The Hunger Games, Bully, and Teen Violence
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Apr 21, 2012 | 4436 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Some few months ago, my wife started talking about this book she was reading called "The Hunger Games".  I asked her to give me the basic plot outline, and during the telling she mentioned the books were quite controversial because of the violence.  Then about a month ago there was a lot of talk about the movie "Bully".  There was a lot of controversy over the nature of the movie, again, because of the violence, and there were a lot of people wondering if kids should be allowed to see either movie.

My wife and I talked about the controversy, and she made a good point in that it was not the violent acts everyone was complaining about, but the rather that the violence was being perpetrated by teens.  Two weeks prior to this conversation, I went to watch the movie John Carter and in that movie, the lead character beheads one of the aliens and everyone cheers.  In Star Wars - Attack of the Clones, a Jedi knight beheads Jango Fett in front of his son Boba.  Never a word from the media about any controversy there.  While we are not allowed to see the actual beheading take place in either movie, there is a dramatic thud as the head of the character visibly hits the ground after their respective confrontations.

In the world we live in today, violence is everywhere for teens to view, but there is no outcry.  They are saturated with it in movies, video games, and all other forms of entertainment, but there is a sense that "it's just entertainment" and that "kids understand the difference."  I'm not one to disagree on the face of it, but there is another side of me that says all this has to be having some effect on how kids and teenagers perceive their world.  Or is it a reflection of how far we have already come?

In one of the more recent news reports regarding the movie "Bully", it showed a small handful of teenagers who were allowed to view a small portion of the movie and give their opinions.  Their response to the movie?  "That's how it is with teenagers in school today."  My response: "Yeah, that's pretty much how I remember it, too."

I remember seeing a gang of guys in high school jump one single guy and nearly beat him to death because he insulted the girlfriend of one of the other guys.  I've seen fistfights that left some kids in pools of blood while the offender got a week off from school and maybe a week or two of in-school suspension.  I also remember quite clearly being involved in such brawls myself, sometimes managing to put up a good fight, and other times not so much.  I've heard every cuss word, insult, and degrading remark hurled between teenagers both male and female.  What's more, as a teacher in a private school for a short time, I've been witness to some of the same things.  The reaction of parents to these reports?  "Not my kid" and "It couldn't have been as bad as they're making it sound" and "I didn't raise my child to behave that way."

This leads me to my conclusion.  The uproar over the violence in movies among teens is misdirected.  The movies, I believe, are simply showing us a reflection of the society we have become.  Violence among teens exists in all its ugly forms.  So why is it that there is such an outcry against the movies?  Again, my opinion, but I think it has to do with where the responsibility really lies.  If the violence is in the movies, it is easy to finger point there, but when it exists in the real world, the finger has to be pointed at the parents.

I'd encourage any parent to go see "The Hunger Games" and "Bully" with their child/children and have the hard conversations about violence among teens afterward.  I'd also encourage parents to be more attentive when your kid talks about violence in school in any form, and equally aware of when someone says something is going on with your child acting a certain way and not jump to the "My kid is an angel" or "My kid would never . . ." routine.

Biblically speaking, all the passages about "turn the other cheek" and those that speak against violence are not to be taken out of context (though if you will scroll down to the comments section you will have glaring examples of such).  The Biblical principle of non-violence is one that teaches Christians not to fan the flames of an already hostile or tense situation.  We are to seek peaceful alternatives whenever possible, yet we are not supposed to just allow ourselves to be kicked around either.  When possible, we are allowed to legally defend ourselves within the limits of the law - including the use of deadly force - but again, I would say only after all other peaceful alternatives have been exhausted.

The key to teaching your children about violence is that it is not OK to be violent, but that to prevent violence it is sometimes necessary to employ force in a violent fashion, such as in the defense of others or in defense of yourself.  I think Katniss Everdeen was a good example of this type of character in The Hunger Games.  That is just my opinion.  Feel free to disagree.

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