was hoping that it was about them banding together to revolt against the sick Games. Instead, it was just another year of slaughter in record-breaking box office fashion.

  9. Pingback: Hunger Games: Sick or Meaningful? | slowingtheracingmind

  10. No you haven’t ran it dry! There are a lot of messages in the Hungar Games book series/movie that hasnt been talked about
    And,there are a lot of unanswered questions as to why we want to read and watch such carnegie

  11. Yes, the book and the movie are disturbing. I had heard a summary, and refused to read it until it was picked as a selection in our book club. I did find it unsettling. I saw the movie, maybe thinking it would help resolve some of the issues it raised.
    The two together increased the impact.
    More disturbing than the book and the movie is that so many people have chosen to spend their time on this kind of a story. I can see what her point is, having watched a few interviews of her on youtube. However, I would be surprised if many middle schoolers are getting it.
    The thing is almost self-reflexive. People are being entertained by watching children kill each other, in movie theaters all over the country. That’s exactly what the book is about, and proves its point.

  12. Your readers are right. This is a sick film for sick people. Best Ignored.

  13. I believe kids should not see this, nor should have I, but I did, with my 12 year old son. I figured in KathyLee G signed off on it, it must have been ok. I was, putting it mildly, not ok with the movie. It left me with dilated eyes and a spinning tormented mind. A great sense of sorrow and physical fatique. I was hugely affected and found it pathetic and completely disturbing. Watching children die at the hands of other children somehow took me back to my childhood days of watching A Clockwork Orange, which had the same affect on me. To this day, just the thought of that movie sends chills through my very soul and I am nearing 50. It was a huge mistake for me to see this and another to bring my son. What is this world coming to? This is all I can say. This is just my experience; my opinion.

  14. I heard about it from my daughter, who said that her teachers read the first book to her 5th grade class, and recommended the other two. She said her teacher told them, “It is the best book I ever read!” So I read it. I am terribly disturbed and my daughter will not read the other two books or see the movie.

    • Perhaps this is the point… make people feel disgusted or disturbed by this… I am horrified by current “reality TV” but this is just a reminder where AMERICAN culture is going is not kept in check…

      EVERYONE should see things that disturb them… maybe not all the time but once in a while it serves as a check… perhaps the few with a couple brain cells left can make a difference… if not… well then Running man, the hunger games, and Logan’s run are where we are headed.. and no I have no religious affiliation.. I say this as someone watching americana degrade cultures around the world… I can see this coming.. hopefully I’ll be dead by the time it comes to fruition…

  15. I agree, I feel the movie is very disturbing. It is the kind of movie that when watched should be discussed straight away to ensure that the ideas presented are not taken away as OK. The one thing that the movie did for me was to put in perspective how it must have felt/how it does feel for parents to allow their children (no matter what age as they are always your child) to go off to war in the real world. All soldiers are somebody’s child, and this movie just sent that message home to me. Very sad!

  16. I was a fan of the books. Looked forward to the moving coming out with anticipation. Saw the movie and left feeling sick, sick, sick. I don’t know why reading it didn’t affect me like seeing it did – I think because even though they were children, in my mind, they weren’t. Does that make sense? I DIDN’T picture children killing children until I actually saw it. I will not re-read the books, would not recommend them to anyone and will not be seeing the future movies. I am so sickened and have been all weekend. I don’t watch rated R movies and I’ve avoided shows like SAW and can’t believe there has been enough interest to generate sequels – and now having seen this, I am reconsidering ALL my media. This was only PG13 and it was by far the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. Did I mention it made me sick? 🙁

    • Oddly, enough, I think that your response and your comment are EXACTLY what Suzanne Collins is hoping to accomplish through the books.

      Thank you for commenting!

      • Yes, author is trying to make a point about violence, but what good does it actually serve? She offers no solution. She’s making fools out of everyone. That people are nuts about the books and the movie is exactly making her point and she’s making a load of money off of both. Reminds me of Madonna who admitted she made the song Vogue and created “vogueing” (dance) to exploit how ridiculous we are following absurd trends. She made millions on that album and laughed the whole way to the bank.

      • Thank you for your comment. This is an interesting thought – about the author making fools out of everyone. I honestly do not think that is her point. I think she is sending out a warning to us about the amount of violence that we have in our culture; however, it is perplexing that her books are becoming movies. I personally would have preferred that they remain books only.

  17. A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to them. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandchildren thought about it and after a minute one of them asked, “Which wolf will win?”

    The elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”

  18. I happened to really love The Hunger Games. And I have had my twelve year old read the book and will be taking him to see the movie. We have focused discussion on how our everyday choices do not only affect ourselves or family, but truly they affect people we have never even met. I don’t believe in raising my children in ignorance. Ignorance kills.

