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!