The Hunger Games: Why Werewolves Won’t Like It But Ron Paul Will

I went on a field trip this last Friday.

The high school I teach at took a group of 150 ninth graders to a viewing of “The Hunger Games” at a local theater. The trip was paid out of pocket by students and not by taxpayer money I assure you. With the exception of two other math teachers in attendance, I was probably the only soul in the theater who had never read the book. I can’t comment on the literary validity of the book series (I don’t read much fiction) but I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the movie with my beloved readership.

The “Hunger Games”  film is becoming a record-setting blockbuster ($70 million in its opening DAY) and is a surefire successful Trilogy; As conscientious Christians who want Christ’s kingdom to permeate all levels of culture, it is good to at least be semi-informed about what popular culture obsesses over and values:

It’s Better Than Twilight

I know that is not saying much. But at least Hunger Games is not a contrived love story about a boring emo girl who must practically choose between necromancy and bestiality. I think the leading Heroine, Katniss, has some solid qualities that are actually worthy of teen girl emulation. She’s strong. She loves her family to a fault. She’s brave. She hates injustice. She takes responsibility for her actions. And maybe most importantly: She’s not mindlessly wrapped up in an all-consuming hormonal rage over a boy.

Woody

I’m a Woody Harrelson fan. He has always played the role of witty sleazy wino well (maybe his bartender role in Cheers gave him a jumpstart with that). He doesn’t disappoint in his role of Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games winner and current tutor to District 12 contestants. I’m used to generally poor acting quality when attempting to stomach teenage box office thrillers, but there were a couple pleasant surprises in this film. Elizabeth Banks is delightfully creepy as the plastic clownlike, “Effe”, who serves as a mayor/publicist for District 12 and its contestants.

The Violence is Not Mindless

I’ve heard the movie flirted with an R rating before its release. Some may think the child on child violence is too graphic. That may be true, so parents should be informed before allowing formative younger children to partake. But I do think much of the violence in the movie is purposeful. No one dies without a stirring consequence or somber tone from the on looking survivors. There is actually a touching impromptu funeral scene during the games, injecting humanity in an inhumane circumstance. When any child is killed during competition a harrowing gong resonates through the city and countryside, and their picture is hologrammed across the sky. Even in the twisted dystopia of Panem, the corrupt government intimidates its subjects by playing against their knowledge of the inherent value of human life. For example: If each year from each district the authorities require a boy and girl sacrifice for a rebellion that happened 70 years ago in one district, what horrific acts would they do to our children in a contemporary rebellion?

The Founders Might Have Enjoyed It

Really, Hunger Games revolves around a cautionary tale regarding government power run amok. By displaying in prophetic clarity the negative effects of a meddling political system, the movie propagates a limited government message that may even make Ron Paul crack a grin. It reminds us, because of our sinful human depravity, the early gladiator games of Rome are not necessarily an unrealistic relic of the past. The vague goal of “progress” needs to tapered with real absolute moral foundation (Bible). Katniss also models the virtues of personal responsibility and healthy authority questioning throughout, and in our current climate of big government influences on both sides, these are not bad attributes for a youth culture to be absorbing.

It’s far from a perfect film. There are some contrived points in the plot, where main characters “coincidentally” run into each other at strategic junctures or when they hear seemingly random divulged information at just the right time to preserve life. I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of acting by many of the younger actors either. I hear later in the series the book toys with Nihilism, but I can’t comment on what I haven’t seen yet.

But the Hunger Games may be worth a watch for you. Clearly, there is not an overtly gospel message the movie attempts to set forth (brothers and sisters that is our calling!), but there are some apparent redemption themes and good character studies within the film.

As always, let’s take this cultural opportunity to speak the person and work of Christ as the only ONE worthy of our adulation and infatuation. He is the one who says to every soul hungry teeny bopper, parent, and cultural observer in between:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger (John 6:35)

Amen.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

60 thoughts on “The Hunger Games: Why Werewolves Won’t Like It But Ron Paul Will”

  1. I haven’t seen the movie but it sounds good so I probably will once it comes to Redbox. I like the fact that the film promotes limited government. Our government today has become an all too powerful leviathan on the backs of every citizen.