    My thoughts about the book can be summed up by this post I came across last week:

    I think that The Hunger Games disturbs people in the fact that it is more real than ever right now in our society. Americans portray the Capitol a bit too well and the other districts can be seen across the globe as well as their children dying on television while we just turn the channel for something more “appealing.” I would love to say so much more about this, but it would turn into a rant.

  19. I realize that this hasn’t been written on in a while but I just came across this post and wanted to put my opinion out here. I read all the hunger games books and attended a midnight showing of hunger games with my roommates. I can’t say that I “enjoyed” reading hunger games but I enjoyed the thought behind it; the thoughts questioning what we stand for, questioning our priorities, questioning the fact that our world may soon be headed to something just as disturbing as this. I was shocked not actually by the movie but by the people attending the movie. People tend to dress up for the midnight showings so I expected to see a bunch of Katnisses but I was stunned when I saw hoards of capitol citizens, president snows, and seneca cranes. I couldn’t believe that after reading these books people would dress up as ignorant ruthless capitol citizens. I thought the book had an interesting storyline for thought but I don’t think it should ever have been made into a form of entertainment.

    • You bring up some very valid points, and I appreciate it so much! Thank you!

      I have continued to think about the entertainment side of things with this trilogy, and I will likely have a follow-up post for the DVD release on Aug 18th.

      Thanks again!

  20. I’d suggest waiting until your kids are 16 or 17… by then they can process the information better.. before then it is more traumatic than than anything.. I don’t believe in hiding things from people.. but there is an age where you can process the information… prior to 16.. I think it is more shock value and gore than something the kids can process

  21. Its just a movie…. Who cares if it’s gory! If you knew it was about killing DONT WATCH IT

  22. I’m of the opinion that even though an author can, sometimes they really just shouldn’t, this is definitely one of those occasions. What point is being made in this concept is so sickening that surely even in fiction humanity would extinguish itself. An adult manipulated Lord of the flies as a comparison watch? and Stephen King’s The running man as a far superior alternative.

  23. Quite simply, watching this movie hurt my heart. I haven’t read he books, but at the urging of friends, I decided to watch it on Netflix tonight. I’m not usually one to get weepy during movies, but The Hunger Games was a totally different animal. I really felt District 12’s helpless terror, as well as the first few kids who were killed in the first 8 hours. By the time they showed Rue’s father witnessing her death, I had run all out of tissues and had to grab a roll of toilet paper. To say that it was sick to watch a father see his child murdered by another child on the big screen as a form of entertainment is a vast understatement. It was devastating. Even worse, I identified with the lifestyles of excess enjoyed by the Capitol citizens, wondering if that is how Americans might look to impoverished third world countries. We already watch people’s lives falling apart on reality TV for entertainment, thinking nothing of it, and glorify violence.

    • You make an EXCELLENT point about the US and other countries. I had considered that briefly but had pushed it aside. Your description of it all was very clarifying to me. Thank you for commenting!

  24. Am i the only who thinks the whole point was to make you see how disgusting it was. See how wrong the games really are.Yes we understand its a sick idea but killing kids and people watching them isn’t the whole point of the story which a lot of you seem to miss. I honestly see a lot of hidden messages in the story that most people aren’t going to see.

    • It is true that there is more to the book than what is out on the “main” writings. I have to re-state that I enjoyed the entire series as a literary trilogy.

  25. I believe that Suzanne Collins uses the Hunger Games to portray some very good messages to our society. She shows the reality of what our world has been and is doing. All the people that are against The Hunger Games and the ideas that it represents should stop and just think about what is being said to them through the book and the movie. It isn’t all just about senseless killing. The Hunger Games shows us reality whether we want to see it or not. All those who think The Hunger Games is wrong for showing what it does, I think they are just in denial and don’t see that what is portrayed in this story is the state of our world as we know it. Isn’t this just what soldiers do over and over when they killed someone in war, and don’t want to feel the guilt? They became “human-animals” in order to kill unmercifully and then try not let it kill them inside. Or even abortion. I honestly don’t see why people have such a problem with the Hunger Games when there are equally bad things happening all around us. Suzanne Collins is just using these books to show us what our own world really looks like. It’s true! We aren’t really that far off from what we read in these kind of stories.The world we live in is a bad world and we know it, but with the ideas and inspirations of authors like Collins. We can have hope in our minds that we as individuals can make our world better. I agree that any killing is wrong, but it doesn’t bother me that it is such a major role in this series. It is a major problem in our world and needs to be treated so.

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