Hunger Games: my view

There’s been so much hoopla about The Hunger Games. Some of our kids’ friends have read the books and are talking about seeing the movie. Our kids are understandably intrigued. OK, more than intrigued. They’ve listened avidly and pored over newspaper articles and want to know what the excitement is about.

John and I try to make wise choices with what we allow our kids to read and see. We aren’t exceedingly conservative: our 13 year old kids have seen the Bourne movies, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I’ve even made an ill-informed book purchase or two for teens that they’ve brought to me with eyebrows raised, and which I immediately tossed into the trash.  But we’ve opted to skip most pop culture things like Twilight and Harry Potter.

Side story/confession:  last year John and I went to the movie theater without having picked a movie to see.  After viewing the offerings, we impulsively bought tickets to the most recent Harry Potter movie, curious to see what the hoopla was about. We lasted 6 minutes before we walked out of the theater, stomachs churning, asking for our money back.

There are times when I’m sure we’re too lax and have scarred our kids’ impressionable minds with too many gun fights and car chases. Other times I fear we’re inciting rebellion by being too restrictive. But we are doing our human best to make wise choices.

When investigating The Hunger Games, I got a bad vibe right from the start. The premise of kids fighting other kids to the death was immediately repulsive to me. Why did so many folks seemed to love the books? I spoke with my son-in-law Ben and our 20-yr-old son Jared after they each read the first book in the series, along with several other folks whom I respect. They all agreed that it was compelling and well written, and that there was nobility in the way that some characters responded to the terrible happenings in the book. But several of the folks I trusted the most felt that the violence was unnecessarily detailed and sickly creative.

Just today I read this post from my friend Carrien describing the character of Katniss.   This post on another website also has a great discussion going.   After a lot of reading and talking, John and I ended up feeling peaceful about not letting our kids under 18 read these books or watch the movie. (The ones affected are 17, 16, 14, 14, and 13.) Our 17 year old son will be 18 soon, and goes to college in the fall.  That’s soon enough for him to read the books, if he wishes.  But we’d rather not have the books in our house right now, especially with so many young teens wildly interested.

I’ve thought of carving out some time to read the books myself.  If I do, and end up feeling OK about the content, maybe we will consider letting kids younger than 18 read the books. Maybe. But for now we are content to listen to the viewpoint of folks we trust, and to steer young teens in other directions.  Their lives will not be over if they don’t get to read these books for a few years.

Do I think Hunger Games books are the worst books ever, or that they will lead our kids on a murder spree? Most emphatically not.  I know that the author intended the books partially as a commentary on evil, and the need to speak out and take a stand against it. But I know there are better things out there to read in the early teen years, better books to remember, better books to mull over and be influenced by their whole lives.

What we read as children has a powerful effect on us. I still remember characters from books I adored. My favorites were headstrong impulsive types like Kit and Caddie and Laura and Jo, girls who struggled but ended up being true and honorable and strong in the end.  I think that part of their success came from the fact that  they lived in worlds where beauty and good did still exist, where friends and/or family came alongside them in their struggles.

I also read The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank– stories of  people struggling to maintain humanity and love and faith in the midst of terrible evil.  I’ve begun reading The Hiding Place with one of my girls, and the others will have read both books by high school graduation as well.

We’ve talked frankly with our teens about The Hunger Games, explaining our concerns with the book at this point in their lives.  After this discussion, one of the girls asked me why the author would write a story like this for kids.  We talked about some of the reasons. Some of the kids ended up being OK with our choice.  Others weren’t thrilled.

John and I understand that other parents have made different decisions about these books.  That’s fine.  We respect the right of each family to make choices that  take their own children into consideration.

One of our own considerations was that we have many teens at different developmental stages with different life experiences that are similar chronological ages.  Some might be ready.  Some are definitely not.  A blanket ‘no’ felt more fair to us than selective approval for a few kids.

We’re also aware that our kids will eventually have the freedom and the right to read what they want.  We’re fine with that too.  But before they get that freedom we want our younger kids to first get to the place that our grown kids are:  a place of mature discernment, bolstered and nurtured by many years of reading good stuff.  Speaking of good stuff, here’s one great guide that has come to my mind over and over as we’ve thought through this choice.  It’s from Philippians 4:8:

” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Yeah. That.

That’s what we want for our kids.  And we trust that God who knows our hearts will redeem our well-intentioned choices, both right and wrong, for His glory in their lives.

~~

Reading the thoughts of others really helped clarify John’s and my choice on this matter.  And we know there are good parents who have thought this thing through and come up with a decision different than ours.  I’d love to hear some respectful thoughts on both sides of this issue. How old are your kids? Will you let them read the books and/or watch this movie?  Why or why not?

