As a writer of Young Adult fiction, I try to read anything and everything that is in that genre to keep current with my reading audience. That also means, even though I write from a Christian world view, that I read secular books (oftentimes paranormal) so I know what is “trending” with that age group. I read all the Harry Potter Books, the Twilight Series and most recently the Hunger Games.
I will admit I quite enjoyed the Harry Potter series. I even liked the Twilight series (go Team Jacob!)…so I had high expectations for the Hunger Games.
They say that books (and movies) define a societal thinking at the time the books are written. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) was a scathing commentary on racial tensions at that time; The Diary of Anne Frank (1947) was released shortly after the Holocaust; The Feminine Mystique (1963) was the “spark” that lit the feminist movement of the 60’s. Books give a hint to how people view society and if I take that theory and run with it, based on the Hunger Games, society is at its most hopeless state ever.
I was surprised, no…shocked at the violence in the books. These are not books that have a classic “good vs. evil” theme with “good” ultimately triumphing over evil. This is a corrupt, futuristic world that pits children against one another in gladiatorial combat games to the death. Innocents placed on the altar to appease the “Capital” gods. It is a society that has absolutely no morals or ethics. It is bereft of hope…and turn away now… (*Spoiler Alert*…there’s not a happy ending).
Is this the way that our young people view today’s society?
Recently I came across a discussion between a few Christian parents on Facebook about whether or not they would allow their children (12 years and under) to read books (or go to movies) that show people killing other people. Right away I thought about the Hunger Games. The books are intended for a Young Adult audience but I know for a fact that children much, much younger have read the books and are lined up with their parents now to see the movies. It does concern me, I’ll admit.
If I expand upon my initial theory and determine that books (and movies) hint at societal mores at the time they are written; if the Hunger Games are indeed a snapshot of how youth perceive the world around them today, then we as adults must take note.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
“And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.” (Jeremiah 7:31)
Sad to say, but this book has nothing to do with religion. This story takes place in a world that was destroyed, then rebuilt back up again. They did these ‘games’ to show that they had total control over the districts. Mostly to keep fear, and the people from starting another rebelion.
The reason there is a winner in the games, is to keep hope. So that the district people, would still have some spark to them. The first hunger games book, was very hopeful. She fought for her sister. She knew the odds were not in her favor, but she continued to survive for what she had back home. And throughout the rest of the series there was hope too. That they could change a world that is corrupt and unfair.
Now on your theory of there being a cultural influence from or caused by trending books, this is still very true in the hunger games. Is our government not corrupt and unfair? And in Africa, children being used as solders is a sad truth. This series, while dark and violent, has a good message. Stand and fight for what you believe is right. Or nothing will change.
Take this from a ‘young adults’ view. After all, I’m sure as the 18 year old I am, these books were meant for my age group. And this is my, and many fellow peers view on this.
Vicki, writers research other works to be able to analyze what’s happening in the marketplace.
What’s more important here is that the success of questionable books that deceive people into believing that there is good and bad evil, and/or seducing people into believing one thing when in fact it’s another, only plays into the hands of evil. Christians played a big part into making “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” the successes they became.
Christians could have lead the way with good Christian works, created a BUZZ and word-of-mouth by banning together to spread the good news in truth instead of just following the crowd – but they didn’t. Imagine what might have happened if they did.
I go back and forth. I have read the first book and viewed the movie and I am unsure of it all. I really like your take on it, I hadn’t thought of the societal view, but I think you’re right. I sat in the movie theater next to a family with a child who couldn’t have been older than 10 and it made me sick to my stomach. Thanks for the thoughts, and thanks for the link up Lynn!!!
My 13 and 15 year old boys read the books as did my wife. Our 11 year old did not. My wife and I saw the movie today.
It really depends on the maturity level. The setting is in a godless society – a Godless world, so we are presented with a false dilemma. In this story, it appears all the rich and powerful are decadent and have no grasp of a right and wrong based on God’s law, although they are obsessed with manners as they see right and wrong (subjective vs. objective) but have no problem sending little children out to kill each other. Reminds me of today. It’s ok for a woman to kill a baby but it’s bad manners to “judge her” for doing so.
