As I'm sure you've heard, the latest thing for teens (and adults!) is the Hunger Games book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The first movie came out a few weeks ago and it seems like every person I know has read the books - even people who hate reading! I decided to see what the fuss was about and couldn't put the books down. I saw the movie last week.
Instead of recapping the plot or giving a review, I just want to encourage you to talk about these books (or the movie!) with your teenager. The books have a lot of violence, and many people find it disturbing that the violence is carried out by teens. The movie also has violence but thanks to some clever camera work, it's not nearly as explicit as I was expecting (the film only has a PG rating). Regardless of how you feel about the story, there's no denying that the Hunger Games have swept our nation essentially overnight.
Collins uses these violent themes to give us a biggeer social commentary. She has stated that she got the idea for the books one night when she was flipping television channels, and images of reality TV began to blur with the war in Iraq and that bothered her. In a nutshell, these books are a very effective social commentary on how desensitized our society is to violence (and as an extention, other destrictive sinful habits), as well as how ridiculous the divide is between First World and Third World. We live in a time where we find that complaining about iPhone problems is totally valid, and meanwhile people on the other side of the world are being plaged with genocide, dictatorships, and starvation. Teenagers are more aware of these unfair issues more than you or I were when we were teens (I'm 24, so a lot has changed in the past decade!) thanks to social media (I think of the Kony 2012 campaign). I believe that theirs is the generation to make real changes.
If you have chosen not to let your teenager read the books or see the movie, the below discussion questions can still be adapted to talk about world issues. If you have allowed your teen to see or read the Hunger Games, I want to encourage you to also read them or at least see the movie. These questions will hopefully start a great discussion between you and your teen!
- What do you think of Katniss's character? How does she compare to other female protagonists in movies or books? What do you respect about her? (I especially think of Bella from Twilight and Hermoine from Harry Potter with this question - who are your daughter's fictional role models?)
- If the Hunger Games is an analogy to our 21st century world, who would be in our Capitol? What about in Districts 1 and 2? What about District 12?
- Who do you think is worse: the Capitol for promoting materialism and excess, or Districts 1 and 2 for wanting to be like them?
- How did you feel towards citizens of the Capitol? What excuses might they use to live their lifestyle? Do you think those are valid excuses?
- What are your thoughts on violence in our media? What about other sinful behaviours we witness in movies, books, or on tv?
- How can we choose what media is appropriate for us to view? What would you be comfortable watching with Jesus sitting next to you?
- Do you think the use of violence in the Hunger Games is justified because of how it helps us think about how comfortable we are with seeing violence in our media? We are supposed to feel uncomfortable watching teens kill teens... but what about when you watch a scary movie?
- Which characters do you respect most and why? What can you learn from them?
- After reading these books, how have you thought about our world differently? What can you do to make a difference?