Saturday, March 17, 2012

How should I deal with The Hunger Games?

The following is my response to a mother who asked for my insight on The Hunger Games movie/book.  I thought you might find my response helpful.         
In His service, 
Al Menconi 

Dear Glenda,

I don't know the specifics of The Hunger Games movie, but I just read The Hunger Games book and thought it was fascinating.  I didn't see anything overtly anti-biblical, considering it is a story about children age 12 to 18 fighting to the death.  The basic story takes place 300 years in the future of North America, and after some unmentioned cataclysmic events there are 12 isolated districts ruled by The Capitol.  To keep the 12 outlying districts in submission, The Capitol makes the 12 districts each randomly select a boy and a girl to represent their district in a fight to the death in a huge jungle type of arena, hence the title of the Movie/book.  It is humbling and demeaning for the districts and a certain death sentence for the children.  

The whole event is broadcast live on TV and all the districts are forced to watch.  The Capitol is an elite class of people who are "fat and happy" and are only concerned about their personal enjoyment and entertainment.  It seems to be very symbolic of the fall of Rome and the decline of America.  

The heroine, Katniss, is a girl from district 12 who is "selected" to represent her district in the "Games."  She is so naive that she doesn't realize the boy who is selected to fight with her and the boy left at home in District 12 are both in love with her.  

I can give you more details, but I'm afraid that I would spoil the movie/book for you.  The books were  written for teens, but I can vouch first hand that they appeal to people of all ages.  This extremely popular series of books sold 18 million copies and was on the best seller lists forever. And I am certain this movie will be a MAJOR hit.  Some theater complexes showed Hunger Games on all their screens during the first week.  Every kid in America will want to see it.  Some are predicting these movies will be more popular than Twilight and maybe even Harry Potter.  


MY ADDITIONS AFTER WATCHING THE MOVIE 


I just watched the movie to see if "Hollywood" would add immoral elements.  I am happy to say they didn't.  It closely follows the book and the only concern you should have is the theme. The actual killing was "off screen" or implied. They did a great job at interpreting the book. 


It was less violent than any killing or CSI autopsy on TV. I'm not going to recommend it simply because it isn't a Christian movie, but I didn't find anything offensive that is so common in the average PG-13 movie. No profanity! No sex, suggestive, or sexual situations. No on screen killing. So, if you aren't offended by the theme, you will love the movie. 


I thought the book and movie made a political statement about the "big government" imposing its will on its subjects with reckless abandon. It also made a strong statement against becoming a narcissistic and uncaring society. And finally, I believe the real theme of the story is "the only true way to win is to live for others." And "If you are right, be bold." 


This is much more of an honest love story than a story of killing. It is nothing like the Twilight series that is the most insidious "love story" in history.  "Do I love the vampire or do I love the werewolf?"  Gag me with a spoon.  You'll appreciate how the Hunger Games love story progresses as a question? Is this feeling really love?  Who knows what the future holds.  


I believe this film deserves to be a PG-13 movie because the storyline has 24 teens fighting to the death. But the producers kept their promise not to show the killing on screen.  Most of the deaths are implied and not shown graphically.  Sometimes what you don't see can be more dramatic than what is shown.  
  
I would attend with your mature children and discuss any issues that may come up.  I read the book for research, but it captured my attention from the first page and I enjoyed the story immensely.  The movie had my attention from the opening credits.  It is a unique setting, the writing was very engaging and I found myself caught up in the story.  I couldn't put the book down and read it in one day, as did my wife. 


It has been years since I became that involved in a novel.  I found the Harry Potter series slow and boring.  And the Twilight series has been like finger nails scraping on a chalkboard for me.  But The Hunger Games deserves to be the phenomenon that I am certain it will become.  

I cannot speak for books 2 or 3.  

Suggestion.  Don't fear it or fight it.  Your kids will want to see it. Don't make it an issue if they are mature teens.  If they don't have an interest, don't encourage it.  Just because the movie is rated PG-13 doesn't mean it is appropriate for immature children.  If you have any question, read the book and or attend the movie before you allow your children to attend. By taking the time to do this will show your children that you love them enough to take the time to evaluate it before giving permission.  


You will be under tremendous pressure so have your "ducks in a row" as this is one of those times when your children will be right when they say, "All my friends are going."  You should be informed and have a first hand perspective if you are not going to allow your children to attend or not.  It is the reasonable and loving thing to do.

