Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ellen Finnigan on THE HUNGER GAMES and Christians

Let me introduce this post by saying that while I have definitely heard of the phenomenon of The Hunger Games, both the books and the movies, I never got the chance to read either of them. But I do look forward to that chance if I get it. And it's not really because of any peer pressure, but rather because I am interested in this myself.

And the Catholic teacher and anti-militarist Ellen Finnigan has written an interesting and poignant piece on this phenomenon entitled "What We Missed In The Hunger Games." It is important for both Christians and Catholics, especially of the conservative persuasion, as it exposes the whole issue behind the story that either we neglected or deliberately chose to ignore.

What is that issue?

Let us turn to Finnigan to find out the answer:
Upon the release of the first Hunger Games in March of last year, reviewers and commentators in the Christian media weren’t much quicker on the uptake. Christian websites, magazines, blogs, and chat boards were abuzz with discussions about the film and the series of novels it was based on. Parents questioned whether they should allow their children to see the film, exchanged warnings about the content, and advised each other onhow to talk to your kids about [insert part of story deemed morally questionable]. Nearly every moral issue in the story was considered and discussed—the suicide pact, the scene where Katniss and Peeta sleep together but don’t “do anything”—every moral issue that is, except that one which lies at the heart of the story.  
The United States has been at war for over a decade, the war in Afghanistan now the longest in our history. Recent wars have been responsible for the deaths of almost half a million people in Iraq, tens of thousands in Afghanistan. Those numbers don’t include the wounded, the disfigured, the poisoned, the displaced. Those numbers don’t include the suicides. The United States has spent $10 trillion on defense and homeland security since September 11, 2001, on bombs, drones, guns, bullets, planes, artillery, tanks, rocket launchers, assault rifles, etc. As a teacher, I’m amazed at the frequency with which students mention 9-11 in classroom discussions and student papers. They were toddlers when it happened, yet they refer to it as if it were a real memory. That is how present it is in their consciousness.
Miller’s theory that world of The Hunger Games couldn’t possibly make any sense until you see it through the lens of a teenage wasteland only belies her faulty assumptions about, as she put it, “what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader.” The young readers who first discovered this series back in 2008, and the readers who have been eating it up ever since, have virtually no memory of pre-9-11 America. Their entire experience of living has been one of living in a country at war. They grew up steeped in that toxic brew of fear, propaganda, aggression, militarization and violence that is post 9-11 American culture, a culture that has created a “stormy psyche” for all us all and to which children are certainly not immune, and are probably especially susceptible. The respect Collins paid her young readers in writing this trilogy was to see them as not only conscious, but socially conscious, and potentially curious about or concerned with that central human problem called war. It was interesting to see that Christian adults saw very little about the central human problem of war in this wildly popular film that was, in the words of its Roman Catholic author, written about war, and after a decade of living under a government that is perpetually waging war.