The Hunger Games

Posted: April 2, 2012 in Current Events, Entertainment, Movies, Pedagogy & Education, Reviews

So, where does this appeal for The Hunger Games originate?  Does it come from a cynicism of reality TV?  Does it stem from apocalyptic visions of the future.  Or does it arise from a skepticism surrounding how adults manipulate youth?  I think you could make an argument for any one of these being a significant factor, but I think there are two simpler reasons that this book and film have become so popular.

Getting youth to read, -especially boys-, is a real challenge.  I’ve found in the past that it has to be a special book to capture male adolescent readers, and the females are also picky, looking for material that is dark and melodramatic as well as romantic.  Youth is looking for stories of stark honesty, and oddly those stark stories are not always realistic.  In the past I’ve found that some of the best reading material that works with adolescent boys would be novels that are viewed a “subversive”.  Reading, often seen as a feminine or non-macho activity, must be redefined as a subversive activity in order to appeal to many male readers.  Not too many boys are adverse to reading “letters to Playboy” with a flashlight under their covers late at night.  Some books that I’ve seen catch on with male youth in the past include Ender’s Game, which like The Hunger Games is about conflict between young character, or books like “Youth In Revolt”, which presents a very sexually frank reflection on growing up.

The Hunger Games is often compared to Battle Royale, the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami in which the Japanese government tries to control juvenile delinquency by ordering a class of teenagers onto an island where they must fight to the death.  There was a particularly gruesome movie made from the book which is almost comical in it’s bloodiness, if such a thing can be said.  The Hunger Games manages to do it better.  The violence is not gruesome or glorified.  In fact Katniss manages to deal with the situation in an arguable honorable way, only ever killing in self defense and in the end outwitting the puppet masters.

In the condemnation which some adults have thrown at this film, that fact seems to be forgotten.  There is an honorable theme and moral in it.  The violence is never glorified and those in the film that do glorify it are depicted in a negative light.  Katniss, in her actions, remains clean if not innocent at the end of the story.  She’s done, with regret, what she’s had to do in order to stay alive, and no more.  The movie says a lot about choice, and that’s a big part of what pulls you into it.

And therein lies the second reason for the success.  After all the analysis and commentary about social justice, both the book and the movie simply tell a well crafted story, complete with personal interest, action, relevant theme and innovation.  The film is a well made film.  The acting is great; the settings and special effects are well done;  the editing has cut the story into a more brief movie framework without sacrificing any of the strengths in the original novel.   It keeps you engaged; you care about the characters; it even makes you think a little, without drowning you in moral dilemmas.

I would give this movie an A.


Hunger Game previews are all over the place, so here’s the preview for Battle Rayale.


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