Why Hunger Games Frightens Me

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games Book

There is currently a huge frenzy taking place in our nation that cannot be ignored and it’s called HUNGER GAMES. I’m scared, and I think you should be, too. No, it is not the latest reality TV competition to see how long people can deprive themselves of food  (no need. Hollywood starlets provide plenty of visual aids on a daily basis). And no, it’s not the latest video game (although I’m 99.9% positive if it hasn’t been released yet, it will be ASAP). Hunger Games is a popular book (trilogy) written by a woman named Suzanne Collins which is now being released as an even more popular movie.

I have not read the books (yet). As an avid book lover, I am intrigued and interested in the series since it seems “Everyone” is smitten with them. I never turn down the opportunity for a good read (If it is, in fact, a good read)! However, despite the ever growing and glowing movie reviews, either through mainstream media, or from bloggers such as recently Freshly Pressed  JAMIERENE, and Holly Maher I am not convinced of any value in seeing this movie – either before or after reading the book(s). In fact, the more I learn and read about Hunger Games, the more I find it extremely baffling (and disconcerting) that so many book fans are actually supporting the movie at all! Keep reading and you’ll understand why.

I personally find the premise of children killing children extremely disturbing. Doesn’t anyone else?! According to social media and recent global events, the answer is  YES. As of today, over 85 and a half MILLION people have watched the viral activist YouTube sensation KONY 2012 / Invisible Children Movement. This video has invoked intense outrage and horror due to a real-life militant bad guy in the Congo that forces children to kill children.  There’s been an unprecedented outcry, not to mention a huge outpouring of financial aid, for the capture of this “21st century monster”.

A real life child “Tribute” forced to kill.

One could reasonably assume that the glamorization by Hollywood, especially at this moment in history, of brutal child inscription and senseless child murder would be considered the ultimate in tastelessness – at least to 85 and a half million people. You would think a lot of people would be outraged, and boycotting the Hunger Games film. Correct? After all, the major global demographic who have been viewing KONY 2012, sharing it on their Facebook and Twitter and donating to the cause is the same demographic  flocking to the Hunger Games movie.

But, we don’t live in a rational world. The opening day of Hunger Games broke all records at the box office for highest grossing non-sequel movie of all time. Or, as one article headline put it, “gorging” on its “$214 Million Global Debut“.

I’m certainly not alone in being shocked. There is a smattering of concern being voiced about the intense violence which must, and is, depicted on-screen in order to tell this story. But, it seems the majority of critics and rabid fans are nonchalantly discounting it. Many are even passionately justifying the extreme use of violence in this movie.

It should be noted that this film barely escaped being given an R rating. It has been reported that the rating was only lowered to a PG-13 after 7 seconds of particularly gory footage was cut. I think that should be seriously disturbing to anyone, especially for any parent of tweens (or younger) who are clamoring to go see this movie because “EVERYONE ELSE” is getting to see it!

Our society has a problem with violence. We know this. We have become so desensitized to the depiction of violence that studies report people are slow to react when real violence is happening in front of them. Human beings are rapidly becoming dehumanized through movies, TV, video games and social media. Multiple scientific studies have been conducted on the amount of exposure our children are getting to media violence, and the detrimental consequences.  Here’s just one excerpt from an article about “The Impact of Media Violence” published in the AACAP (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry):

While violence is not new to the human race, it is an increasing problem in modern society. With greater access to firearms and explosives, the scope and efficiency of violent behavior has had serious consequences. We need only look at the recent school shootings and the escalating rate of youth homicides among urban adolescents to appreciate the extent of this ominous trend. . . Studies reveal that children watch approximately 28 hours of television a week, more time than they spend in school. The typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly.” – Eugene V Beresin, M.D. (emphasis added)

Anyone who has been to a movie theater has invariably seen at least one young child seated (or held) watching an age-inappropriate show. Even very young children have been sighted at extremely violent, frightening or sexually explicit movies. Thus, I do not expect children (and their parents) to be deterred by the Hunger Games hard PG-13 rating. Despite critics continually admitting and cautioning that this movie is “not for young children“, we all know that young children are seeing it. And, this begs the question. What exactly constitutes as “too young” to see this movie?  Is this movie really appropriate for ANY age?

I get very befuddled by the blurry lines being drawn, and especially the reaction of those who have read the books and (therefore supposedly) understand the “whole point” of the story!

Author Suzanne Collins specifically designed a plot to serve as a scathing social commentary on the use of media violence as entertainment. Therefore, isn’t it completely incongruous that Hollywood has done just that, and now all the masses are eagerly flocking to theaters in support of it? It seems to me that fans are either completely unfazed or blissfully unaware of the fact that this movie was made by our own version of Capitalists specifically aimed to entertain and manipulate the masses with as much violence they can possibly get away with in order to make the most profit and assert the most control as possible!

It is the epitome of “dramatic irony”.

Surely, true fans of Collins epic would not be pleased! Where are the protests?! Where is the public outcry? Where are the petitions and complaints? . . . The box office is telling us a different reaction.

How easily duped and gullible are movie goers. Hollywood has once again skillfully lulled the masses into believing on-screen evil “Capitalist characters” are the true enemy, and proving once again that VIOLENT ENTERTAINMENT SELLS. Even more disturbing, based on box office earnings an audience finds it an even bigger thrill when innocent children are facing mortal danger and being slaughtered.

Does anyone else find this terribly, horribly, sick and frightening? Not to mention truly tragic.

Human beings are justifiably horrified by the accounts of ancient Romans paying to watch Christians shredded alive and eaten by lions, or the Nazis laughing and enjoying seeing Jewish women and children being raped and slaughtered. . . And yet, there seems to be a giant disconnect when it comes to our own society’s idea of acceptable “entertainment” subject matter. Why is that?

Remember all those studies about “desensitization”? It’s no laughing matter.

