Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games--What's a father to do?

Our daughter, Hannah leaped out of bed at 6:30 this morning much earlier than normal. “I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about the Hunger Games,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

We bought tickets weeks ago and will be sitting in a packed theatre tonight with many teenage and pre-teen girls.

Hannah is almost done reading the trilogy written by Susan Collins. When she read the first book I was impressed by her excitement, so I decided to give the book a whirl. Shortly into the book I started my first protest. “The book is about kids killing kids. Why isn't anyone acknowleding this?” I shared my critique with my neighbor who is a school librarian. “The kids love the book and are reading,” he rightfully said. I waited for the conservative religious community to take up their picket signs. “If this was a book about kids having sex with kids the outrage would be overwhelming,” I righteously told my sister.

The picket signs haven’t emerged, and now I’m caught up in the excitement. However as a father I'm torn about what to do. Would you take your pre-teen daughter to a movie that is about kids killing kids?

The storyline that has emerged about the Hunger Games is not about violence or kids killing kids; instead it’s about a young woman who used her intelligence to outsmart an evil empire and ultimately survive. The marketers of the movie were assiduously careful about avoiding any reference in their publicity about kids killing kids. According to reviews the violence in the movie is tame. It has to be—any marketer isn’t going to offend a young girl so she won’t attend the movie.

Hannah dressed up as Katniss this morning and wore a mockingjay pin on her black shirt. She wanted me to take her picture and post it on my Facebook page. As I tried to get the picture right I asked her if she would be like Katniss and sleep in the woods tonight. She rolled her eyes and impatiently told me to just take the above picture.

Religious people have always had to decide how to relate to culture. Should we refuse to let our kids attend movies where kids kill kids? Should we create an insular environment where such violence never enters their brains? Should we try to have a sit-down and convince them that the movie isn’t healthy? Should we talk to them about the real storyline of the movie? Or should we just put on a mockingjay pin, watch the movie, and enjoy the popcorn?

The answers to these questions aren’t easy, and most of us don’t have the time to develop a thoughtful response.

The bottom-line is we live and make choices in an imperfect world. I would much rather have Hannah dressed as Rosa Parks and singing “We Shall overcome” as her classmates are swept away and excited about a movie describing the Montgomery bus boycott. Just as I wish that children hadn’t died from starvation last night in Africa and children didn’t experience the consequences of devastating divorces.

Until this vision of the Kingdom happens we live with all the complexities of whether to take our kids to the Hunger Games.

Given my choices, I’ll be sitting next to Hannah and her mom and many other young girls in the theatre tonight hoping the popcorn is properly buttered. Censorship doesn’t work. Ultimately we have to equip our kids to deal with the world.

I still might be able to find two minutes after the movie to have a serious conversation with Hannah about the content. As she most likely rolls her eyes during the conversation Hannah will probably still be wearing her mockingjay pin. Just as I’m still waiting impatiently for a movie about Rosa Parks.

Another day in this imperfect world.


presbyspirit said...

Paul, I like this piece a lot but wonder if it goes far enough? Granted we(the church) live in popular culture, but I think we have a huge obligation to help people cope, in Christian terms, with that culture. Can we have discussion groups for parents and kids; can we attend the movies together and talk about them; can we show some other movies and talk about them as an education event - sometimes intergenerational, sometimes adult-only? Just as we have co-opted Super Bowl Sunday as Souper Bowl Sunday, can we do something similar with Hunger Games? ... just thinkin'.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Thanks, Presbyspirit for your comments. I was writing this piece from the perspective of a father--trying to share the challenges of making this decision. I agree with everything you say about what the church could do to help people live and cope with the culture--in particular the Hunger Games. If I had 48 hours in a day, I would organize some of these types of ministries. Have you seen some good role models of churches responding to movies like The Hunger Games?