  2. Thanks Chief. Insightful analysis. I haven’t read the rest of the books (I plan to), but I do see a vague theme in the story of the Capitol who has every opportunity to do good but doesn’t and the pervasive cultural idea of a God who has every opportunity to do good, but only seems to allow evil. The Capitol sees all and knows all, yet allows and even is purposeful in withholding from its people. Isn’t this is a common cultural idea of God? Just a thought. What do you think?

  3. Very thought provoking. My two teenage kids went to see Hunger Games this weekend and, having not read the books myself yet, I’m glad to get a good, Christian perspective on the movie. Interestingly, they both came home feeling deeply sorrowful for the plight of the kids in the movie, and keenly aware of the injustice of it all.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve shared it with my Facebook friends, some of whom are young people who have already seen, or intend to see the movie. Hopefully they will think about the gravity of the underlying messages.

    Blessings,
    Malaika.

  4. Thanks, Bryan. Your review, once again, shows either my ignorance or naivete (or both) with regard to the current Hollywood movies, as well as the books from which they spawn. I’ve read, or heard, here and there that Hunger Games is coming out and that it’s highly anticipated, yet, I have not read anything about it more than what you’ve presented here. I appreciate it…

    …and since you haven’t given any spoilers, evidenced by the fact that I still only kind of know what it is about, at least I don’t have to be totally ignorant about it, and will know enough, by God’s grace, that if it comes up in conversation, I can utilize with all gusto my typical response: “So is Christ exalted unto the glory of God…?”

    Thanks again. I appreciate your willingness to be point man for schleps like me… even if I never see it.

    Blessings to you, dear brother. May your worship of Christ be sweet and full of His grace today and every day.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Pastor! I probably would be in your same boat regarding this movie if not for chaperoning the trip. It may be worth renting at the dollar box for those interested enough! Don’t mind being a point man for you sir. Peace and grace to you and yours, and may God bless your ministry for His glory.

  5. Read this article, which has an interesting take…

    http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/hunger-games-politics-223719796.html

    I appreciated your remark that “As conscientious Christians who want Christ’s kingdom to permeate all levels of culture, it is good to at least be semi-informed about what popular culture obsesses over and values.” Earlier this week I was involved in a conversation and one of the parties was pretty much saying Christians shouldn’t go see stuff like that, something I disagree with for the reasons you stated. I don’t know that I’d be able to in a theater. Maybe when it comes out on DVD and I can leave the room when the suspense etc., get too overwhelming 🙂

    I’m with Jon. Thanks for being the point man. Be blessed ~p

  6. I appreciate that review. I’ve read the first book (couldn’t put it down…I read it in a single day), and have been looking forward to seeing the movie. The “contrived” parts you mention may be ones that are written in the book. I recall getting a bit peeved at a couple of “deus ex machinas” that Collins wrote in. Otherwise, the book was quite good. The theme, itself, is quite disturbing, though. Kids killing kids at the insistence of the government. Very brutal. I was wondering how they kept it PG-13.

  7. I’ve read the first two books. My wife and I make it a rule in the house to only see Pixar movies in the theaters (that’s more of an economy decision rather than personal decision), but I’m making an exception to see this one. I’m not against violence as long as it’s accompanied with a longing for justice and followed up with redemption. The only flaw I ran into with the books is that the love story got in the way and made an otherwise suspenseful story too predictable, hence stopping at book two. But I do highly recommend the first book, as long as you don’t mind overly-intense scenarios. Hopefully I can comment on the movie soon.

    1. Good thoughts, I think there was a decent balance of violence and justice; the love story didn’t dominate to me, but that is probably because I was expecting some mushy junk like Twilight. Peace and grace Andrew!

