A Parent's Guide to The Hunger Games

Ah. The Hunger Games. That three book phenomenon that has captured the imaginations and dollars of millions. To be more exact, thirty million people have read the books worldwide and over $200 million was spent on tickets when the movie version debuted this past weekend.

This series is having a major impact on our culture, and that influence is likely to trickle in to our individual lives. I can’t seem to go anywhere lately without eavesdropping or being invited into a conversation about the story. Yet, I largely feel unsettled. As a Christian and a parent, how am I supposed to feel about The Hunger Games?

In case you’re not a Hunger Games fan, here is a brief synopsis.

The story takes place in post-apocalyptic North America. The region has been divided into districts and re-named Panem. The title of the book comes from an annual event where one boy and one girl from each district are chosen to fight children from other districts in order to supply food for the starving people of their region (hence the name Hunger Games).

The protagonist, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to participate in the games, a mash-up of gladiator-style fight to the death and reality TV as the games are broadcast throughout the land. Books two and three cover a revolution following the games and a return to the arena where Katniss must fight again.

If it sounds macabre, it is, and yet many argue that the series has redeeming qualities. It tackles tough questions about economics, freedom, and government control.

As adults, we may be able to read the books or watch the movies and think critically about their messages, but as parents, we need to be asking if our children can do the same.

My kids are two and four. I’m still trying to decide if too much Thomas the Train is a bad thing, but as someone who works with teenagers, I am interested in thinking through the ramifications of this popular series on young hearts and minds. I also think the series can act as a springboard by giving us a chance to talk with our children about how to filter our media choices through the grid of God’s Word.

With those goals in mind, I’ve gathered some articles on the series and assembled them for you all in one place. For parents and non-parents alike, these writers provide good insight on the merit and potential pitfalls of the series.

Focus on the Family gives an easy-to-understand synopsis, as well as clear warnings for parents, in this book review. If you are wanting to understand the nuts and bolts of the series in a format that won’t take long to read or digest, this post will help. Lifeway offers a similar summary here. Both posts offer discussion questions that are family-friendly.

We are not just thinkers, but Christian thinkers. There is much in this series that great minds will love to discuss, but how should a Christian think about it? What are the ethical dilemmas of this movie from a Christian worldview? Douglas Wilson scratches the surface of these questions in this review. He writes,

“. . . In terms of helping Christian young people set their minds and hearts on that which is noble and right, we can’t even give it one star. We would have to assign, in this last category, one burnt out asteroid.”

For a summary-style review that points out moral red flags to Christians, check out this movie review from www.MovieGuide.org.

A great go-to-guide for questions about popular entertainment is www.PluggedIn.com. Here is their specific review of The Hunger Games, which outlines positive elements, spiritual content, and other potential trouble spots.

And for my thoughts on using the series as a springboard to consider making wise media choices now and in the future, here is a link to a post I wrote for LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 gives us this charge: “Test everything; hold fast what is good.”

These are wise words as we seek to raise media-savvy and wisdom-hungry kids, and seek to keep our own hearts and minds pure in an impure world. The Hunger Games is just another reminder that what we put into our minds matters, and we are wise to continually seek wisdom and guidance from God’s Word about responding to our culture.

Ultimately, this series will eventually drop off the bestseller list and patrons will soon enough be lining up to watch another plot altogether. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how your family is responding to The Hunger Games, and what lessons you will seek to teach your children when “the next big thing” comes along. 

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About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

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