|The Hunger Games|
This weekend, the long-awaited movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games book came alive on the big screen, and moviegoers--kids and adults alike--responded by spending more than $155 million on tickets to see it. So what's all the fuss about? Since every kid I know is talking about it (one of them even stood in line for 12 hours to be the first to see it at a midnight showing), and there have been some forum posts about it, I decided to check it out. Last week, I read The Hunger Games book and then watched the movie, and here's what I discovered...
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic, futuristic place called Panem, which is made up of 12 districts and a capitol. There used to be 13 districts, but the people in the 13th district rebelled against the harsh treatment of their totalitarian government, and the government completely annihilated them. As a painful reminder to the remaining 12 districts that rebelling is a bad idea, each year, the capitol requires each district to surrender two "tributes," a boy and a girl, who must go to the capitol to compete in a fight to the death in an arena. The competition, called the "Hunger Games," is televised all over Panem as a reality show. If you lose the game, you die. If you win the game, you and your family will have enough to eat for the rest of your life.
The main character, Katniss Everdeen, whose father died in a mine explosion and who now lives with her mother and her little sister, Primrose, does her best to make sure that her family has enough food to eat. Every day, she goes hunting and gathering with her friend, Gale. On the day of the "reaping," when the tributes from her district are chosen, she is horrified when her little sister's name is drawn as the female tribute. In desperation to save her sister, Katniss volunteers as tribute, and takes her sister's place in the Hunger Games. Against her will, she and Peeta, the boy selected from her district, are placed in an arena where there is only one rule for all the kids: kill or be killed. In the end, two of the kids find a way to rebel against the gamemaker and the capitol and defy the premise of the Hunger Games.
To be fair, the book and the movie contain some positive themes throughout. Katniss is a strong female lead character who demonstrates utter selflessness when she takes her sister's place as tribute - in essence she trades her own life for her sister's. She and most of the other tributes hate the violence and the killing, and do their best to honor the value of human life, even as they are thrust into a horrible circumstance that is directly opposed to their own values. There are numerous examples of teamwork, unselfishness, resourcefulness, kindness, respect and honor.
Whenever I read or watch a piece of fiction, I'm looking for some truth about human nature that the author is trying to depict, and in The Hunger Games, those truths are easily apparent. For example, the "upper crust" of Panem depicts a society largely consumed with turning people's lives into a spectator sport, wearing the latest (and most ridiculous) fashions, ignoring the pain and poverty around them while they spend time and money improving their own looks through plastic surgery to achieve their picture of beauty, and looking down on people who don't see things the way they do or have what they have. It's not hard to connect the dots and see the parallels the author was drawing between the Panem society and our own society, which is often consumed with reality television, trying to look young forever, and gorging on an array of food options while the world around us suffers. I appreciated the characters' quest to do the right thing as far as they possibly could.
Let's start with the obvious: it's a violent story resulting in a lot of deaths. The movie is not as violent as the book - some of the violence described in the book is implied rather than depicted in the movie; however, the movie still contains some disturbing images of violence and death, ranging from hand-to-hand combat and "natural" disasters to poisonous food and dangerous animals. The most disturbing thing is most of the violence is committed by kids on other kids. If you were looking for reasons to not see the movie, violence should be on the top of your list. While the violence is presented as a bad thing, not a good thing, it does exist...and when you put those images in your head, it's almost impossible to get rid of them.
Other negative elements include alcohol (the tributes' mentor, Haymitch, is drunk and shown consuming alcohol throughout the first portion of the movie), some mild language, and some kissing/physical contact between characters.
In case you (or your parents) are wondering, I did not choose to write about The Hunger Games because I thought it would be great for Guide readers to know about; I wrote about it because it has swept the scene so powerfully (move over, Twilight) that most kids I know already know about it. Rather than ignore it, I decided to enter the conversation and address it with information that will (I hope) help you make good decisions about whether or not to read the books or watch the movie.
So now it's your turn. What do you think? Have you read the books or watched the movie? Have you decided to bypass The Hunger Games trend? What about your friends? Tell me about it.