But Isn’t Hunger Games about Kids Killing Kids?

UPDATE: Jonathan has now posted a new post titled, After Seeing The Hunger Games… We encourage you to peek at that, since the post below was written before the film’s release (even though they are both in agreement with each other).

Original Post:
After posting our article about what parents can expect from the movie Hunger Games, we’ve been receiving some interesting emails and comments from our readers. The most common question:

“Why should we let our kids go see a movie about kids killing kids?”

That’s not an ignorant question.

How should parents react to a story like Hunger Games? Are our kids going to want to start killing each other if they watch this film like all the kids that are throwing parties after watching the rebellious film Project X? Are we lowering ourselves to be like the audiences who gathered to watch gladiators fight it out thousands of years ago? (All accusations I’m hearing.)

First, let me ask a question: Should we avoid any story where both good and evil are presented? Think about this kind of reasoning. In The Chronicles of Narnia we see a group of kids fight against an evil witch! (Wow, that’s like Hunger Games vs. Harry Potter!) Should we avoid that classic C.S. Lewis story?

What about stories with kids killing other kids? Should we shelter our kids from any stories that tackle this ugly premise? Should books like Lord of the Flies be banned? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) We’d have to censor Genesis, Chapter 4, if we go that route. What about violent stories of adults killing other adults? (Oh man, there goes the book of I Kings!)

What kind of content should parents be leery of?

Good question. I’m reading The Hunger Games right now and am planning on seeing the movie this weekend and blogging about it. So far, I find the book not only captivating, but also thought provoking. A tyrannical government known as “The Capitol” lords control over the 12 remaining districts in the known human race. The districts are forced to each provide a boy and a girl to fight to the death on national TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss selflessly takes her younger sister’s place, forced to fight for survival in these evil games.

As you investigate this film for yourself, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this story glorifying violence or inappropriate sexual situations?
  • Is this story making “bad” look “good” or enticing?
  • Does this story irresponsibly display imitatable attitudes and behaviors that our kids will absorb and eventually emulate?
  • Does this story needlessly sell out to showing “eye candy” like nudity or gratuitous violence?

Let me be clear: I haven’t seen the movie yet. But from what I’ve read in the book so far, and what I’ve read from those who have seen the film, I don’t find any of those negative elements in this story.

I encourage you, as parents, to do the same. Read the book for yourself. Read several articles, not only ours, but this one from Entertainment Weekly about Common Sense’s review on the film. (Note: don’t just read the headline of this article, it’s misleading as to Common Sense’s actual stand.) Read IMDB.com’s parents guide for the film, which always lists any sex & nudity, violence & gore, etc.

Furthermore, watch the film with your kids, just like I suggested you do with a movie not quite as innocent as this one. Go out to ice cream afterwards and talk about the story.

Don’t just tell your kids “yes” or “no.” Help your kids think Christianly about this film and any other entertainment media they encounter.

What about you? What do you think of Hunger Games? Do you have any concerns about this story hitting the big screen this Thursday night at midnight?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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33 Responses to But Isn’t Hunger Games about Kids Killing Kids?

  1. Tracey says:

    Ok, I have read all three books. I’m a mom, and youth worker and church employee. These books are not ones to be banned or questioned. There are worse and they are books our kids are required to read in school, like The Giver. (YUCK!) Go to Amazon and read the book reviews, the good and bad. Then you can make a better decision. I think this first movie will not take the story away from the plot, I have read early reviews and many say it follows very closely to the book. I’ll be seeing it with my daughter and her friend at midnight. The main characters don’t want to kill each other, they want to survive. They are pawns just like many early Christians were in the arenas in Rome. I am happy to go to a movie not filled with indulgent characters with no purpose, tied to their earthly idols of money, fame, success and sex. There are those elements in Hunger Games, they are alluded to and finally brought forward a bit in the next two books. (not any sex that I can remember) But nowhere near what we can regularly see on TV, hear in music or watch on the big screen. I’m a fan.

  2. Tracey says:

    Thanks Jonathan! I’ve been to many midnight movies with my kids! Also, others at more sane hours.

