Off Shoot Topic from Hunger Games *SPOILERS*

It occurred to me as I was participating in the Hunger Games topic that the discussion (even on my part) seems to assume that literature meant for children or YA (teenagers) is primarily didactic in nature, that it must “send the right message” or at least “avoid sending the wrong message”. Many people evaluating books aimed at children seem to have very high moral standards in terms of seeing good rewarded and evil punished. I myself have railed against Twilight, for example, for sending a number of disturbing messages about romantic relationships. Yet, we don’t make the same requirements for adult literature or even most TV shows and movies – if a moral message is sent, that’s nice, but it seems to be considered completely optional.

Hunger Games Book 3 (Mockingjay) SPOILERS BELOW

But I recently read a website where someone (a middle-aged lady) stated that she thought the final Hunger Games book “sends a horrible message” about relationships because the heroine winds up settling down and having children with a man who, at one point in the story, viciously tries to strangle her to death. This is so even though, in the story itself, the action can be excused away due to the man not being in his right mind at the time.

Yet, I must admit that if any woman I know told me that husband or boyfriend had violently attacked them, I would tell her to run, not walk to the nearest exit and never give him a second chance, even if he was acting, say, under the influence of drugs or had some kind of psychotic break (situations analogous to what happens in the story). No way I would want a woman I know to take the chance this could ever happen again, even if the man was later horrified by his actions and was loving and caring almost 99.9% of the time otherwise (which is pretty much the case in the story). I admit I found it disturbing that the heroine is actually criticized by other characters for NOT being more loving and compassionate towards him.

Yet, I really can’t find it in me to denounce the book because of this one plot point, or say that the author shouldn’t have included it because it sends the wrong message. I’d like to think that most readers can tell the difference between what takes place in a fictional world and what they should do in their own lives, and not think “Well, he did this, but he should be forgiven because he wasn’t in his right mind and he actually loves her, and if my boyfriend did the same thing I should forgive him too”.

But maybe I’m being too naive here and the “poop in the brownies” analogy applies? But if the only good children’s books were those where the heroes did everything right and made no mistakes, I doubt most kids would want to read them. Even Laura from the Little House books often acts recklessly and expresses anger, jealousy, etc.

I wish you had put some kind of “Spoiler” warning on your post. I haven’t read all the books in the Hunger Games trilogy and now I feel a little bit cheated by reading your comments.

I’m REALLY REALLY SORRY ABOUT spoiling you :frowning:

I did go back and add spoiler tags, and maybe I made a mistake in using that particular example, but that’s the one that stood out to me, how for some people, one plot point can destroy the whole series because characters handle a situation in a way that makes sense in a fictional universe, yet no one would recommend they act that way in real life. I’m very sorry, I admit I participate in many “fandoms” and am used to discussing books, movies, etc with people who are already “spoiled”.

I must say SPOILER AGAIN that brain washing is a much different situation than a man doing it out of anger and hate. Even the most loving husband could be tortured into an animal given time. We cannot say that the best of us humans would respond any different, and the book sends the message that sometimes people need time to heal from horrible trauma, and that love can still rebound from the darkest place given patience and trust.

That’s a good message in itself.

Literature will have a moral message but it may not alsays be aligned with Catholic morality. Some questions we might consider include:do we want to fincancially or intellectually support/spread certain messages? How should we address some of the different moral messages being spread in our communities? How might we prepare our children to analyze and critique the messages so prevalent in our culture?

bmullins, I agree that the message is valid in terms of what the actual situation in the story is. However, some people on CAF (and elsewhere) have rejected the Hunger Games series entirely without even reading a single page of the books simply due to the main subject matter, which is…


…12-18 year old children chosen as gladiators to fight to the death in an arena…

and state that they will NEVER allow their children to read the books or see the movie because there’s absolutely no way any good can come out of them being exposed to such a story, even though the story strongly condemns the practice.

In the same way, I suspect the woman who made this criticism is someone who believes very strongly that IPV (intimate partner violence) is NEVER EVER OKAY, and that even allowing for the possibility of forgiveness or redemption for someone who falls into it, even in extreme circumstances under terrible duress, is a dangerous idea. I can also understand that certain aspects of this episode might be especially disturbing because (a) strangling is a fairly characteristic of real life IPV (as opposed to stranger assault) deaths. If the male character had, say, thrown a knife or shot a gun at the heroine, it would have a slightly different connotation. and (b) the epilogue does imply that the male character may still be stricken with violent urges toward his partner from time to time, and there are children involved at this point, even though he manages to keep himself from acting on them. I think she would have been okay if the heroine forgave her partner for his actions, but still took steps to keep herself safe and did not continue a romantic relationship with him.