  8. Thanks for the perspective. I have been struggling with allowing my daughter to see it although I read the first book to make the judgment myself. While it bothers me the lack of any direct faith messages, I plan to watch it with both my older kids and continue the discussion about the themes and messages afterwards. Unfortunately most parents I have encountered are sending there kids to these movies without a clue of what they are about.
    PS- I am sure my daughter thanks you as well since it pushed me over the edge to take her!

      1. Both my kids enjoyed the movie and while we had some good discussion before and afterwards,I agree with them when they said “The book was definitely better”. Thanks again for the post.

  9. Had never heard of the books, until the movie trailers appeared. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of what the movies about. I certainly did not get that from the commercials, and maybe someday I’ll read the book. Books are always much better than the movie in most cases. And thanks for the laugh on your interpretation of Twilight, that was spot on!

  10. Thanks for visiting my blog. Very well done review. I don’t plan to see this movie and I’ve heard arguments on both sides. I think you handled this with integrity. Kudos!

  11. Thanks for the excellent post… I have read the book, and look forward to seeing the movie myself, hopefully over the next week. I’ll most likely be blogging about it, too! Not a fan of either Twilight or Harry Potter, so pleased that there’s a new movie series that will encourage young people to be reading again…

    1. Thanks Chris! Yeah, it’s not a terrible thing that kids are actually reading and motivated to do so; the church just has to be diligent with a consistent biblical worldview when pop culture comes a knockin…

  12. I agree with your review. The Hunger Games is not a perfect book or movie, and its premise is horrifying, but it makes a some pretty strong statements about violence, that which we call entertainment, the dangers of an oppressive and manipulative state, and noble character in the middle of it all. I especially appreciate your suggestion that we offer hope in Christ as the answer to the hopeless world depicted in The Hunger Games. Thanks for your thoughts.

  13. thank you so very much for your thoughtful assessment and analysis–am i being needlessly redundant? lol…i have not decided yet whether i will go or not…my real life offers so much drama that i find i don’t have the wits for much of the fake kind…but i may wait for redbox and see it then…i completely agree that we need to be able to communicate intelligently with the people around us and to not draw needless lines of separation…while i may not comment on each of your posts, please know how much i truly enjoy them. blessings to you!

  14. Sorry I haven’t commented before. You’ve liked a couple of our posts, and it took me all of this time to do more than give yours a cursory glance. So far, it seems very thoughtful. I love your humble spirit! And you’ve done better than me in several aspects. I wrote about the movie before I watched it. But then, I’m really just trying to do some social commentary. Good stuff brother! God bless!

  15. The Hunger Games Trilogy is one of my favorites – well-written, engaging, and thoughtful. It’s a prime example of what can happen when YA fiction is taken seriously, and not monopolized by corny adventures and sappy paranormal romance.

    http://inkslingerblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/the-hunger-games-trilogy-a-review/

    The movie was superb. I thought Ross and Co. did a fantastic job of bringing Collins’ world to life. Jennifer Lawrence was a perfect choice for the role of Katniss. And I loved Harrelson. 🙂 I also liked how the movie didn’t exploit the carnage that was happening onscreen. It was brutal, sure, but not depicted in a “fun” or “exciting” way.

  16. I Have only read the first book and not yet seen the film but I was riveted by the book and although it is savage and awful, it does bear some weighty messages and actually, i think refreshing for teenagers who really don’tr want to be wrapped up in cotton wool, I think it’s good, especially because it is not over sexualised like almost everything aimed at teenagers these days.

    1. I agree especially with your last point. The only vaguely sexual thing was a pretty innocent kiss between the two. That is very refreshing for a series geared towards young adults…

  17. I am sure my fifteen yr-old daughter has read them all and already seen it. Just like she read all the twilight books and saw those movies. Just like she loved the vampire diaries. She went to see 3 secs to Mars.Totally a demonic band. I said on my blog (July 2011). That they had made lyric changes on their site during their tour and it was changed back after.” It’s a beautiful lie; it’s a perfect denial” about God is how they sang. “i believe in nothing, not satan or god.” Not to mention they had a skull with distorted bodies going to hell as a poster for the tour. I wish I had been able to stay and raise her. I feel sad that this generation sees such awful things and acccepts them. Even though I was not saved at the time. I talked about Jesus to her and my stepson and son. God through me still gives witness and will always.These teens are bombarded. It’s up to the Lord and I pray. Sorry to get distracted with your post. It just brought up thoughts about her. Things I should not worry about because God is in control.