  3. Pingback: The Hunger Games: What the Real Fight and Games Are All About « Here and There…

  4. Lea oswald says:

    I agree. My kids are reading them and I actually was told by a Christian friend to read these and thy were good. I downloaded it from Amazon and yea I emit at first I was- little Leary too. To be an informed parent you need to be well informed.
    Thanks as always for your insight Jonathan

    Warm in Minnesota
    Lea

  5. Pingback: Interesting Reads About “The Hunger Games” | Heart Renovation

  6. patricia morrow says:

    I have not read the books nor seen the movie. I think that our culture has begun to get desensitized to violence on the screen and that concerns me. Moreover, what may be appropriate for a young person may not be appropriate for him/her to see on the big screen.

    See this article from “Chicago Tribune.”
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/avantgo/2017811007.html
    Especially these two paragraphs: “Individually and as a three-book series, “The Hunger Games” is idea-driven. And like the best speculative fiction, it poses complex questions about how one might live in frightening circumstances. Necessarily, the book contains numerous episodes of violence and death, although Collins doesn’t go into specific detail, instead offering quick brush strokes.

    “The brain is very good at protecting itself,” Rich said. “When you read, you’re constantly accessing your memories and your frame of reference: your experience.” In other words, what a child is able to envision is limited to the boundaries of his or her imagination. “But when you put an image or an idea into a movie, someone else has translated that.” And quite suddenly, the picture a child has created in their mind is augmented by the more vivid and sophisticated imaginations of savvy Hollywood filmmakers.”

    • Desensitization is a realistic concern. The question most parents are facing is, where we draw the line? Most would say that “Toy Story” is okay, but “Saw” isn’t. What about those films in between.. films like “Narnia”? People’s opinions are going to vary.

      We can’t impose a list on our kids- a list of acceptable films and inappropriate films. We can’t do the same with ratings. We need to teach our kids discernment. We need to teach them to use scriptural truth to make these decisions.

      • Jon says:

        How about just giving them a little poison to see if it will kill them, Jonathon. You’re a youth leader? Get serious! Christ not glorified in this one.

        • Shawn says:

          But Christ is glorified in your sarcasm and integrity/character attack?

          • Matt says:

            Since when are Christians not allowed to be sarcastic? I do not see any “attack” there. The person is making a valid point about the author being in a position of influence.

    • rich says:

      Neil Postman made the same comment about tv 30 years ago. Images create their own definition as opposed to what you said about our experience being the basis. When I first heard about the Hunger Games a year ago I recoiled at the fact that kids were killing kids and that some of the characters are seen in a positive light. Kill or be killed… hmm I just don’t know. I haven’t seen the movie yet but the idea that I need to murder or I will be murdered is just an exaggeration of the dilemma people talk themselves into everyday.

      Are we as Christians being politically correct or just stupid when we acknowledge a movie like this as thought provoking? Maybe the world finds this idea thought provoking but our Lord left this arena of thought a long time ago when he said to love our enemies and go the extra mile. Where is the noble figure that says kill me if you want but I’m not playing your (hunder) games?

      • Rich Hart says:

        Just a cursory review of the Old Testament tells me that there were many who stood up to oppressive regimes with violence and killing, in the name of the Lord, and at Lord’s direction. I’m not sure what you mean by the “Lord left this arena of thought a long time ago” as if He decided that He had been wrong all along, and now all He wants is passive submission. A reading of Revelation looking forward is anything but passive submission. And the irony of being free to hold such a position in a country whose founders gave their lives for that freedom, but also took the lives of their oppressive rulers as well, is not lost on me. The beauty of books like this and their movie adaptations, along with series like Narnia and Lord of the Rings, is that it gives us insight into our present culture, possibly instructs, hopefully inspires, and perhaps brings about a thoughtful and purposeful involvement with bringing about a change towards the restoratative aspects of the Gospel in a world that so desperately needs to both hear it, and see it.

        I would also encourage you to be more gracious in your comments on this, or any other forum, instead of limiting the options of those who differ with you as either being “politically correct or just stupid”, especially when coupling it with the conclusion that we are to “love our enemies and go the extra mile.” A little more exercise in restraint or consideration toward your fellow believers seems like a good place to start.

        Grace!

  7. patricia morrow says:

    Correction, I meant to say: What may be appropriate for a young person TO READ. . . may not be appropriate to see on the big screen.

