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Is ‘Hunger Games’ too violent for kids?

By Sister Helena Burns FSP | Contributor
Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Hunger Games” is set in a waybeyond- dystopian future in which the rulers living in a Third-Reichlike “capitol” keep the peons in the “districts” in fear and subjugation by holding gladiatorial games each year. The combatants are children and teenagers, picked at random to fight to the death, each representing their district. Everything is televised on a gruesome reality show.

Katniss Everdeen (the flawless Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take the place of her little sister when her sister’s name is drawn. A young man, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who has a crush on Katniss, is also chosen from her district. Out of 24 contestants, there is only one victor.

We follow Katniss through her Hitler Youth-like “show no mercy” training and prepping in fighting and survival (which includes a stylist, played by Lenny Kravitz, because Katniss will need “sponsors”). The mechanics of fame are clearly delineated for the young combatants as they are packaged and presented to the public. All of this does not come naturally to the honest, unvarnished Katniss.

“The Hunger Games” books are written by Suzanne Collins and she gives us a strong heroine in a cruel and violent world (although some of the other young people are also kind). Katniss never loses her humanity through it all, and never initiates the killing. Instead, she tries to flee it, and helps her friends at her own peril.

Is “Hunger Games” too violent for children — especially since this is kids killing kids? I would say: Know your kids, and at what age you think they can handle this. (Visuals of gore are kept to a minimum.)

The question I would ask is: Why do we need or want to see this at all? I realized halfway through the film that I was actually watching a show within a show. What makes me different from all the people in the districts and the capitol who are watching this as entertainment? Why do we find this entertaining and not repulsing? Am I desensitizing or preparing myself to accept a possibly more vicious future in reality by allowing myself to imagine one?

The film is extremely well done on all counts. Once you know what you (and your children) are in for at the cinema, it’s your call.