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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Some thoughts on The Hunger Games.

And it was decreed that each year the 12 districts of Panem should offer up a tribute of one young man & woman between the ages of 12 & 18 to be trained in the art of survival & to be prepared to fight to the death. ~ The Hunger Games.

Until a week ago I'd never heard of the Hunger Games.  I had no idea there was any controvesy surrounding either the books or the movie.  So I asked Star, because Star is in the target age group & keeps up with these things.  Today we went & saw the movie.  We have yet to read the book.

Now there are a couple of things before we start.  Star is almost 17.  Hard to believe I know but she is not a young 16 & is very savvy [& dare I say sceptical] when it comes to anything to do with the Arts.  She knows how they get the effects so we get the bad jokes about raspberry jam & if it's badly done we hear all about it.  Secondly the movie has a M rating in Australia.  M.  Not MA.  Not R.  Not X rated.  M.  In other words while there is some violence it's nowhere near as bad as it gets.  There is no sex.  I didn't notice any swearing.  Frankly it's pretty tame in the physical violence as these things go.

I must admit I was surprised at the number of under 12s standing in line to see this movie with a parent in tow ~ & no, this is not a children's movie, but not because of any excessive violence.  Given the premise of the movie, a reality war games televised nationwide with children doing the killing, I understand people's concern but the reality is very different. 

 Firstly it is more a psychological study than anything else.  What happens to different sorts of personalities when you put them in an extreme situation like war where only one person can survive?  Some are dehumanised.  Others become even more humane.  It speaks about sacrifice for others, about doing what is right because it is the moral thing to do, about how one can change things by who one is & how one acts. It tells a ripping good story.

Most of the violence is contained in just a couple of short scenes about mid~way when the children are first dropped in the killing arena.  The camera shots are blurred.  Nothing really graphic is shown.  What is conveyed is the sense of panic, disorientation, fear.  This is where the camera places it's sense of tension throughout the movie ~ not on what is done but about how the characters feel ~ their fear, their sense of betrayal, the teneous friendships, the coalitions, & finally hope; a way to beat the system at its own game. The one scene that scared the living daylights out of me was the least likely & required such a suspension of belief it should have been cut from the movie altogether.

Yes, there is some violence later on as well but again, if you watch modern crime TV you have probably seen worse during prime time.  Sorry, but to fuss about the level of violence in this movie is something I just don't get.

Despite what some people think this is a YA movie, in the same vein as John Marden's Tomorrow  When the War Began.  It looks at teens put in an extreme situation & how that affects them.  It is very intense emotionally but it is not the sort of thing I find deeply disturbing. 

For comparision I had The Survivor by Walter F. Moudy.  As the saying goes, nothing new under the sun.  Moudy did it first  in 1965 & his short story is so devestating I recalled it graphically more than 30 years after I first read it.  It uses the exact same premise of a televised war game replacing the real thing with there  being only one survivor.  In this story at least the soldiers are adults & trained soldiers but the finale is all the more devestating for that because Moudy pulls no punches.  He is writing for adults & does not soften his blows.  His final paragraphs still leave me reeling. His running commentary makes my blood run cold in a way The Hunger Games did not [~ perhaps because these futuristic personages looked liked they'd been costumed by the Mardi Gra experts & were impossible to take over seriously. ] No, I'm not going to give the ending away.  Go read it for yourselves!  But be warned:  This one gave me nightmares!

Much to my surprise I actually really enjoyed The Hunger Games.  What is far more disturbing is that about 300 000 child soldiers are engaged in over 30 world conflicts in our present generation.  About 30% of those soldiers are girls.  It beggars belief that we can actually do this to our children.  The movie doesn't even come close to the reality.  Why aren't people up in arms about that instead?


Ruby said...

Thanks for putting it into perspective, Ganeida. As I commented somewhere else I usually don't comment about these controversial movies because I haven't seen them (nor want to). Good to know. I linked to a book review (on Jeanne's FB) which was also quite positive.
The story you reference would definitely do me in if it gave you (made of tougher stuff :-) nightmares!

Have a good sleep and a blessed Lord's Day.

Ganeida said...

Thanks, Ruby. Yes, leave Moudy alone. There's another shocker called The Lottery with similar ideas & I couldn't even read that one! Mind you, I do like mystery thrillers & they can get pretty ugly so compared to those this particular movie is very tame.

Julie B. said...

