This column contains some spoilers
WE are appalled when we read a story about kids killing kids, young disaffected youth opening fire on a classroom full of students.
Today, our kids are reading and watching Hunger Games which is all about kids killing kids. What kind of world do we live in, in which we are justifying a current fad that advocates kids killing kids for no reason except control by the elite and pure entertainment value? We justify it by saying that at least our kids are reading. We justify it by saying that there is a strong female protagonist.
The point is that this book and movie are based on a totally immoral premise. And as a result our kids are talking about kids killing kids as if it were simply a game. Should we not take a stand and be the arbiters of what our kids are consuming? Is it not our job to set the standards for our innocent children?
We have seen kids killing kids in the news, and we are devastated. But, even the true stories of such massacres are moral at some level.
The young people carrying out school and college killing sprees have a reason for their actions. They are seeking revenge for how they have been treated; they are responding to repeated bullying; they are reacting to being denied admittance to a program or a social group. They may be mentally ill. But, while it all seems incomprehensible, at some level, there is a reason.
In Hunger Games the killing is a state-determined and sanctioned game. The kids, who are chosen at random to kill or be killed, have no reason to do so except that these are the rules of the game. If they want to live, they need to kill.
The society consists of 12 districts and one boy and one girl are chosen from each so there will be 24 kids in the arena. Katniss Everdeen is from District 12 along with her male counterpart Peeta Mellark.
The randomness of the choices is upsetting. No teen in this book is free from the possibility of being chosen to play the game. There can be no sense of safety or security in this society. Even after they reach their 18th birthday, they may see their younger sibling or neighbour chosen to participate.
And speaking of safety and security, another aspect of Katniss's life is that since she was 14 she has been the family caregiver.
The games are live entertainment for the masses, a truly horrifying reality show. As such, there are strategies the youth are taught to use in order to live and to be popular with their audience. Being popular can mean receiving gifts that will enhance their ability to win.
So, Katniss and Peeta are counselled to appear romantically inclined. Their romance becomes part of the show. Peeta is actually interested in Katniss and has been for years. Katniss is conflicted about the relationship but plays the game. She is being taught to use her sexuality to manipulate the outcome of the game in her favour. And later, when it becomes convenient to deny the romance, she does so without even being aware that she is hurting her friend Peeta. This theme is touched on in the movie but clearly laid out in the first book. And my guess is that most teens attending this movie are also reading the books.
Are these themes we want out teens emulating? Do we want to see them texting and chatting about the ins and outs of kids killing kids? But I must be real. Kids are attending this movie and reading the books in droves. It is the latest thing.
So parents need to be aware of the messages they are receiving. They need to talk to their kids about the immoral theme that underlies the book. They need to acknowledge that the books are eminently readable and the movie very well done. But that the premise is wrong and evil. The kids need to hear our side of the story.
We need to listen to them. What are they taking from the Hunger Games? Discuss the topic. It's important and we are falling down on our responsibilities by not talking to our kids about this new craze. It is our responsibility as parents to help them set their moral compass.
Kids killing kids is devastating. The idea of kids killing kids for sheer entertainment is appalling.
Let's pay attention to what our kids are reading, watching and talking about.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.