The Hunger Games: Too Violent for Teens?
One of the stories storming the blogosphere right now is the impending movie version of the “Hunger Games” trilogy, including the significant controversy of casting a blonde as the clearly dark skinned main character, Katniss.
But if you’re a parent who isn’t also a reader, you may not know about another controversy the books are embroiled in — the level of violence and darkness in the books. They are books about oppression and rebellion and war. They are books about how humans can rise and fight, but always at a price, sometimes a price too terrible to contemplate, but too important not to pay.
Young Adult (YA) fiction is an interesting category of fiction. The Harry Potter books are young adult, and books that were originally written for adults, like The Count of Monte Cristo and To Kill a Mockingbird, are now considered ‘Young Adult’. The target age range is 14 to 21, which encompasses a large variation in life experience and ability to handle difficult concepts. Typically, YA fiction features a teen-aged protagonist rather than an adult, and has themes such as coming of age, or challenging an injustice perpetuated by an authority.
Is the Hunger Games too violent for adolescents? Does reading violent books lead teenagers to become violent themselves? While there have been ample studies linking violent video games and movies and life situations to habituation and violent behavior, this is not the case for violent books. Here is an example of violence from the Hunger Games trilogy, as quoted in the New York Times.
“The boy from District 1 dies before he can pull out the spear,” observes Katniss of her prey in one scene. “My arrow drives deeply into the center of his neck. He falls to his knees and halves the brief remainder of his life by yanking out the arrow and drowning in his own blood.”
A reasonable person could assume that there could be a link, but could also argue that the act of reading is substantially different from the act of watching a movie or playing a game, in that in a book, the context of violence, the inner motivations and the societal movers of it, are more accessible to the reader.Continued on the next page