Erica Ehm Exposed!


Violence in The Hunger Games

When does onscreen violence become TOO much?

by: Erica Ehm

How appropriate is the Hunger Games movie for kids? Is there too much onscreen violence for tweens? Parents want to know!

Having a tween with a voracious appetite for reading is useful when the Hunger Game books he's devouring happen to be the hottest topic in pop culture. My son read all three books in the Hunger Games series, and then read them all again to relive the story from beginning to end. He's been counting the days till it hits the big screen, and has begged us to see the film this opening weekend.

So, when the Globe and Mail emailed me for a quote about the violence in the Hunger Games and movie, not only did I give them my thoughts, but my son was able to provide the reporter with an articulate quote (yes I'm proud). You can read the whole article on here, but I want to highlight what my son said before seeing the movie here. And I quote, “In The Hunger Games they show violence as a negative thing, and if people see that, then maybe they’ll see that violence is not a good thing.”

The kid knows what he's talking about!

The big questions and concerns amongst the parenting pop culture patrol are valid. How appropriate is this film for our innocent children's eyes? How much gratuitous violence should we subject our pre-teens too? Will this film give kids nightmares?

Last night my husband and I took our very excited 11-year-old son to see The Hunger Games come to life in the cinema. Without giving away any of the storyline, I can tell you the movie stays very true to the book. It recounts the experience of teenager Katniss who is forced to participate in a fight to the death against twenty three other young opponents. It's through her kind and intelligent eyes we witness the violence. Rather than glorifying explosions and weapons, the violence is portrayed as senseless and evil. Those in power who perpetuate it are filled with hatred and empty. Everyone else is doing their best to survive under horrifying circumstances.

The violence you actually see on the screen is minimal. Most of the murders are shot with shaky cameras, creating a blurry sense of chaos and struggle, but minimizing anything graphic. There are no guns, unlike the trailer for GI Joe which ran before the film, which showed Bruce Willis laughing while shooting his machine gun senselessly. In The Hunger Games, all of the fighting is hand-to-hand combat with swords, knives, and bows and arrows—where you feel the characters' desperate need to survive the nightmare their government has thrown them into. There is nothing glamorous about their situation.

Pretty much any tween video game has signficantly more violence in them, all of it gratuitous with no morality.

Rather than being a movie about violence, The Hunger Games is a film of self-empowerment, of fighting against oppression, and teamwork. The fact that the main protagonist is a strong, tactical and compassionate young women strikes a postive chord in my feminist self, celebrating the many moments she overpowers her opponents with fast thinking and a great shot.

Erica Ehm and Son at Hunger Games

So, did I like the film? No. Did I love it? Yes. It's the right kind of "edgy" film to take your tweens to and have some awesome conversations about it after about leadership, strengh of character and yes, even violence. Can't wait for Catching Fire, slated for release November 2013!

Did you see the movie yet? What did you think? Are you planning on taking your kids? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Photo credit for the awesome shot of my son: Jennifer Roberts for the Globe and Mail