I think, as a parent, yes, I want a good moral message in a book aimed at children. And by children I mean elementary school age and younger. As parents, we are always trying to reinforce what is right and what is wrong, we use every available tool we can to form a good moral value system in our children. So I absolutely want a book that is clear on that. That doesn’t mean the characters in the book don’t make mistakes or can’t have real feelings in the process, but by the end of the book I want my child to have grasped a moral message or two.

Young adult literature, for me, the rules can bend. I allow my daughter to read books that maybe other parents wouldn’t let their children read. We have our own “mini” mother/daughter book club and always have discussions about the books she’s reading. And sometimes the messages are messy, but she’s learning that real life is messy. So I don’t expect books aimed at teenagers to always be “black and white”, always having to have a clear villian and a clear hero. My daughter isn’t all good 100% of the time. I don’t want her reading about characters in a book that are always good 100% of the time. Some characters in books aimed at young adults should be conflicted. Young adults are conflicted themselves, why shouldn’t the books they read reflect that reality?


I think its important to note that Peeta was brainwashed when he was trying to hurt Katniss. Its not the same thing. Eventually he overcomes the brainwashing, and that much later is when he and Katniss work things out…I find people critcizing the story to be wrong.

I also wonder if they would let their kids read a book that descripes mass genoicide, rape, incest, gruesome death scenes. Would they let their child read the Bible?

I think the Hunger Games has a really powerful message and asks some very serious questions about our society. Would I have a six year old read it now. But a teenager? I think yes. We live in a world where these things happen, and they need to be discussed with our children.

Spoilers again

Well since we’ve named names here…well, again I think that the critic of the Peeta-Katniss relationship bases her criticism not on the idea that Peeta himself is a horrible person who deserves to be rejected for his actions, but from fear that impressionable young readers will come away with the message that acts of IPV can be excused as long as the perpetrator “didn’t mean it” and “is truly sorry”. And that perhaps some girls will actually allow psychologically unstable partners to physically abuse them as long as there are sweet honeymoon periods in-between. And I have actually read HG fanfics where the Peeta-Katniss relationship devolves into that, even one where he sexually assaults her, and Katniss just keeps forgiving him over and over…and all of this seems to be presented as something to be admired.

However, I tend to think that most readers of the books, even those who write disturbing fanfics, have enough brains to realize that Peeta’s actions are far from equivalent to real life acts of IPV, that the average person who commits such acts wasn’t tortured, brainwashed, or had hallucinogens forcibly injected into himself by evil tyrants. But not everyone gives teen/YA audiences credit. She may also have been affected by Twilight, where Edward, while interestingly never physically harming Bella, does commit several emotionally and psychologically abusive actions – which are all excused, or not even noticed, by fangirls who think Edward is the perfect boyfriend.

You know, standards have dropped across all media in the last three decades. What was considered R in the past is what, PG 13 today? Some people, including Catholics, adopted the attitude that they could put the kids to bed and watch porn later.

Authors are answerable to God. But that doesn’t mean they should write boring stories. We are to strive to present and promote beauty and even physical perfection.

Authors (and artists) should enjoy what they do and present good and evil clearly and unambiguously. I’m sick of seeing the word Dark on book covers, in movie titles and in book descriptions. Take the Superman comic book - he embodied the characteristics of a hero, with a weakness. Then came the anti-heroes and “dark” heroes. How do you tell the good from the bad guy today? One is less brutal and piles up fewer bodies than the other?

The “we” you are talking about is not us - not the average guy. It’s the media that gradually dripped poison into our veins. Want a likeable serial killer? Watch Dexter. What’s next? The likeable family of cannibals next door?

Here are standards that should be adopted by all writers:

It turns my stomach to see TV programs where two attractive, highly paid people talk about their encounter from the night before. The man claims it was special. The woman replies that it was “just sex.” You know, like going to the bathroom.

I am sick of seeing TV shows where a semi-attractive doctor goes to a bar, spots a man she likes, has sex with him, and while he tries to offer his name, she motions for him not to. No STDs, no AIDS, and she’s a doctor. And if her body is found in an alley somewhere, who is the suspect? Nobody knows. She didn’t want him to even tell her his name.

No more anti-heroes. Ho more blood and guts flying everywhere, and no soft porn like Spartacus and Game of Thrones.

The time has come to say No to most media. And to politely complain.


I’m going to have to respectfully disagree on this point.
Here are some quotes from the actual codes:

  1. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.

OH GOOD LORD NOT INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPS! Gods forbid black people and white people should have babies! Horror! swoons

This was also used to justify not employing non-white actors.

  1. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.

So, we SHOULDN’T discuss STDs, then? Hey everyone! Anyone can have STD-free sex in TV and movie land! It’s so realistic!

