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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Hunger Games Parenting Nightmare or Opportunity?

                       Parenting Nightmare or Opportunity?

Thought for the day: I heard a story once about the difference between heaven & hell. In the story,  in hell there was a huge banquet table overflowing with food. The people seated at the banquet table had long spoons attached to their arms. The spoons made it impossible for the people to bend their arms, so they could not reach their mouths & feed themselves. The people at the banquet in this version of hell were all starving. In heaven, there was an identical banquet table. The people at the banquet table in heaven also had long spoons attaches to their arms, however, these people were not starving. The people in heaven had figured out that they could feed one another & they were all enjoying the bounty. Even when we are faced with difficult situations, we have choices.  The movie, The Hunger Games raises similar moral & ethical questions. What would you do if you were challenged by life & death issues? What do you want your children & teens to learn from movies like The Hunger Games?

Yesterday, I went to see the movie, The Hunger Games. It is not the kind of movie I tend to frequent. When I heard the story line about choosing teenagers in a lottery to fight to the death in a televised "reality show," I was anxious about the impact it would have on our youth. I went to see it to be prepared to help parents & teens in my clinical practice process this blockbuster movie which brought in $152.5 million[5] (USD) on its opening weekend in North America. I am glad I went & would encourage parents to see the movie before their children, so that they will be prepared to talk about the questions the movie will raise for their children. It does not need to be a parenting nightmare any more than the book, The Lord of the Flies which is taught in most schools across the USA.

The movie is a powerful critique of many things which are happening in our society. One of the characters says, "It's only a television show." It raises questions about how television productions can distort & sensationalize reality. Each of the "Tributes," children chosen as sacrifices to fight to death for their district, is taken to the capitol to be packaged, branded & prepared to try to get "sponsors" to support them. The 2 tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) &  Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are followed as they try to survive & hold true to themselves & their values. Katniss volunteers to be a tribute to save her younger sister who was picked in the lottery. She then befriends & tries to protect a younger tribute from another district. She also protects Peeta from her district. The children & adults from the districts are trapped like sacrificial lambs. The parents in  are impotent & unable to protect their children. The adults in the opulent capital are portrayed as childish caricatures of adults enjoying the horrors as if they were at a Mardi Gras celebration. The leaders, like the character portrayed by Donald Sutherland are cynical, calculating, & controlling. They give minimal hope to the districts to keep them subservient.

Unfortunately,  in our world today, in Africa, Asia & the Middle East children are being used to fight in adult wars. Terrorist recruit suicide bombers among dissatisfied teens. In 2010, the United Nations started the Zero Under 18 campaign to help stop the deployment of children to fight wars. Throughout our world, even in the United States, human trafficking of children & teens is happening. Children are being abused, kidnapped & used as prostitutes. Organizations like A Child Is Missing, featured in my book, help protect children from being abducted or kidnapped. Although there has not been a Hunger Games TV show, we need to protect our children from the abuses of children in our world. The movie will bring up the uncomfortable, yet real questions of what you are doing or can do to protect children from child abuse & war.

The kinds of discussions that this film can provide are worth having with your children.  What could parents have done to protect their children? After one of the tributes was killed one district did try to fight back. How could adults help one another & fight back? What could the children have done to fight back? The time to protest is before dictators take over. Are there things happening in the world that we as Americans who have freedom can help prevent? Are we like the people in heaven or like those hell, failing to see that there are ways we can help one another?


Smadar said...

The book trilogy has even more social commentary. It's quite a strong critique of our world today and where it is heading. I agree one should accompany their children in both the reading and the movies, and generate an in-depth discussion. The question is, what is the appropriate age for kids to be reading this book. The movie is PG 13, but kids much younger are reading it. The second and third book are even more powerful.

Barbara Lavi said...

Every child is different & parents need to decide accordingly. Some kids are unable to tolerate Disney films, like the beginning of Bambi. This movie is far more powerful. When I was at the movie, there was what looked like an older sister with a child who could not have been 13. Theaters do not enforce the age limitation. Parents need to see the movie & read the books, in order to decide whether their children are old enough to see them.