On Friday March 23, 2012, theaters across Canada and the world will be showing one of the most anticipated movies in recent memory.  Advance ticket sales have already been sold out in over 2000 screen locations , and those in the film industry believe the opening weekend will at least rival, if not surpass the records set by the Twilight saga.  In case the post title didn’t cue you in to which movie I’m referring to, we’re talking about The Hunger Games.  The movie was inspired by author Suzanne Collins and her 2008 Scholastic book trilogy of the same title.  The book was a runaway success, and the movie seems sure to follow in its steps with a cult-like following of tweens, teens, and younger adults across the globe set to watch its premier on Friday.

Here’s the basic synopsis, in the not-so-distant future, North America looks a little different than it does today.  The social, economic and government structures have collapsed, and a rebellion has taken place.  The North America we know and…ahhh…love today has been crippled by drought, fires, famine.  During the rebellion, the rebels were defeated and Panem was ‘created’, which is now a country (USA) divided into the Capitol (the wealthy and elite) and 12 districts (you and I!).  Every year the 12 districts, as part of their surrender agreement, each select two young ‘representatives’ by a lottery system to participate in the event known as The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part survival of the fittest (think Running Man meets Lord of the Flies, sprinkled with a tiny dash of The Island) , these televised games are broadcast throughout the country/society of Panem. The 24 ‘participants’ are forced to eliminate their competitors by pretty much any means necessary (a little more intense than Amazing Race or In Real Life!), and all citizens of Panem are required to watch it unfold live on TV.  When Primrose Everdeen is selected as one of the district’s female combatants, her 16-year-old sister Katniss volunteers to take her place to fulfill her promise to her that “nothing bad would happen to her.”  Katniss and her male district ‘partner’ Peeta, are matched up against bigger, stronger and better trained representatives from other districts that are looking to inflict some damage on their competitors.

So far the book has received brilliant reviews, and the movie pre-screening and advanced showings have all garnered strong praise from critics across the board.

So what’s the point to this post?  

Well I’m hoping to do more than just inform you of a movie and book, but rather to encourage and prepare youth and families to discuss the subtle, and not-so-subtle messages and views within The Hunger Games.  The fact is, like it or not, tweens and teens have been and will be talking about this movie and book phenomenon for a while now.  And even if they somehow don’t get a chance to see or read The Hunger Games, they’re going to be influenced, in some manner, by the cultural messages.  So I’ve enlisted some help from very trusted and respected voices in the youth and family ministry arena to lend us some perspective and guidance on this topic.

First things first, I know some people out there that think its a good idea for parents to screen TV shows, movies and music with their kids whenever there is a show in question (Jersey Shore, Pretty Little Liars, etc…).  While the idea is good, some of the wisdom is not.  There are certain media options that are so blatantly and morally wrong, that it’s just not worth any further subjection.  The Hunger Games is not one of those!  If you’re going to screen a movie together as a family, this (imho) is the one to do so with.  I think it would be a great idea for youth workers to partner with some parents and adult leaders, and take a crew of youth to the theater to watch the film, then go grab some Starbucks or Micky D’s and discuss what they watched, and the message(s) they heard.  Like anything else in life, we are to weigh the messages, images and views of this world against the message and truths of God Word.  That should be our ultimate measuring stick…nothing else!

Okay, so unto the reviews and resources.

*Don’t forget some simple questions we should be asking our youth when we watch and discuss media with them;
“What is the message re: the sanctity of life, sexuality, purpose/goal of life?”
“Is this something I would view/listen to if my parents were sitting next to  me?”
“Is this something that is likely to draw deeper in my faith journey, or cause me to compromise character/integrity?”
“What are the moral implications and values the artists/film-maker is endorsing?
“How does accountability and consequences for actions factor in?  Are they even present?”
“Would I continue to support this media ‘product’ because I believe in the message, ideals and quality, or would I find myself just joining the crowd because it’s the ‘in thing’?”
“Is there anything that contradicts scripture?  If so, in what way(s)? 

There are other questions you could dig into, but those are just a few simple ones to get the ball rolling.  My aim here is not to endorse the movie or book series, and not to suggest they are free from any biblical worldview ‘contaminants.’  What I am suggesting is that more parents engage culture with their children (especially tweens and teens), and take time to discuss media together in order to give understanding to the reasons behind the ‘yes‘ and ‘no’s.’  After engaging in some good conversation, it then falls on parents to use godly wisdom and discernment as to the question; “Where do we go from here with the info/feedback we have?”  I think if we follow a similar pattern with all our family media intake, we’ll be better equipped as parents, and helping equip our kids, to think biblically in all areas of life.

Just like satan is using our younger generation today to fuel his onslaught of immorality, deceit and wickedness to capture our minds and hearts away from the things of God, there is a strong message The Hunger Games (at least from my perspective) is communicating.  What is that message?  The marketers, producers and wealthy of today are using our young people to fight their battle for consumer domination, and they don’t seem to care too much that kids are dying in the process (whether literally, or in more subtle ways in purity, character, morals, self-image, attitude, family structure, etc…).  Make no mistake, there is a real game being played in our culture, and the fight for our youth is very real.  So knowing the messages of our culture, and God’s word, is a big priority…or at least it should be!

One thing about The Hunger Games, that just like the hunger pains we experience, there is a craving inside us for freedom, peace, purpose and value.  The characters in this film have a craving to return to a peace and life that was taken away from them, and they are hungry to fight for the chance to get it back.  Our human race has been like that since creation…striving to work for something that sin took away, but coming up with epic fails.  But unlike hunger pains that come and go, the fulfillment and hope we find only in Christ Jesus will never fade away, and He will satisfy every craving and longing we could ever have.

In fact, we don’t even have to fight for anything because Jesus already fought, and won, the battle for us at the cross.  We just need to embrace and accept His invitation to come and be forgiven…no more fighting…no more hunger pains…and no more games to play.  He has won the victory we never could, and all we need to do is find our place in His Story and accept what He has already done!

  1. jocelynr says:

    This is a really great post! I appreciate your words on parents engaging in culture with their children and taking time to discuss media together in order to give understanding to the reasons behind the ‘yes‘ and ‘no’s. This method of living in the world but not of it, rather than not in the world and not of it either will, i believe, yield better equipped adults in the long run.

    Reading books and watching movies like the Hunger Games with young people and asking the kind of questions you suggest is a great way to teach them how to view the culture around them with different eyes. I reckon that will equip them to, as you say, think Biblically in all areas of life. Learning to think critically – with the Bible as the measuring rod – allows people to move with greater ease into ‘real life’ rather than stumble around with the crowd, unaware of what they are absorbing.

    I’ve seen this first hand in my experience working in Universities with first year students: some come deer-in-headlights, awed with everything because it’s the first time they’ve been exposed to anything outside their parents’ influence, and some come equally unexperienced, but better able to encounter (and filter) the new and challenging becuase they’ve been taught the Biblical tools and worldview of how to engage in the culture around them without losing themselves in the process.

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