    1. Hi Peace,

      I probably shouldn’t reply to this as it isn’t my blog and it isn’t on topic BUT, if your child is listening to “3 secs to Mars” then that would be a cry for help. So first, pray like your life depended on it, continuously, and then get involved in her life. Find out ‘why’ she would listen to them. And for the love of the Lord, do not ridicule them or any of her interests. That is the surest way to put up a wall between you and her.

      I hope this message finds you doing well.
      God bless.

  18. I am SO out of the loop. I heard about this from a teenager (not mine) Friday, and by Sunday, it was all the buzz in my circle of friends (who are kids – my boys’ friends – because I’m such a homebody). I didn’t even know there were books about this!

    But, of course, my boys are now inquiring about seeing this film (on DVD b/c they know that’s how we roll).

    So, I am thankful for your insight.

  19. I haven’t read the books. I haven’t seen this first film. But I definitely want to read the books now! “Hunger Games” has meat – unlike Twilight. It’s romance in the face of death + brute politics with social and moral injustices everywhere you look. I would never assign the Twilight or Harry Potter books to my high school and college students. But I would definitely assign “Hunger Games” – which has the best of the other two series!

    I prefer “Hunger Games” because of its reality and apocalyptic elements. I also think HG contains a scathing indictment of western culture today, especially entertainment = a moral and social sleeping pill. I almost feel like my life purpose is to shock the church out of its apathy.

  20. Hi Chief,

    I love the critique of the movie. I think the best lesson to get form this film is that if Hollywood would actually give us good writing then they would see major successes. I am pleased that they at least tried to make an effort where “Hunger Games” is concerned. Now if we can just get em to redo “White Chicks” THAT would be impressive.

  21. Your comment about being culturally informed is true. I do have a teenage boy who just saw this and am just starting a small group with teenage girls. Knowing what they are interested in and what “lessons” they are learning from the world around them always gives a good starting point to talks. This movie is on my list to see. Thanks as usual, Bryan.

  22. Thank you for not summarily dismissing something of cultural significance, whether it is valid or not from a Christian perspective. I’ve long suggested that we engage our culture by using it’s own images as mere shadows of a Biblical truth. Much like I’ve used The Wizard of Oz to demonstrate Christian values and truth, so we can use movies like The Hunger Games.

    Thank you for doing the leg-work that some of us can’t or won’t do in order that we might redeem the time for Christ’s Kingdom work.

  23. Thanks Brian for another great post and for allowing your students to drag you to the movie. I’m kind of amazed that the school allowed the trip during school time, but I’m sure it generated lots of discussion and encouraged some of the kids into reading. I’ve not read the book but have been in-tune with the concept and its impact on the youth culture. Our youth pastor told me the other day (and I’m sure he saw this somewhere but I don’t know where) that the way he has been bringing this book into the realm of a spiritual discussion with the youth is that Christ redeems you from the reaping – Jesus fights the battle in your place. Since I’ve not read the book yet (am planning to as my daughter has seen it around at her elementary school), I hope that makes sense and that I didn’t garble it in translation. I am going to post your blog onto my FB as I have lots of teen parents as friends. Hopefully it will help someone else.

  24. Well…my family and I (one of your 150), went to see it on Saturday. I will say that it was a 1000 times better than the Titans flick. Save your money! We did a double. Needless to say my head hurt after viewing 5 hours of madness.

      1. Had an Orwellian slant to it. Not too far fetched when you look at our current administration. Guess I better start practicing my archery. Im still young at heart…having young kids is just an excuse for me to see these movies. Your the best!

  25. I guess I’m going to have to break down and read/watch Hunger Games. I’ve run across 689 blogs about this book/movie, and ignored all of them. But, now that it has shown up on Chief of the least, I am intrigued… 🙂

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