Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games & Kids Killing Kids in Movies

Kids don't usually die in movies.

Even less frequent is a plot that involves one kid killing another kid. Kid's murdering kids usually doesn't get people in the theater, and so it seems the topic is generally viewed as taboo.

Trying to think of a mainstream film with a degree of popularity that contains this plot element I finally came up with the film Pay It Forward. While the death of the central character at the hand of another similarly aged kid is central to the emotional climax, a plot choice of this kind has a tendency for surprise and even offense.

I ask this question going into the big film weekend we'd expect for the film The Hunger Games. This film will surely dominate at the box office and has received warm critical ratings, and yet it contains a disturbing central plot element - kids killing kids.

Arguably, this plot element is part of the intrigue, and even the broader discussion one could have about The Hunger Games book and film, and yet when I read the book, I was disturbed, but also questioned how this theme plays out in audiences.

People were sensitive to kid violence long before the 1999 Columbine shootings, but it seems that if there was ever a time that created a heightened sensitivity to the theme it was the years that followed.

Even now, the buzz trend (and the Weinstein documentary of the hour) deals with the topic of bullying and the way kids, specifically teens treat each other and potential impact each other more than they might be aware of with their words and actions.

And yet, somehow Suzanne Collins, and now director Gary Ross, in telling a story with wide popularity (particularly among teens and young adults) that hits a taboo topic in a way that no one seems to mind.


Grete said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't comment on how disturbing it will be to watch those scenes with kids killing kids "play out" visually, but that topic being taboo IS what the author is showing.

Have you gotten through the third book? I think a lot of what it means to society (that this kid-killing is "acceptable") is dealt with throughout the later two books, mainly in the third. There is a poignant choice made at the end of the third that also highlights how it is wrong to have larger-scale wars fought through the lives of children.

RC said...

@Grete - Thanks for commenting.

I haven't read Catching Fire or Mockingjay yet - but I am interested, even for the fact I am interested in seeing how this theme plays out.

I figured Suzanne Collins might start to be more direct with some of her themes as the stories play out, because in the first book, you sense she's trying to say something "deeper" but it wasn't cut and dry what that message really was.

Erin Marie said...

Yes, RC, read the rest of the books. They are great. They are what gives the series so much more than a "Twilight" type fan base.

And although the two versions of film were not wonderful, Lord of the Flies touched on kids killing kids years ago...with even younger kids motivated by their own choices, not a dystopian society forcing them.
How "English-Teacher" do I sound right now? :)