The Hunger Games: Savage Murders of Children by Children

Why is gut-wrenching, glorified violence committed by children on other children a runaway bestseller? How many parents are aware of what their children are consuming? Why are some schools making this trilogy required reading?

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the first of the trilogy, has sold over 16 million copies in the United States.

A movie based on the book is set to be released in March. The director claims his movie’s rating will be rated for children, according to Karen Valby in her article for Inside Movies.

Director Gary Ross revealed in our exclusive interview, it’s time to get real.

“’It’s not going to be an R-rated movie because I want the 12- and 13- and 14-year-old-fans to be able to go see it,’ says Ross. “This book means too much to too many teenagers for it not to be PG-13. It’s their story and they deserve to be able to access it completely. And I don’t think it needs to be more extreme than that.” He promises though that his vision for the movie will be just as stirring as anything found in Collins’ prose. ‘I don’t need to have a huge prosthetic budget or make this movie incredibly bloody in order for it to be just as compelling, just as scary, and just as riveting.’

“The book has some terrifyingly vivid scenes of carnage and loss — respect, Cato — to be sure. But Ross maintains that Collins, who he’s already enjoyed hours-long phone conversations with, hasn’t “written in any way an overly graphic book. Even things like the Tracker Jacker sequence, while horrific, it’s the ideas that Suzanne has created that are so harrowing.”

What does he casually dismiss as a not “overly graphic book”? Let’s begin with the plot summary on Amazon:

“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV….The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.”

These are children being required to kill or be killed for public amusement. Here’s a passage from the book, picked at random. The narrator is a 16-year-old girl:

“I can sense the emergence of danger before I see it. Fortunately, the first knife comes whizzing in on my right side so I can hear it and I’m able to deflect it with my bow. I turn, drawing back the bowstring and send an arrow straight at Clove’s heart. She turns just enough to avoid a fatal hit, but the point punctures her upper left arm.

“…I’m turning to fire again when the second knife catches me in the forehead. It slices above my right eyebrow, blinding my eye, filling my mouth with the sharp, metallic taste of my own blood. I stagger backward but still manage to send my readied arrow in the general direction of my assailant. I know as it leaves my hands it will miss. And then Clove slams into me, knocking me flat on my back, pinning my shoulders to the ground with her knees. This is it, I think, and hope for Prim’s sake it will be fast. But Clove means to savor the moment….

“Clove opens her jacket. It’s lined with an impressive array of knives. She carefully selects an almost dainty-looking number with a cruel, curved blade. “I promised Cato if he let me have you, I’d give the audience a good show.”

“I’m struggling now I an effort to unseat her, but it’s no use. She’s too heavy and her lock on me too tight.

“‘Forget it, District Twelve. We’re going to kill you. Just like we did your pathetic little ally’…She carelessly wipes away the blood from my wound with her jacket sleeve. For a moment, she surveys my face, tilting it from side to side as if it’s a block of wood and she’s deciding exactly what pattern to carve into it. I attempt to bite her hand, but she grabs the hair on top of my head, forcing me back to the ground. ‘I think…’ she almost purrs. ‘I think we’ll start with your mouth.’ I clamp my teeth together as she teasingly traces the outline of my lips with the tip of the blade.”

What about this scene is not “graphic,“ as Ross claimed? What about it is not “harrowing”? At this point, a boy named Thresh saves her as he jerks Clove away and demands Clove explain her actions.

“’What’d you do to that little girl [Rue]? You kill her?…You said her name. I heard you. You kill her?…You cut her up like you were going to cut up this girl here?’

“Thresh brings the rock down hard against Clove’s temple. It’s not bleeding, but I can see the dent in her skill and I know she’s a goner. There’s still life in her now though, in the rapid rise and fall of her chest, the low moan escaping her lips.

When Thresh whirls around on me, the rock raised, I know it’s no good to run. And my bow is empty….” (both quotes: ibid pp. 283-286)

That too is graphic and harrowing. Despite the fact she’s saved by a boy, reviewer Diane Davis was delighted with this protagonist:

“The fabulous thing about this story is that it focuses on a strong female protagonist that is fierce and independent. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bella and all of her brooding, but it is about time we see a chick kick some ass.”

So is this what we want for our daughters — to become as violent as men? It is “fabulous” to teach our children to be serial killers? To learn to survive in a world filled with unnecessary but glorified brutality?

The movie’s website encourages youngsters to test themselves as “survivors” rather than using the truer term “serial killers.” While it is true the intent is to survive, the reality is these children are forced to be serial killers. The victor survives in body only. Their soul is mutilated by the “game.” The same infliction of violence on the soul is exhibited in the “games” found on the movie’s website.

“Think you could survive a situation like the Hunger Games?

“It takes more than just strength, or smarts, or stealth. Take the Trials to see your likelihood of survival – then try to discover how you might improve your chances.

“Find out if you are ready for the Hunger Games. To help prepare contestants, we have devised this simulation. Test your abilities and see if you will be able to survive the real thing. Remember, there is only one path to survival.

“Play trial by tribulation

“Play trial by fire”

There’s one problem with their tests: there is no way to win the “trial by fire.” No matter how fast you go and which options you pick, you end up running out of time and suffering a violent death.

The “trial by tribulation” is a series of questions with multiple choice answers. Every violent answer brings praise, telling the child they posses strength, courage, charisma, and more. At the end, the child has lost anyway and is asked to play again, with the warning the rules change. “The rules of survival are unpredictable. Play again to see if you can figure them out.”

These advertising games teach our children they are praiseworthy if they are violent, that violence is the way to “win” the game. Is there any more horrific and harrowing concept to teach our children? Our children already learned this in the books. Now they’ll have a chance to learn it anew in the movie where the visual violence will carve an even deeper wound into the core of their psyche


2 Comments to “The Hunger Games: Savage Murders of Children by Children”

  1. Wow, thanks. I loved the Hunger Games, as it was a “good read” with a female hero. I was so pleased about that aspect that I simply forgot to give it a more thorough analysis. Thanks for this important perspective

    • Hi, glad you stopped by. It’s so easy to get used to ignoring the harmful themes that underlie good entertainment. I’ve done it myself.

      I’d like to see good female heroes that solve problems according to feminine principles. The trouble is, we’re so immersed in patriarchal memes we have a hard time thinking outside that paradigm and realizing women have different values that should be celebrated. We are the life givers and, as such, we do not naturally glamorize violence or pick it as the first option.

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