Members of our church have been continually  warned and cautioned by our leaders to shun violent, pornographic or otherwise demeaning media, and make wise choices in all of our entertainment. More recently, we have been encouraged to be socially involved and much more vocally proactive:

“We need to remember Edmund Burke’s statement: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”. . Brothers and sisters, refuse to be used. Refuse to be manipulated. Refuse to support those programs that violate traditional family values. We may be a small voice to begin with; nevertheless, let us speak out and encourage a more uplifting, inspiring, and acceptable media. – M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard“, Oct. 2003

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Do you think we are being used and manipulated? Will you be going to see Hunger Games?

What do you think the heroine Katniss would think of our Capitalistic social frenzy to watch Hunger Games?

A little food for thought. – MoSop

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UPDATE 4/2/2012 – A BIG THANK YOU to all who have read this post and to those who have participated in our conversation. I never thought I’d actually see the day of “too many comments” for any one of my blog posts, but this one’s gotten really wordy! It looks like we’ve more than covered any aspect of the debate on this issue, so I’ve decided it’s time to close up shop on the comments here. Please check out some of the other posts that are starving for comments and feel free to share something brilliant (on topic, of course) Cheers! – MoSop

57 thoughts on “Why Hunger Games Frightens Me

  1. There is a great deal of violence in the Harry Potter series as well, similarly involving children, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Harry Potter is endorsing violence. In the same way, just because the Hunger Games movies and books contain violence does not mean that the people watching are relishing that violence, no more than a person would relish the violence and disturbing imagery in a movie like Schindler’s List. Indeed, all these works can be seen as condemning such violence, and from what I’ve seen of the previews, the movie depicts the people propagating such violence negatively. I’ll have to see the movie to be able to say so for sure, and of course very young children should not be exposed to violent imagery regardless of the message behind it, but I wouldn’t be as concerned by the popularity of the books and movies unless there was a great deal of evidence that readers and movie-goers were completely missing this story’s message against such dehumanizing violence.

    • Morrigan, thanks for your comment. You raise many interesting points for pondering. The main argument I am hearing from you is that it is OK for Hollywood to depict violence and show disturbing imagery, (and make millions of dollars doing so) as long as they are “condemning” the violence. Is that correct? I bet Hollywood LOVES that line of reasoning! They’re banking on it. Basically that means they have free reign. Nothing’s off limits and no subject is too gross, heinous, shocking or disturbing as long as there’s a “message” worked in there somewhere to tell you that “what you are watching right now is really bad, but it’s OK, you should go ahead and keep watching it because we are telling you it is really bad so that makes it actually really good for you”!!???? Let me sit down. My head is spinning.

      If people “don’t relish” violence and disturbing imagery”, then why do we choose to keep paying millions of dollars to watch more of it?
      Do you think, just maybe, the multi-BILLION dollar movie industry might have a “secret ingredient” or two up their sleeves? There must be something that keeps us “buying” what they’re “selling” month after month and year after year even though it keeps pushing the envelope and making us feel uncomfortable, even a little “dirty”. All good businesses have their tricks and unique “marketing strategies”, right? The junk food industry learned a long time ago that if you put a little sugar in something, people will crave it. But, if you put some sugar in something, and then you deep fry it, and then you sprinkle some salt on the top people will eat the entire package and buy 5 more! And then they’ll come back tomorrow for another 5. Why do you think McDonald’s puts sugar in all of their salty french fries? It’s “addictive marketing” at its best. (watch the documentary “Super Size Me”). So, how about Hollywood? What’s their secret “sugar and oil” recipe? Could it possibly be “violence and disturbing imagery”? And how about if a little sex and nudity is sprinkled in the mix to give it that extra boost? Is our nation addicted? You decide. It’s something to think about the next time we consider our entertainment choices. I just think that if we choose to go and watch, we ought to at least be honest and admit we want to see the violence and the sexy actors and experience the glamour and spectacle of the Blockbuster circus. Using the old “it’s bad, but it’s really good because they tell me it’s bad” rationale? It’s just plain dishonest.

    • I agree, Morrigan. I read the books and watched the movie and find them to be a commentary condemning what we in the western world find entertaining, such as reality tv and violent sports. If one judges these books as unrighteous or bad simply because they contain a violent theme without trying to understand what the story is trying to teach us, then that same person should avoid history books and the Bible and Book of Mormon. Scriptures are full of violence such as Nephi beheading Laban; Shadrach, Meshak and Abednigo being thrown in the fiery furnace, and Cain killing his brother Abel. What about the crucifixion of the Savior, or the stoning of Stephen? Then there are multiple stories of incest and fornication. If you were to turn the scriptures into a true to the story movie they would be violent. Does this mean they have no value? I thought the producers of the hunger games did a wonderful job of remaining true to the theme of the books which point out the ludicrousness of the Games while minimizing the visual imagery of it.

      • Terry, thank you for visiting the site. Your comment further illustrates the desensitization I fear is taking place.

        1. You have seen the movie, you liked it, and therefore, your comment is coming from the perspective of justification.

        2. Yes. The Bible and The Book of Mormon both include historic accounts of violence and other “lascivious” behavior. Your detailed argument seems to indicate that you have either read the scriptures, or at least are aware of these particular stories that you have cited. However, using this line of argument in an attempt to justify the glamorization of children killing children for sport and entertainment is seriously flawed!

        3. Books of scripture are considered holy and sacred instruction manuals given to us by the gift and power of God. They contain accounts of true historical events that teach and instruct the world on what constitutes moral and immoral behavior. They teach us that our lives have purpose and hope. They testify of Jesus: the Messiah of the Old Testament, and the redeeming Christ of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon Testament. Nephi wept for Laban, the story of the ’3 Shaks’ being thrown in the fire demonstrate the miracle of God’s power to save them, Cain was cursed forever both spiritually and physically for slaying his brother. . . and so forth. For each story there is a consequence connected to the action, and a lesson for the reader. For each death there is great sorrow. The message of the scriptures over and over again is that we can learn from the past: happiness only comes by keeping and living God’s commandments – a heavenly standard for righteous living.

        How can one possibly compare Collins YA thriller to Holy Scripture?

        Do you really want to feel that level of devotion to her story?

