We are devastated when we read a story about kids killing kids. Young disaffected youth opening fire on a classroom full of students, killing and injuring what could be their peers.
Today, our kids are reading and watching Hunger Games which is all about kids killing kids.
The big difference is that 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 twelve districts and one boy and one girl are chosen from each so there will be 24 kids in the arena. Katniss is from District 12 and her male counterpart is 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 in order to be popular with their audience. Being popular can mean receiving gifts that will enhance their ability to win.
So, Katniss and Peeta are counseled 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 to romance she does so without even being aware that she is hurting her friend Peeta.
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?
At the very least, if your teens are reading these books and going to the movies, talk to them about the themes. Listen to them. What are they learning from this entertainment
Kids killing kids is devastating. The idea of kids killing kids for sport with no reason whatsoever is appalling.
Let’s pay attention to what our kids are reading, watching and talking about.