Man, I don’t see movies very often. The last movie I saw was Hugo. The last movie I saw with The Wife was Winnie the Pooh. So here’s a funny thing: Hugo is based on a middle-grade novel; Winnie the Pooh on an early reader chapter book; and HG on a young adult novel. All beloved by me.
I’ll first say that I liked the movie, that it seemed like a good adaptation, and that nothing dissatisfied or annoyed me. I look forward to Catching Fire.
So let’s talk about some things I’ve heard other people say about it. In particular, several reviews I’ve read mention the dulled violence, compared to the book. This was done, obviously, to achieve a PG-13 rating to cater to a largely middle- and high-school aged audience. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with the “dulling down” of the violence. Though the book was quite graphic in some parts and gut-wrenching in most, I have certain feelings re: movie violence that lead me to believe that the filmmakers’ choices were right. So often violence in movies is glamorized, glorified, and essentially celebrated. Making HG graphically violent would have played right into that. Perhaps it would have been different with kids perpetrating the acts. I think not. Reviewers would have praised it (maybe), teens would have thought it was cool, and all of it would be wrong.
Reading HG was excruciating for me. I just had this pit of dread in my stomach for the entire first book and most of the rest. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think I’ll ever read them again. Maybe when Corbchops and The Iza are “of age.”
In the movie, by only glimpsing the violence, with the worst parts happening off screen, the viewer is allowed to imagine the worst but not be subjected to it. I felt it was more effective this way. We are densensitized to violence on screen. But we aren’t desensitized to the unpleasantness of our own imaginations.
So that’s my feeling on that.
Now, I think, let’s consider age-appropriateness. As a 5th grade teacher, my official position to students is: “I likedThe Hunger Games. They are good books. But I cannot and will not recommend them to you because they are middle school books. Next year, I will recommend them to you. But not now.”
One kid in my class has read them. I don’t really have a problem with my students reading them. If it was my choice, I’d say no, but I will never tell students what they can or cannot read. That’s their parents’ job. I will simply make my recommendations and provide students with someone to talk to about serious books (or any books).
I’ll leave you with two articles:
Article #1: This author attempts to explain why she’s taking her 4th grade daughter to see HG. I found it on Twitter when a children’s author I follow liked the mother’s “thoughtful parenting.” I had to disagree. It seems like selfish, impatient, excuse-making parenting to me. She spend a lot of time explaining how her daughter is young and not even thinking about or interested in the themes of HG, and then says “I’m taking her.” This girl seems like she’s doing pretty great right now. She’s not even interested in HG. What the hell? What a couple years and watch it with her on DVD.
Why don’t I just let my daughter read the books? For starters, she’s not interested. This despite her room, in fact, our entire home, lined with bookcases brimming with tempting titles. No surprise—she’s a voracious reader. The Hunger Games hasn’t caught her attention yet, but will soon enough. So why don’t I wait on the movie?
I don’t want to wait. Like all mothers, I was once a little girl who hungered for role models to emulate.
That right there, is bullshit. There are many, many books with strong female role models. They haven’t all been made into movies. Is that the problem? You really want your daughter to see a movie? Whatever. Wait until she tells you she’s ready.
My opinion. Gah. Must stop before I rant on.
Article #2: Here we have the opposite perspective. This mother has told her daughter, “You cannot read these books or watch this movie yet.” Which, of course, is the best way to drive kids crazy wanting to do just that.
I picked up “The Hunger Games” to see if it would be appropriate for an independent-minded girl. It took less than 20 pages to see that this was the perfect book for her. But within 20 more, I was determined to keep it from her as long as possible.
So, the author admits it’s the perfect book for her. She is interested in reading it. Sounds like a perfect time to read it together. The title of the article is “Wait, Listen, Grow.” My thinking is, “Read, Listen, Talk, Grow.” Because if this girl is pushed into reading in secret, then she won’t be able to talk about the book without admit she sneaked a read. Maybe their relationship is one in which the daughter would never go behind her mom’s back. Or maybe it wasn’t, until…
I don’t really mean to be overly critical of these mothers, though those who write editorials are inviting and should be expecting and embracing judgment and dialogue. My kids are under four. I don’t have to make these decisions, yet. Thank goodness.
Must stop writing and judging and ranting.