The Hunger Games

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?”. 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?

18 thoughts on “The Hunger Games

  1. Ha! This was really entertaining, great post. 🙂
    I have to admit, as a teen I don’t find the concept disturbing at all, and I thought there was minimal violence in the film. Yes there was some, but most of the time the camera angles were so fasted you couldn’t even see what was happening. Although I have to agree, eight is probably a little too young. On my blog I suggested ten and upwards. The way I see it, it’s not really any worse than some of the stories we see on the news everyday, and young children get exposed to that….

    • You are right the must violent scenes weren’t graphically portrayed, I just couldn’t get passed the whole notion of kids killing kids, it was interesting though watching the techniques used to keep Catniss a sympathetic character, even in that situation. You’ve got a good point about the news. I’m off to check out your blog.

  2. I went to see the movie without reading the book first. My children are grown and in their thirties. They loved it. My husband loved it. I balk at anything with violence, and I was particularly balky about reading or seeing this book that pitted children against children, with one survivor. We have enough violence in our world! I can see well-loved, mature kids going to the movie or reading the book and understanding it’s fiction, but what about troubled children?
    I agree with you that I liked Kat, the strong female lead, I liked the way Kat and Peeta defied the government, and I liked the way some of the children supported each other, even when fighting.
    I also think the Capitol, like governments of today, interfere too much in peoples’ lives, changing rules at their whim. There were many things to like about the movie and book.
    I just had trouble dealing with the “children killing children” theme. And your daughter is right. The HG were created because the people were being punished for fighting before. It’s connected to their food rations, something that wasn’t explained well (like sponsors) in the movie. Good post…and good thoughts to ponder. I love to hear what your children say. They sound like such neat, mature kids. And that means YOU are doing a great job!

    • I’ve got the book to read now – Hippie Child says that although she enjoyed the movie she preferred the book. Collins obviously had some important things to say about our world today and I guess the whole concept of the “hunger games” as a contest (and the horror of that) makes here points stronger (perhaps).

  3. I read the books because I am a middle aged man completed thrilled by the quality of Young Adult fiction these days. I was not really thinking of taking the kids to see the movie and I could likely miss it myself and not be bothered. There is so much controversy about the fact that kids/teens are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. A really important question to ask is why we would not be so concerned if the characters were adults. Would that not be just as repugnant? The setting of the books is terrible and dystopian and bothered me so much that I have not yet read the third book. I think the strong parallels to the rise of the conservative right, the rise of “thank god those losers aren’t me” reality TV and the growing gap between rich and poor in our own world should make all of us sleep a little less easily. I agree with your daughter that we are to close for comfort.

    • Really good point – if it was adults vs adults would there be such an outcry? I would still be horrified at the concept of people having to fight each other to the death – but for me seeing 12 year old kids go into the “games” and die was the most awful part – probably didn’t have quite the same reaction to the older kids dying (they looked more like adults) – which is awful to admit. We are probably more used to seeing adult vs adult violence. Although for me the big difficulty with this was the notion that there was no war, no “bad guys” as such, just kids forced into trying to win a horrible game. I get that was central to the point Collins was trying to make – and it was very effective in doing that.

  4. Great post – one of your most thought provoking. The fact that you think about these things demonstrate that you are a great parent and care for your children.

    I recall ‘accidentally’ watching an episode of Son & Daughters when I was 10 and then asking my mother what a prostitute was. I don’t remember the explanation given, but I recall she was embarassed and unprepared at the time I asked the question.

    We’re better to be involved in these discussions with our children otherwise they will find answers to their questions via other means, which these days are numerous and often wrong.

    • Your poor mum. I agree that we do need to have these discussions – my kids are also at a great age where they can argue their point of view on things we have seen, heard, read and I love getting their perspective because it often challenges my own. I guess that’s one of the advantages of having kids, they keep you grounded and in touch with what’s happening (particularly in popular culture).

  5. hello janine – my teen also went and loved it. i read some of it, but couldn’t get past the topic, and avoided it with our younger child.

    • I reckon 12 is probably as young as I would go – but as always I suppose it depends on the child. I think the statements Collins are making are important but I don’t think younger children will get the links to issues such as reality television, etc etc and like you I struggle with the topic. Thanks Noreen at beauty of everyday life

  6. Ha ha! So glad I am over this stage of parenting! Now I watch with amusement, my daughter dealing with the same issues she & I clashed over 🙂 Young children should not be exposed to ANY violence In my opinion but it gets harder each day to protect them.

    • I find even some of the G and PG stuff can have violent aspects to it. It’s a lottery sometimes. I guess with this one it’s the controversial nature of the concept itself as opposed to the actual violent acts which certainly aren’t portrayed in graphic detailed. Yet I suppose it’s that shocking concept which got everyone talking and interested and thereby makes Collins’ points about our society.

  7. My daughter went the other day Janine, I didn’t like the concept of it but let her go with a friend (she’s 13) , she came home and hardly commented about it except to say it was scary..haven’t seen any move towards the books yet..apparently they are expecting the movie to gross nearly as much as Harry Potter.

    • I think this generation is going to have three big blockbusters now, Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games. My girls never showed any interest in Twilight and I’ve never read the books or seen the movies but we did get into Harry Potter and now it looks like we’re going all the way the Hunger Games. Thanks Catherine at Farmhouse Home

  8. I am vaguely interested in reading the books because I’ve heard that they are good. But the idea of 24 people fighting until there is only one survivor turns my stomach – whether they are kids or adults.
    I’m lucky in that Boy (13) hasn’t been interested in the books and would refuse to go and see the movie as it has been billed as another Twilight.
    Even if Boy was interested and we saw it I wouldn’t take Girl (8) as she can be anxious and I think she would get upset. That said she might surprise me.

  9. So, I haven’t read Hunger Games, and I probably don’t intend on reading the movie, but this was really interesting to read nonetheless. I like that Hippie Child sits you down and tells it like it is. I’m also impressed that you and your daughter were able to discuss all of those things found in Home and Away. My parents and I would never EVER be able to do that. (…overprotective Italian parents)

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