Recently, I’ve seen a few people ask on Facebook why they should read The Hunger Games.
It’s understandable when a book creates such a frenzied following and is already secured 4 movie deals that some want to know why they should jump on the bandwagon.
They want to know, Is this just the current ‘thing’ or is it something more substantial?
The overwhelmingly majority have said, “Yes! It’s a must-read! It’s intriguing, thought-provoking with a strong female hero.”
But I was honestly surprised when a few people said don’t read The Hunger Games, because they’re immoral and ungodly. After my initial, “Whaaat?” my literary sensibilities were ruffled.
To have the plumbline of what we do or do not read be immorality is tricky. Is everything worth reading or viewing? Is all edifying? Are all stories equal? No.
But if we say, “Oh, don’t read that because there’s sin in it,” then we’re negating the experience of human life.
Should we not be around other people because their sinners? Should we not read the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, lest our American-Christian sensibilities forget the incest, human sacrifices, mass killings found in those first 39 books?
Do we stop teaching about the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement, because they’re hard to stomach?
Because they make us uncomfortable?
When people say The Hunger Games is about kids killing kids, they’ve missed the point.
The Hunger Games is about survival, sacrifice, fighting oppression, and not letting another dictate your life. Yes, there are children thrown into an arena and told kill or be killed for the entertainment of a privileged and sheltered audience.
The Hunger Games is fascinating, because what would you do if you were thrown into the arena?
If at 17-years-old you are the sole provider for your family and their lives literally depend on you, what would you do?
If you had the chance to stand up to a dictator and say, “You don’t own me,” would you do it?
How do you live after being hunted and thrown over and over again into the clutches of death?
One of the beautiful things about storytelling is the ability for it to teach, move, and strengthen us. Nearly all good stories require us to be uncomfortable, to go a bit further, ask more than we’re willing to give.
How will I know what it means to be resilient if I keep with the happy, comfortable, and tidy?
How will I know that some of life’s messiest battles are in the will if I stay with the easy?
How will I come to sympathize with the pain of others if I never hear it?
Oppression lives outside of Panem.
Rape. Abuse. Slavery.
Poverty. Wrongly accused. Orphans.
Depression. Power struggles. The loss of everything.
All of these are common themes in great literature. Why?
Story gives us perspective, empathy, and teaches us what it means to be human.
We need stories of betrayal, because we are the worst of betrayers. We need stories of despair to know we are not alone. We need stories that will explore even the darkest recesses of our heart.
We need stories that will tell us Jesus is not afraid of our mess, our ugly.
We need love stories that go beyond cheesy pick-up lines and love at first sight. We need stories of humility and sacrifice. We need heroes—we need strong male heroes and strong female heroes.
But even more, we need stories to give us hope, to tell us we are not beyond the arms of grace.
That redemption is possible.
No matter what.