Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hunger Games

“I’m so excited to see the movie!” 

“I just can’t wait!”

“It was awesome.  Not as good as the book, but I still enjoyed it.”

I have been hearing and reading many comments like these since The Hunger Games opened in theaters.  Honestly, I do not understand the excitement surrounding the movie or the trilogy despite having read all three books. Suzanne Collins, the author, writes a very compelling, yet disturbing book.  She does a fantastic job creating characters whom you love and sympathize with.  She builds suspense that keeps you turning the pages into the wee hours of the night.  However, I find the premise that 24 teenagers, ages 12-18, would be forced into an arena to “star” in a reality Survivor-like television show for entertainment and as a means for the government to display its power very disconcerting.  I am well aware that the world is full of horrifying events and perhaps this is the reason I grapple with this book and people’s responses to it.  The story is set in the future, but the events are not only potential future events, they belong to the past and the present.    In Africa for over 20 years now, children have been kidnapped from their families and forced to join rebel armies.  At the age of 12 they become soldiers, soldiers who must kill their parents and siblings to ensure their own survival.  All of this is done as an exhibition of the power of the army.  In Asia, young girls, children, are sold into the sex industry.  Their parents sell them to ensure their survival.  These girls are “killed” for entertainment for men who can’t control their sexual desires.  While these girls may not physically die immediately they do experience an emotional death and many may eventually die of STD’s. 

As I hear about all the excitement about the movie being released I’m conflicted.  I wonder what if a documentary showing young African boys being kidnapped and placed in the bush to fight for their lives, which is true, was shown in the theaters, how many people would be lined up at midnight to view it?  How many millions of dollars would be made?  Would people sit in the comfortable theater chairs and enjoy a bucket of popcorn, Coke, and Milk Duds, while they watched starving people on the big screen?  If they did, would they walk out of the theater saying, “this was awesome or I loved it?”  I surely hope not.  I would hope that they would be deeply moved by the atrocities of war and the depravity of man’s sinful nature.  I know that The Hunger Games provides hope through the character, Katniss and Peeta, but I believe it is only a glimmer of hope at the end of the first book.  Yes, they may have stood up to the Capitol, but any reader knows that the Capitol still has power over them and “the games” are not over, thus the second book, Catching Fire.  What if the child soldiers documentary had a glimmer of hope, would we be more excited about it?  The many documentaries that have already been produced do provide hope.  Men who have escaped the armies are featured.  Many of these men have moved to America, received an education, and are experiencing success.  Yet, the war they faced still affects them with nightmares and horrid memories.  Even at the end of the trilogy, Katniss still experiences nightmares and the constant memories of her time in the games.  The battle still rages for these memories to not get the best of them. 

I’m not faulting Collins for writing the novels, nor people for reading them.  I believe the books present many mature topics that are necessary to discuss.  What I don’t understand is the excitement.  I fear that the masses are going to be caught up in the entertainment of the story, the glamour of the actors, and the awesome special effects instead of being saddened by the depravity of man and the atrocities of war. 

I do not wish for this commentary to appear to be passing judgment on those who have read the books and watched the movie.  My desire is to present another side to the excitement surrounding this story and to cause us to pause and consider what we are watching and how we are responding to it.  I believe this was one of the messages the author herself was trying to relay, yet I fear that message will be lost in the entertainment.  One of my questions is why are we watching the movie and reading the books?  Is it to be provoked to consider the problems that so many people in our world face?  Or is it to be entertained?  I also wonder what our response should be.  Wow, that was awesome, I love it!  Or Wow that was a complex commentary on our society and I pray that life can be different.

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