Hunger Games: Good Entertainment or A Bad Lesson in Ethics?
My first exposure to Hunger Games came from an article I came across in World Magazine online. At the time I skimmed the article thought little of the movie then moved on. In the ensuing weeks, however, I saw a plethora of blog posts and Facebook comments about the movie, sparking my interest. As I dug into the plot and setting and reviewed some of my friends’ thoughts on the matter, I became disheartened by the unqualified acceptance of such a movie by parts of the Christian community.
My purpose here is not to review the movie. I’ll not take space to summarize the movie either because (1) I haven’t seen it myself and (2) there are plenty of resources out there that probably summarize it well enough (see below). Rather, I’d like to take some space to consider drama in general, how it relates to the Christian life, and what the entertainment industry does to the Christian mind. At least one thing needs to be clear about the world system, the anti-God philosophies and ideas: If it is not actively engaged and battling the world’s way of thinking with biblical principles, the Christian’s mind is being pressed into the mold of this world (Rom 12:2).
I took a course on drama in college that opened my eyes a little more to what drama is and how it communicates. Here is a simple list of some characteristics of drama:
- Every drama has the same general structure.
- Each drama follows a limited number of plot lines. There is nothing new under the sun here, nothing.
- The difference among movies, what producers and screenwriters are always trying to innovate, is the setting. There is a constant need to innovate and have some new setting to attract or keep an audience, but the plot is always the same.
- Every drama has an (or multiple) agenda(s) or worldview or moral. Every one. Most of them are anti-God.
Let’s focus on the last point for a moment. What is the worldview of Hunger Games? In his review of the book, Douglas Wilson outlines the setting and editorializes: “… when you have the privilege of setting up all the circumstances artificially, in order to give your protagonist no real choice about whether to sin or not, it is a pretty safe bet that a whole lot of people in a relativistic country, including the Christians in it unfortunately, won’t notice.” The setup is that the protagonists needs to kill in order to survive—kill or be killed. No choice, right? But is that true? The ethic employed in the book and movie situational (SE). The worldview is that society sets its own morals. Think of it this way (Wilson alludes to this too): Would it be wrong for a married woman to have sexual relations with someone who is not her husband? What if that woman was a Jew living in a WWII concentration camp and she was being presented with the choice to sleep with a guard or watch her family be executed? SE would argue that it was okay for the woman to do that in WWII because of the threat on her family’s well-being. Society has sympathy for the woman. SE, though, is unbiblical. It is sinful. What SE and society fail to consider is that a holy God has set standards of morality that are not situational. “It is not a sin to be murdered. It is not a sin to have your loved ones murdered. It is not a sin to defend your loved ones through every lawful means” (Wilson). It is sin to murder and commit adultery.
What is troubling to me about this is the number of confessional Christians in my circle of influence who gleefully go into the movie theater assuming that because the movie has a particular rating, contains only mild language, and contains no nudity or sex it is “okay” for a Christian to partake. Would anyone disagree that murder is sin? Always? Then, as a friend of mine said yesterday from the pulpit, “Can we entertain ourselves with the sins for which Christ died?” Is Hunger Games legitimate entertainment?
Lest my readers infer too much, I constantly struggle with my entertainment choices. I play games like MW3. I watch war movies. I enjoy television dramas like NCIS. But I am noticing an ever-increasing ease with doing wrong to make right. NCIS is a prime example: Is it okay to bend (break) the rules in order to get the bad guy? Gibbs would say, “yes.” But that is SE. Unbiblical. Should I be using that for my entertainment? Good question.