Potential questions with children:
1. "How would you feel if you were chosen to fight to the death?  Why?"
2. "If you had to make a choice, who would you die for?"
3. "What was your favorite part of the story? Why?"
4. "Do you believe there is a deeper meaning to this movie? If so, what?"
5. "Who was your favorite character?  Why?"


Let me know if this is helpful. 

In His service and yours,

Al Menconi





For books and resources to help you connect and communicate values to your kids check out our website at: http://www.almenconi.com/

Al Menconi, Al Menconi Ministries, Parenting, Parenting help, Christian parenting, Christian parenting help, Parenting advice, Christian Parenting advice, Parenting tips, Christian parenting tips,Entertainment advice for parents, Entertainment advice, Christianconference speaker, Christian counselor, Keeping Kids Safe In the digital age, Keeping Kids Safe in the Internet age, The Christian Music Diet, It Doesn’t Affect Me.

Al Menconi Ministries Mission Statement:
Helping parents and leaders overcome the influence the entertainment media has on their families, motivate parents and leaders to connect with their children and teach parents and leaders how to communicate and model values to their children.

21 comments:

  1. I have not read the book, nor have I even heard of the movie, but Mr. Menconi, after reading your reply, I would agree that this is crucial that parents engage with their kids IF they want to see it. My concerns? With just what you wrote are:

    1. WHERE are the adults in this series of catastrophes? It seems that so many of our media these days promotes the absence (physical or intelligence-wise) of responsible adults. The solutions always point away from an adult (usually portrayed as stupid to some degree) to a wiser, more thoughtful young person.

    2. A girl? What happened to the perspective of MEN being the head of the home? This perspective AGAIN lessens the value of the male gender in our society. Will this "strength" and persistence of the girl again portray "men" to be a "weaker" gender of our culture?

    3. I see your comments about the movie to reflect that "men" are not capable of being leaders and always defer to the "women". This is off the cuff for me. Yes, I should read the book --- I don't have issues with women being victorious, like Esther, Ruth or Deborah were in the Bible. They helped point the way but did not put men down in the process..

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. My daughter (14) has been counting down to Hunger Games for months now. My husband read the first book with her and is now starting on the second. He said he thought it was good, except the premise is just so horrible to think of as really happening. We have bought her the tickets and plan to chaperone her and her friends at the movie. She will be happy to hear you liked the first book. :)

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  3. Very erudite & insightful answer! It's always refreshing when people actually take time to read something through instead of just give a "safe" kneejerk reaction.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your response! I appreciate that you objectively reviewed the book. I had resisted reading it and when my older teen daughter told me the gist of it, I was a bit horrified and didn't want to read it. I am still horrified at the prospect of having children fight to the death to make a point, but now that I read the books (I'm on the 3rd one now) I'm please with how the author depicts this horror and shows how it affects those chosen to be Tributes and win.

    So, anyway, thanks for not jumpin on the "It's not a Christian book so we cannot let our children read it!" bandwagon. :)

    A Christian mother of 3

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    1. Thank you for the encouraging words. By the way, you may be interested in the discussions I've been having about my review.

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  5. Al,

    I appreciate and value most of your comments and helpful suggestions for parents of teens.

    I have not read any of the books nor have I even thought about going to the movie. I just found out about it for the first time tonight. Hasn't been on talk radio and I guess if I didn't have a teen who had Christian friends who are all reading the books, I guess I wouldn't have heard about it. I guess I live under a rock.

    My question for you (aside from the fact that you deal with teens and parents of teens) why would one want to fill their mind with death, killing, bloodshed, etc. in light of Phil. 4:8? Is it just so we can communicate with our culture and engage them about this or any other movie?

    Thanks.

    Concerned Dad in Atlanta

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    1. Dear Concerned Dad, I hope you have been reading my conversations with "Jim" in this blog. You can hide a child only for so long. Our goal as parents is to teach your kids HOW to think, not simply WHAT to think. Let me know if my responses to Jim have been helpful for you.

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  6. I have seen enough in the news about this movie. I will NEVER watch it or recommend it.

    This movie is frightening! Don't you remember the book written years ago titled, "Lord of the Flies"? Without proper supervision, the boys were starting to hunt and kill each other! And, THIS movie is telling us the authorities are AUTHORIZING this heinous stuff!

    It sounds like Rome and the coliseums all over again! Mark my words. There will be incidents where teens decided to imitate the movie and other teens will DIE for that stupidity!

    I will NOT read the book. I will NOT support the movie. There is ZERO redeeming value in books and movies like this.

