Would You Let Your Child See the Hunger Games?
Yesterday, on the Focus on the Family blog, the post title was “What Do You Think About The Hunger Games?” It posed the question, “Would you permit your son or daughter to watch if they wanted to? Why – or why not?”
A couple years ago, Kaylee finished reading the Twilight series on the heels of finishing Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, series. She was looking for something to read. Someone recommended The Hunger Games. When I read what it was about, I hesitated. That seemed a little bit of a dark concept for my tweeny daughter.
However, while visiting my brother and his wife last year, my sister-in-law (an avid reader) was talking to Kaylee about what she’d been reading and HIGHLY recommended The Hunger Games. Knowing she’d read it, and knowing she has high standards and wouldn’t harm Kaylee with a book recommendation, I didn’t protest when she handed Kaylee her copy of the book.
Kaylee LOVED the books. LOVED them.
I have been meaning to read them and simply haven’t had the time to sit down and read anything in the last year. But I listened to Kaylee when she told me about them and I understood the basic plot.
Here’s the basic, basic plot as broken down by Pluggedinonline:
Ever since the rebellion so many years ago, the Capitol has held an annual Reaping in Panem (a totalitarian-ruled country that’s risen out of a civil war). It’s a way to keep the dissidents in line while entertaining the “true” citizens of the Capitol. Each of the 12 districts must choose one boy and one girl “tribute” to represent them in the horrible Hunger Games. It’s a televised twist on The Running Man, Gladiator, Lord of the Flies and The Lottery that the Capitolites can’t get enough of: 24 teens enter a massive “arena”—only one exits.
They must fight to the death. For the cameras. For the country (they’re told). For celebrity. For a lifetime supply of food and privileges.
Kaylee had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and for her party, she had five friends go with her last Friday to the opening of The Hunger Games. I took them to see it, and decided to stay and see the movie.
Katniss, the main character, is a character worthy to be called a hero. She volunteers to be a tribute to save her younger, weaker sister whose name was pulled in the lottery. She has no desire to be there, and no desire to kill anyone. She tries to run, but is forced back into the play. She helps other tributes in the arena. It’s obvious she has a strong moral compass.
My daughter is 15. If she were younger — maybe even 12 — I would probably have had a harder time letting her see it. But, I have no moral dilemma in letting my 15-year-old see it. As I considered the question posed by Focus on the Family, this is what occurred to me: if the Christian community is up in arms about seeing this movie (and it seems to be split as far as I could tell reading the comments to the referenced post), why?
Consider this: If there was the tiniest thread of Christian worldview woven into the fabric of this story — just a tiny bit — something like Katniss not being willing to kill another person because it’s against God’s law, or Katniss being seen praying before the games begin, or any number of tiny things that would make her into a purposeful Godly character — then Christians would be clamoring to see it, would be announcing it all over the place, and would be writing long expose’s on why it’s such a wonderful moral film to see.
Yet, there is no Christian thread running through the story. However, the main character, Katniss, has a strong moral code and doesn’t break it. (spoiler alert) She kills in self defense, and she kills in a mercy killing. But she avoids it at all costs and risks her own life for the sake of others.
Let’s not forget it’s a work of fiction — a story, with fictional characters set in a fictional setting. So, what do we like about stories? What attracts us to stories? First of all, that they have interesting characters in interesting situations that make us think and feel. In that regard, The Hunger Games succeeds. Take away, “should Christians watch it?” as a question and ask yourself, “Is it a good story? Are the thoughts and feeling it evokes worth exploring? When you take away the religious question, period, could this story have a good basis for teaching our children something about the secular world?”
The answer is a resounding yes.
We have very high standards for our entertainment consumption in our family. “Does it glorify God?” -OR – “Does it NOT glorify evil?” If it does not glorify God, or if it does glorify evil (and we measure evil with the Bible’s yardstick: condoning premarital sex and a host of other sexual sins, lying, stealing, murder, disrespecting parents, etc.) we do not allow it into our entertainment.
While The Hunger Games does not glorify God, in absolutely no way does it glorify evil. Quite the opposite. It takes on a voyeuristic society obsessed with a television show (reality TV, anyone — or, better yet [as I type this in Kentucky right before “The Final Four”] college sports?) and an imperialistic evil government filled with “fat cat” entitled people who fence people in “districts” and let people starve so that they’re willing to sell their names for extra chances to be pulled as “tributes” in exchange for food.
The fact is it’s a great story with interesting characters in interesting situations. I not only took my daughter to see it, I’d recommend you take your teenager to see it — and then talk about it. Incorporate YOUR Christian worldview into your conversations with your teenagers about it and use it as a teaching tool to teach Christ-centered philosophies.
