Happy (or unhappy?) Hunger Games

Before I start with my official post, I want to officially announce “Movie Monday” as part of the weekly schedule! Movies are great reflections of culture in several ways, mostly because what makes it in Hollywood is only successful if there is a wide audience of interest. So the movies we like say a lot about our lives, interests, and possibly even our beliefs. Since a lot of this blog is about the way definitions in culture clash or compliment Christian understandings, looking at movies can give us a lot to think about. If you have any suggestions for movies you would like me to review post it in the comments.

Today I want to open the discussion with one of the hottest movies of the year: The Hunger Games!

I like to brag that although this became the trendy must-read of the year, I was ahead of the trend and read it over a year and a half ago before anyone had really ever heard of it (thanks to the suggestion of a friend). Too cool, I know.

Now it has become one of the most read books of the year, and it quickly became one of the most anticipated movies as well. However, there is also a good deal of discussion surrounding the debate of whether it is wrong for us to cheer on a book about teenagers killing each other.

My personal opinion is that we have to remember it is fiction. As an English major, I will also insist that part of reading fiction is understanding the sub-context and deeper implications of the story. As a culture, I think we have lost a lot of our ability to go deeper in understanding what a book or movie or song or other art form is really saying. Sadly this has produced a culture that applauds one-note, surface level dramas and songs like “Call Me Maybe,” which besides being funny and a good beat really has no further point to it.

In regards to the movie, I think the director did a good job of ensuring the fact that the violence and killing wasn’t at the forefront of the story. It was a side-effect, a consequence of deeper corruption and social turmoil. Actually, I would insist that in this case the violence is a necessary evil to help us see how bad the reality is. This is an essential element of satire: taking something to the extreme to show the dire possibilities of a present problem. No it isn’t the type of satire we see on Saturday Night Live or the Colbert Report, but it is reminiscent of original literary satires like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal or even George Orwell’s 1984.

But what is the deeper meaning and what does it say about our current culture?

Well one of the first points people infer is the parallel between the United States and the Capitol’s grossly extravagant way of living based on selfish desires. We must admit that if we took a good look around at the extreme measures we take to change our appearance, to buy luxury things, and to watch people suffer on television for entertainment it isn’t that far-stretched.

Capitol style or United States style?

Even just that implication points out a lot of things in our culture that clashes with Christian teachings. Why do we spend thousands of dollars on material items when we are commanded in the Bible to focus on our wealth in Heaven more than the treasures of earth? Is it right for us to waste food when others are starving, or to have so much when others have so little?

Please understand that I am no less guilty of this than others, so these questions are directed first to myself and then to the world around me. Yet as I ponder these complications I find it necessary for us to realize how deep the cracks are between the Christian life we say we live and the life we are really living.

Next then, many think that if the United States is a parallel for the Capitol, then the districts must be representative of other countries around the world. Larger, wealthier districts like 1 and 2 would probably be some European countries that are close allies with the United States, and then the lower, poorer districts represent some of the third world countries. This too spins off into plenty of questions about how can we live in such opulence here, while people who are producing the goods we use starve in other places, or possibly even in our own country.

Although the basic story of the Hunger Games seems violent and cruel at first, one must understand the deeper implications of the story to see how it is really just reflecting a violent and cruel world.

What do you think?

Is it ok for us to be entertained by a story about violence and murder, or is it redeemed by the deeper context?

What does it say about culture in the United States?

How is that different from Christian teachings?

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