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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games - A Mom's Review

Perhaps you are aware that I am a huge fan of the books The Hunger Games

I feel strongly that this is a series that should be read.

That said, when my twelve year old son's sixth grade class was informed they would be reading this series, I went to the teacher and said I was concerned and did not think they should read it.  He asked me if I had read them and I said I had JUST finished reading them all and they were too adult content for the kids to read.  He assured me he knew what he was doing.

I wish I had fought harder about that.

S1 read the book and loved it.  And here is the thing, I didn't want him to read the rest of the series.  But the class started to and he couldn't wait for them so he read them all.  We talked a lot about the series as he was reading them.

And then I found out it was going to be a movie.

Now I have a choice here.

As someone who knows fully what will be in the movie I have to decide if my child should see it.

But he read the books.

And I think in a book you spend so much of your time in a book the movie is not as powerful. There is, however, something to be said about an IMAGE sticking with you.

I decided this was a great teachable moment.

And it was a great mom and son bonding time.

So, my two friends, Alicia and Korene, and I took our boys to see it.

I'll not lie, we were giddy as could be.

I wanted S1 to feel it was a real special moment.  I wore heels to be taller than him. :)

 He wore his best camouflage.  
 Korene had not read the books and Alicia was the one who had told me to read them.  All our boys had read them in the same class.  I sat between Alicia and Korene, and it was interesting to be in between my friend who knew what was going to happen and my friend who had no idea what would happen.

In the movie, the children have to fight to the death.  There is no getting around that.  The movie follows the book rather well, of course the book is better.  The book is also much more bloody, much more painful to read.

When we left the movie, Korene was reeling.  We stood in the parking lot as the boys played catch and talked over the movie and the symbolism of it.  Alicia loves it for the story.  Korene was in shock that her son had read the book and she didn't know it was about THIS.  That evening Korene, Alicia and I were messaging more ideas about the movie and themes and so forth.

It's just that kind of book.  It's just that kind of a movie.  It does not leave you.

S1 and I chatted about the movie versus the book on the way home.  I asked him why it was he thought the movie was so popular.  He shrugged, "The love story in it, I guess."

"Is that why you like it?" I asked, quite surprised, I'll admit.

"No," he stopped to chew some of the fried chicken I had picked up for him after the movie at his favorite place to eat, KFC.  "I liked the book because when you read it you felt you knew that character and why she did what she did.  Some books you read, you read about the character.  This book you really felt you knew the character.

And I liked all the woods scenes.  How she had to think fast and act."

I asked him what he thought about the kids killing each other.  And this is when we began to discuss the underlying parts of the book.

As a mom reading/watching this, I could not ever fathom being able to watch my child's name being pulled out of all the names to be sent to near certain death.  I would protect them from all harm.

But the book and the movie portrayed it so well....the people had no hope.  None.

I cannot fathom it.

It scared me, the parallels it made.  My heart broke for those who have gone to war.  It pierced me to think of a world without any hope in a God to save them.  It concerns me how easily a large group of people can look to one dictator to think for them unquestioningly.

All this my twelve year old son and I talked over.

When we arrived home, he wandered off to hang out with his brothers and my husband and I chatted.  "Good movie?" he asked.

"Yes...and no.  Yes, because it's what I expected.  No, because I shouldn't have taken him to it.  Because he should have never read those books."

I know, shocking because I love them so.  I fully understand why someone does not want to read them.  I fully can appreciate the outcry against it.

For me it was because it took just more of my son's innocence.

And yet, I am thankful - so thankful - that he and I have a relationship that we can talk the books and movie over.  That we have that open dialogue.

I would rather have done what we did...see it together, not just pretend it wasn't the biggest most talked about thing in the entertainment news right now, made it a special mother son day, and made it as fun and memorable as possible.

But the rest of my boys?  No. Not a chance.  S2, who is nearly ten, would have nightmares.  And I will be more adamant he will not read it in sixth grade, I believe.

If it's not this book, it will be another.  And every situation is different.

But S2 I know could not come close to handling this.  And I feel terrible for the kids who may have struggled with the book.  Because it is just that kind of a book.  It's just that kind of a movie.

I had just read this quote before we went to see the movie. "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." - Bonhoeffer

Katniss acted on what she knew was right.  Peeta refused to let "them" dictate who he would be.  There are amazing lessons to be learned in the book and movie, amazingly GOOD lessons that make their point poignantly well.

If you loved the books, you will like the movie.  The scenes are beautiful in the mountains. The music is touching (can't wait to get the soundtrack!) and when it comes out on dvd, I'll buy it.  I'll watch it again because I like it so.  It's a powerful movie and I can't wait to see what my husband thinks of it as well, especially him knowing what a fan I am of it.

And, on a totally different soap box rant, SERIOUSLY, did a bunch of us need to see a movie trailer where the couple is undressing each other before the movie began?   My son was more scarred by THAT scene than anything in the entire Hunger Games movie.  Heads up on the previews....


Karen said...

When I saw you wrote a post about this I was immediately curious to see what your take was on it since I knew you had read the series & enjoyed them.

I still haven't read the books (& none of my boys are old enough yet) and I don't think I will. I'll admit, the movie trailer really pulls you in...makes you want to see it, but I don't think I'll watch it.

After reading numerous reviews I get the message that the movie is trying to get across. But, as I get older I've become more and more sensitive to violence in movies...especially violence that involves children. I just don't think I could shake the images & I don't want that in my mind.

I thought you wrote a very balanced post/review. It's obvious that you found the books/movie entertaining & thought provoking & yet your hesitation shows through too.

I think you handled your coversation with S1 very well. And, thankfully you're a mom who would help him process what he saw. I think so many kids probably don't have that opportunity with their parents.

Ronel said...

First I have to say I am so glad my son is 7yo and not at the age yet to read these books. Now, I started reading the book and so far so good! The reality is war is real and we can not shelter our kids from everything. I think you reading them first, then him reading them and you going together to watch the movie is great. I, too wish I could shelter my son from more things but I know he will be exposed to evil eventually *sigh*. Great review by the way!!

Chelsea said...

Man, what a tough situation. I wonder how I'll handle things like this as my children grow. You wrote about it beautifully, by the way.
I haven't been able to read the books. I tried once, and it made my stomach hurt. I'm a big sissy when it comes to violence against children, and I'm ok with it. Give me The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo any day of the week.

Boy Crazy said...

I think you made a good mom-choice, dear!

Sarah Cook said...

Thank you for writing! I also walked into a stiuation with my 12 year old son.

My siser-in-law suggested that my son read the Hunger Game series and I should have paid more attention. While she allows her six year old to play rated-M games and watch PG-13 movies, I feel a bit differently about what my 12 and 9 year old need to learn or absorb.

My husband read the first book and loved it, and I asked if he thought it was age appropriate and it didn't bother him. Even though the school had recently sent home a newsletter stating they didn't feel that the themes in the book were age appropriate and they would not be carrying the book in the library nor teaching it in class. So, I felt apprehensive about these books & movie being suitable for my son.

In addition, my husband and I went to see the movie in theaters and I felt that it was a good movie, based upon the plot, characters, theme & moral content; however I was mortified at the intense kid-to-kid killing and even though the heroine was in essence- moral and good, the killing and bloodshed was committed by others.

When I thought to discuss this with my son, he said that he would "kill people if he had to".

I do not feel that every child should watch this movie and have started a petition on to try and convince the MPAA to raise the rating to R. Please help me motivate other parents to guide our teens into becoming non-violent seeking adults.