My take on the Hunger Games after reading the series

Why Hunger Games is Flawed by Trevin Wax

 

My take on other parenting issues

{ 110 Comments }

  1. Lea Stormhammer says:

    This is a very interesting discussion. I have not read the Hunger Games and have zero desire to do so or to read the movie. Similarly with Twilight.

    I have, however read and re-read all of the Harry Potter books several times. I am very sad that you have based your opinion of the Harry Potter series on the opening of the last movie – which is adapted (poorly in my humble opinion) and begins in the middle of the last book. I think the books are very creative and include a very, very good premise of self-sacrifice, morallity, and personal ethics. I am sure you can find articles on the parallels between the Christian faith and these books online or in print in a variety of places (regardless of whether you agree or not).

    While I can’t comment on either the Hunger Games or Twilight, I do not feel that Harry Potter is a good series for young children (my children are 6-almost-7, and will not be reading these on their own no matter their reading skill any time soon). They are written for tweens or teens or older, not children. I would definitely follow tht guideline.

    Thanks for starting this discussion, Mary!
    Have a great rest of your weekend!
    Lea

    • The Potter series makes magic “comfortable” for children which is why I think is wrong. It encourages children to dabble with magic – which is in the news – it is being done.

  2. Mary @ Parenthood says:

    Count me among those who grew up without limits on what I read, though I did have limits on when so that I would sleep!

    I strongly believe in teaching children how to decide what to read and when. I am able to finish books much faster than the average reader, so for a long time I just read “whatever” as long as it was a book. Unconsciously I think I was trying to read everything (did read everything in our small middle school library). I always finished what I started.

    During my lifetime, I will probably not even complete a fraction of what’s available to read. Most people read much more slowly than I do. I regret having wasted some of my reading time, and I wish my parents had been able to teach me how to set reading limits.

    Proudly proclaiming “I don’t censor my kid” makes no sense to me. Your kid also won’t have time to read everything worthwhile. They aren’t born knowing how to choose what’s good to read. As a parent we should teach healthy reading habits alongside healthy eating and living etc. I read a lot of crap that was really damaging in retrospect, particularly as a depressed teen.

    WRT the Hunger Games, I really enjoyed reading it as an adult, though it’s a terribly manipulative book. I also am not sure whether its message is worth the violent images now in my head. I will NOT be seeing the movie. I have no desire to replace the images of the book from my imagination with those of the screen.

    I found the series quite disturbing, and am doubtful it should be PG13.The violence in the Hunger Games feels different from that in LOTR (and yes, the Bible). For one, the line between good and evil is a lot muddier in the Hunger Games. I think it’s ironic that so many are eager to go and watch/read violence for entertainment. At one point Gale comments that if everyone stopped watching, there would be no games. Collins’ use of violence to denounce violence may be starting conversation, but it isn’t changing behaviour…

    • You cannot make an accurate decision regarding The Hunger Games series until you have read ALL THREE books. You will miss the point the author is trying to make.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but I appreciate the discussion. I also think this was a wonderful perspective/review of the movie and books: http://allthingshendrick.blogspot.com/2012/03/movie-reviewhope-and-hunger-games.html

  4. I’ve read all 3 books & saw the movie… And I am allowing my 13 year old to read them. Although I agree the premise is disturbing. But, we have history just as disturbing. The civilians in history used to gather in an arena to watch slaves be killed by people or animals, gladiators fighting to the death… It’s all disturbing. I find it very ironic with where our current government is heading. I see so many similarities equating our current socialized lady gaga, Hollywood ect to the Capitol in hunger games. The whole dumbing down of the American society is exactly what happened in the book. I rather hope that people read them( if they’re interested) & have some sort of concern for our current government and start getting involved, & use it as a chance to teach their children. teach them to be involved and aware of politics and what’s happening in the world. They had a phrase in the 3rd book (Mockingjay) that was in the Capitol and said in Latin “Panem et Circensues” meaning “in return for full bellies and entertainment The people give up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.” how familiar does that sound? Excellent teaching lesson.

  5. Thank you for writing about this book. I had the book from the library to pre read and then give to our 12 yo daughter. Pretty quickly I was able to decide that it is not appropriate for her in this season of life. I was able to use some of your words, with my own thoughts to communicate in a way that she not only accepted, but also opened up more conversation between us.

    Thank you for sharing your insight and allowing reading to glean from it.

  6. Good response to a sticky problem. My wife and I do not have children (excepting the dog, who reads little) and I am interested in how the waters of questionable content are navigated by today’s parents. Your response was carefully thought out and evenly applied as well as lacking the taint of zealotry. Bravo. It is refreshing to see a reasoned response these days.
    Good Luck and God Bless!

