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Does The Hunger Games Set a Bad Example for Using Violence as Conflict Resolution?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

By Mike Barnard
Associate Partner, Application Innovation Services, and Business Architect, IBM GBS

Well, I personally think the point at which Mr. King derails whatever argument he was establishing is when he says:

I worry that not everyone reading the book or seeing the movie understands that the Capitol is wrong for creating the games, the citizens are wrong for watching them, and the kids are wrong for killing in them. I fear that in the rush to embrace the “games,” people will forget that that the point of the Hunger Games is for kids to kill kids.

It’s pretty hard for me to see how anyone could not understand that the Capitol is wrong.  The bad guys are pretty obviously reprehensible, their creations loathsome and the torture they put the kids through is awful.  And if someone actually thinks all of this is actually a good idea, what the heck are they going to be able to do about it?  The conditions that would lead to this sort of whacked out political system are impossible to engineer.

The next bits are in context of how the kids in the book view the world, so expect a shift.

And his suggestion that kids hold hands and sing kumbaya fails the sniff test when the Career Tributes are trained from an early age to be lethal killers of other children.  Anyone sitting down in a Ghandian non-violent resistance would have been summarily dispatched by one of the ‘pro’ tributes and they know that.

The entire group of children have grown up being fed Hunger Games annually, watching their friends disappear, forced to watch the steroidal Career Tributes eviscerate people that they know.  They are, however awfully, socialized to this, and it’s worked — if you suspend disbelief — for 75 years as a means of social control.

Now it’s on to his purported love of young-adult fiction.

He also fails miserably on the genre he professes to love.  I won’t repeat myself regarding this particular sub-genre as my recent Hunger Games answers articulate it just fine, but he’s obviously never run across it.  There are very dark corners of supposed YA literature.  Hunger Games lives within it.  I’d probably laugh out loud if I read his review of “Battle Royale” or heck, “Lord of the Flies”.  I’d probably manage a pretty damned good chuckle if he reviewed “Cat’s Eye”.

Of course, I have to reread the question at some point to ensure I’ve answered it. Here it is:

Yes, the Hunger Games sets a bad example by using violence as a mechanism to resolve conflict.  So what?  So does every cartoon and video game kids actually like.  So does Twilight, although it fills me with existential loathing to reference it.  

The books aren’t a moral lesson, they are entertainment.  They don’t have to teach an uplifting moral lesson that can be wrapped up in a homily that a teacher zoned out on Xanax can help her little charges understand before returning them to their fratricidal families.  

And the big finale.

As I’ve said elsewhere, you don’t want to look to closely at Hunger Games or think too deeply about it.  It’s a gossamer of torture porn wrapped up in an inventive and compelling story.  Enjoy it as you would enjoy a horror movie, but try not to think too deeply about it.

I may be ruining my enjoyment of the movie just by writing this damned answer. Thankfully I have a bit more capability to detach enjoyable fiction from moral lessons than Mr. King.

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