    I am surprised you were not disgusted with the book.

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  7. Hey Jim,
    This is NOT "Lord of the Flies" where kids did what was right in their own eyes. You are missing the point of the movie entirely. You are correct in one sense that it represents the heartlessness of a society like Rome. I'm not recommending it, but it is opposite of "Lord of the flies." I suggest that you reconsider if you have teens living at home.

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  8. Thanks for your quick response, Al.

    Sorry, but when I see the comments, clips, and discussion on Fox News about this film, I am deeply disturbed with it.

    It is opposite of "Lord of the Flies" in that the adults are the CALMING effect. In this movie, the adults send out the kids to kill each other!

    Do you deny that?

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  9. Again, this is not a Christian book, so I don't want to be seen as promoting it. All I'm saying it is NOT offensive or pitting the children against the parents. If it has an underlining story it is about "to truly win, you must live for others." It show "big government" as the thoughtless oppressors and the outlining districts as the oppressed. The ruling class is so "fat and insensitive," like the Romans they derive pleasure at the pain of others. The Capitol makes the districts "sacrifice one boy and one girl to fight to the death in an enclosed forest that is miles square in area on live TV. Only one survives, which means the other 23 are sacrificed. This is cause for heartache, anger and rebellion for all the districts, but it is merely entertainment for the Capitol. As stated in the blog and other responses, The movie/ book doesn't contain profanity, sex, or sexual situations, or violence on the screen. It is obvious the children are being killed but the killing isn't shown nor is it glorified. If you have children who are being pressured into attending, I am suggesting that you read or attend first so you can discuss with reason why you don't want them to attend. THIS MOVIE/BOOK IS NOT A HILL TO DIE ON, but it can be a common area for discussion of deeper principles of life. I am saying this as a conservative Christian without a liberal bone in my body.

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  10. So, this is one of those movies for which we need to be prepared to teach the truth.
    That could go for hundreds of other movies out of Hollywood ... such as Harry Potter ...
    I guess I am just older than you, and I want to remove all destructive things like these movies from my life.
    Dungeons and Dragons is yet another destructive force being invited into Christian homes. If the Christians don't see the satanic influence, they will be destroyed.

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  11. Jim,

    You are missing my point. We should always be prepared to teach the Truth with or without a movie/book. Notice I never recommended this movie. I am saying this is not worth fighting over and it could even provide an excellent opportunity to find a common ground to dialog with your children. If you have children that are teens or close to teens, all their friends will have seen it. By watching the movie and discussing the lessons and themes with your children you are teaching them how to think in a biblical manner. If you just simply tell them "No!" without a reasonable or accurate explanation you may be fulfilling the Eph 6:4 warning by Paul of "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

    We aren't arguing over doctrine or Scripture. I wish ALL movies and books were based on Scripture, but this book/movie can be an excellent tool to develop common ground with your children and have an open discussion. When I see statistics that nearly 80% of young people don't live for Jesus after high school it scares me. I believe they leave their faith on our doorstep because it was never their faith in the first place. It was our faith and they were counting the days until they would be on their own to make their own decisions. I find that many kids live "like Hell" after high school because their parents never took the time to teach them HOW to think, just WHAT to think.

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  12. I am with you on your latest comment. We do need to teach our children to think biblically. Yes, that movie is out there. Yes, kids will see it. Yes, we need to be able to discuss the problems in the movie.
    It is just plain frustrating that we have to deal with this kind of garbage all the time.
    ... and I know pastors that think Dungeons and Dragons is OK for their teens to play. God help us find the TRUTH to give to these troubled teens!

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  13. Jim,
    I know your frustration. I've been in full-time ministry concerning the influence of the media on families for 30 years. Sometimes I get discouraged, but I thank God I haven't lost my way. Keep an eye out for our Christian Music Diet project. I'm almost completed and ready to launch. It is my hope and prayer that it will become a catalyst for revival in America within 5 years. Being a parent is extremely difficult and being a good parent is nearly impossible. I have 34 years of trying and failing, but I don't give up.

    FYI, Dungeons and Dragons uses "real demons" in the game description. I was warning parents about D&D more than 25 years ago. Hunger Games is not D&D.

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  14. How do I search your site for the information on D&D? I would like to send it to my son-in-law. He plays D&D every Saturday night. He and several members of his church - even a deacon in the church - say D&D is OK and would not heed my warnings.

