The Hunger Games. Arguably the most popular movie of the year. Ranked by USAToday as number two on their best-seller book list for 2011. Over 159 weeks on the USAToday top 150 book list, and still holding at number 14 this week. But it’s not for us, and here’s why.
Before you line up your comments and responses to this, please understand that I have seen the movie but not read the book. My wife and I were interested to see what the buzz was all about, so we rented it a couple of weeks back. She and I watched it, but our kids did not. Now that you know my level of exposure to this series, here are my thoughts.
It is an intriguing story and, from what I understand, an outstanding read. According to reviews on Amazon, The Hunger Games is the kind of story that just won’t let you put the book down. The disturbing part about this is that it takes place in a not-to-distant future America. And that it uses children as the unwitting pawns in a fight to-the-death match. That’s where I begin to have my concerns with the book. My three biggest reasons follow.
Kids are killing kids. That was enough for my wife and me. Why could it not be adults? Is that the factor that made the book series so popular? I understand that the author, Suzanne Collins, was attempting to address such issues as poverty, starvation and oppression with her book. But using kids as the pawns in this futuristic society is what put it over the top for me.
The books in The Hunger Games series are targeted at kids. Scholastic.com, the publisher of The Hunger Games series, has these books in the grade 6-8 stack. Parts of this story (in the movie) are glamorized to the point that this kind of activity could be found appealing to readers. And I’ve heard more schools putting this book on their reading lists for English. Should my daughter have to read it someday as part of a class assignment, we’ll address it at that time.
Society finds that this storyline about kids killing kids is entertaining. If you take a look on the internet, site after site is capitalizing on The Hunger Games and the books of the sequel. And it goes beyond book and movie sales. There are dolls and action figures of the heroes and villains from the movie. As we approach Halloween, there will be thousands of little girls dressed like Katniss and little boys dressed like Peeta, the lead characters in The Hunger Games. While there’s nothing wrong with any of this per se, I only mention this because it seems that the author’s purpose is lost amidst all of this buzz. Society has latched onto the storyline, not the cause.
Again, before you go off on me, I TOTALLY understand that this is fiction and is written to entertain an audience. My hats off to Suzanne Collins for writing such a masterful series that seems to do just that. Plus there are thousands of works that have gone before this one which also take on some sort of disturbing theme like this. I just don’t know that I’ve seen one involve kids in this manner before.
One last thought. If the author’s intent was to expose some of society’s problems, then there is no reference to this in any of the books. Though I’ve not read them, I have taken a look at the front and back matter of the books in the series hoping to find something that directs readers to some additional information about these issues. Nothing that I can find cites any real-world statistics or websites where readers can find out more information on how to help. At best, the domain hungergames.com redirects to a site that states the movie has partnered with the World Food Programme and Feeding America to take donations. However, the site clearly states that this is a partnership with the movie.
I am in no way condemning or judging anyone who reads this series or attends the movies. This is the great part about America – we’re all entitled to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to consume either as we please. Collins has done nothing wrong in writing this series. Should my kids decide that they want to read the books or see the movies, then that’s alright. My sons can consume it now, and my daughter can when she gets older (she’s currently nine).
As parents, before you turn your kids loose on either the books or movies, think about it and plan to talk with them about what they’ve seen or read. We should be actively doing this anyway – that’s what an intentional parent does.
The Hunger Games is a huge hit. It’s just not for me, and I won’t be back for the sequel. And for full disclosure, none of the Amazon links from this article reference my affiliate relationship with Amazon, so if you click through and purchase an item from this post I will not benefit in any way.
Discussion Question – What is your opinion on this? Does The Hunger Games go too far or is it just another sci-fi movie to be enjoyed?
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