        In Panem there is no standard of righteous living. The author may wish readers to believe the dismal state of things is because of an “oppressive government”. However, the real problem with Panem as I am better understanding is that Collins created a world without God, and thus, it is a world without hope. I see no way for things to ever get any better (and from what I’ve already read about the next 2 books, things get much worse). It’s every man or woman for themselves. Children are taught to “trust no one” and that they have to rely on their own brute strength, lies or clever tricks to “win”. The “heros” of this story may not like the government, but they still participate in the Games. They don’t try to escape, they don’t go looking for a way to subvert the system, and they don’t try to save all 24 kids. They are simply motivated in the arena by survival just like everyone else, and they murder just like everyone else. But, because Katniss and Peeta are portrayed as the “good guys” in this story, the author has them murder the other children in more “humane” or “clever” ways such as dropping a deadly wasp nest onto a group, or “poisoning” them…among other nasty but non-hand-to-hand-combat methods. (This should disturb you) The story also justifies performing a “mercy killing” and it romanticises “suicide pacts”.

        This is clearly not a handbook for happy living!

        4. Books of scripture were never written for the purpose of making a profit, nor for supporting a multi-billion dollar “entertainment” industry. They were written to save souls.

  2. The overall point of the trilogy of books is to point out the desensitization that occurs with a society when violence and “reality viewing” become the norm. Sheesh. It alos depicts the trauma that is inflicted on the psyche of someone who is exposed to violence, directly and indirectly. Again – sheesh. Read the books before writing such an ill-informed scathing rant. Violence isn’t glorified here – it is a cautionary tale of what can happen to society when we become so desensitized we don’t recognize it. There is irony in the popularity of the film, but the point of the books and film are most certainly NOT promoting violence, they are illustrating horrifying the effects of violence on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Once again – speak from an informed point of view here, not a shrill sort of holier-than-thou one. BTW – I read the books with my teens, had many interesting discussions with them about the books, and counted down the days to the premiere. Go ahead and judge. Oh wait, you already did that.

    • Hi Charise, thanks for visiting. Yikes! OK. I appreciate your passionate defense.
      I suspect that you may not have read my entire post. Perhaps you got to my admission I didn’t read the book, then skipped to the ending quotation and assumed my post could be nothing more than an “uninformed”, “shrill holier-than thou” rant. Wow!
      I do think “shrill” was particularly harsh. Considering all those years of vocal coaching. . . ;)

      I actually spent a lot of time researching and pondering this subject. I invite you to go back and read the entire post – a bit slower – before you pass final judgement. I hope you discover that the purpose of my post was not to judge you personally, nor to trash the story of the Hunger Games. I wanted to point out my observation of our society’s inconsistent and confusing relationship with violence, and the dramatic irony of using this particular story as the basis of a violent blockbuster movie. I am fully aware of the point of the books. I respect the strong message against the use of “violence as entertainment”, and the manipulation of people as dehumanized pawns – particularly children – as particularly heinous. I couldn’t agree with that message more! As you have pointed out, the story of Hunger Games is a cautionary tale about the effects of violence on society, the sensationalism of violence through media, the manipulation and abuse of children by the powerful elite…among other disturbing socialistic problems. With that in mind, I think that these books can have great value, and I appreciate that you actually took the time to read them with your children and have discussions about the story. Good for you!

      I also think that Hollywood’s thinly veiled attempt to use this particular story as a Morality Play, when in actuality they are simply using sensationalized violence and voyeurism through media to make millions of dollars (just like the Capitalists do in your story), is shameful. They managed to manipulate 7 seconds in order to barely squeeze into the PG-13 rating. They chose sexy young actors that would appeal to their young market niche and they’ve milked social media marketing for all it’s worth to lure the masses in. And they don’t have to spend time justifying the violence, because ironically, fans are doing it for them. That’s my opinion, of course. A previous comment suggests that Hollywood’s use of violence and disturbing images can teach that violence is bad. I commented why I think that rationale is seriously flawed. For these reasons and more I’m still baffled that fans of the book are so defensive of Hollywood capitalists. The commercialization of such a valuable anti-establishment story seems tragic. But, maybe I’m missing something. One thing you failed to share is how it went attending the movie with your children. I assume they are under age 13 and that is why I touched a nerve. In the interest of fairness, do you feel it was worthwhile for them to watch this movie? Why or Why Not? Were there parts that made you feel particularly uncomfortable that your children were seeing? Or, did you feel it was age appropriate for your particular children? Were you pleased with the Hollywood interpretation of your story?

  3. Why would you write this entire post without having read the books or seen the movie. That has completely invalidated your opinion to me.
    My tweens wanted to see the movie – I had read the book. I decided that to in order for me to allow them to see the movie they would have to read the book.
    Reading the books and seeing the movie allowed us to have a thoughtful discussion on how this could happen in a society and how we see pieces of this in society now.
    I would dare say that this movie helped to ”resensitize” things that had been desensitized over the years.
    I would be interested in hearing if your opinion changes after you actually read the book.

    • After reading some other comments and reputed I felt the need to add to mine.
      My girls are 12 and 13. I think the most valuable aspect for them in seeing the movie was a discussion of literature being dumbed down for a movie. They were able to notice, and discuss things that were in the books, but not in the movie and the impact they felt like those things had on the story. This led to discussions of other book movie they had seen without having read the book and what they may have missed.
      Because the book follows so closely to the movie, I was not concerned with the violence in the movie. I have a better imagination than Hollywood can portray so I had seen worse in my head reading the books.
      I think the discussions that can be had about society far outweigh the ”desensitization” to violence that you are concerned with.
      And while you are demonizing Hollywood for their ”Capitol” ways, do you feel the same about the book selling millions of copies?

    • Welcome to the site, Cindy! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      “Why would you write this entire post without having read the books or seen the movie.”