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  15. Jim,

    Our research on D & D was soooo long ago in the 80's, that I can't find hard copies of our work. We changed our website three times since then and aren't able to locate the old links. But I did a Google search of "Dungeon and Dragons Al Menconi" and came up with some related articles we had written in the 80's and some police reports that used us as reference on the first page. You may find older articles and even some criticism on message boards about our old game reviews - which we no longer do. I'm sorry, but that is the best we can do at this time. I don't believe the complete D & D game is demonic, but I am certain some of the demons used in their game play book are the same demons summoned in the Satanic Bible and the Book of the Dead.

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  16. http://web.archive.org/web/20020604090125/http://www.almenconi.com/
    Most of the old site can still be accessed through the wayback machine, but if there are any old D & D articles there, I'm not sure where to find them.

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  17. Al, you are a very patient man. I am a conservative Christian parent who HAS read the book and seen the movie twice with two teenagers. It promoted some terrific family dinner time discussions. The premise is horrid but the message is sound. Didn't our saviour go through awful pain and death for us - I liked your comment about how to truly win, you must live for others.

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  18. A recent article was written on your site concerning movies that contain alcohol and pre-marital sex and the results that occur to teens who watch these types of movies.
    Does that also hold true for the portrayal of violent movies? If teens who engage in these types of movies lead to lives that imitate this type of illicit living, given by statistics and studies, how much more violence? As it has been stated, sometimes not viewing the actual violent act is just as damaging to the mind.
    I was only curious about the studies and statistics.
    I understand you are NOT advocating Hunger Games.

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  19. Your question is a solid one. Thank you for asking.
    I believe violent movies and violent video games and violence of all kinds can have a negative effect on all of us, not just youth. Many valid researches support me on this statement.
    I wrote my Hunger Games book/movie review because I do not see it as a violent movie. It just so happens that the Capitol is imposing its will on the outlining districts by holding the Hunger Games. I believe the theme is an analogy of the fall of the Roman Empire and possibly even the decline of America. We have become so desensitized to immorality and violence that it becomes "entertainment" to us. THAT is the story of Hunger Games.
    The Capitol had become so desensitized to life in general that they saw the Hunger Games as mere entertainment when the actual participants were frightened to death. The movie didn't show or emphasize the killing, instead when a contestant was killed, a cannon was fired to notify the other combatants and the audience. The only people watching the killing were the "fat and heartless" people in the Capitol.
    The Games were in a huge forest and survival skills, loyalty, and relationships were shown, not killing. So when a reviewer says they fought to the death in the arena, they are talking about a huge forest and not a football field. Just as “Ben Hur” and “Spartacus” were movies about slaves fighting for their lives, Hunger Games is the modern version of teens fighting for their lives.
    "The Passion of the Christ" and that even showed the violent acts against Jesus, but I didn't see it as a violent movie. It was a movie of redemption and hope. Hunger Games is not in the same league as "The Passion," but it is also about values, character, and love, not violence.
    I know my response sounds like a liberal "copout," but I want you to know I'm going the extra mile on this, because moral people (Christians) can't imagine how “teens killing each other” isn't a violent movie. But it's not. I don't want parents losing the opportunity to identify with their children and therefore miss the opportunity to discuss the real meaning of the movie.
    The mother who was the first to ask me about Hunger Games and in effect was responsible for me writing the review, took our suggestion and wrote the following response this AM:
    "Thank you very much for your reply and advise. I just read your review of the movie and it was excellent and right on the spot. I took my daughter to watch the movie on Friday, and I have to say I enjoyed it very much. We talked about love and putting others before ourselves just as Christ commands us. My daughter who is 11 (But very mature) came to the following conclusion:
    "People in the capitol are so into themselves and the pleasures of this world (fashion, food and fufu stuff) that are not able to see sin, they are so desensitized to the reality of the world (kids killing each other) they just see it as normal, because they have been doing it for a long time. Even tough it is a horrible thing they are blinded by selfishness.” She also liked the boldness of the heroine who chose to do the right thing even if it cost her life. (Offering herself as a sacrifice for her sister and also helping the little girl at the games).
    It took only a little guidance from me so my daughter came to her own conclusions. My son who is 15 will go next week. I can't wait to see what he will learn, but I have for sure a lot of input.
    Thank you again for your Godly, honest and objective reviews. We pray for you and your ministry often!"
    Laura, all I'm asking is for you to consider using this movie to identify with your children and helping them learn to think. If you simply say "no" without knowing why, you are likely to exasperate your children when you don't have to. (Eph 6:4)

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