The Hunger Games: Parent Trap

Parents of teenagers, or to use today’s parlance “young adults,” ought to think about the messages conveyed by The Hunger Games books and movie.  What are young people taking away from this entertainment bonanza?

Note: I haven’t read the books, but many of the reviews on Amazon re-enforce my thoughts after having seen the movie.

While the events take place in a fictional world, how many young people see the world created by Suzanne Collins as a metaphor for present-day society, a world where parents are missing or weak, where communities are oppressed and passive, and where young adults are the only hope?

My guess is that the appeal of these stories lies in part in the degree to which young people see their lives to be taking place in a similar universe.

Look at the adults! There is only one totally admirable character in the movie––Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz, the man who helps create Katniss’ firey entrance. (I believe his helping Katniss costs him his life in the book.) The rest of the adult characters are either weak or evil.

In the world these adults have created, the rules of life are irrational; the poor and oppressed live to serve the rich and powerful like the spectables of ancient Rome; and the innocent have no chance.

The consequences of such a world-view are not happy to contemplate. It suggests people two options — life as victim or as cruel conqueror.  Emulating Katniss is not really an option. Most YA’s will not feel up to matching her courage, skills or personal beauty.

Contrast The Hunger Games with Lord of the Rings. Yes, LOTR is a also story of good versus evil, but the good resides not just in one heroic individual, but the entire hobbit community. It is the Hobbit community that is threatened by evil and the heroes reluctantly but bravely set out to defy evil. The Hunger Games presents a more pessimistic view. Katniss and Peeta survive the first round, and in the movie there’s a hint of the potential of community rebellion, but the rebellion is put down. In LOTR evil is defeated almost unintentionally.  The ring must be destroyed and Frodo reluctantly undertakes the mission. It is his pureness of soul that enables him to persevere and triumph. His friends help as much as they can, willing to sacrifice everything for the mission; while in THG help is purchased by conforming to societal norms.

I’m not condeming THG or saying parents should allow their YA’s to read it.  Censorship is never the answer.  But parents should initiate conversations about how their YA’s feel about the books and movie.  Ask them what they get out of it and whether they feel it represents the real world.

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