      Excellent question. I thought I made it pretty clear in my post, but I’ll try to rephrase it for you:
      I wrote this post because I believe that human beings are fully capable of gathering enough information to make informed decisions without having to be subjected to a “full-bodied” assault, or by shelling out hard-earned money to the Hollywood mega-machine in support of this kind of graphic, disturbing violence – which in turn will only encourage them to make more and more movies like this, ever pushing the frightening envelope of desensitization and sensationalism in the name of “enlightenment”. At the beginning of the Hunger Games movie the character Gale Hawthorne asks “What if no one watched?” What if everyone refused to be manipulated and simply chose to not show up? At the end of the movie, isn’t that the ultimate solution? Refusing to watch. That’s my point. The great irony revealed by this film is that we are not intended to watch its violence, because this story, as Gale says, is meant to be protested. It means that ironically, “The Hunger Games’ greatest triumph would be an empty theater, and our streets would be full of people demanding the kinds of changes needed in Katniss’ world and in our own. Supporters of the KONY 2012 movement have proven that people can change the world for good. Therefore, I respectfully beg to differ with your assessment. I propose that by my choosing not to read the books and not to watch the movie actually validates my opinion more. I am standing on the outside of Panem as a non-citizen and a non-participant looking in; and my view from “over here” offers a very different kind of clarity. In order to honor the moral of this story, I honestly thought that readers would choose NOT to be manipulated and refuse to watch the movie in protest. I find it interesting to see that all comments so far passionately condemning my perspective are coming from people who have already chosen to read and to watch.

  4. Thank you, mosop, for your thoughtful comments, your research and collection of informative facts. I have been very disturbed by this series, as well, and was shocked when my sixth grader brought home a note from his teacher last Thursday for a “Meet Your Teacher at the Movies” day. Her plan was to meet her class at the theater on Saturday to watch Hunger Games, since her request to take her class there for a field trip on Friday had been declined. I was shocked that a teacher would be so strongly advocating such a controversial movie — especially since half her class is not yet 13! I have long felt saddened by the way Hollywood is able to manipulate the masses into justifying the use of extreme violence in movies “because we’re rooting for the good guys.” You may notice that the good guys are just as vicious and violent, but that’s okay because they’re going after the bad guys. If the intent is truly to show the effects of such horrifying violence, then why is the story not following the lives of the families left behind and the heartaches and healings they must endure rather than filling the entire movie with violent and wrenching scenes and then washing their hands of the guilt by including a short scene of a crying mother or father and claiming to be taking the high ground by “condemning the violence.” It is a manipulative lie and the masses not only support it, but they heatedly defend it. It is disappointing to see. I do not think the books need to be read or the movie needs to be watched in order to form an opinion on the subject. I believe that through the reviews of others, I am perfectly capable of making a wise decision on what is or is not worthy of my time — and the Hunger Games (in any form) are not worthy of my time. I already know that I do not support children killing children. I do not have to read a three book series or watch a violent movie to come to that same conclusion. Doing so only fills my mind with disturbing images and thoughts, and ultimately ends up supporting such violence, monitarily. I appreciate websites like yours that provide uplifting, edifying content, food for thought and endorsement of the beautiful. Keep up the good work!

    • Mary,
      Thank you very much for adding your comment here giving a nice little balance to our ongoing conversation. Wow! Your story of your son’s teacher is of particular interest and I’m sitting here in disbelief. What is she thinking?! In addition to her lack of consideration of the age range of her students, and the fact that this movie is clearly raising red flags, she has completely overstepped her bounds of authority. She is basically placing parents and their children into an inappropriate situation of conflict. I also have concerns about the potential social consequences of children who were allowed to go vs. those who were not. I think it would be extremely worthwhile and important for you to bring this matter to the attention of the school principal, or perhaps directly to the school board.
      - MoSop

      • Although my son would not have been in attendance regardless, I was relieved when the principal and school board stepped in on Friday and cancelled the event, much to the dismay and vocal outrage of the teacher. My relief comes from two areas: 1) This avoided an uncomfortable situation for my son, and 2) I am thankful that our school board still has enough decency to not let such an activity slide.

  5. “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

    How true that is in our country and even within the Church. Too many LDS youth and young adults are wrapped up in the Hollywood scene and their reality shows and People magazine and what’s happening with the Kardashians.

    I find the whole premise of this movie disturbing as well. I once read the story The Most Dangerous game and then saw the Ice-T-led version titled “Surviving the Game”. It made me sick then so when this came around I have no interest in watching humans being forced to kill humans.

    • Thanks for your comment, LDSGuy. The brethren are so concerned about our rising generation! Never before have they faced such a relentless attack on all sides. We thought it was bad back in the 80s when I was teen! That was pre-computers, pre-internet, pre-R rated movies…people had to go to the back of shady little shacks to find porn…we had no idea where things were headed. It will be interesting to hear what our prophets and apostles will be saying this weekend during General Conference about media, violence and choices. I will be listening closely, and I anticipate there will be a strong message. The Lord is fully aware of what is happening. But we can no longer stand idly by and wring our hands. We really must stand up and speak out!

      Shall the youth of Zion falter
      In defending truth and right?
      While the enemy assaileth,
      Shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!

  6. Thank you for this. I started to read the first book and only made it half way through. I have to admit it was a really engaging book but i found myself getting too into the violence, morbid curosity to know what happened. It really bothered me alot. So i stopped reading, especially because my brother said the violence just increases in the others. I think there is room in society for things that take you outside your comfort level and make you think about hard social questions. But i think that the key difference is what your motivation is behind veiwing something. Are you watching it to undetstand what REAL human beings, your brother and sisters, are suffering because of the wickedness in the world so that you can help them and bring awareness to their suffering or are you watching it to be entertained and to ” make you think”. If it is the second one then we arent very different from the romans or the nazis, who got entertainment out of people they did not consider to be real people. I get so afraid that with movies like the hunger games, and violent video games, that we have a whole generation of people, especially kids, who are getting so desentized to violence that in the future when REAL violence happens it wont shock them. I can almost hear people say” well we arent as bad as the hunger games YET.” If we entertain ourselves with violence how will we ever be able to prevent it from happening in real life. It is SO scary to me that people can not see this. terrifying.

