Decision making is a constant feature of parenting. From conception onwards you are asked to make decisions that could impact on child.
Sad to say that doesn’t taper off as they become older. Up until three weeks ago I had never heard of The Hunger Games then a friend lent Hippie Child a copy of the book by Suzanne Collins. The pair tried to describe the storyline to me and began with something like “and 24 kids get sent to a forest and have to kill each, until only one is left alive, they are the winner”.
Deep breath, don’t overreact, ripping the book out of her hands and tearing it to shreds goes against all your views on censorship. Remind myself that I believe kids should be allowed to read what they choose as they become older and, as a parent, you should be prepared to discuss controversial topics they have been exposed to. Gotta love my theories.
Anyway, Hippie Child loved the book and returned it to her friend before I had a chance to read it.
Then I learn there’s a movie, and Hippie Child has a arranged to go with a group of friends. Now Princess Child is getting interested too. It’s rated M. That can’t be too bad can it? MA means it’s restricted to 15 and over but M still allows entry to younger kids.
More deep breathing, in fact a touch of hyper-ventilating as the storyline starts to get discussed, kids killing kids, it’s a hideous concept.
Hippie Child gives me a “talking to”. She does this on a regular basis. It began when she was 7 and in another one of my great “it seemed like a good idea at the time” decisions I placed her at a school which was troubled to say the least. Facing me down over breakfast one morning she informed me that I had to let her watch new TV shows. Why? I query. “Because I can’t talk to these kids, they watch shows I’ve never heard of and then spend half the morning talking about them I CAN’T JOIN IN”. We negotiated, I ended up agreeing to The Simpsons and Home and Away. Although she lost interest in the cartoon pretty quickly we would go on to spend many years of watching Home and Away together, and discussing death, homosexuality, teenage pregnancies, sex and every other soapie crisis the program makers could throw at us.
This time she tells me the book was great, the lead female character is brilliant and the killing is just one part of a very interesting storyline, she then goes on to remind me she is 15. So we agree she’s going. Then Princess Child wages the “if you let her go you have to let me go too” argument. Now I decide it’s up to Hippie Child to determine if the movie is too graphic for her sister. Suddenly Princess Child becomes very nice toward her elder sister, “can I feed the dog for you?”.
Time.com presents the arguments for taking your kids, when psychology professor, Christopher Ferguson announces he will be taking his eight year old to the film, and against when film reviewer, Mary Pols declares she won’t be taking her young child.
On Saturday Hippie Child declares her sister should be OK, reckons the movie isn’t as good as the book, and experiences her first “it looked different in my head” book/movie disconnect.
So on Sunday I rock up to the movies with my 12 year old and Nana Shambles (who has loudly objected to the whole concept of the movie, particularly taking children too it, but is there because “she wants to be able to talk about it”).
Princess Child dislikes a few moments of the film but overall declares it was “great”. Me? Well I still find the concept abhorrent but I think the film is visually magnificent, I love the strong female lead, great to see the girl rescuing the bloke in this one, while the story raised discussion on issues such as dictatorships, the culture of reality TV, manipulation, stylization, morals and ethics.
I agree with Ferguson that a well adjusted, well loved child will not be turned into a violent killer by watching this work of fiction. But I would argue that eight is too young to be exposed to this concept particularly given the most disturbing part of the film was seeing the youngest combatants die.
Hippie Child tells me that although it’s a fantasy she could see it happening in real life, no I declare, people would never allow it, there would be uprisings, violence in the streets as parents fought to protect their children. But Mum, she patiently explains, the reason The Hunger Games were created by the Capitol was to control the people, it’s a punishment for having tried to fight once before. Then I suppose in the real world we had the Holocaust didn’t we?
Have you seen the Hunger Games? How do you go about deciding what is suitable viewing/reading for your children?