The much-anticipated third film in The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 1, is now upon us, which is reason to rejoice for tweens, teens and adult fans alike! I know I'm itching to get in the theater and get a shiver from that whistled mockingjay tune.
The powerful story Suzanne Collins penned in her young adult series is about to take a turn in the films, from the more action-focused game structure of the previous films to a more somber, philosophically and ideologically-loaded treatment of rebellion, revolution, and the cost of preserving autonomy and freedom in terms of violence, war - and body count. Sure, there has definitely been death in the Hunger Games before - it's obviously built in to the basic structure of the story. But in the last chapters of Katniss and Peta's story, we are confronted with serious questions of sacrifice, death and the defense of political and human rights ideologies on a larger scale. You can see some of that war imagery in the trailer I included here. The question is, will the story - and its film representation - be able to deliver on these very heavy, loaded issues for the hordes of young viewers who will be sitting in those theater seats?
That's what film critic Paul Byrnes asks in his article for the The Sydney Morning Herald. He compares the character of Katniss to the legendary, sainted French freedom fighter Joan of Arc, from which the young Hunger Games heroine is definitely influenced.
I really appreciate his in-depth discussing of the story's different arcs, the correlations to Joan of Arc, and his discussion of the film's portrayal of the topics I mention above for young audiences. Here is an excerpt:
"If the arc of the story is as long as Joan's bow, it is also very modern and extremely brutal for a movie aimed at young girls. Snow has destroyed District 12 and Katniss goes there with a film crew, to walk among the cinders and charred bodies. Nothing happens in these movies without cameras. The revolution is not just televised, it's fought as a battle for control of the airwaves. The games were a circus. Now Katniss has touched off a full-scale war in which she is the chief mascot. Snow can see her every move and his retaliations are calculated for visual impact. He's like Hitler with the talent of Hitchcock.
"This is where the power resides in this powerful series. Yes, there is the usual teacup storm of romance, a girl caught between two boys, as in the Twilight series, but The Hunger Games offers teenagers a much more important set of questions to ponder. War and propaganda, self-sacrifice and the greater good, symbolism versus reality, political manipulation versus people-power, democracy or autocracy, war or peace. And none of this takes place in a world of enchantment and magic: it's much more brutal than anything they had to deal with in Harry Potter or the Twilight movies. Any kid who watches the news might easily see parallels with the horrible world they are inheriting. Is Katniss like the Syrian rebels, mummy?"
You can read the rest of his article by following the attached link.
I am very interested personally in this question of how The Hunger Games addresses the modern phenomenon of fighting revolutions not just on the ground, but also strategically and necessarily through mass media, including social media platforms. As he points out in the final sentences above - parents could potentially turn this into a great opportunity to talk to their kids about current struggles going on in the world. They can contemplate how people use today's technology (which most kids only know for its entertainment and social value) as a method of fighting for their ideals, their safety and their freedoms - but also how mass media and communication tools can be used to manipulate, gain power over other people, or even enact oppression.
There is so much to think about! I would love to have your thoughts on this in the comments - as well as your ideas for how to make the serious issues discussed in the Hunger Games films opportunities for valuable reflection in younger audiences. I'd love to hear from you below!