Don’t Take “The Hunger Games” So Seriously

So The Hunger Games has become a hit. A story set in a future world where, in a show of dictatorial control, 24 people are selected to go at one another. Kill or be killed. May the odds be ever in your favor. All that jazz.

The book has apparently found its way into a list of books over which concerned parents have expressed concern. What were the specific points of objection? “Explicit content” and “excessive violence” were the main ones.

Too much protection? One could say so. After all, one could argue that time-honored literary pieces contain violent themes too. Lord of the Flies is about what happens when 13-year-old children are stuck on a deserted island and try to establish their own society; great violence and murder ensue. To Kill a Mockingbird is thick with racism and offensive language; this is not lost on concerned parents, however, who include this work in the proposed library blacklist (no pun intended), even though it is widely recognized to have a sobering effect on white readers. And I’m pretty sure Romeo and Juliet had a lot of swordplay and bloodshed, and it ended in a double suicide.

One thing we also have to remember is that The Hunger Games is a work of fiction. It whisks readers away to some chilling fantasy world. That’s the point; it’s an exercise in imagination. Are we seriously supposed to worry that kids will take that stuff seriously? Oh right, I forgot about the dark times in the early to mid-2000’s when thousands of young adults, upon finishing Twilight and Harry Potter, started canoodling with vampires, werewolves, witches, and wizards, instead of doing it with normal human beings, like they ought to. Shame on you, Meyer and Rowling! *shakes fist*

Maybe we’re too onion-skinned. For example, people get incensed at provocative statements made by comedians; I’m sure after getting that reaction, 90% of those comedians think, “mission accomplished.” Jokes, by definition, aren’t supposed to be taken seriously–unless I’ve been wrong about them this whole time, and should have felt outrage at sitcoms while being in stitches over news reports.

Of course, some ideas are dangerous. But people, we have to learn the difference between prescription and description. I just can’t imagine Suzanne Collins sitting in a big armchair, hands steepled, laughing maniacally over how she has successfully introduced adolescent/teenage murder competitions as the next reality show format. I hope someone could photoshop it, though, just for the laughs.

And I think it’s also insulting to suggest that young readers are simply passive receptacles for ideas. Young readers have judgment and intelligence. They ought to know which ideas to embrace, which ones to reject, and which ones to simply flip off. And if they don’t, well, guess who has to explain it to them? Hint: since fiction authors generally do not visit their young fans, and parents typically see their children at least once a day…

So there. Fiction is fiction, period. It’s not a “how to” of living, unless you’re going to a seriously disorganized bookstore. And if the day has come when we have to put a “don’t try this at home” type of disclaimer at the beginning of young adult fiction books, then it’s time for me to put my facepalm face on.