    Also, i find it interesting that the people I know who have witnessed REAL violence ( like the woman refugees i worked with from sierra leone) are those who find NO entertainment in Even the smallest degreeof violence. They know that ALL violence is concieved in the imagination before it happens in real life. Thank you fr having the courage to take this on. It is really a scary thing, even if most people are blind to the danger.

    • Thanks Heather for taking the time to read and to share your thoughts. I think it is very empowering to be able to put a book down and choose not to finish it once that internal ‘danger meter’ goes off. Personally, I’ve thrown out several half-read books over the years – including some popular YA fiction the masses were clamoring over. Same goes for being able to get up and walk out of a movie (although, how many people actually do that?) I’ve done it once. Well, 1 1/2 times I guess since I left at the beginning of one, and I left more than half-way in another. It felt really weird and almost embarrassing at first, but afterward, it was extremely empowering. I find myself often thinking “well, if we can just get through this part, I’m sure it will get better”. Invariably, I’ve regretted not going with my gut. Special thanks for sharing your perspective of working with the Sierra Leone refugee women. I can’t think of a better way to foster human connections and sensitivity to the effects of violence than meeting REAL victims of REAL violence in the REAL world. Hearing their stories, seeing their struggle to rebuild their lives, witnessing the courage it takes to keep getting up every day and keep going…that seems like a great way to take the “blinders off”. What if parents took their children to volunteer at a shelter or to help a refugee family relocate, or to join a service project for the family of a fallen solider? Imagine the meaningful conversations and sense of empowerment that could foster.

  7. Media Influence:
    ‎If we think that our social conditions, our family life, our education and our entertainment are so far above reproach that only the emotionally sick children can get into trouble. We like to assume that most children are ‘immune’ to such influences … but my work convinces me that no immunity exists. Harm is harm. A noxious agent is still a noxious agent. There may be defenses against a snowball, but there are none against an avalanche.” -Psychiatrist Fredric Wertham {seduction of the innocent} 1954

    1972 Ensign Article!!!

    http://lds.org/ensign/1972/10/how-do-movies-and-tv-influence-behavior?lang=eng&query=tv+media

  8. Thank you! I am glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. Every time someone tells me that I should read The Hunger Games I ask the same question: Explain to me how you can get over the premise? (Meaning, children killing each other for food) And every time, the answer is, “You just have to read it.” Well, no I don’t. I have never heard any evidence that has made me want to get anywhere near that story. Not in book or movie form.

  9. Holly, I haven’t seen or read the Hunger Games, so I can honestly claim to have no horse in this race. However, let me suggest an analogy as to why your review, without reading the books or seeing the movies, may be inappropriate. First, as someone new to Utah and much of LDS culture, I have asked you many questions about your religion. However, imagine instead of asking these questions, if I simply took quotes from internet sites–we all know what I could find–to evaluate the LDS church, its beliefs and followers. Would this yield a fair evaluation of the church? I think we can agree that it would not. In this case, you would suggest that I, at the very least read the Book of Mormon to see what the beliefs actually represent. Isn’t this what you should undertake to evaluate the Hunger Games. As a second example specifically regarding the violence you speak of, I would turn to the Old Testament, where we a God who does some fairly repugnant things including child sacrifice (Moses if I remember correctly, although I’m a little rusty, Cain and Able, Lot’s wife, etc). If I take this out of context, as you may have done without reading the Hunger Games or seeing the movie, is my conclusion about the Bible or a Biblical beliefs going to be correct? I wouldn’t judge the LDS church or the old testament from selected passages or the internet. Just as I have sought valid information from a believer (you, and I have very much appreciated it over the three years we’ve known each other), and done much reading on other topics, I would suggest this is what you should do. There may be more to the Hunger Games than you are seeing just as there might be more to the Biblical stories than I’ve captured here or more to the LDS church than is captured on anti-LDS websites. By the way, your blog is very interesting.

    • Hey there. Mike! Great to see you on here. Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read all this… Ok, You definitely win the prize hands down for the most thought provoking and creative comment of the day! You’ve offered an excellent argument for us to ponder. I’m trying to text in a response with one bar connection and two left thumbs which means I can’t adequately reply right now. based on your theory, I propose that we need conduct an experiment. I will read the Hunger Games, and you will read the Book of Mormon and we will discuss our observations, and report on our findings and insights, etc. Then, each of us will write a followup post in conclusion. (You would be one of my guest bloggers) let me know what you think. Thanks for browsing the blog. Feel free to add any more brilliant comments that come to mind anywhere on here!. :) .

  10. I appreciate your willingness to talk about this, although I am not just uncomfy with the movie. The books sounded like too much for me, too. We won’t be reading them. I guess my point is that I don’t think Hollywood is all to blame here. If the premise of violence is a problem in the movie, why not a problem in the books, too?

    • Michelle, you make a valid point. From all reports I’ve read, Hollywood has taken great pains to follow the details of the book to the letter. This has required creative camera angles, pulling back, and in some cases “off screen” or implied death scenes described in detail in the book just to keep from becoming completely gratuitous. As one reader of the books who commented earlier stated, the violence in the movie was nothing in comparison to what she imagined in her own mind while reading. She meant that as a defense of the movie. But, it could certainly equally be considered a condemnation of the books.

  11. Darn it, my first comment got lost in cyberspace; let’s try this again…

    Thank you for having the courage to write this, and grace in dealing with the unhappy comments. I have been thinking so much about this the past week, and have not had the courage to write it, maybe because the comments I’ve seen have not been done as well as this post, and I haven’t wanted to seem holier-than-thou…

    I think part of it has to do with the fact that I DID read 2 of the books, so just call me a hypocrite. :) I read the first two books quickly, back to back, right after the second book was released. And soon after closing it, felt ashamed and embarrassed that I just wasted several days of my life. I was choosing to read about children killing each other? Shameful.

    It is heartbreaking to me to see people taking their children to this movie. I don’t always make the most wise media choices for myself (I try), but I’m quite selective as to what media our children consume. And to hear that these parents might believe that there is not a better way to cover the talking points than by seeing and discussing this book and seeing the movie? It really has broken my tender mom-heart.

