For: strong pervasive moral confusion
The Hunger Games is fatally weak. Its characters are only adolescent-deep, its plot and running time clash, and the movie ironically turns out to be just another incarnation of the bad guy from its own social commentary. The Hunger Games’ teen-centered world has no moral standard, leaving its young protagonists to battle human cruelty with nothing but payback and violence of their own, and leaving its audience with no choices but to enjoy the cruelty like the villains do, or not enjoy the movie.
Strong Pervasive Moral Confusion
The Hunger Games is the fictional futuristic story of Katniss Everdeen, who becomes one of twenty-four teenagers and children to participate in a federally sponsored survival competition, which ends when all but one of the young “tributes” is dead.
What makes the villains of The Hunger Games (the government officials and television producers) the villains, is their drive to kill, or at least enjoy watching people be killed. While typically what makes a main character the hero is his or her drive to oppose what the villains are doing, and to do what is right instead, in The Hunger Games the basis for the main character Katniss Everdeen’s portrayal as a hero is, ultimately, her survival skills, including her drive to kill. Ultimately, she has no drive to oppose the villains, and she has no concept of righteousness.
It is the villains, and the weak ones, in The Hunger Games who enjoy watching the bloody, gruesome teenage display of hacking, stabbing, axing and shooting. In order to get this point, however, the audience of The Hunger Games is required to submit to the same sordid display of hacking, stabbing, axing, shooting, neck-twisting, head smashing, blood spattering, and open-eyed, mangled corpses… and to like it, even if they’re not required to like it quite as much as the villains.1 Even Katniss’ (positively-portrayed) best friend back home, who made the profound observation that ending the Games would be as simple as everyone refusing to watch them, ends up watching for the very same reasons he called “sick” earlier on.
Before the Hunger Games, Katniss is shown training to kill people, with no mental reserve about using her training. During the games, in addition to a few self-defense kills, Katniss smilingly makes an off-the-cuff plan to poison another tribute to death. At one point, Katniss expresses uncertainty about hunting humans, but only because her hunting experience has heretofore been confined to animal hunting, and she worries that her skills may not be polished enough. Her best friend assures her that shooting a human is no different than shooting a squirrel.
Katniss’ motives for going along with the violent and deadly Hunger Games are fair, but extremely far from adequate. While she only volunteers to participate in the Games as a substitute for her beloved little sister (which would be a noble action, taken by itself), Katniss goes on to the Games fully intending to kill as many people as it takes to win, claiming that she “just can’t afford” to think otherwise, because she has to get back to her sister. Her sister, however, has a mother and friends to help provide for her immediate needs and protect her from harm, which means that Katniss is willing to murder twenty-three human beings in order to, at best, be around just in case her sister needs her at some point.
On multiple occasions, a rival tribute, Peeta, asks Katniss why she helps him instead of killing him or leaving him to die. Katniss has no answer to give.
Katniss shoots one of the more vicious teenagers to death to spare him from the pain of being attacked by dogs. Because even with his known cruelty Katniss has no legal or moral right to kill him, this is at worst murder, and at best a positively-portrayed form of assisted suicide.
Katniss buys a little metal pin at a junk sale, and gives it to her little sister with the deliberate lie that it will protect her. “As long as you have it, nothing bad will happen to you. I promise,” she says. And the little girl, deceived by her older sister, gives the pin back to Katniss later on to protect her during the games. Besides being a blatant, pointless lie,2 this running subtheme demands an assent to the idea that pagan superstition is acceptable. At another point, Katniss feels it incumbent upon herself to promise another girl something that she has no control over. Katniss also lies to the Games’ sponsors in order to gain their favor.
As an aside, feminism also shows up in The Hunger Games. For much of the movie, guys and girls are treated as if they were the same thing—namely, guys. However, both brains and skills end up being disproportionately greater on the female side, and while Peeta is shown to have tremendous physical strength (far beyond what a female could naturally attain), his key ability is completely discarded in favor of numerous displays of Katniss’ prowess.
1 There is nothing biblically wrong with enjoying a movie where good and evil battle it out in violent ways. In The Hunger Games, however, it doesn’t really matter whether the combatants are good or evil, as long as one or both of them get killed. It’s violence merely for the sake of a morbid thrill.
2 While Katniss’ motive in lying to her sister was to give the little girl something to cling to in confidence, in real life, present and future, pointing her sister to Christ would be infinitely more appropriate, and infinitely more beneficial, besides being a true source of comfort, rather than a fraud.