It's strange that you mention this today. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who read all three books and said she could not put them down, and neither could her daughter. It made me intrigued, since I could use a good page turning read, and I downloaded a free sample to my Kindle to see if I might like to read them. Although what little I know about the topic makes me shudder a bit and am not sure if I should read it these days. Thank you for your thoughts on the movie and other things, Ganeida. Blessings on you and yours...

HomeGrownKids said...

I bought the first book for under $5 from Amazon. I like to keep up with these things so hope to start on it today.

Joluise said...

Ganeida - I read your comment late last night and went to sleep thinking about them. I will start with your last comment. Here is the comment I wrote on my blog.

What adults read is up to them - my comments are in regards to young teens reading these sorts of books and whether a diet of books such as this is good for them. I still don't think they are.

I am powerless to stop the 300 000 child soldiers in Africa and I wish I could - and even though I haven't written a blog about them, it doesn't mean i don't care. I am also deeply concerned about slavery, child prostitution and abortion but I haven't written about these topics either. These do upset me and I wish they would stop them and the world could be a nicer place. I also hate what is going on in Syria and the killing of innocent people. i haven't write about all these issues but it does't meant I don't care and get all worked up about them.

However books such as The Hunger Game are books and the story behind it is not entertaining - children killing children, even if it can't be "seen" in the movie. I think our young people see far too much violences from reality, through to games, books and film - they really don't need any more. How many 12 year olds understand the deeper meaning of the story, probably very few - they see it for entertainment and that is all (and they have probably all seen far worse). How can a story about killing children be entertainment for children.

I think we might not agree on this one.

Ganeida said...

Jo: I expect you are right ~ & I wasn't thinking 12 year olds but more the mid to late teens, the age the books are aimed at. I think we will have to agree to disagree. I see so much that is valuable & worthwhile in this particular movie, a movie I watched with a particularly critical eye after what was expressed on your post, but I am aware I am in the minority in Christian circles. To me there is nothing *real*; it is all about ideas, about asking questions about our society. I understand your view ~ & isn't the nice thing that we are free to choose whether to read or watch according to our own conscience & the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Susan & Julie: I will be interested to hear your views after you have read the book[s[.

Megan said...

Neither my daughter nor I have read the books, but found much to discuss after seeing the movie together. She is thirteen, but being an "old soul", I felt she was quite capable of handling the violence in the Hunger Games, particularly in the manner it was handled. You are right that the movie deals with a lot of interesting ideas, the concept of "tribute" or substitutionary sacrifice, the tyranny of a totalitarian government and the oppression of people, how various individuals react in extreme survival situtations etc... Lots of food for thought. We also appreciated a strong, principled, wise, skilled and very feminine heroine.

Jeanne said...

Well I have now read the book, and I agree that it is an exceptional plot. I cannot remember a book that kept me as hooked as I was reading this one.

Does that mean that I think it is okay to write a book about children murdering each other and then market it at the YA market ? ( Incidentally, that is 8-14 year olds, not mid to late teens whom it is assumed will read adult books.). Um, no way. I don't recommend this book to youngsters at all. Nightmare stuff.

Ganeida said...

Megan: Yes, it needed discussion. I think a lot of the concepts would go over a younger child's head ~ but I don't think it is a movie for young children either.

Jeanne: As always a number of points from your comment. ☺

The critea for YA when I worked as a librarian was 12~18. Has that designation changed because much adult fiction does not interest teens while much YA fiction touches on difficult issues: suicide; bullying; culture; gangs etc? Noway would I consider THG a younger reader's book. The themes & motifs are too complex, too mature & far too dark for younger readers.

I went & had a look on Amazon after your comment on being hooked ~ so yes, supurb hook & a real page turner. I don't think this is a book that would bother me. It is different motifs that give me nightmares but I can see immediately why it became so popular.

I think one of the difficulties is unspoken critea for what literature actually is & what it is meant to achieve. Coming from a literary angle THG does exactly what I believe good literature should do; it make's people question. It upsets them. It's not just about vacaus entertainment. The age at which we can expect that level of discernment from our children will vary from child to child but I do think it needs to be done at some point. Besides there are no new stories, just different ways of telling the old ones so our kids need to be able to grapple with the motifs, the themes, the allegory. UNfortunately the age group that most needs this discussion is viewing it without a discerning adult in tow & while the younger kids may have a supervising adult, judging by the comments I overheard after the movie, very few *got it*. So what can we expect from our kids?!