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Posts tagged ‘film’

Conservative themes in The Hunger Games

In the introduction to her book Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism, Michelle Abate briefly discusses conservative themes present in Young Adult fiction (9), but does not extensively discuss the genre. This exclusion led me to examine a topical Young Adult novel, Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games (and by extension, the recent film adaptation), and its relationship to conservatism. At first thought I was sure that there was little connection, but further investigation has changed my mind.

dystopian The first conservative connection agrees with Abate’s assertion of children’s literature affirming libertarianism. The novel is set in a future where North America is governed by a ruthless totalitarian regime that constantly oppresses its citizens sense of self and has direct control over all production and manufacturing. Throughout the book and series the main protagonist, Katniss, constantly rebels against the government, making her a compelling hero for a political group “concerned that the United States is rapidly drifting toward socialism and that the size and strength of government is infringing on individual freedoms.” (11) This theme of rebelling against big government is often seen in many YA dystopian novels.

Christianity has also been closely connected to the American conservative movement, especially since the rise of evangelical Christians in the 70s and 80s. Since the release of the novel’s film adaptation, several reviewers have cited elements of the film and novel that seem to connect to Christian themes. Reviewers at The Washington Times and The Christian Post point out the main protagonist’s self sacrifice asserts Christian ideals and connects her to Jesus. Another review connects another character, Peeta, to Jesus, drawing from “the Bread of Life” that he offers to Katniss, and the fact that he was left for dead, spent several days in a cave, and emerged “resurrected.” Although some of these connections may be a stretch, the fact that Christian groups across the nation are appropriating the novel and the film into sermons and bible study are evidence that some similar themes are present.

Perhaps it’s the fact that many of these stories can be interpreted in different ways that allows scholars to align them with specific ideals (although Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed probably can’t be argued many different ways). Conservative propaganda or not, Michelle Abate has definitely been successful in making me take closer looks at the literature children, and adults, are exposed to.

Peeta Bread, get it? From

A recent dispatch from the continuum of moral panic

One of the latest “it” books for Young Adults to receive moral panic from parents is the dystopian sci-fi trilogy The Hunger Games.  In the novels, children must fight for their respective geographical regions in violent, homicidal contests.  The books have become very popular, leading to a soon-to-be-released film.  But since this novel is aimed at YA readers, its depiction of children waging war upon each other – even killing one another – has ruffled the feathers of some parents.  In this article dating from October, 2010, a New Hampshire parent of an 11 year old daughter has called for her local school district to remove the book from its reading schedule.  The mother claims that her 11 year old had nightmares after reading some of the novel.  She also claims the violence depicted could numb some children.

These concerns fit into class discussions on moral panic.  Such worries over violence are echoed in our studies on comic books.  Worries over a detrimental numbing effect coincide with our studies on parental fears of television.  In both cases, the New Hampshire parent prefigures negative ramifications on her child – and other children – due to exposure to what she deems questionable subject matter involving violence.

The article goes on, however, to voice others’ opinions about the propriety of the novel and the demands one parent can have over a group of children.  A censorship expert cautions against this tyranny of the minority in the article.  She claims that these issues are very delicate, but ultimately it isn’t right for one parent to hold sway over a curriculum involving 20 or more children.  This underlines an important aspect of class discussions on moral panic.  Who exactly is right?  The parent (or parents) objecting to material or those who refuse to censor creative expression?  At the time of the article, neither side is victorious.  A committee had been formed to discuss the book and make a decision.  What they decide will effect whether the book is banned, or if it will continue to be read.


On an interesting side note, the article mentions that the book is being read as an alternative for children who choose not to take a foreign language class.  In my opinion, that should be what the outrage is about.  How a pop culture, YA book can stand in for exposure to another culture’s language is beyond me.  It seems silly to get into an uproar over “appropriate content,” but not to be concerned with a lack of interest children have (or are motivated to have) in learning a new language.