I have now placed the set of books on my reading list and am really looking forward to digging into them.
How about you? Would you let your [teenager] see The Hunger Games?
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my then 11 year old son’s english teacher recommended the book to him last year(he’s not much of a fiction reader) and he devoured them. He loved it so much I had to go buy the other 2 books so he could finish and not have to wait for the library waiting list. Then my oldest read them and I still havent got to them(thanks to always having a ton of books from the library I need to read first).
we plan on going to see the movie this weekend.
if people dont like whatever it’s views are, dont go see it. (that’s just my opinion)
it is just a movie
I just broke down and read the 1st one yesterday. :) I really enjoyed it. Twilight was too teeny bopper and the heroine was pathetic, imo, making me dislike the books. The Hunger Games, however, has a strong heroine and it wasn’t just about 2 people and their love story…it was about a way of life in a made up society. I am looking forward to reading the next 2 books and seeing the movie. It’s Katniss, with an I, btw. ;)
Love your blog Hallee!
Woops — thank you. I was spelling it phonetically and intended to go back and check the spelling.
LOL…I was just coming on here to get rid of that comment after my husband told me how crazy rude it was! I guess I need to think longer about what I am about to blurt out of my keyboard. :)
Not at all. I’m happy you said something. I totally spaced checking it. It’s fixed now!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Last weekend when Hunger Games opened a friend on Facebook posted her dislike for the Hunger Games and how she could not understand how parents could let their children read the book or watch the movie. In her opinion, God would not approve and Christians should not be reading these books. This, of course, began a HUGE and VERY heated argument amongst many. I read the entire thread and was bothered by the entire conversation, but could not bring myself to post my opinion. Mostly, because I couldn’t find the right words. I even thought of you and Kaylee going to see the Hunger Games and wondered what you would have thought of the thread. :-) You are absolutely right! This is what I wanted to say. :-) Katniss is a good person with a strong moral compass and I believe that is something our children should see. This post makes me very happy.
I have not read the series yet or seen the movie…only read a few postings in reaction to the movie release. I thought you might want to check out this post on Katniss: http://www.shelaughsatthedays.net/2012/03/problem-with-katniss.html
Our oldest is a boy who just turned 9 so I have a bit of time left before we have to make decisions about these sort of things. I wonder what “the next big thing” will be then?!?
I’m surprised. I would have thought that the relationships would put this on the “can’t read/see” list. I hope you get a chance to read them yourself soon!
“Kaylee finished reading the Twilight series on the heels of finishing Harry Potter and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, series. She was looking for something to read. Someone recommended The Hunger Games. When I read what it was about, I hesitated. That seemed a little bit of a dark concept for my tweeny daughter.”
The obvious contradiction (to ME) in this paragraph is that you don’t recognize the DARK concepts you already allowed. So I kept reading, thinking we had different convictions about entertainment standards. Believe me, this is a conversational theme with some of my closest friends.
But then you give your standards as: “Does it glorify God?” -OR – “Does it NOT glorify evil?” You do not answer NO and YES, respectively, to stories about physical relationships, vampires, werewolfs and witchcraft? I agree that the HG theme is dark, but drawing the line at HG would seem hypocritical in your family. You will definitely find plenty of fodder for teaching about the secular world in all of those stories.
Hopefully you have had many opportunities to process themes with your daughter and weigh them against Biblical truths.
I believe that the question isnt ” SHOULD Christians watch something?” But WHY should we? We have been “launching” our teens for years now, and they have to make and own their decisions about everything-including entertainment. We have lively discussions and prayerful follow-ups about these very issues.
As a sister/mom in Christ, I only mean for this to be thought provoking, not heated or angry as Kate experienced on FB. But as Sara said, I hope you get to read them soon so you know what you need to process with your daughter. The blog that Tricia posted is an interesting place to start.
I appreciate your sharing. It’s actually something I’ve had conversations with other people about recently.
So while again, and Hallee you know this, I am not one to embrace religion of any sort, I applaud the Christian community in seeing “The Hunger Games” as a worthy launching pad for moral discussions of all sorts. I saw in it a worst case scenario for the direction this country has taken where “Gimme” is the favored word of kids and instant gratification is just a mouse click away. I don’t believe I’m being alarmist though I doubt this will happen overnight or in the lifetime My sons are grown now and can make their own decisions about such things but yes, when they were teens, I most certainly would’ve allowed them to read this. My elder son has already read through the series and I’m just waiting for my place in the library reserve queue to come to the front for “Mockingjay.” It gives me faith in this country that parents such as I see in the post are ensuring their kids are raised, however that may be, with good moral values and introspection on choices they may make in their lives that will only enhance their way of living and this world in general.