The Hunger Games is a terrible, horrible film that glorifies violence against children and shouldn’t be watched by any decent minded person! Shame on anyone who has seen it! Won’t somebody please think of the children!?
These are the common themes in every single anti-Hunger Games article I’ve seen in recent days. After seeing the film on opening night, I must admit that I was a tad surprised with the number of high-school aged people sitting around me in the theatre. More by the fact that the movie started at midnight and it was a school night, than anything else.
But crowd age aside, what has distressed me more in recent days is the swell of “think of the children” whining that has been forming the background noise of all Hunger Games chatter.
Yes, the film is quite violent. Yes, it does feature teenagers battling to the death in a forest arena. Yes, it even features a 12-year-old being speared in the chest. The books are violent, and the film does not gloss over that fact. There’s a rather firm warning regarding what the viewer is in store for in the opening 30 seconds of the film, as an excerpt from “the treaty of the treason” is flashed on screen. Here’s a good benchmark for every parent out there: if a child is too young to read and fully understand the phrase “fight to the death,” they should not be in the theatre.
Keep in mind that the actors and actresses who played characters that don’t make it to the sequels weren’t actually rammed with spears, shot with arrows or stabbed in the back. They’re still alive and promoting the film to the public. The violence itself is muted through camera tricks, the singular deaths are generally shown off camera and feature just a scream followed by Panem’s ominous single cannon fire. The few particularly graphic deaths are designed to be particularly poignant thanks to the emotional connection the audience is meant to have with the character. The deaths don’t serve to glorify the killing of children, but rather to show just how horrible this dystopian future is, how terrible war is and how even the survivors of violence are victims in their own right.
12-year old Rue’s death is meant to be heartbreaking because the audience is meant to be emotionally attached to her and meant to see her as a completely innocent sacrifice to a heartless, tyrannical and violent government. Despite this, she’s also meant to give hope for a better future. As violent as her death is, she goes out in peace. Her humanity isn’t forgotten, even by someone meant to be her opponent. She is innocence lost but lovingly honored and never forgotten.
The Hunger Games isn’t all about violence, despite what so many parental groups seem to be claiming. There are a number of important underlying themes which both the books and the films focus on, including poverty and charity, tyranny and resistance, and most importantly, the sacrifice of innocence to a harsh reality. Maybe that’s the biggest problems that parents out there have, because everyone’s babies eventually grow up and lose their bright eyed innocence to a world filled with pain. The world isn’t all roses, in history, it never has been and it never will be. There is always pain, despair, hardship and death, and glossing over reality does no favor to children. So, think of the children, see it with them or see it before them and discuss it afterward. Make sure they understand it, and make sure they realize that it’s a warning, not a reality.