  8. Pingback: 5 Tips For Youth Groups Watching The Hunger Games | YouthMin.org | Youth Ministry Resources, Encouragement, and How To's

  9. Howey says:

    Think the theme is a great opportunity to talk about the Last Days. A great portion of the themes will be occurring in the post apocalyptic era possibly? Don’t like the references to Theseus tho’.
    Blessings,
    Howey

  10. Kathy says:

    I read all three books in 2 days over the Thanksgiving Holidays and I can tell you they really caught my attention, however, I will be seeing the movie this evening but some of my adult female friends from Church. After I have viewed the movie I will then deciede if my 19 & 17 year old boys are allowed to read the books and watch the movie. (If I like it as much as I think I will, I will take them myself to see it). But I too believe that this could be a great coversation starter for parents and teens. After all, what I read in the books did not point me to believing that the amil plot was only for Katniss and Peeta to kill other teens if was for them to ban together and survive someone who was as terrible as President Snow. (Couldn’t President Snow be a modern day Satan?). But ultimately it is up to me as a parent to make the final decision for my children. Thanks for your review though I am now even more exceited to see this movie!

  11. Kathy says:

    I meant ot say I will be seeing the movie this evening with 3 other ladies from my Church.

  12. Shelly Lockaby says:

    I saw the movie and thought they handled the violence very well. I am taking my 9 year old daughter to see it tomorrow. As far as the violence goes and the impression it could leave on children, the fairy tales I grew up on come to mind: Hansel and Gretel….mean woman fattening up a little boy in order to eat him, Red Riding Hood….wolf disguised as Grandma and terrorizing a little girl, Snow White….wicked queen having a young woman’s heart cut out. You get the picture. The movie is make believe just like Peter Pan and Bambi (whose mother was “murdered” from the deer point of view)

    • jason says:

      Really bad movie. Kids killing kids really. We saw it last night. Wow! I could not wait for it to end. I guess you are supposed to cheer after each kid is killed. I would not let our kids anywhere near this movie.

      • Wow. Are you sure that you went into the movie titled, “Hunger Games”? Because I saw the film today and it was the furthest thing from “bad,” the film actually provoked the audience to gasp, mourn and be horrified when someone died (amazing social commentary), I can’t wait for the next film in the series, and I’ll be taking my kids to this movie with no hesitation. I’ll be blogging my entire two cents about it tomorrow (Sunday, March 25).

  13. Kim says:

    My husband and I have 3 children that are homeschooled. My oldest child (13) has friends that are going to see the Hunger Games and have read the books. He has no desire to read the books or see the movie. We are very involved in sports and school and what little time they do have, they prefer to read some of the old classics. One day in the locker room, some teenagers and tweens asked my nine year old daughter if she was going to see the Hunger Games. She said, “No, I am not going to see that movie. I’m a Christian and do not care to see kids killing kids in a society where we become desensitized to seeing things. She told them that she preferred seeing uplifting things in the little leisure time that she had.

    • Mikka says:

      Kim, I’m glad there’s still a few parents left that can see the stupidity and uselessness in “teaching” our kids numbness to violence. Between movies like this & violent video games and accessibility to assault weapon, we as a society then wonder why tragedies like Newtown & Columbine have to happen. I’m not for banning such movies, but call me old-fashioned, I kinda like kids to keep some innocence until they reach adulthood and are confronted by the world’s ugly side.

      • Mikka… the question you have to ask yourself is… when? You said you want to keep some innocence until they reach adulthood and are confronted by the world’s ugly side. So when is that? When they’re 13, in middle school, will they not encounter any of the world’s “ugliness?” What about 16? Or will you wait until they’re 18 so they can just try to figure it out on their own when they move out, because they never talked about it when they were home? Take a peek at my article, No Rules by Age 17 1/2: http://www.jonathanmckeewrites.com/archive/2012/10/24/no-rules-by-age-17.aspx

  14. John says:

    Narnia was fantasy. True, The Hunger Games is fiction, but it is intended to be a projection of future humanity. Big difference. Furthermore, the Witch in Narnia was evil, but in The Hunger Games, innonent youth are trying to kill innocent youth to survive. The end justifies the means in this book/movie. I’m very disheartened for humanity that we would disguise the tragic thought of child vs child violence in the name of an entertaining, heroic story. We are experiencing the slow devolution of our principles and values as a culture, as a race. Twenty years from now, someone will remember The Hunger Games and wish that things were as simple as they are today. People, please wake up and realize that we are all just part of the water flowing under the bridge, and the current is made swifter by social media, TV, and the Internet. God help us. And I’m not even evangelical! Jonathan, I hope you are able to truly understand the larger ramifications of what this is all about, and then utilize your blog to raise broader philosophical, spiritual, and values-driven questions that will help us climb out of the river and begin to place humanity back on a positive track.

