We Are Rome (And That’s Not a Good Thing)
I have already made a lot of fuss about The Hunger Games (click here, here, or here), but I can’t resist at least one more post. A friend of mine watched the movie in the theater on opening night. The house was packed. The audience rode the emotional roller coaster until the film climaxed with a showdown between the “good” characters (Katniss and Peeta) and the last remaining “bad” character (Cato). And as Cato fell to certain death, the crowd cheered.
Did you catch that? The crowd cheered! As a 16 year old boy—who was born into a corrupt world system that forced children to fight to the death—fell from safety to be eaten by wild dogs, the crowd cheered.
In my first post on The Hunger Games, I said that I creeped myself out when I realized that I was enjoying a story about kids killing each other. As I read the books, I was disgusted by the members of “the Capitol” who were shallow enough to view a forced teenage death match as entertainment. But I realized that I was indicted when I found myself rooting for one of these teens to triumph by killing the others. (To be clear, I enjoyed the books for reasons that are far deeper than the glorification of violence—I’m just admitting that I too got caught up in the drama of the games.)
It’s no stretch to say that Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games in an attempt to show us how shallow we have become—to prophetically announce that we have become so entertainment focused that we will allow gross atrocities to unfold beneath our noses so long as our stomachs and eyes are satisfied.
How terrifying, then, that you could be sitting amongst a few hundred of your fellow citizens, taking in a prophetic statement about your society’s shallow apathy, and then hear them all break into applause when a teenage boy (himself marred and calloused, but human and young nonetheless) falls to his death.
I’m all for enjoying movies, and I’m not saying that the people in the theater with my friend are especially evil. We all have an ingrained desire to see the wicked punished, and in the movie, this 16 year old was behaving wickedly. But I do think that this example shows the extent to which we need to hear Suzanne Collins’ indictment. Is our generation really willing to fight evil in all its forms, even if we have full bellies and diversions galore? We think the coliseum in Rome was a terrible affront to the dignity of man, but can we really claim to be any better? Based on this particular instance, I’d say no.