Popular teenage literature and film

A scene from "The Hunger Game"
Warning: this may be disturbing to some.

A new teenage movie is being released called “The Hunger Game”.  It is set in post-apocalyptic America called Panem, where teenagers aged 12 to 18 are selected (via lottery) and forced into an annual televised battle to the death (murdering each other). The main character is a 16 year old girl called Katriss who takes the place of her sister to play the "game". The lone survivor (the winner) will return home to wealth and fame. Twenty-three other teenagers will died (violently) as a result of this game.  When two remain, one must die.  Katriss and Peeta (who are friends) threaten the game organisers with suicide and are both allow to live - for now.   The game is staged as entertainment for the rich who are bored with their lives. 

The book (part of a trilogy) on which the film has been based has become a worldwide sensation with more than 26 million copies sold thus far.  This follows on the footsteps of other teenage book/film best sellers including “The Twilight series” and the “Harry Potter series”.  All aimed at the teenage market . . . murder, violence, romance, vampires, wizards, evil . . .  topics for vulnerable young minds?

The Hunger Game trilogy is considered suitable for readers 13 plus and the film opens in the US with a PG-13 rating, whilst in Australia it has been given an M classification (recommended for mature audiences - 15+).  Does this story sound suitable for a 13 year old? Not in my book, in fact I think this is adult reading and should not be aimed or marketed at teenagers.

According to an article in The AgeThe violent nature of the story has been a concern since the first part of the trilogy published in September 2008. Critics were concerned the story of children forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of others was too brutal for young readers. Crow says that determining whether the books are too violent really depends on the child.  "Parents will have to judge. It's how much their parents think they can take. There are some adults who don't want to read the books because of the graphic elements. They already see a lot of violence on TV and they don't want to be exposed to a lot more," Crow says.

Would you want your teenager reading a book (or watching the film) where 24 teenagers are forced to kill each? Gruesome, disturbing scenes that must linger in their minds. Unfortunately most parents don’t know what their teens are reading/watching or investigate the book in any great detail to see if it is too violent or graphic, therefore their teen is highly likely to read it. Other parents don't have an issue with these books and encourage their teens to read them, even buying the books as gifts and parents will read the books at the same time as their child.

Do we really need to fill our teenagers heads with this sort of violence's.  Our children are surrounded by violence everyday, just turn on the TV to see stories of death in the Middle East, shootings in our neighbours, people being bashed and left for dead.  Why are we so fascinated (addicted) in violence, crime and tragedy and why do adult writers think that young people will benefit from read these books? 

Lets try and keep our children's minds as pure as possible for as long as possible.  I know that some of the books I read as a teenager (in secret) still linger in my mind today . . . and yes, for all the wrong reasons.


Comments

  1. Jo: I haven't read these, though I will be, as I have a teen, but the premise of the books addresses an issue I think needs addressing. The author says she got the idea initially from watching *reality t.v* [which is disturbing in itself] & the books explore the extremes to which this obsession can go in a jaded society. At 13 I most definitely would have read these books [whether I should or not is another matter]. Perhaps a better question [as plenty of teens will read these & see the movies] would be, how to we best address a society which has sunk to such depths? And discuss the issues raised. It reminds me of Jon Marsden's series ~ which I hate but mostly because I dislike his writing style ~ which also addresses the issues of how do teens function in an extreme society? Where is the line between right & wrong? Good & evil? How can an individual fight the system? I think these are questions worth asking ~ but for that guidance is needed & I'm not sure that is what will happen & I do find that troubling. I'm sure I will be in the minority on this one but is it really any worse than something like Lord of the Flies which was part of my grade curriculum when I was 13.

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  2. Ganeida - I understand where you are coming from, however I think this is more of an adult read that for 13 year olds who really doesn't need to be exposed to any more violence than they are already. Do they need to be exposed to the question of good and evil in such a way - the murder of 22 yound people in "a game".

    Interestenly - The Hunger Game follows the same theme as the Japanese book/movie "Battle Royale" made in 2000 (book writtenin 1999) - where a number of teenagers play a game as in the Hunger Game.