    • I know, it’s terrible that our society could be heading towards a place where kids actually killed kids for entertainment. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could someone tell a story about that to our kids today and show how wrong that is… demonstrating how horrible it is and how it’s NOT entertainment? Oh… wait… someone already told that story, and they did it well. It was called, THE HUNGER GAMES.

      Perhaps you should read the story or watch the movie and see for yourself (I blogged more about this in today’s post- posted March 25th, After Seeing the Hunger Games)

      • Simon says:

        You are such a condescending tool. Thank God you are nowhere near my kids. By the way, I don’t need to try heroin to know what I am missing. Kids killing kids. Yeah, baby.

  15. Tracey says:

    I must say, from a logical point of view, that people not checking it out for themselves is akin to a non-believer saying that God was too harsh a judge, and not a loving God who would strike down entire populations in His name and for His righteousness, so they would never read the Bible or believe in a God like that. So how can you possibly know about the true intent and meaning of these books and now the movie, if you don’t read/see them yourselves? Jesus did perfect job in relaying His message thru the parables. Are we not allowed to as well? The sacrifice (although I don’t think the movie did show the real suffering going on as well as the book did) of the characters in this story is apparent. The main character offers herself as a lamb led to slaughter, just like Jesus. Is that not a good enough example? Also, 9 is too young. This is for 13 and older. If you feel they can read and understand Diary of Anne Frank, that is a good threshhold. I don’t think 9 is there yet.

    • Roger Brown says:

      I agree with Tracy as to 9 being too young for the movie. It is rated pg-13 and I think they got the rating correct. I would not want to take even middle school kids to this movie but I felt that high school age was fine, especially if a parent was going along. BTW: thanks Jonathan for reviewing this movie, the points you made about it were perfect.

  16. Geka says:

    I watched the Hunger Games recently and it left me feeling depressed for days. Took that long to shake it. I watched it because our youth leader showed it to our youth group at church and I wanted to understand why. I am an adult, raised six children and have a number of grandchildren and I would never show this to my grandchildren. Let’s not stoop to the lowest common denominator.

  17. Laura says:

    The film isn’t based for kids… its a teen film – its amazing and very well put together.

  18. Simon says:

    Just wanted to add that I am exhausted at the postmodern loving Christians such as Jonathan McKee. Yes you’re hip, cool, swingin. You love Breaking Bad, Sapranos, Family Guy. It’s a party happening every night in the Christian home of Jonnny. Just don’t ask Johnny to think. He’ll tell you he’s better educated than you and has a far broader view of the world, which you should hop on board.

    See, like a seal lion at Seaworld, Johnny has been fed the postmodern diet at college and seldom stood up to any lecturer because he wanted to get that slit of paper that says he’s smart. Now, if anyone questions him, that paper is devalued so he better take you down by destroying your opinion that is contrary to his. How could the Hunger Games be bad for kids? Here’s a tip, Johnny. It destroys innocence. And you want that destroyed as soon as possible. Look at your posts – when is it time? You are a sad little man who is trying to destroy anyone that has a “naive attitude” as your college professors would put it.

    Anytime you think you are man enough to come to Uganda and see what real fighting is like, email me and I’ll be happy to organise. In the meantime fight against the evil corporations (Capitol) you live off and take down the parents trying to protect innocence from Fight Club loving despots like you.

  19. Barb Cook says:

    I think it is important to point out that it is the concerned, educated parent that is so involved with their children and truly care what happens to their children that are all commenting on this film. It is the children that are unsupervised, who are growing up in homes where the parents are unstable, those are the ones that are being affected. The children that have mental health issues and are not able to discern for themselves. Those are the ones that are shooting up our schools, malls & movie theaters. We had two 12 year old girls plan a stabbing of another 12 year old in Wisconsin just this week. Where do they get these ideas? How do we protect those children where the parents don’t care what they see? Though provoking?…..Have you been around a family that is disfunctional, that do not attend church or have any guidance? There is something to ponder….those are the children that we should be concerned with being influenced into murdering each other because they saw it in a movie.