Saturday, March 31, 2012

hunger games

Recently I was thinking that I, being a very negligent blogger, ought to get some sort of blog post together or else March will be completely without a post! Realizing it has been since my initial baby post that I have made any further update- I thought perhaps I would post on that. But then my husband and I went to see the movie "Hunger Games" and I have found the need for a forum in which to fully tell of my experience with this movie.

No, I have not read the books. Therefore I have nothing negative or positive to say about them. I actually was not planning to see the movie, but my husband really wanted to see it (he also has not read the books). Literally every person I have heard talk about the books have said they are great and impossible to put down, and those who saw the movie loved it and many have even gone to see it multiple times.

In its first week the movie grossed $189 Million dollars source (A total of $152.3 Million of that was grossed over the first weekend of its release source). This means that "Hunger Games" grossed more in its first week than did "Twilight Saga".  Over this weekend, the movie is projected to collect yet another $60 Million, and project to hit $260 Million as its 10 day total source. Since the movie *only* cost $85 Million to make, the profits have already been substantial to date.  It should be noted: "Hunger Games" now holds the record of the 3rd best movie opening of all time. source

Based on this information- as well as the high recommendations from others who had seen the movie (many of them multiple times already), we decided to see the film.

Leaving the theater my husband and I both felt shocked and disturbed.

But I want to make a clear separation before continuing: the message of "Hunger Games" is in fact disturbing- and it should be. It is a powerful message that provides a great opportunity to start relevant and needed conversations about the state of our own society/culture here in the US. I have read reviews of the actual books that indicate that they are equally as violent as the movie and I would even agree that in many ways describing such violence is necessary to communicate the absolute barbaric and violent nature of the games.

I have read equally disturbing accounts of actual world events that shook me to the core- violence like this actually happens in our world today and in some cases it is for the purpose of twisted entertainment. And so again- I have nothing negative to say about the books, and the message is very relevant and powerful, should we choose to do something with it. 

OK: the movie.
Here is the problem with the movie-

We have gone so far with violence in our media to gain revenue, and while some may leave the movie appalled at what they saw, many more people will likely leave the movie feeling as though it was a great and entertaining film. It seems to me that it is portrayed by its rating as being a movie appropriate for a young audience- but if a young person walks out of the movie missing the message we have only continued in their numbing of violence and the sanctity of life- and it is nothing more than entertaining.

I do very strongly believe that movies such as this one glorify violence and distort the reality of death and violence for not only children and adolescents, but also adults. I very strongly believe that as a culture we are suffering the outcomes of media (violent and otherwise) holding such a strong influence in our lives seen in ways such as domestic violence, human trafficking, bullying, crime, body image distortion, eating disorders, relationship dysfunction, compromised morals, suicide, self harm, feeling in a constant state of "need"/want, any imaginable form of disrespect shown to another human being, and many more. No, media is not the only contributor to all of these things. But we are blind to not see its overwhelming influence. Media is the primary norm setter in our culture.

The most ignorant thing I have ever heard a person say (and I have heard countless people say this) is that "media doesn't affect me". 
The reality is it does. The danger is when we don't recognize that. We are constant consumers of media every day. It is nearly unavoidable. Media, in fact, is such a strong and constant presence in our lives that we have to take a hard look at how media is shaping our culture and our beliefs. Because it undoubtedly is. 

"Hunger Games" received a rating of PG-13. This then suggests that our greater society believes this is an appropriate movie to be viewed by a 13 year old without adult supervision or involvement. Suppose the rating would have been R, it would not have restricted those under 17 to view the movie, but rather it would have required them to be with an adult. But even an "R" rating would not resolve the problem as we all know that teens often find young adults to help them with age restricted activities. 

But as it is, there are many young teens seeing this movie which contains a very mature message and very graphic violent images.

I personally was so disturbed I was quite shaken to the core, as was my husband. In my opinion, this is a good response to the movie. Why? Because the message is disturbing, so why wouldn't the visual depiction of it being equally if not more disturbing than the literature depiction? 
I wish I hadn't seen it. But now that I have, I am responsible for what I do with it. Because if I do nothing- then what purpose other than entertainment does my seeing this movie have? 

Ok here is the stretch- but please let this simmer and know I also see that these things are different, but also strikingly similar...
In the movie "Hunger Games" the general premise of the story is that there is a group of people who live in a place of excess in every way (the capital)- the movie does well to depict their obsessions with self and their indulgences of luxary. Surrounding the capital are districts where people are in complete poverty. In these districts 2 people ages 12-18 are selected every year to compete in the "Hunger Games" where they must kill the other 23 people in order to survive. These games are made a huge entertainment event for those in the capital, and even those in the districts will watch the games (perhaps with a bit more vested interest) Kinda similar to the Olympics. The broadcasting of these games is done much like reality TV today- it is all about getting the best ratings and having the best story. The entertainment of the people in the capital is at the expense of young lives, and there is no remorse. 

With that in mind- are there ways that we in the US are doing a similar thing? The images portrayed in violent movies are a reality for many people in the world. What we are seeing on the screen is actually happening today. Are we so isolated in our comfort and excess that we have become numb to this reality much like those living in the capital? We can be certain that we live in the same excess and self indulgence as those in the "capital", are we beginning to also loose sight of those in the "districts" around us? Does the pain and loss of others feel so far removed from ourselves that we have denied its existence? And how different is it for those in the capital to watch a screen of people killing one another for pleasure and entertainment, and us today watching a screen that while it is not the actual violence, it is representative of actual violence in our world. 

What if we asked ourselves this question: Which is more offensive- to watch people die for our pleasure, or to simulate people dying and dismiss it as fiction when it is not? 

I'm not begging an answer of that question, but we need to think about just how different those two things are. 

You may ask, "Chelsie, why get all upset about watching a movie?". Well for one, the movie was upsetting. But what really is upsetting is that, based on the numbers, there will be millions of people going to see this movie and how many of them will leave upset and disturbed verses how many will leave believing this is "only a movie".  
What more do we have to do in our media to disturb and upset people if this doesn't do it? Now tell me we are not numbing ourselves to the reality of violence. Its a scary road. 

I know my opinion here will be among a great minority. And for whatever reason, people have very strong positive opinions about the movie and the books. I am glad so many people have read these books- I am scared to see what little lasting affect results from it. 

A question I have struggled with and will likely never have a satisfying answer to, is why people are defending violence in media? If there is even the possibility of the extreme negative consequences of exposing our children to these images and messages- then what exactly is worth defending at that potential cost?? Again we find ourselves far more concerned about our own pleasure and entertainment. Just because something isn't wrong, doesn't mean it is wise.

Call it an overreaction. But please don't neglect to really consider the message of "Hunger Games" and the application.