A Parent's Review Of The Hunger Games

As parents, we should look for teachable moments to help our children develop critical thinking skills.


As I waded through the previews in the movie theatre on Saturday afternoon, I was second-guessing my decision to let my three daughters watch The Hunger Games. Questions and concerns were bombarding me.

Specifically, I wondered what kind of father would let his daughters watch a movie whose storyline centers on an evil central government bent on quelling dissent from its 12 districts by drafting teenagers from each district who must fight each other to the death before a live television audience. 

Ultimately, I am the one who must answer this question. But, others have already weighed in. For some, notably teenagers, my willingness to both read the book and watch the movie with my girls makes me a cool dad. BTW (Parents, check your texting lexicon for the definition), isn’t the phrase “cool dad” an oxymoron?  On the other hand, some adults have openly questioned my parenting skills for doing this. 

The Hunger Games presents parents with an opportunity to watch a blockbuster movie with their kids that can lead to a meaningful conversation. The function of the Arts is to ask questions rather than answer them. As a result, The Hunger Games asks us to consider the consequences for a culture that feasts on violent entertainment and vacuous reality TV. Moreover, the movie forces us to question the long-term health of a society that’s developed an insatiable appetite for violence. The book’s author, Suzanne Collins, has said in an interview that she finds “the voyeuristic thrill [of reality TV viewers]…very disturbing.”        

I would argue that watching The Hunger Games is a redeeming exercise even if the provocative plot initially unsettles you. The movie’s responsible depiction of violence succeeds in preaching a message about the dangers of gratuitous violence packaged as entertainment. 

As parents, we should look for teachable moments to help our children develop critical thinking skills. Although books and movies can serve as a mindless escape from the pressures and stresses of everyday life, they can also provide unique opportunities for parents and children to converse about topics ranging from contemporary hot-button issues to soul-searching metaphysical questions.  A trip to the movie theatre to see The Hunger Games could do both!

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Nathan McKay March 28, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Good review. I especially like your comment on parents' responsibility to add "critical thinking skills" to our younger viewers (especially for the women out there). Since violence is a part of our society (and a daily occurrence on the news) there's educational and appropriate ways to present to it to kids and I think this story does it appropriately.
Melissa Kwan March 29, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Hello Ray! I enjoyed your review. I have yet to get to this series, but I keep promising all my students that I will read them this summer. Having heard only the basics of the plot, I was wondering what the redeeming message would be. You express it well, so I now look forward to reading the series, considering the notion that it serves as a warning to society about the possible outcomes of a world entertained by violence. Knowing your girls, I am sure that the books and film led to very meaningful discussion. Bravo to you and Lori for being such responsible parents!
Ray G. Jones, Jr. March 29, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Nathan and Melissa, thanks for your positive feedback. I think there are two specific ways reading the series is a redeeming exercise. I can only speak to the first book since that's all I've read thus far. However, my wife has read the entire series. First, I believe there's a benefit for kids to read books that force them to think critically. Second, I believe Suzanne Collins' protagonist, Katniss, is heroic. The only reason she's in the games is because she volunteered to go in place of her twelve-year-old sister, Prim, who would certainly have perished. Furthermore, Katniss hates the violence of The Hunger Games and sees them as an abuse of the central government's power.
Natasha J April 02, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Comment to Pator Ray G. Jones, Jr. I am glad that you went with your girls to see the movie, but there are so many children that will see this movie in a potentially dangerous way! How can it be ok for adults to force children to kill each other and get entertained from that??? Thinking that this movie has sold so many tickets, our society is ether blind or blood hungry (children's blood)!!! This movie was not thought through very well and I believe the outcome will be horrific! People who made this movie, I so dissappointed that you have not come up with a more positive and Creative Story!
Get Real April 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Natasha, all I can say is, welcome to reality. The only sad thing would be to make the children think that the world was some happy place all the time. This was a great movie and great for kids to see. Take a look in Africa, or even our own country. I watched this movie and saw kids crying some and believe that it is because they do have a heart. Some people just need a reality check....


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