    I read Lord of the Flies in year 10 (about 15 years old) and I can still remember it - it was horrible and I wish I had not read it and not likely to read it again.

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  3. I never read Lord of the Flies, nor Harry Potter or any of these other violent and extreme-themed books. Nor have I seen any of the films or series based on these kinds of books. And neither will I. I honestly don't think that kind of topic is appropriate for Christians, regardless of whether they are children or adult. I have survived VERY well without them, and honestly, I don't need those kinds of things sticking in my memory. My children won't be reading them either. I am quite horrified.

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  4. Clara - I haven't read Harry Potter, The Hunger Game or the Twilight series and have no plans to ever read them. The Lord of the Flies was part of our school reading programme and I had no idea what it was about until I read it - not again.

    You are quite right, they do stick in your memory and don't go away. I once read "Flowers in the Attic" in secret and it was horrible and I wish I hadn't read it, but I did and now it’s in my brain forever and I can't remove it. And to me, that is the problem. Maybe for the modern kid is doesn’t affect them like it did me?

    I didn't need to read "The Hunger Game" to find out so much about it, every newspaper was running a story on it this week and there is no shortage of websites covering it. It is considered the "Next Big Thing" and that is what worries me most about it - it is a horrible topic to have such coverage.

    We only need to look at life to see good and evil - killing your neighbour – just look at the Bosnian war – neighbours killed each other, or WWII – we see it in real life, we don’t need fiction.

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  5. I've never read Lord of the Flies. Sounded too gruesome. I read the first Harry Potter, but found it boring beyond words. I also read the first Twilight and it was not as boring, but the sequels were. The Harry Potter movies were boring to me, as well. I liked the Twilight movies, but have not seen the last one yet. To me, these are just make-believe fairy tales (Harry Potter and Twilight). The Hunger series for teens sounds gruesome. I don't think I'd like that.

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  6. Yes, we had to read Lord of the Flies at school as well... horrible. My 13 year old grand daughter has to read novels as well... the one we both read together (I tutor her in English and French), was about teen suicide and drug-taking. It was very seedy and she said to me that she didn't like it and it wasn't suitable for 13 year olds. (Out of the mouths of babes) I am sad to say that she and my other grand daughters love Twilight and devour the books as soon as they are available. Their mothers laugh at me for being old fashioned. But as you say, once read it is in their mind forever! Currently we are reading another dark trilogy about faeries- not the glittering Peter Pan type. I would love my grand children to be homeschooled (by me! LOL) seriously, I would find reading material that would edify and bring them closer to God- (they are both Christians) They need something to help them with life! Blessings!

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    1. I can understand why it is important for teenagers to learn about suicide (it is such a problem), but via discussion and by experts in the field, but not from a novel.

      I have never read Twilight, but a friend of mine read it whilst her daughter was reading it and she said it was poorly written and she laughed through out it as it was so funny (not meant to be). I suppose it isn't any different to the Mills and Boon I read as a teenager (when my mum was looking). I just don't like the whole vampire part. But do we really want to fill our children's minds with rubbish. Something uplifting and inspiring is far better for us all.

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  7. Wow, saw the reviews and now I have to read it. Reminds me of this old book I just read about a Roman gladiator.

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  8. Required reading in school is one of the many many reasons we home school. I agree that we should be careful what we read. "but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." Romans 16:19

    I agree with Clara that it is not appropriate for Christians - or anyone for that matter. I am sad to hear some of my friends so interested in the trilogy.

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    1. Most of the books I read at school were ok, but Lord of the Flies was not and certainly not for the age I was in. I can't imagine what they are like today, probably far worse.

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  9. Oh how we loathed Lord of the Flies at school :-(
    I've seen a couple of reviews and clips from this The Hunger Game movie and am absolutely sickened by it but I am rather squeemish. I don't usually comment upon such books and movies as the reality is I don't like them and have never seen them eg. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc I am just pleased that no one in this house has asked to see it......yet.

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  10. Thanks for writing this post, Jo. I'm pondering these issues today as well.

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    1. As I just wrote on your Facebook page - if adults choose to read or watch this, thats up to them, however is it suitable for 13+ and do young teens need this sort of book - I not so suit, but I can understand why teens like the attraction to it.

