Why The Hunger Games?

By Stacey Tuttle

My mom needed something to read at the beach.  I had just finished The Hunger Games and offered it to her.  A sort of post-apocalyptic grim tale of people who are forced to kill each other?  She wasn’t interested; that didn’t sound like her kind of story.  Yeah, it really didn’t sound like my kind of story either.  In fact, I hadn’t read it because I thought I’d like it; I read it because I finally had to see what the big deal was all about.  But I did like it.  And so did she.  And so did my other friends who had the same objections.

I did.  I really liked the stories, but that isn’t what has me so excited about them, or about the movie coming out.  It’s not just the entertainment factor (of the books or the movies) which has me so excited, it’s the opportunity factor.

I once read an author who said that our culture, actually our children need more stories about war.[1]  I puzzled over that statement at first, but in time I have come to agree.  War changes things.  It forces you to re-examine your priorities and puts your life in perspective.  It reminds you that everything isn’t all about you and that there are things worth fighting for, causes bigger than you.

Think about it.  What are some of the most significant movies of our times?  What movies provide the most teachable moments and put life in a fresh perspective?  Generally those stories center around some great battle: Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Schindler’s List, The War, Star Wars, Harry Potter.  I know the witchcraft thing in Harry Potter raises a lot of issues for some (understandably), but the epic battle does present a lot of great teachable moments.  And the point here is “war” movies, not whether or not a film is Christian.  If you have concerns about Harry Potter, then all the more reason you might be excited about The Hunger Games – because, frankly, there isn’t all that much out there which brings life into this kind of focus for younger audiences…and The Hunger Games does so without the questionable issues of sorcery and vampires.

Additionally, I confess, I much prefer Lord of the Rings or Star Wars to Saving Private Ryan (which I didn’t see…I just couldn’t quite bring myself to stomach it).  Why?  Because if you tell a war story in some alternate world, that little bit of distance is like the spoonful of sugar which helps the medicine go down.  The point is still made, but it’s a little more tolerable.  Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan almost make their point too well—for my taste at least and certainly for younger audiences.  But, if you were to retell the story of the Holocaust, let’s say, as if it happened to a bunch of owls, as they did in Legends of the Guardians (The Owls of Ga’Hoole), suddenly it’s something even young children can get a hold of.

The Hunger Games certainly isn’t for young kids, but it will appeal a broad audience, and it will provide a lot of teachable moments, at least for those who care to take advantage of them and are equipped to do so (which we at SPM want to be sure you are!).  It’s the opportunity factor I mentioned.  The thing that has me so incredibly excited about The Hunger Games is the opportunity they present to talk to people about faith, about the things in life which really matter, about sacrifice, about Jesus.

When I think about the kinds of shows so many kids are watching these days it grieves me.  It’s not that the shows are necessarily so evil, but that they are so shallow.  The conflicts and the drama generally center around ridiculously frivolous things.  The people are usually beautiful and wealthy and get what they want.  It may be an accurate portrayal of the world many of us are in here in America, but it isn’t reality for most of the world, or even for most of history.

The Hunger Games actually offers a rather satirical contrast between the Districts, which could be compared to second or third world countries, and the Capitol, which could easily be compared to the U.S.  Back to that opportunity factor—that one thing alone is a gold mine of conversations waiting to happen!

Here are a couple of other opportunities you will find courtesy of The Hunger Games:

  • Entertainment:  What is it we find entertaining?  Are some forms of entertainment inappropriate?  Why is it that the people in the Capitol find the Games so entertaining, when the people in the District find them so horrifying?
  • History:  The Hunger Games are very similar to the Gladiator Games (which also ties back to the entertainment questions).
  • Civil Disobedience:  How do you do the right thing when you are forced into horrible situations?
  • Politics:  What is the government’s duty?  How much should it do in the name of the “greater good”?
  • Beauty:  The Capitol is obsessed with physical perfection while the Districts are consumed with survival—their perspectives on “beauty” are vastly and significantly different.
  • Character:  Because it deals so directly with life and death, character more readily comes to the surface.  Everything else is stripped away.  So it’s easy to find ways to discuss things like trust, integrity, love, compassion, self-defense, sacrifice, honor, etc.
  • Life and Death:  What is really worth dying for?  Is survival really the highest call?
  • Jesus:  While Jesus wasn’t talked about in the books, I still found Him to be all over them (kind of like the story of Esther).  I’m certainly not saying this was the author’s intent—but nevertheless, I found connections to stories of the Bible, to Jesus, to issues of faith, etc. all throughout the stories.

We want to help you take advantage of these opportunities—especially of the opportunity to bring Jesus into your discussions about the book and/or movie.  To help you with this, we are developing a series of “devotionals” using The Hunger Games as the entry point, if you will, into the conversation[2].

Jesus spoke in parables.  One of the reasons was that stories made His points more memorable.  I realize that The Hunger Games aren’t scripture, of course.  However, that doesn’t preclude them from making some scriptural concepts more memorable.  It’s my sincere hope that not only will these devotionals help you make good of any opportunity that comes your way because of hype around The Hunger Games, but that some scriptural truths might become more poignant for you as well, when you see them paired (parable-like) with some scene from The Hunger Games.

Click here to check out our ever-growing list of Hunger Games Inspired Devotions. 

[1] My apologies to the author who said that.  I saw it in an article in Goodreads quite some time ago and have not been able to find it again.  It made an impression on me, and I do wish I could find the exact quote and the author who said it, both to give her (I think it was a woman?) credit and to see what she has written.  For all I know, it was Suzanne Collins herself.

[2] We will do this for all 3 books in the trilogy!