    The point you made that I wish would be covered by national media: the relationship between this Hunger Games series and the Kony campaign! Interesting that as soon as I read that, I thought to my facebook friends – how many of the people who were quick to watch and repost the kony video were some of the first in line for Hunger Games?

  12. I think it’s laughable to say we must see the movie or read the book in order to offer a valid opinion on it. Must I purchase a subscription to Playboy for my husband before I can say pornography will have a detrimental effect on my marriage? Shall I get drunk and go for a drive before I contribute to MADD? Perhaps I could break my temple covenants so that I can tell my children just how important they are.

    There is enough being said of the book and movie to know that they contain gratuitous violence (NO ONE is denying that) and pornography (unless a description of a naked teenage girl getting a full body wax is not pornographic these days). Need we partake of these poisons when we have already been warned that they will prove to be our destruction?

  13. I read the books because my husband said they were interesting. I think you’ll find more to the story if you read them instead of listening to “what they’re about.” One of my friends who grew up in the Soviet Union and immigrated here started reading them and is having a hard time reading about her life growing up, because reality is that the story of The Hunger Games is going on, and people have, and are living it; Suzanne just brings awareness to it in a way that gets kids to care about it.
    The books are about ending the Games in which kids are forced to kill one another for sport, and about how horrible life is in that kind of world. Suzanne did a good job at depicting what life is like in third world countries today, and how it could get worse in the future. While reading that has violence in it for “enjoyment reading” isn’t on my top 10 things to do, reading about people seeing injustices in their government and doing something about it actually gives me hope for the people in this nation. The Grimm brothers had it right, you should teach good morals, not tell fantasy stories, and these books do just that. But, then again, that’s just the perspective I’ve gained growing up in poverty, being beaten (and watching my siblings get beaten) daily and learning that life doesn’t have to be so bad.
    I learned to change my circumstances because of books that taught me I could do something to change my life so it was “fair”. The books my husband read growing up were much more violent than these are, but they too had morals that messages saying, “You can change the course of your life,” and he did just that. Everyday he goes to work with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step because he knows that he will never wonder where his next meal is coming from again. The only reason why these books are getting picked on is because they’re popular, but these books have the potential to fulfill the purpose all books have, to inspire people. Maybe these books can inspire others to change their own circumstances just like the books my husband and I read did for us.

    • Leila, thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment and share from your personal experience. I am a great lover of books and reading. I have always felt that so much more can be gained from reading a book than from watching a movie. When we read books we get to use our own imagination which draws on our own level of experience, instead of being forced to watch someone else’s imagination, interpretation, and agenda in directing and manipulating how we should FEEL about it. In my personal opinion though, not all books are equally useful to our positive progression. My post is to help give people a chance to PAUSE and reflect on what these books and this movie and how they are designed to use and manipulate us.

  14. The topic of what media is appropriate is one that my husband and I have discussed a lot. My husband is a convert who grew up watching rated-R movies with his family; it was how the bonded. He also loves history, and movies about history and war. He knows these things desensitized him. However, he still loves his war movies, and thinks that portraying the horror of war can deter some people from wanting to have to experience such horrors in real life. It all depends on how it is portrayed. Context is huge. Does it show the characters glorying in the killing, or regretting th violence that was necessary to preserve their own lives?

    In 2005 there was a devotional at BYU that asked the question why do we study novels such as the Great Gatsby at BYU? The book contains characters who drink and murder and try to seduce others to commit adultery. The answer is so that we can learn to have empathy for those of God’s children who do not keep His commandments. http://speeches-files.byu.edu/download.php/Gessel_Van_2005_05.pdf?type=1&fname=Gessel_Van_2005_05.pdf

    Now that devotional does say that it is better to learn these things through literature than through movies, because movies can be spiritually destructive. But I think it comes back to our intent, the context, and what we take away from something.

    My husband and I did read The Hunger Games, and did see the movie. Before seeing the movie, I read an article that discussed whether or not you should let your kids see the movie. (Sorry I can’t find the link to it now.) It was very adamant that if you couldn’t talk with your children about the themes, the should not go see it just because everyone else was, and that if you saw it just because everyone else was, you were no better than the people in the Capitol who viewed the games as entertainment. If your children were mature enough to talk about it, it might be ok. When I read the books, I wasn’t wanting the main characters to kill as many people as possible. I hoped there was a way for the situation to end with the minimal shedding of blood. In the movie, I cried along with the main character for having to kill. And yet my husband said that people at his work wanted to see the movie just for the violence. Clearly there is a difference in our intent in seeing the movie.

    To sum up my very long comment, I don’t think seeing this movie, or any other violent movie, in and of itself is bad, because I think there can be value in it if you process what you see in a certain way. Is there reason to be cautious? Yes. But can it be a great learning tool? Yes.

    • Thank you Stephanie for reading and for commenting. You have offered a well-spoken argument of an alternative way of approaching this issue. In the end, everyone must use their own free will and choice on how they are going to approach Hunger Games or any other kind of graphic violence and disturbing material. I believe that there will always be ways to fully justify embracing violence, pornography and other dehumanizing material. But, is that appropriate and healthy? One could argue that once we allow ourselves to be seeped in the swamp, we may no longer be able to see the filth around us. The “context” has already been altered, and ones sensitivities have been dulled. (there have been multiple talks on this subject by our apostles and prophets, with stern counsel NOT to allow anything in that will dull our minds and desensitize us)

      “I don’t think seeing this movie or any other violent movie, in and of itself is bad, because I think there can be value in it if you process what you see in a certain way”