      Perhaps I am a whip :)

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  11. As a teenager I read many books (some for school, some because I was foolish) which I wish I had never read because I can't remove them from my mind. When I read about this post and other people's comments, it made me think of the fact that those who work in a bank are not shown fake bills so as to recognise counterfeit money, they are shown the real stuff. In this world, the philosopy seems to be to teach about the fake (ie, drugs, violence, sexual perversion, etc) and believe that it will inform and educate youth to do the right thing. This is, of course, the reverse of the truth. It seems that the more education, the more crime, perversion, sin that goes on. I don't even think that these books are for Christians of any age. What about the verse: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8) I don't see how this book could be classified under any of these qualities. We need to be filling our minds with Christ and what is of God. Reading books or watching movies like this isn't required to discuss or teach the issues they are supposed to present. If we are looking to teach youth right and wrong or the difference between good and evil the only book that will give us true guidelines is the Word of God. Every other piece of literature or other media is produced by sinners with deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) so are not trust-worthy.

    Heidi

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    1. Love hearing from you Heidi :)

      And completely agree with you on this one. They add nothing to our teens minds - however that probably goes for most books these days.

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  12. OK, I have now actually seen this movie. It has an M classification in Oz ~ not MA. I actually really enjoyed it. It is neither graphic nor gratious & it has some really import things to say. No sex. No swearing. Lots of positives for me about not allowing a bad situation to dehumanise you & strip you of your humanity; about doing what is right to protect the young & weak; about being morally strong. No, it doesn't have a Christian world view ~ how many movies actually do? But it is hardly as evil as it has been painted in some quarters. What we should be getting upset about is what this movie is actually saying about our culture: 300 000 child soldiers world wide, 30% of whom are girls. What we consider entertainment & where that is leading us. Whether it is ever right to *sacrifice the few for the greater good*. I happen to think they are questions worth asking. But I do wonder why we seem to get so steamed about Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings & now The Hunger Games yet are so silent on the real issues of witchcraft, child soldiers, evil? No, I am not pointing fingers. I am just as guilty on occasions.

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    1. Ganeida - I read your comment late last night and went to sleep thinking about them. I will start with your last comment.

      I am powerless to stop the 300 000 child soldiers in Africa and I wish I could - and even though I haven't written a blog about them, it doesn't mean i don't care. I am also deeply concerned about slavery, child prostitution and abortion but I haven't written about these topics either. These do upset me and I wish they would stop them and the world could be a nicer place. I also hate what is going on in Syria and the killing of innocent people. i haven't write about all these issues but it does't meant I don't care and get all worked up about them.

      However books such as The Hunger Game are books and the story behind it is not entertaining - children killing children, even if it can't be "seen" in the movie. I think our young people see far too much violences from reality, through to games, books and film - they really don't need any more. How many 12 year olds understand the deeper meaning of the story, probably very few - they see it for entertainment and that is all (and they have probably all seen far worse). How can a story about killing children be entertainment for children.

      I think we might not agree on this one.

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  13. I guess we live under a rock sometimes because up until last week I had never even heard of this book/movie. My daughter (18) only heard about it because a lot of the teenage girls were talking about it on their blogs so she looked to see what it was all about and she was even appalled by what she found. And it's disturbing to me to see young Christian teenagers waiting eagerly to go see it.
    There's just better things to read in my book. Well if I HAD a book it would be a better read. LOL!
    Oh another note, I wanted to stop by and say congrats on YOUR weigh loss. That's so great. But I agree that the whole buying new clothes and taking them in is a pain.
    Have a lovely day. I'm off to go crawl back under my rock. *wink*

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  14. Hi Jo- you have spoken my sentiments exactly-- I'm mortified by this latest craze. The whole premise is disgusting. I don't have children at home or even grandchildren of an age to see this-- but if I did I could not condone watching such trash. I'm happy to see you address this here- good for you!

    Hope you are having a nice weekend- its fall there- right?

