Before the Hunger Games movie came out, I didn’t realize there was so much controversy surrounding it. I’d read the books and enjoyed them. The romance wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of YA books out there, and the violence was pretty standard. At the time I read the first book, I was around the same age as the main character. Sure, it was sad when Rue died but I never really thought about the kids killing kids thing. Kids in danger are a common staple in media directed at that age group. I’ve seen kids hurt, or even killed in shows like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and The Clone Wars and that’s not even going into the situations that happen in pretty much every action book that features sixteen year olds. It never occurred to me that there was anything different about Hunger Games until the film came out.
Then, I saw people saying things like, “How could people be so desensitized that they’re watching a show where kids kill kids for entertainment?” Before this, the only debate I’d seen over the issue was if watching the movie would be like watching the “Games” from the book. The difference was, that early debate had been from the perspective of fans. The new argument came from non-fans, many of which hadn’t read the books.
There were also people who worried about the morality of the situation the kids were in. I don’t have a problem with that. I think it’s good when books or movie open up discussions about morality, but some people acted too appalled to be open to discussion.
This leads me back to the kids killing kids thing, which seemed to be the main reason people opposed the movie. When I started thinking about it, the truth was scary, and it wasn’t because I’d realized something new about the Hunger Games. It was something I realized about all media.
Considering most of the kids in Hunger Games were in their mid to late teens, the majority were actually pretty close to military age. Hunger Games isn’t the only movie with teenagers killing each other. Most war movies involve this. What’s scary is that no one ever notices kids killing each other if they’re in uniform while they do it. Does two years magically make it okay for them to kill each other? (If one references the Bible, the age of adulthood was probably twenty.)
In the Hunger Games movie, the writers made the violence very un-entertaining. It was shown to be a horrifying thing. When kids died, even the bad ones, it wasn’t triumphant, it was sad. Because of this, some of the people watching were disgusted by it, like the makers intended. Unfortunately, it seems they thought the violence was supposed to be entertaining and they deemed the movie bad, not realizing the movie was trying to get a message out.
In many war or action movies where teenagers are killing each other, the violence is entertaining and does not try to horrify audiences. They cheer when a teenage “hero” kills an enemy soldier who may have been drafted and forced to fight. To me, thinking these shows are okay while Hunger Games is bad is hypocrisy.
Red Dawn is a good example of this. In the original, which I saw, the characters were teenagers, fighting to get the Communists out of America. In some cases of this show, the violence was horrifying, not entertaining, which I liked, though there were many cases where it was entertaining. In the new version North Korea invades. From a quick search on Wikipedia, I found North Korea drafts kids when they’re 17. So there you have it, two movies, Hunger Games and Red Dawn, both with teenagers killing each other. Because only one was marketed as such, it got a lot more flack, at least from what I saw online.
Some review places even gave the new Red Dawn a more positive rating than Hunger Games. While they considered Hunger Games to be a story of kids killing kids, they thought Red Dawn was about patriotism. Maybe it’s just me, but this sounds a bit like the message Hunger Games was warning against.
The truth is, people have already got used to watching kids killing in entertainment and enjoying it. They just don’t realize they’re watching it unless they’re told they’re watching it. People have been watching people kill each other without really thinking about the morality behind it. They just want to be entertained and most movies do a good job of dehumanizing “villains” so the audience doesn’t think about how they’re humans too. (People should be thinking about how moral the hero is when he/she is killing anyone, not just children.)
When it comes down to it, I’m fine with someone opposing the Hunger Games because they don’t think it’s right to show kids killing each other onscreen, but if they’re going to oppose it, they should be opposing other movies that have the same elements, even if the children are soldiers. Just because kids are “patriotically” killing each other doesn’t make the show better than if they’re killing each other for sport. In my view, Hunger Games is an allegory for war, written in a way that people are forced to see it for the horror that it is instead of something cool that’s dressed up in a pretty uniform.