      This is a common conclusion that I am hearing often. But, Is it really a true statement? Are we being honest ourselves to thing that nothing can really harm us if we don’t let it?? Where will you be drawing the line between what is of “value” and what is not? How much “bad” is too much “bad”? What “certain way” is considered acceptable or unacceptable to interpret something? These are rhetorical questions that I think would be useful for anyone to ponder and re-evaluate. Watching General Conference this weekend should offer some new insight to ponder on this subject. I hope in this post to have offered alternative ways of learning about the REAL violence in the REAL world and making a difference in society without having to subject any of our minds and the minds of our children to graphic images and disturbing ideas by authors and Hollywood who are specifically motivated by making money by cleverly emotionally and socially manipulating us. (see KONY2012, discuss current issues, volunteer at a shelter, etc…)

      • I often ask myself if I am justifying things to much. I know that can also be a real danger. Maybe it is in the frequent asking that I keep myself safe. Maybe not. I think that the answer is different for different people. I know I have stopped watching things that I didn’t feel comfortable with, so I am not past feeling. But am I on the road there by justifying certain things? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m not saying every person should watch or read certain things, especially if they don’t feel comfortable with them. But I don’t think that if a person does watch certain things necessarily means that person is not following the spirit. Or that the person is completelty desensitized. Or that they are not doing things in the REAL world to make it a better place.

        • Also, even though I may not come to the same conclusion as you, thank you for the thoughtful post. It is a good chance to reflect and see if I have fallen further than I think. I think it is important for both sides of the discussion to thoughtfully consider the other side in a respectful way, on any topic.

        • Your comment reminds me of the parable of the three wagon drivers being interviewed for the job of transporting a precious cargo. The owner asked each one “how close could you drive to the edge of a cliff to increase your speed and get the cargo to it’s destination quickly?” The first two drivers bragged about how close they could get the wagon to the edge without falling off, the last stated “I would stay as far away from the cliff edge as possible!”

  15. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us! You are much more articulate than I am. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one making the connection between all the outrage for Kony2012 and the love of the Hunger Games. It’s disgusting to say the least.

    I did read the first book, long before it was popular, on request of my oldest daughter. My mother, who owns a children’s bookstore, sent it to her for a review. My daughter put it down and walked away from it because it made her feel sick. I waded through it hoping it would get better but it didn’t. I wasted my time and am ashamed I didn’t do as my daughter did.

    Others here have said you can’t write an objective, informed post because you haven’t read the books or watched the movie. I disagree. We don’t need to participate in prostitution, kill someone, or do drugs to make an informed choice that they are bad. You did a wonderful well-researched job without delving into the act so to speak. :)

    As for members of the church who are caught up in the hype of it all, there’s a great reminder in April’s edition of The Friend on making good media choices. These reminders aren’t just for children. And I quote:

    Go!

    It is uplifting and helps me feel good inside.
    It helps me feel safe.
    It’s interesting; it’s teaching me good things.
    It helps me want to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments.
    It gives me good ideas and inspires me to do good things.
    I wouldn’t mind if my parents or siblings were reading, watching, or listening to it.
    I know it’s appropriate.
    I feel it’s pleasing to Heavenly Father.

    Stop!

    It has swearing or crude words.
    It shows or talks about violence.
    It shows or talks about breaking Heavenly Father’s commandments.

    It makes me feel dull, tired, or like I’m wasting my time.
    It makes me think it would be OK to do wrong things.
    It makes me feel uncomfortable, nervous, scared, or mad.
    I’m not sure if it’s something I should read, watch, or listen to.
    I wouldn’t want my parents or siblings to know I’m reading, watching, or listening to it.”

    There’s a whole lot more I want to say but I’ll stop there.

    • I do hope that the KONY2012 connection is not lost on readers. I would urge parents to use that as a teaching alternative to Hunger Games. I love the “Go” and “Stop” lists you have shared. Great reminder for all of us. Plain and simple truth.

  16. Thank you for finding the courage to write a well written post that is so incredibly contriversial.

    I did read all three of the books. It sickens and distresses me each and every day. I felt like I was sneaking something dirty each time I opened the book. I am a 30 (ish) year old woman, yet I felt like a teen sneaking something past her parents.

    I should have realized that this was a prompting from the Holy Ghost. I was doing something I was not supposed to do. Something that was in direct opposition of the Holy Ghost. It has taken me a while to get over what has happened and I am still a little sick inside when I think about the fact I didn’t figure it out sooner. (Satan is so very sneaky and persuasive)

    The movie has been so incredibly popular and girls night out has been instituted multiple times around it. I want to fit in and see it, but have recieved that prompting that it will be damaging spiritually for me. THIS time I will follow that prompting, no matter how odd I am (even amoungst my fellow church members) because I know it is the right thing to do.

    What a blessing personal revelation is. This whole series has taught me a lesson, the hard way, but a lesson none the less.

    Sad that I had to be so old to learn it, but learn it I did.

    You are incredibly brave for standing for what we believe in. There are going to be so many people that will have nasty things to say (as evidenced above) but you are respected right here from this woman in Canada.

  17. THANK YOU for standing up and voicing your concerns with those of us who think this whole series is dangerous. I also blogged about the subject and was surprised by all the justifying excuses so many good people had.

    http://blog.oldfashionedmotherhood.com/2012/03/why-is-violence-okay.html

    In my post, I relate it to p*rnography: Should we view it ourselves to know that it’s bad? How about trying drugs? Or watching R-rated movies?

    Again, THANK YOU!!!

  18. I just wanted to say Thank- you! I am so glad I am not the only one who has concerns about these books and the movie. I just wrote my own post about it. I haven’t read the books either and I wont. I have been completely astounded by the number of my Mormon friends who have been raving about these books and anticipating the movie. I can’t figure out why anyone who professes to be a Mormon would recommend reading books about children killing children…I am baffled.

    • Thanks for your comments Mandy! I especially appreciated President Thomas S. Monson’s instruction to members of our church during today’s General Conference:

      “Continue to oppose evil, wherever it may be”.

  19. “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
    Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
    —Alexander Pope: An Essay on Man, epistle 2, l.217^19.