  7. Mary, did you finish reading the first book, “The Hunger Games?” What did you think?

  8. Loved that you out this out there. I am personally saddened by how many Christian parents are okay with it. Garbage in garbage out. It is our duty to “train up” and direct our children. Good literature isn’t worth reading if the content in bad. I feel like it is another way to weaken our senses to killing and violence. Without being radical where does one stand for purity? Keeping our hearts pure and godly? I agree with Philippians 4:8. Just wanting to be a mother who raises leaders not followers. Don’t plan to read it since there is so much better stuff to put into my mind. Have you finished it yet? Do you still feel the same? Not here to judge- we all answer to God and Him alone!

    • Apparently a little late to be replying… Loved that you PUT it out there. I also think your wording is done carefully not to offend anyone. I wish I had your gift!!

    • Do you want your children to read these books WITHOUT your input and opinions? My son’s english honors teacher required reading this series!!! I decided that it would be better for me to be informed and to actively discuss this series with my sons. The first book is awful. It was only after my son’s english teacher encouraged me to keep reading that I was able to push on; the horror in the first book is awful. But AFTER reading all three books, I now understand the point the author is trying to make: We must do everything we can to NOT become like Panem, portrayed in this series. And we already have TV series like Survivor, etc, etc. My sons and I had some very deep discussions regarding this series and the topics raised. And now they have my opinion and I have theirs. You can’t keep these books from your kids, in today’s technological world; do you want to be a part of forming your children’s ideals?

  9. My thoughts exactly only I couldn’t have put them into words as well as you did. Thank you for doing so for me!

  10. I will not be bringing those books to my children to read for three major reasons.
    1)I would not read it myself because I do try to maintain this standard for my own life.” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” I have enough exposure to evil- just watch the news once a week and You exceed your quota.
    2. I believe that we are all being de-sensitized to the suffering of others and I choose to stay sensitive and keep a soft heart and help where I can.
    3. Our children if we want them to grow up in a difficult world where there are terrible situations, evil, heart ache and sorrow- I for one want my children to NOT accept these things as normal accept them. I want them to stand against violence against others and love other people.

    • You miss the point the author of The Hunger Games is trying to make. You cannot make an accurate decision regarding this series until AFTER you have read all three books. Point: We must do everything we can to NOT become like Panem, portrayed in this series. We already have TV series like Survivor, etc, etc.

  11. I have read the hunger games and the Harry potter books (not the twighlit. Don’t even want to) before I was 11 and I loved them same with almost all the people in my class. I watched all the movies too. I went to the midnight premiere of the hunger ges and it was amazing. Anyways the hunger games are most definitely not all about the violence and the killing. There’s also the Capitol that is cruel and came up with this idea of kids killing each other and the rest of the districts hate the Capitol and there control and want to put an end to it and live peacefully. So the Capitol wants control and the districts end up over throwing the Capitol so they can have peace. In the arena the tributes all are forced to kill each other or the gamemakers in the Capitol will help. So I think you should give them the choice to read the books and if they do then maybe explain what it’s about and if they want to read it. The books are very well written.

  12. Making decisions like these, is not easy – and every family has the freedom to be different. And I want to preface my reply saying that I already “ban” the Twilight and the Potter series. As the mother of a 15 year old and a 20 year old, who are both much more technologically savvy than me, I knew it would only be a matter of time before they read and saw The Hunger Games, especially due to all the crazy frenzy created to sell this series. I decided that I wanted to ACTIVELY be a part of the discussion/opinions regarding The Hunger Games with my sons. YOU CANNOT MAKE AN ACCURATE DECISION REGARDING THIS SERIES UNTIL YOU HAVE READ ALL THREE BOOKS! You will not understand the point that the author is trying to make, which I came to the conclusion AFTER reading all three books, which is: As a society, we must do everything we can to NOT become like the evil that is portrayed in this series. Point: We already have things very similar; just watch “Survivor”, etc., etc. I will admit that after just reading the first book, I couldn’t understand why anyone would write about such evil, especially for kids. After being encouraged to finish the series by my youngest son’s english teacher, my opinion changed. I will admit that the topics are only for mature teenagers. And that the books should be read before the movie(s) is viewed. But, as I said above, after READING ALL THREE BOOKS, the point of The Hunger Games is: we must NOT allow ourselves to become like the evil portrayed by Panem. (And how far away are we really???) Another thing you need to realize: >>>SCHOOLS ARE RECOMMENDING AND REQUIRING THESE BOOKS BE READ!!!<<< My youngest son's english honors teacher required it as summer reading. Do you want your kids reading these books without your opinion(s) or with them?!? I had some very deep discussions with my sons after reading these books, which was very good.

  13. I have no young children, but after reading the books myself I was somewhat hopeful for the future that a book showing the evils of a large centralized government is being read by so many teens.

