Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Nonviolence: The Hunger Games and Violence as Entertainment

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

I looked around – once, then twice – and after verifying that nobody familiar was around I did the deed: “One ticket for The Hunger Games, please.” Just a few days before, I had announced that I would not watch the film: children killing children is not something I want to witness. I have never read the books, but I have read enough reviews to know what the film contains. Within hours of tweeting my announcement, many had advised me on why the film was worth seeing: the film – just as the book – was a social commentary on violence, hegemony and totalitarianism.

I was doubtful whether it was the right thing to do. I brought it to prayer. I hoped to experience detachment, spiritual freedom, to let the Spirit guide my decision. Why do I want to see this film? Do I want to prove others or myself wrong? Do I just want to be entertained? In prayer, I discerned mixed feelings about the film. On the one hand, my growing desire to witness to nonviolence challenges me to discern the type of images and information to which I expose myself. Media that contain sex and violence are highly consumed, and are highly profitable. As I try to live nonviolence, it is important to abstain from films that glorify violence. On the other hand, I craved for the excitement of this type of film. After praying about the film, and weighing on the pros and cons of watching it, I decided to watch it, and to pray about my experience afterwards.

After watching the film, I felt numb. The film is very graphic. Maybe what makes it so graphic is the fact that selected teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 kill one another in an outdoor arena. This televised competition is the punishment to all districts of a nation known as Panem because of a past uprising. The film features many types of violence. There is violence against the districts through the structures of power that are in place to control and subdue them. There is violence in the fighting between the contestants of the Hunger Games. There is violence that results from the oppression and causes many in District 12 to resist.

This violence weighed down on me. The film lacked the social commentary on violence that I was told the book contains. The book is written in the voice of the main character – 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen – and her thoughts and feelings are not as explicit in the film. After leaving the movie theatre, I wondered whether everyone who watched the film felt as disturbed by the violence as I was. I pondered whether they reflected about the violence and the social structures that were present in the film. Perhaps many will consume the film as mere entertainment and move on to the next thing.

The Hunger Games made me think about the way our society consumes violence. I thought about the way I read newspapers and watch the news. When I read or hear about 23 people dying after a bomb attack, sometimes I say to myself, “Thank God it was only 23.” Then, I carry on. I miss the point completely: even the death of one is a great loss. I have become used to reading about violence and oppression. I have become desensitized in many ways. I believe the exposure to violence in media is one of the main causes of this. The other one is the fact that as humans we cannot absorb all the pain and violence in our hearts; we create mechanisms to cope.

Yet, Jesus continues to call me to carry His people in my heart. He calls me to choose nonviolence, to “choose life” (Dt 30:19). As we will be reminded during the Easter Triduum, we are called to “beat swords into plowshares” (Is 2:4), and to embrace the peace that comes from following the Crucified.

1 comment:

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