All the people who live in the district are poor and seem to be without hope. But they are without hope because their hope rests within themselves and not externally (My Hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness). They are out numbered and outgunned. They don’t like the situation but make no attempt to change it (in the beginning). They make no attempt because it is not about objective right and wrong. No one in any district seems to care that kids from other districts are being sent to their deaths. No one stands up for right simply because it is the right thing to do. Not only until one of their own is killed, does a particular district revolt.
I thought it was a good movie (didn’t read the books). It offers good material for discussion on where our society is headed, moral relativism, self-sacrifice, honor, etc. But it is very dark. I went in expecting the killings as I knew what it was supposed to be about. What really struck me however, was the blatant decadence and twisted perspective on right and wrong.
Douglas Wilson of Credenda/Agenda has a good review of it here – http://credenda.org/index.php/Reviews/christians-and-the-hunger-games.html
Hey Lynn, great post. I wrote a review on the Hunger Games book after I first read it (http://mikeblackaby.com/2011/07/18/the-hunger-games-book-review/) that offers some insights. As to whether or not I would take a child under 12, I don’t know. There are some great discussion themes in the book and movie, but they are pretty deep and it is a different kind of dark theme than one finds in something like Twilight or the Harry Potter series (although those deal with some dark themes too). I guess discretion is needed based on the maturity of the child in question. I applaud you for keeping up to date with the cultural trends among the youth today. I think it is important to have discussions with the youth about these things, which requires going beyond simply saying “You are forbidden from reading/watching that!” I think you do this, and I hope I do as well when I am a parent!
Thanks for your comments! I want to post Suzanne’s comment too that she left for me on Facebook to add to the discussion:
“Personally, I find the subject matter aborhant. I’ve always thought Young Adult books/movies should give the reader hope for the future and entertain. Hunger Games is violent and in no way hopeful.”
Well said Lynn. In fact maybe a spanking is in order, or even parents making their kids sit in the corner for a couple of hours. Is this so called next-big-thing the next step of turning bullying into a game? Have kids become so desensitized by movies and television from killing and mutilations that they now want to create their own from the presumed safety of their local theater or home. Do they really think fueling the fires has no consequences? Are they so naïve and uninformed to think that there is good and bad evil, or that they are immune to it all?
As society continues to fall deeper into the darkness of satan’s abyss, we all become less than what we should be.
There’s a line for the “Novel “Littluns: And the Book of Darkness” that sums it all up:
“If you surround yourself with good and righteous people, they can only raise you up.
If you surround yourself with the others, they will drag you down into the doldrums of
mediocrity, and they will keep you there, BUT only as long as YOU permit it.” The power to choose wisely comes with wisdom and the ability to know the difference.
So, where are those who can think for themselves and not just follow their peers? Where are the courageous that are strong enough to step out from the crowd and create a buzz and word-of-mouth for something good instead of just supporting a mindless excuse for entertainment that is in reality a fast track to degeneration?
Good article, Lynn. I found it through a Facebook group we’re both in.
I haven’t read the books, but have talked with a good friend about them. As a matter of fact, she has a couple articles that discuss how to write themes in stories without being preachy, and she uses Hunger Games as one of her comparisons. If you’re interested, you can see the articles at Novel Rocket and at her site.
There’s also a discussion of the movie at Speculative Faith. (I’d link to it, but WordPress’s wonderful spam filter might think I’m not a legitimate commenter. You can find it with a Google search if you’d like to read the article — a different take from yours — and some discussion that arose in response.
What I like most about your comment is that you tied in the types of books that are popular with the current day. That is very interesting and something I want to think about more.
Fairly innocuous compared to what our children learn from teachers in public school these days. Well…not mine. We choose to homeschool. But we read it together and discussed how their world could have become the way it had, the right choices the heroine made (including self-sacrifice for her sister and others) and some of the questionable choices she made and why.
For kids in their Jr High years and older, worth discussing. Any story wherein you can find redemption without overt sexual overtones is almost a miracle these days. Jesus, the Great Storyteller, used fiction as teaching moments. Worth discussing what about the story resonates with society today and posing, “what would YOU do?” questions in that talk…unlike stories with glittery vampires which, in my mind, have no redemption whatsoever.