Friday, November 29, 2013

The "Hunger Games" Critique, Sequel Edition

It's not just me: about a year and a half ago the Billy Rubin Blog posted a cranky essay complaining that "The Hunger Games", whatever its cinematic merits, should not have been given a PG-13 rating. (We have since seen the movie during a very, very long flight to Mozambique, and our misgivings remain, unaltered.)

Now comes the sequel, "Catching Fire", and we've not much new to say. We do note, however, that ESPN's "Tuesday Morning Quarterback", Mr. Gregg Easterbook, offered up his own two cents in the midst of NFL Week #12 analysis, with which we entirely agree. It even includes a link to a medical journal!

Movie critics are noting the "Hunger Games" flicks soften the violence of the books. Viewers see Jennifer Lawrence launch arrows, but don't see the children-killing-children bloodbath that makes the books so disturbing. Any faithful cinematic rendering of the "Hunger Games" books would be R-rated, if not NC-17. There goes the shopping-mall tween-girl target audience.

Set aside what it says about contemporary culture that a franchise of bestselling books and box-office hits, about a fascist society that graphically slaughters children, is targeted to affluent shopping-mall girls and their moms. Books for the young-adult market have changed from dreamy happiness (the "Chronicles of Narnia") to horrific brutality ("Hunger Games," the "Golden Compass" trilogy, the thousands of interchangeable vampire books) during the very period in which crime and war have declined, living standards have improved, education has increased and lifespans extended. In "Hunger Games" flicks, Katniss is presented as a positive role model for girls, which seems like saying John Brown is a positive role model for boys. But at least, one might suppose, "Catching Fire" is an instance of Hollywood toning down rather than ramping up violence.

That's not the norm for shopping-mall flicks. This new study from the journal Pediatrics finds that depictions of gun violence are now as common in PG-13 movies as in R-rated fare. PG-13 is the shopping-mall audience: tweens and teens are being deluged with ever-more Hollywood depictions of gun use. Hollywood won't show characters smoking, because viewers might imitate that. But glamorous movie stars gunning down the helpless, Hollywood has no problem there.


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