You wouldn’t be alone if you assumed that a blockbuster fantasy aimed at teens and young adults would surely present rather a simplified, black and white picture of moral issues such as propaganda, terrorism, and warfare. In the case of The Hunger Games franchise, however, you would be mistaken.
The popular trilogy now-turned-film series features Jennifer Lawrence as the heroine Katniss Everdene. It is set in a dystopian future where one portion of society (inhabitants of the ‘Capitol’) rules over the rest (the twelve ‘districts’), who struggle in near slave-like conditions in poverty and fear while their oppressors live in wanton luxury.
Every year, to keep the districts in their place, the Capitol stages a futuristic gladiatorial-style reality TV competition where young people from each district are forced to battle it out with each other and the elements until there is only one survivor.
Katniss becomes a reluctant symbol of the revolution; the story follows her journey as she turns from someone who just wants to keep the peace into a full-blown rebel fighter. Author Suzanne Collins skillfully maintains a nuanced and complex picture of violence and warfare throughout the series, and goes to great lengths to portray the full horror of war and the impact of conflict on civilians. With corruption on both sides, and a society that is so totally devastated by the fighting, there is no simple happy ending to the story. The heroine is frequently left feeling used, even by her own allies, as a puppet in a propaganda war.
Despite all of this, however, you are left with the impression that there are, indeed, some things that are worth fighting for, even if war should only ever be a last recourse. In fact, The Hunger Games leaves you thirsting for the Catholic teaching of Just War.
We’ve become rather uncomfortable acknowledging the fact that war, as undesirable as it is, is sometimes necessary as a final recourse. We worry that it makes us sound like violence-loving, overly nationalistic warmongers. But it seems appropriate that in the same month that our country marked Remembrance Day, the third film in The Hunger Games saga should be released.
It serves as a vivid reminder of the horror of warfare, yes, but also of the fact that sometimes we have no choice but to protect that which we hold most dear. Peace is our ultimate goal, but some prices are just too high to pay for it.
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