There’s been so much hoopla about The Hunger Games. Some of our kids’ friends have read the books and are talking about seeing the movie. Our kids are understandably intrigued. OK, more than intrigued. They’ve listened avidly and pored over newspaper articles and want to know what the excitement is about.
John and I try to make wise choices with what we allow our kids to read and see. We aren’t exceedingly conservative: our 13 year old kids have seen the Bourne movies, and Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve even made an ill-informed book purchase or two for teens that they’ve brought to me with eyebrows raised, and which I immediately tossed into the trash. But we’ve opted to skip most pop culture things like Twilight and Harry Potter.
Side story/confession: last year John and I went to the movie theater without having picked a movie to see. After viewing the offerings, we impulsively bought tickets to the most recent Harry Potter movie, curious to see what the hoopla was about. We lasted 6 minutes before we walked out of the theater, stomachs churning, asking for our money back.
There are times when I’m sure we’re too lax and have scarred our kids’ impressionable minds with too many gun fights and car chases. Other times I fear we’re inciting rebellion by being too restrictive. But we are doing our human best to make wise choices.
When investigating The Hunger Games, I got a bad vibe right from the start. The premise of kids fighting other kids to the death was immediately repulsive to me. Why did so many folks seemed to love the books? I spoke with my son-in-law Ben and our 20-yr-old son Jared after they each read the first book in the series, along with several other folks whom I respect. They all agreed that it was compelling and well written, and that there was nobility in the way that some characters responded to the terrible happenings in the book. But several of the folks I trusted the most felt that the violence was unnecessarily detailed and sickly creative.
Just today I read this post from my friend Carrien describing the character of Katniss. This post on another website also has a great discussion going. After a lot of reading and talking, John and I ended up feeling peaceful about not letting our kids under 18 read these books or watch the movie. (The ones affected are 17, 16, 14, 14, and 13.) Our 17 year old son will be 18 soon, and goes to college in the fall. That’s soon enough for him to read the books, if he wishes. But we’d rather not have the books in our house right now, especially with so many young teens wildly interested.
I’ve thought of carving out some time to read the books myself. If I do, and end up feeling OK about the content, maybe we will consider letting kids younger than 18 read the books. Maybe. But for now we are content to listen to the viewpoint of folks we trust, and to steer young teens in other directions. Their lives will not be over if they don’t get to read these books for a few years.
Do I think Hunger Games books are the worst books ever, or that they will lead our kids on a murder spree? Most emphatically not. I know that the author intended the books partially as a commentary on evil, and the need to speak out and take a stand against it. But I know there are better things out there to read in the early teen years, better books to remember, better books to mull over and be influenced by their whole lives.
What we read as children has a powerful effect on us. I still remember characters from books I adored. My favorites were headstrong impulsive types like Kit and Caddie and Laura and Jo, girls who struggled but ended up being true and honorable and strong in the end. I think that part of their success came from the fact that they lived in worlds where beauty and good did still exist, where friends and/or family came alongside them in their struggles.
I also read The Hiding Place, and The Diary of Anne Frank– stories of people struggling to maintain humanity and love and faith in the midst of terrible evil. I’ve begun reading The Hiding Place with one of my girls, and the others will have read both books by high school graduation as well.
We’ve talked frankly with our teens about The Hunger Games, explaining our concerns with the book at this point in their lives. After this discussion, one of the girls asked me why the author would write a story like this for kids. We talked about some of the reasons. Some of the kids ended up being OK with our choice. Others weren’t thrilled.
John and I understand that other parents have made different decisions about these books. That’s fine. We respect the right of each family to make choices that take their own children into consideration.
One of our own considerations was that we have many teens at different developmental stages with different life experiences that are similar chronological ages. Some might be ready. Some are definitely not. A blanket ‘no’ felt more fair to us than selective approval for a few kids.
We’re also aware that our kids will eventually have the freedom and the right to read what they want. We’re fine with that too. But before they get that freedom we want our younger kids to first get to the place that our grown kids are: a place of mature discernment, bolstered and nurtured by many years of reading good stuff. Speaking of good stuff, here’s one great guide that has come to my mind over and over as we’ve thought through this choice. It’s from Philippians 4:8:
” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
That’s what we want for our kids. And we trust that God who knows our hearts will redeem our well-intentioned choices, both right and wrong, for His glory in their lives.
Reading the thoughts of others really helped clarify John’s and my choice on this matter. And we know there are good parents who have thought this thing through and come up with a decision different than ours. I’d love to hear some respectful thoughts on both sides of this issue. How old are your kids? Will you let them read the books and/or watch this movie? Why or why not?
Why Hunger Games is Flawed by Trevin Wax
My take on other parenting issues