  14. I did actually end up reading the books. If they’d been no worse than the first one was, we’d probably have allowed the series for older teens. But I really felt like they got more sensationalist the further the series went. Are they they worst thing ever? No way. But — bottom line for us– there’s better stuff out there. The Hunger Games is NOT a requirement of a happy childhood.

    An additional factor that distinguishes several kids of ours from their friends: several of them have lived through the death of both parents (bio)– watching a parent die is more trauma than any kid should have. We have lovingly decided to limit their exposure to additional trauma.

    I have found parenting to be an incredibly challenging proposition, and several times have told kids it’s fine if they make other choices for their kids, but that their dad and I are doing our level best to parent them well.

    But hey, I totally respect your right to disagree. Thanks for writing.

  15. I LOVE this post. I feel the same way you do. Our 12 year old daughter has given us pressure to let her see this movie – telling us everyone her age has seen it. I told her it leaves you with a sick feeling – both my mother sister saw it and said it left a yucky feeling with them. I started reading the Twilight series and ended up throwing it out – again – it leaves a gross dark feeling. What’s sad to me is that our family is so out of the “norm” for not allowing these movies into our homes. I feel so strongly that society is becoming more and more desensitized to the evil that they watch.
    Harry Potter was another movie that I couldn’t believe. We went to the second or third in the theater and I was sick and had to close my eyes because of the evil I felt it portrayed.
    My husband and I work way too hard in our home to create the kind of spirit that fosters love, forgiveness, and everything else that is good. I would never want to bring the opposite spirit in – even if it were through entertainment.

  16. I am glad to see I am not the only mother out there that finds the premise of the book disturbing. I think there is so much out there good to read that these book at best are mostly a waste of time. My kids who read the books thought I was lame, but one day while I was waiting for my daughter at the dentist I picked up the Hunger Games book she was reading to see if I was so off base. I was not. I am continually surprised at how desensitized we are to violence. I didn’t ban my kids from reading it but they know my stance on it so at least while they are reading it my little voice is in the back of their head reminding them that it is wrong.

  17. Elizabeth Bennet says:

    I think that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being conservative. One of my best friends parents did not let him read the Harry Potter series even when everyone else was. I read the Hunger Games and was not overjoyed by the whole of the concept. There is a lot of political intrigue but beyond that the series was nothing special. I personally recommend Jane Austen books for your thirteen year old daughter. She is an amazing writer and is very funny. Many other classic stories are very good. Because of your conservativeness I would avoid the picture of Dorian Grey. It is very disturbing. I did not read it but my friend Ian’s teacher made him and I have only heard bad things.

  18. Elizabeth Bennet says:

    Listen. Elizabeth comment 57 I am 14 and am in adoration of so many other classical stories. There are so many other much better and challenging books. No offense Suzanne Collins but I will pick up a Charles Dickens before reading mockingjay. Unfortunately in 8th grade my teacher had us read it. Also my teacher had us read an article on why not to read the article. A pompous girl in my class started turning redder and redder and went on for a week about this guys, and I quote “he is so stupid why would anyone not read the hunger games.” I just said I agree with the author and with her conceited arrogance did not talk to me for a week. I’m just informing you that not every single person who reads the books falls in love with it and yes I’m judging.

  19. Elizabeth Bennet says:

    Pardon Elizabeth comment 67

  20. Elizabeth Bennet says:

    I’m sorry but, I just finished reading your comment and could hardly keep my composure. Your reply is pompous and arrogant. It sounds as though it was written by a first grade child. I am 14 and can write( though even if it isn’t very good) far better than you. If you are in fact older than I. However, my parents are conservative and half my friends parents give them free-will to do as they please. About the rebellion part, I don’t believe if they are truly excellent parents will have risen their children well enough that they will not rebel. This is the end of my statement(to you I encourage writing classes)

  21. I would’ve let the kids read the book or watch the movie,because I am not the parent that says,”If kids read that they would go around killing people with a knife or bow and arrow,or bite people’s necks,or drink rum and cheat.Seriously,that kind of thing is just stupid.Plus,what harm does it do?!They only watch a movie,and of course they know its fake.And didn’t we want them to read books?You should actually know what they are reading about,and what do you know about good teen book series?You should just let them read anything they want unless it shows naked people.Why do you think people under 18 shouldn’t read the book?All the students in the sixth grade at my daughter’s school read,you don’t see them fighting other kids to the death.

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  1. […] takes on these books/movie.  I’ve dithered a bit too.  On the one hand, I have support for this stance  regarding the  series.  I respect this mom and her views and she has much parenting wisdom.  I […]

  2. […] Thanks for visiting!A couple people asked if I finished reading the Hunger Games series and if my original thoughts had changed. To be honest, if the first book in the series had been a stand-alone book, I’d […]