Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hunger Games Q & A

For our church newsletter I recently compiled a few basic questions about The Hunger Games based on several conversations with members, friends, etc. You can read the questions and their brief answers below. And if you have any seminal questions that you think I left out, by all means, comment below so I can do a part 2. Many of these questions (and others) deserve more ink (or ones and zeroes in this case). However, I intenionally designed this little Q & A to be brief for use in bible studies, inserts, or a one page, double-sided flyer if needed.

To that end, if you find it useful for yourself, your congregation, youth group, etc., please use it, copy it and so forth. Unlike the Capitol, I value information like this being freely distributed, just like the Gospel.

What is The Hunger Games? 

The Hunger Games is a New York Times best selling trilogy authored by Suzanne Collins. It has sold over 26 million copies since its first publication by Scholastic Books (2008). Recently, the books received increased media attention accompanying the March theatrical release of The Hunger Games, the first book in the series to hit the silver screen. 

What is The Hunger Games trilogy and movie about?

Based upon the Greek myths of Theseus and Spartacus, The Hunger Games takes place in the dystopian world of Panem, formerly known as North America. The books are written from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl thrust into the annual Hunger Games. The games comprise of twenty four participants, two from each of the twelve districts of Panem. The tributes, children ages 12-18, are chosen by lottery. Once selected, the tributes fight to the death in an artificial arena where the games are televised throughout the districts of Panem. The Capitol uses the games for three primary reasons:
1)       A warning, reminding the districts of the cost of their past rebellion,

2)      A perennial form of physical and psychological punishment, quelling potential insurrection and,

3)      Entertainment for its own citizens, much like the Romans and the coliseum; recall the popular phrase: panem et circensus.

What themes make The Hunger Games so popular?

The Hunger Games follows the popular book series like Harry Potter and Twilight, in generating media attention, broad readership and interest across the age-spectrum. The books are also easy to read, the characters are well-developed and the story draws you into the events that unfold throughout the series. But there’s more to these books than action, science fiction, and suspense. Many themes common to real life are mirrored in literature. The books tackle many issues that resonate with readers of all ages: love, sacrifice, the struggle with death and life, war, hope and survival in the face of adversity. The author weaves these together into a compelling and thrilling story, demonstrating that these themes extend outside of  Panem into the real world.

What age is appropriate to read or watch The Hunger Games?

The books are written for an older audience and the film is rated PG-13. Although the author is tactful in her narration of death scenes, the violent content of the books makes them more appropriate for those who grasp  the difference between science fiction and non-fiction. One possibility would be to begin reading the books at the same age of the main character, Katniss. In any case, parents should take an active role in  knowing their child’s maturity level for film and movie consumption and be involved in reading books and watching movies with them.

 Is The Hunger Games a social or political commentary?

In some ways it is. As in 1984, the books provide a dire warning of what happens when government seeks to use and control its citizens rather than serve and protect them.  This also seems to be a cautionary tale when it comes to so-called “reality television. As the books skillfully illustrate, people are easily desensitized when it comes to suffering, oppression and human need once it is televised and further promoted as entertainment, appealing to today’s me-generation.  Parents and children should discuss these existential and intellectual questions together, such as: Is it ever appropriate for Christians to disobey governing authorities? How does “reality TV” affect the way we view everyday life? What does The Hunger Games say about death and life?

Can a Christian read or watch The Hunger Games?

Yes, Christians are free to read/watch it or not. However, there are several good reasons why Christians can enjoy The Hunger Games.
1)       Families should read and watch movies together. Catechesis takes place even while engaging popular books or films.
2)      Children are reading and watching this literary phenomenon; they speak the language of pop-culture. Adults who are in tune with popular movies and books are able to engage in the discussion.
3)      The Hunger Games is enjoyable to read. Good books address the human condition no matter the reader’s age.
4)      Reading the books also provides Christians a bridge in communicating the Christian faith with our children and neighbor.
5)      There are many Christian themes in The Hunger Games.

What are some of the Christian themes in The Hunger Games?
The story begins with Katniss’s self-sacrifice on behalf of her sister, Prim. Although her name was drawn in the lottery, Katniss volunteers as a substitute, taking her sister’s place in the games, even though the odds of returning home are not in her favor. The theme of self-sacrifice unfolds in other places throughout the story as do other themes, including: love, hope, death and life, hunger and needs of daily bread and the bread of life imagery. Although many of these are not uniquely Christian themes, the Christian is able to say something unique about each one found in the books. One of the largest over-arching theme appears to be love that leads to sacrifice and sacrifice that leads to love.

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