The Hunger Games is a serious movie that raises serious questions. A PG-13 rating for teenagers battling to the death onscreen? That type of butchery catapulted to almost universal obligatory reading for 6th grade and up?
The debates will go on. However, the most interesting questions are the ones The Hunger Games themselves ask.
The whole trilogy revolves around a series of moral dilemmas that in the end boil down to the two essentials of morality: what we do, and why we do it.
What makes Katniss such an endearing hero is the fact that she is no hero—just a decent person trying to fight her way through the maze of evil that suddenly crisscrosses her life.
As the stakes rise, Suzanne Collins places Katniss in one dilemma after another. Self-defense? Mercy killing? Lying? Bloody revolution? Vengeance? Katniss doesn’t always know what to do. She’s not always sure if she acted for the right reason. Or what the right reason is, for that matter.
Katniss doesn’t even always make the right choice. She knows that, and agonizes over the past. Why did I kill? Why did I lie? Was it the right thing to do?
The worst thing about The Hunger Games is that they don’t give any answers. Just as in real life, gut-wrenching dilemmas pile up, one after the other, without waiting for the protagonists to catch up.
Nonetheless, that brutal frankness is what makes the books and the movie so powerful. They don’t shy away from the fact that our world—just like Panem—constantly forces us to choose between good and evil. They don’t ignore the consequences of either. They don’t try to smooth things over.
The Hunger Games are a reminder that all of us eventually have to measure our conscience against very tough decisions. And that we had better be ready for them.
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