  20. I have read the books and seen the movie and do see your point, but I think that in order to make an informed critique you should at least read the books. Granted you have done the research, but it is all second hand. In college, they teach us to get first hand information as much as possible. I am not trying to say anything just that not once did I ever get the vibe that the movie or the books was trying to glorify child violence and neither did my wife who is completely anti-violence. If you do not feel up to reading the books I will not hold it against you, but you have to take into account that it does take away from the validity of your post since you have no way of actually knowing if anything you are saying is accurate. Just an observation and thank you for your view. It has helped me to make sure mine are in line with the teachings of the gospel.

    • Willy, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. As my post explains, and many additional comments have discussed, it is not necessary that someone must experience something “first hand” in order to be able to discern if it is good or evil. In fact, I would submit that those who choose violent material as entertainment suffer the damaging effects of desensitization, and thus become less qualified to pass clear (or valid) judgement.

  21. Thanks for taking a stand against violence in the media! Although I had heard the title of the books before, I didn’t know anything about them until I read your blog post. Your post alone has convinced me to stay clear of the books and the movie.

    However, I have to say that Stephanie’s comments comparing “The Hunger Games” with “The Great Gatsby” (and of course other literature that exposes the ills of our society) stood out and caused me to consider the complexity of the issue. I realized that I’m often conflicted with this topic. I understand wholeheartedly the importance of being aware of the ills of society, since horrible things certainly do occur to real people. We absolutely cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of others and we must do what we can to help them. Still, when I read about or see in detail the gory atrocities that have occurred and continue to occur in this world, I end up feeling traumatized. I find it so distressing, and the more I allow myself to be exposed to these things, the more distressed I feel, to the point where I’m almost unable to function in my own day-to-day life. I realize that I’m probably on the hyper-sensitive side when it comes to viewing images or re-enactments of violence, but I do wonder how others can choose watch these things for entertainment. As an example, I watched Schindler’s List once and only once. I could never watch it again, it was so painful for me. I realize that everyone is different, but for me, I don’t need to watch a movie to know beyond any doubt that what happened in the Holocaust was horrific beyond comprehension and must NEVER happen again.

    On a related note, I was shocked recently to see a photograph in the Deseret News of a Tibetan protestor completely engulfed in flames. That image has been haunting me ever since I saw it. Is posting this sort of picture for all to see (including children) really acceptable in today’s world? Again, I understand the need to address the very real suffering of others, but how much “reality” are we expected to take? I don’t completely know at this point, but I do know that I have limits.

    Thanks again for addressing this issue and giving me something to ponder further.

    • Thankyou EButler for taking the time to read the post and the comments, ponder the complexities, and choosing to join the conversation. I am glad you will be consciously considering, and setting, limits.

  22. The controversy this movie has sparked is very interesting. You make some very good points about how the book is against using violence for entertainment, and then Hollywood is doing that exact thing. I have heard the director and actors talk about the movie, and while I am sure they are thrilled at all the money that is coming in, I feel they really do realize the significance of the story. I went and saw the movie with my dad (I am a Junior at BYU by the way) and we were both crying during it, and had a very intense conversation afterwards about the message of the story, and the implications for our future. We talked about dictatorships (I think your tie in to KONY 2012 and real life tributes is so heartbreakingly true – if only KONY and The Hunger Games could partner together to stamp out the real life ‘games’ that are being played) and how the movie made us feel.

    It hurts to see other people say, “I don’t know how any one who is Mormon could support these books/the movie…”. Um, good Mormon girl, right here, I support these books. I think that judgement of each other is worse then this fictional story.

    I could go on and on with ‘yes there is violence, but…’ and just go back and forth and back and forth. However, I think it boils down to this – it is an incredibly thought provoking series and movie. It’s main purpose is for us to challenge what we deem as ‘acceptable’ and discover if it is indeed acceptable. I think all of this debate is exactly the point.

    • Sarah, I appreciate your reading and commenting.
      Please read my response to Terry – much seems to apply here. I appreciate the friendly debate and insightful comments going on here which you have recognized as valuable. But, “Talk is cheap”.
      Here are some points for you to ponder:
      If Hunger Games is as beneficial as you believe, how have you been personally motivated to make the world a better place now? What will you actually be DOING about it? Will you be making changes to your television and movie choices? Will you be writing letters to reality TV producers, advertisers and movie studios demanding better content? Will you be actively participating in the elections both local and national and researching your candidates and the issues? Will you be volunteering for more humanitarian causes now? Do you believe that audience members are flocking out of Hunger Games having been actually inspired to take “action”? Or, are people just simply noticing the similarities of Panem to our world, and feeling frustrated and depressed?

      Has your investment in Hollywood’s violent blockbuster movie helped or hurt the ability to eliminate additional violence in our society? Is it possible that you [and your father] have been cleverly decieved? Is it possible that you may have been “used and manipulated” as Elder Ballard warned (please review quote in my post)? Do you think there may be better ways for good Mormon boys and girls to be spending their time and money to make a difference in the world?

      Please consider: If people who watch Hunger Games take no ACTION except returning to watching it again, then all that is really happening is more desensitization.

      **Note: I think you are a very smart young woman. You seem sincere. I’m very glad you made the KONY 2012 connection:

      “if only KONY and The Hunger Games could partner together to stamp out the real life ‘games’ that are being played

      “if only”
      We all know that Hollywood only cares about itself. It’s a heartless money machine. But, they also LOVE buzz. They have been known to be willing to give away large sums of money if they think it means they will make a bunch more….so, Why not take action and turn the tables on them? Use a little reverse manipulation. Write a letter to Hollywood and to Ms. Collins. Why not get all of your BYU friends and their friends and families to also write letters to the producers of Hunger Games? And while you are at it, write a letter to the newspapers telling them about your campaign to support the end of REAL violence against children.

      Just food for thought.

  23. A BIG THANK YOU to all who have read this post and to those who have participated in our conversation. I never thought I’d actually see the day of “too many comments” for any one of my blog posts, but this one’s gotten really wordy! It looks like we’ve more than covered any aspect of the debate on this issue, so I’ve decided it’s time to close up shop on the comments here. I invite you to please check out some of the other posts that are starving for comments on my blog, and feel free to share something brilliant (on topic, of course) Cheers! – MoSop

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