Hunger Games ‘catching fire’ from some, but redemption shines amid human depravity, cultural excess


This past weekend my wife and I had a toddler-free evening out for my birthday, and we checked out ‘Catching Fire’, the latest installment in the Hunger Games movies. While some Christians may choose to pass on viewing this saga, I’m prepared to say that with the right perspective it should be required viewing for everyone that is a young adult or older.

Undoubtedly, viewing the Hunger Games movies is not for the faint of heart or young child. Furthermore, teens and adults alike must be mature enough to separate reality from the story portrayed, and parents should take an active role in explaining  ‘who the real enemy is’ in parsing out the good from the evil.

As many others have concluded, Hunger Games serves as a window into what our society could turn into if everyone became desensitized to each other’s suffering. I will add that this is perhaps a snapshot of a world totally void of the moral code that accompanies belief in a Creator God. This point alone can be very instructive for the children of a Christian parent.

Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who plays the role of the main heroine Katniss Everdeen, agrees with this sentiment. In a 2012 interview with Parade magazine, she said [the books and movies] “hold up a terrible kind of mirror”, while also adding that they serve as an indictment on Reality TV, specifically our desire to revel in other people’s turmoil. Her thoughts from that interview are recapped here.

Very few films indict our current culture — certainly none to the degree of the Hunger Games series — so when one does, we should take notice and learn from it.

My main take on the films (as I haven’t read the books yet) is that they convey all aspects of human depravity and it’s consequences – specifically the consequences of corruption in the government and media that results in the exploitation of less-fortunate people groups. On the flip side, especially as “Catching Fire” progresses, we get to witness the resilience of the human spirit, and the beginnings of what is sure to be an epic battle between good and evil.

Some have gone so far to say that Peeta Mellark, who is Katniss’ male counterpart from their home district and her co-victor in the first “hunger games”, is a type of Christ due to his sacrificial love for her. I stop short of comparing Peeta to Jesus as it seems a tad bit heretical, but agree he portrays these Christ-like characteristics. Most importantly though, Jesus Christ served as the ultimate “child sacrifice” removing any need for the tributes that parallel this act in the story line.

Another indictment the movie levels against our culture is our obsession with excess. Seen in the extravagant lifestyles and plastic faces of those living in “the Capitol“, it doesn’t take the viewer long to realize these people are the butt of their own jokes.

One recent article points out that after the first Hunger Games movie, many have already tried to capitalize on this desire for excess through themed-merchandise — everything from Cover Girl’s “Capitol Collection” of makeup to a proposed Hunger Games theme park. The author rightly sees this as a “disturbing trend [of] escapism” from what the movies actually portray. Here is a quote from that article summarizing her thoughts:

The movies’ counteract any attempt we might make to see them as fun escapism… The films’ greatest redemptive feature is their pervasive sadness, from the faces of every character to the musical score to the bleak sets. Even during the biggest, most lavish celebrations at the Capitol, we know the ones who are enjoying themselves are being played for vapid fools. Everyone with half a brain is miserable and, increasingly, furious.

So far with the Hunger Games we have an excellent couple of movies that are well produced, based on books that are worth all their recognition. But more importantly, we have a redemptive story that lends itself to significant moral and social reflection – such reflection that, if handled with care and proper philosophical understanding, could point the viewer to their need for a savior. The harvest is plentiful — so let the Christian rejoice when the presence of God’s common grace upon humanity results in genuine morals and truths showing up in secular books and movies.