Friday, May 04, 2012

The Hunger Games

The “Hunger Games” books are top sellers, and the movie is a hit. More and more teens coming to my classes have been telling me to see the movie. “But read the book first,” one girl told me. Well, I haven’t read the book yet, but I did go to see the movie anyway.

By now, we’ve all heard the story. A futuristic North America is divided into 12 districts. The ruling district is extravagantly rich, while the other districts are impoverished, barely surviving. In order to maintain control after an attempted rebellion, the ruling district takes two teens from each district annually, quickly trains them, and then releases them into a controlled wilderness arena. There they fight to the death until only one winner emerges. They call these the Hunger Games, and the movie depicts the 74th annual event.

It’s a disturbing futuristic glimpse of a world where everyone watches the kills and the strategies for survival. The president states that the use of fear helps to control people, and the games are taken very seriously. The president adds that the only emotion greater than fear is hope, and the people from each district hope that their candidate will emerge a victor.

But the death of each youth is not without its consequences in the territories. Even the way in which the game can be played, and won, is not without the higher manipulation of the winner.

Woody Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, a mentor for the star Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence). Abernathy, a past winner of the games, seems broken by the games and his society, but he knows the rules and he coaches Katniss well.

Katniss, who grew up hunting and foraging in order to survive, is well suited to emerge victorious. And she has a soul, a fact that throws a few screws into the machinery of the game-makers.

Some friends told me that the movie was both boring and pedestrian, tired old concepts that we’ve seen before. Maybe, and maybe not. I didn’t evaluate the film based on how the camera was held, or even originality of plot. We’ve heard there are only a dozen or so basic plots, but it’s the way you spin it that makes it good and noteworthy.

I asked myself, how can seeing this movie improve my character? What are the elements of true survival and even spirituality that I should embrace in order to be a better person? I wondered as I watched, what are the higher traits that I should always embrace regardless of my gender, race, or era in which I’m born?

There are a lot of historical analogies you might read-into the Hunger Games, such as the decadent Romans who delighted in feeding Christians to the lions. Or, closer to home, the manner in which we hoop and cheer at the brutality of football and soccer games. Or, after the Lakers win a playoff, how the local teens go out onto the streets of Los Angeles, “having fun” and “celebrating” by smashing windows and burning police cars!

The Hunger Games has violence and blood, though not as much as you’d expect. Still, leave the very young children at home since this is a dark and disturbing movie.

I’d recommend the Hunger Games. It is full of useful lessons, but you have to work to find them.


Ticom (Tom) said...

Our society is declining in a manner similar to the Roman Empire. One might hope that young people walk away with the right lessons from the book/movie, but I've always been an incurable optimist in some regards.

christopher Nyerges said...

Basically, I'm an optimist too. Even the most "self-centered" people should be able to see that "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a form of enlightened self interest.