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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hunger Games

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Making U.S. Box Office history with the highest midnight opening ever “The Hunger Games” swept into theaters last week. The film is based on the 2008 best-selling novel by Suzanne Collins, the first book in a trilogy of novels that the author says “explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. “

This is a story for our times, a cautionary tale.
 
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is 16 years-old and lives with her 12 year-old sister Prim (Willow Shields) and withdrawn mother (Paula Malcomson) in District 12 is the post-apocalyptic event USA.
 
Seventy-four years before the events in the book take place a revolution against the then government occurred but failed. As punishment, reparation, and a form of control by fear, the government holds “games” in the Capitol every year. Each of the twelve districts must sacrifice a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 who will go the Capitol, pretend they are having fun as they prepare to be on a reality television show, and then engage in a survival exercise in a vast outdoor arena where they kill each other off. Only one can survive.
 
Prim is chosen but Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place. The boy chosen is Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Katiss and Peeta have known each other all their lives but they are not close. Katniss is shy be cause once when she and her family were starving after her fathers death in the coalmines, he gave her bread. He tossed the bread to her in the rain and now is embarrassed that he did not hand it to her. Instead Katniss’ best friend is Gale (Wes Bentley), a young man who has hunted with her in the forbidden forest beyond the electrical fences.
 
“The Hunger Games” is a story filled with moral dilemmas that the young people and those close to them must face in a controlled society with an omnipresent government that dominates its citizens. How to survive without killing anyone except as self-defense or defense of another, how to be part of the fake and banal world of celebrity television without losing one’s humanity, the many shades and obstacles to true love, family, and how to endure life with an all-seeing totalitarian government whose absolute power has corrupted the leaders and their hacks absolutely?
 
Katniss is the heroine from the beginning and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is compelling and graceful amid terror. The moment where she mourns the young girl Rue in the arena moved me to tears. It is also a moment that changes everything.
 
I was watching one of the morning network news shows last week a day or so before the film’s release and one of the commentators described the film as “kids killing one another for sport.”  It’s too bad that whoever wrote the script didn’t bother to read the book. There is no “sport” in the “The Hunger Games” unless you count the ancient practice of letting gladiators battle for their lives against wild animals a sport. One late night talk show host made a similar crack; interesting that hardly anyone laughed. The mainstream media is at the service of the government in “The Hunger Games”. They make banality an art form though we discover that there is more to some of the people involved than meets the eye.
 
Everyone just wants to survive but some are ready to sacrifice everything that others might live.
 
Instead “The Hunger Games” is about young people of character and humanity where love and empathy dictate their choices over a totalitarian regime that rules by fear, hunger, poverty, control and the threat of death for no reason except control.
  Since the US has been engaged in wars by choice over the last several decades, violence and conflict have been normalized. Suzanne Collins’ examination of life under surveillance, the threat of violence and its effects on young people, family and society, is chilling but also serves as a wake up call.


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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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