Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, you’re probably aware that a little movie called The Hunger Games came out this past weekend. Based on the best selling trilogy books by Suzanne Collins, the movie has already grossed $155 million at the box office and had the third highest opening weekend of all time. Teens at local movie theaters camped out for hours (some all day) to get the best seats in the theater at the midnight opening, and even a few adults came armed with their Starbucks and lawn chairs, too. Yet a few parents aren’t too keen on the movie’s premise, which involves kids killing kids. Isn’t this exactly the sort of stuff we don’t want to promote?
The Hunger Games’ story involves Katniss Everdeen, an average teen girl who bravely volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the annual Hunger Games. The Games are put on by the evil Capitol and are a Survivor-type game show in which two teens from each “district” are chosen by lottery to fight to the death in a man-made arena while the world looks on. Some contenders die of natural causes, while others are forced to kill, and in the end there is only one survivor. The premise sounds gruesome, but the movie is presented beautifully, and there’s a lot more to the story than a blood bath.
I bought into the hype and read all three books last year in a week. I found them intriguing, well written and even poignant. Since the beginning of time, the theme of good versus evil has prevailed in books and movies, and Hunger Games is no exception. The teens are forced to fight one another, but the real enemy is the Capitol, a futuristic place in which greed, gluttony and evil prevails. There’s even a sweet love story (OK, love triangle) that rivals Bella’s in the popular Twilight series. There’s also unity as the different districts, oppressed for years, band together and revolt to fight for justice. The books bring up a pressing and relevant question: “What would you do if you found yourself a victim of such an evil society?”
I understand parents’ concern, however, with the books and the movie. Personally, I believe that, as with all things, we should scope out the stuff first and not make a rash judgment until we do.
After reading the books, I deemed them appropriate for my 15-year-old (who loved them) but decided to hold off on letting my 11-year-old read them. The books specifically say they’re geared toward 13 and up, as the themes in them might be too mature for kids younger than this. The Hunger Games has generated some great discussion on these themes between me and my 15-year-old, including unity, loyalty and justice, and it was enjoyable for us to find a book and movie we could both enjoy and discuss.
Moms, when it comes to popular movies and books, do you scope them out first with your kids before letting them watch or read? Do you find the Hunger Games appropriate for your kids, and if so, what ages? Have you had any good discussions with your kids as the result of these popular books?