How The Hunger Games Can Teach Violence Prevention

Posted on May 7, 2012 by

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Image: Amazon

The buzz about The Hunger Games among my colleagues was all centered on the fact that it’s a series in which young people murder young people. (Anyone with dry eyes after Rue is killed has no soul.) While Suzanne Collins, the daughter of a Vietnam vet, has said that she believes preventing war requires exposing kids to the harsh realities of violence, many disagree.

Image: Amazon

Hordes of excited readers flocked to the theaters for the opening of the first movie, while violence experts cringed. Should we normalize violence this much? Are we really sending our kids to watch movies where kids kill kids? What lessons are we teaching young people?

Where many of us saw trouble, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence saw something positive: gender equality.  The protagonist of The Hunger Games is Katniss, a strong young woman who is intelligent, athletic, and empowered. The male characters in love interest roles, Peeta and Gale, are sensitive, respectful, and positive. And isn’t that a great way to promote healthy teen relationships?

The coalition started by taking a survey at the film’s opening night.

Among their findings was that, “Even though almost 40% of the teens surveyed never experience gender equality in their own life, 69% of the young people surveyed thought that gender equality was the most important message in The Hunger Games – how Katniss, Peeta, and Gale showed different but equally good ways to be strong, how Katniss makes her own choices, and how gender equality changes everything.”

Time-out. The most important messages should be about violence, totalitarianism, oppression, and social justice.

But I’ll take something positive wherever I can find it, especially to promote healthy relationships among teens. Healthy teens can grow into healthy adults, and healthy adults can make a more peaceful world.

Toward that end, the Idaho Coalition created a free lesson plan that can be used to promote healthy relationships in teens. And that, my friends, is how a disturbingly violent movie and book series can, instead, be used to prevent violence instead.

What do you think? It is possible to teach non-violence using a series that is fundamentally violent?

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