    Love
    Vicki

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    1. And that is the problem Vicki - it becomes a craze and what a topic :(

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  15. hi friend i have start a new blog i had too...had too much anonymous as followers wich i dont now...the delete option wont work..but here i am hope you join me...so we dont loose contact...sorry my blog the battle of the good faith is being deleted..you can find me at http://yeshuahamasiach.blogspot.com/

    God bless you

    loves soraya

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  16. Jo: I apologise if I have expressed my opinion too strongly in your space. It was not my intention to be offensive, merely to point out there is another side to this issue & perhaps it would be better to consider the good points as well as the bad & how we can use it as a teaching tool~ especially as it looks like being a craze. But then I feel the same way about Harry Potter. *sigh* Hope you had a blessed weekend.

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  17. Good points, Joluise. I'm have not personally read any of these books you mention, but I too have some things in my mind that I put there through reading or watching that I look forward to be delivered from in Heaven!

    Several years ago I wrote an item on the subject of "blood entertainment" relating to Christians. This trend is a symptom of a degenerating society, as has been pointed out by more than one source. Alistair Cooke wrote a history of America (called "America") in the early 1970s. He liked this country so well that he immigrated here in the 30s, yet he wrote at the end of his book about the similar symptoms he saw here to the decline of the Roman Empire. Among the list that he gave, these two stand out in this discussion; (and I quote), "Freakishness in the arts masquerading as originality...And, most disturbing of all, a developing moral numbness to vulgarity, violence, and the assault of the simplest decencies." (p. 387) What was true in the '70s is so much, much more true today. Our culture is in what I feel is irretrievable decay. The history of nations bears this out. In modern times as the salt of Christianity has lost its savor (Mt. 5:13) due to acceptance of the world's standard of "right and wrong", the preserving power of that salt has disappeared and the culture has gone farther and farther into the depths of Satan, as it were. It seems we are headed into another "Dark Ages" if God Himself does not intervene.

    So, should children be reading these books? Will it help them over all? My thought is "no" - both from a Christian view (because this is not the mind of Christ, and these things are not lovely, pure, virtuous etc. Php. 4:8) and also from an historical view. History tells us that not only could something on a level of "Hunger Games" come to reality, but that it has in the past in various ways. To introduce such things to the minds of children (13), is perilous at best. Is it possible to imagine, considering recent history, that some of them will not think this is something "cool" to emulate? My own ancestors practiced unspeakable atrocities as a matter of everyday life back in barbaric Europe. When the salt of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is missing, will not people return to such things? The book of Revelations and other places in scripture tell us that they will. We ought not to be part of that in any way.

    1 Peter 5:8-11 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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    1. Couldn't agree more Mary and thankyou so much for commenting. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one that saw something wrong with these.

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    2. Thank you for being bold to approach this subject. It discourages me sometimes how many Christians won't speak up for righteousness. Some are afraid of "contention" I think, but Jude reminds us "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 1:3 In that spirit, contending for the minds of our young is so very important! Keep up the good work!

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  18. I agree, Mary. It's really messed up. I am quite horrified at the way people think these kinds of things are "just entertainment" - and it doesn't end with books and movies, either - it's the same mentality with computer etc games that involve killing. It's "ok" because it's not in real life... Sadly, if these people are ever involved in anything like these happenings in real life, they wouldn't find it so entertaining.
    AND there is no way people can seriously "learn" anything from these kinds of books/movies, either... They would be MUCH better off learning from the Bible - a Book given for our instruction etc!!!
    Seriously - Christians who are involved in reading about these kinds of things really don't have their minds on any of Philippians 4:8, and nor do they have "the mind of Christ"... I entirely agree with what you wrote, Mary.
    I could go on, but I think Mary wrote my thoughts pretty well... :P

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  19. I'd like to add an update here - From what I have heard, there were people at the Boulder, Colorado theater shooting who at first thought that the gunman was part of the Batman show. They did not respond nor react as they ought to have done in such a situation. They were not only hardened to the violence, they were slow to realize the difference between reality and drama. Perhaps some even died for this. I rest my case.

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    1. Thanks for the update, a very valid point but very tragic outcome.

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    2. Jo, I so agree!! It horrifies me!

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