Skip to main content

Moral Starvation In The Hunger Games

I finally got round to watching The Hunger Games. It is set in a dystopian future, where the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Every year a boy and a girl are selected from each district by lottery (“the odds”) to participate in the Hunger Games. The rules are very simple: the child players must kill each other and survive in the wilderness until only one wins by surviving.


The games are broadcast throughout Panem. The games are part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion (or treason), and part intimidation of the population. The film centres around Katniss - a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers to take the place for her 12-year-old sister.

I think it’s fair to say The Hunger Games is one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen for a long time. But like much in life, despite its profoundly negative posture, some of the elements are positive. That duality means that it certainly worth discussing. So let me run through the the positive and negative parts.

The positive part is that the central character Katniss has some positive virtues. If we stretched it a little bit, we may even see a bit of Jesus Christ in her story. She is the hero that sacrifices herself for the weak (her sister). She willingly enters the arena of death – a place where she must feel like Michael Card in his song, “I am not supposed to here”. She lives through the hellish nightmare “faithfully” up to a point. She never really “directly” kills anyone – so she is broadly without blame. And above all metaphorically she conquers death at the end, when like Isaac she accepts the possibility of death and in the final moment the jaws of death are withdrawn!  I think I am not giving away too much if I said she does persevere and emerge as winner in expected Hollywood fashion. 

But I suspect the Christlike comparisons  is far from what Suzanne Collins, the author of the books on which the movie is based, had intended. For her the real meaning is perhaps located in the contradiction of the two words in the title - "hunger" and "games". It is obvious that Panem is built a future where many starve while others go around business as usual. The excesses of life has forced them to do everything to keep that society stable and prosperous, even if it means putting on a spectacle where children kill them. If we are being generous in our assessment, we may say the movie tries to help us question whether mankind's dog eat dog world is sustainable. She is asking what sort of world allows others to forcibly go hungry through greed? And if we are honest we should answer, its a world like the one we live in! 

But that is where the positives end. The negatives are truly overwhelming. Admittedly, at the basic level the movie is rather difficult to unpack its worldview. It is quite obvious that there are three vital angles to the movie - the hero Katniss, the watching public and the author/ movie director. The mentor is an interesting character, but a difficult one to focus on since there are many things going on.

Katniss is complicated. Despite some of the aforementioned positives in her character, she has no moral grounding. In fact if there's any grounding at all it is one based on "may the chance favour me". How she grounds her choices is not fleshed out. We never really know why she acts the way she acts. Yes, she is there to win and survive and perhaps get some food for District 12. But none of that explains why she has compassion or would sacrifice herself in a highly Darwinian society.

It gets worse when we consider the watching public. They are there to be entertained on violence. But are they the only ones? The question is inescapable: who is the watching public? Is it the people who are in the movie or the people being entertained at the idea of children killing children in the movie? We ask privately - what sort of society would let children kill children as entertainment?

But presumably there are difficult questions to be asked about what our contributions is to a world that even finds the idea remotely entertaining. I found the movie therefore a personal challenge on that count. We are all in a sense part of the audience in that movie. But at the same time, I am extremely appalled that anyone would make this movie! I was even more appalled that I watched all of it only realising later! In the end The Hunger Games may fill our entertainment bellies but it leaves us in complete moral starvation!

Question: Have you watched the Hunger Games? What did you make of the movie? 

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus! Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world

An Empty Page

I am nothing without you I am not ashamed to say But sometimes still I doubt you along my way I am nothing without you An eagle with no wings If I forget about you, I lose everything My heart is an empty stage O let your play begin My life is an empty page for you to colour me with your love It’s such a common feeling to be misunderstood But from you there’s no concealing You know my bad and good So I am not pretending my story never fails But I have already read the ending And your love prevails My heart is an empty stage Let your play begin My life is an empty page for you to colour me with your love The words are from Jonathan Veira’s song Empty Page one of the tracks off ‘ Rhythms of the Heart’ album. I like his music, especially this song. Sadly, I couldn’t find the lyrics online, so I had to write them down word for word. I have had this song for many years and it has always spoken me at many levels.

God on the Brain - A Review

A Christian understanding of human nature holds that human beings are made in the image of God. As His image bearers we are created by God with an immaterial soul that survives death. This soul comes with the capacity and moral inclination to know and relate to God. All of this means that for Christians how we regard the relationship between the soul and the brain matters because it affects the validity of the Gospel.  The good news of Jesus presupposes some fundamental things about our human nature. It assumes that we are moral beings who have fallen off an objective moral standard and in need of forgiveness. It tells us that death is not the end. We must one day give an account. Most importantly, Jesus who is fully God and fully man is our only hope for life with God.  This good news of Jesus has become increasingly challenged by a materialist worldview of the brain led by secular neuroscientists. They argue that science and faith in God are opposed to one another; religious belief e