  1. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.

Because the miracle of life is the most shameful, dirtiest thing ever, right? Oh, I know! In TV land, all the babies will be brought by storks!

In short, the Hays Code was a racist, sexist, heterosexist, classist relic of an era when filmmakers assumed that viewers were morons. No, just…not in my movies, comic books, tv shows, literature, or any other media, just no.

Why? I see no reason for this to be the case.

Then came the anti-heroes and “dark” heroes. How do you tell the good from the bad guy today? One is less brutal and piles up fewer bodies than the other?

Perhaps asking these questions is a good thing that should be encouraged, and that can happen through morally complex literature.

Here are standards that should be adopted by all writers:

Problems with this already pointed out.

It turns my stomach to see TV programs where two attractive, highly paid people talk about their encounter from the night before. The man claims it was special. The woman replies that it was “just sex.” You know, like going to the bathroom.

Then do not watch those shows, or think about them in a moral context, which it sounds like you do already.

No more anti-heroes. Ho more blood and guts flying everywhere, and no soft porn like Spartacus and Game of Thrones.

LOL. I would put the odds that you have not read all of the books at…100%.

I think its more important to give children realism then aim for ‘morals’. sorry that comes across crass lets go with something a bit more relate able.

At the age of 1-6 kids need only worry about basic morals. Killing is wrong, stealing, lieing, cheating ect. Here is the age that the basic commandments and deattitiueds come into play. You tell them what they can do and what they can’t. They may ask about whys but the harsh world isn’t ready for them or them for it.

7-13 Things get more complicated as the whys come out. Here is where what I like to cal ‘the baby lessons’ end. Sometimes good things happen to bad people. Stuff brakes people die. the word isn’t perfect and mom and dad make mistakes like everyone else. They maybe not ready for movies with blood and gore but they understand that stories like that exist.

After that the steps from adulthood begin to form and the child is peaking into reality on their own even if mommy and daddy don’t like it.

Now here comes the heart of my point:

Morals come automatic but pretending there is not evils in the world shielding children from bad guys in books movies and games because they eat babies isn’t going to help them.


Its one thing to want morals but ultimately what you need to look for is entertainment (books, movies, games) that show consequences for peoples actions. the Hero falls, is punished, seeks redemption the plot goes on. Bad guys will be bad but they pay or at lest the viewer is shown the ashes of the world the bad guy makes because darkness was easier.

When I was younger my parents banned starwars because they feared it was tied to the occult. that it had a weak moral lesson as you watch bad guys do horrid things with powers few had.

What they didn’t know was I saw a epic tale of light vs dark. an empire suffering under the regime of a corrupted soul and a fallen warrior who even at the end could be turned to the light.

I say our main hero at the end tempted with great anger, hate and bloodlust. had a tiny taste of these dark powers but looking at his own hands saw the darkness that birthed his father and rather then give in would die then ‘win’ a lost soul.

that is a story with morals my friends. I read your posts and some of you worry me a little. The Christian habit of shielding darkness from our young will not save them.

showing them how to fight it even after falling will.

Age appropriate of course!

Walk with God

No more anti-heroes. Ho more blood and guts flying everywhere, and no soft porn like Spartacus and Game of Thrones.

The time has come to say No to most media. And to politely complain.

Okay you have to give me a good reason for the anti hero because just saying ‘no’ is not a good argument make.

Blood and guts… I half agree. I think it gives people contrast to understand the consequences of action. Yes the hero is the hero but he did just cleave the bad guy in twain and that something he/she will have to live with. How much humanity can the hero hold onto? Will the Hero become what he/she seeks to destroy? Will the Hero at the end put up his/her sword and walk away showing conviction that he/she can? The Last Samurai was the BEST Movie for this and it was in parts bloody but the message rings truth!

Soft core porn I 100% agree on. I’m not saying you shouldn’t imply that someones not up to no good in the bedroom but there’s a neat thing people forget exists called ‘fade to black’. Its highly under used these days.

I don’t like the FCC. They are not grounded in reality so I pretend they are not there, sorry

I can’t get past that your parents banned Star Wars because they thought it was a part of the occult. That’s a new one for me.

If we are specifically talking about the Hunger Games though, people get stuck on the concept that its a book about kids killing kids. They don’t read the rest of the book that its not the kids that came up with this concept, the government at the time did to keep the people they govern in line. And people watch it on TV in the books, and the people that survive are based on their popularity. If that’s not a moral lesson about reality tv and the path its starting to go down. They brought Fear Factor back this year, where we watch people do completely disgusting stuff just to be on TV. People watched a reality tv star with a sex tape in her past get married last year, only to have the marriage end in 70 days. How many times do people want to watch the most horrid of accidents and crimes on tv and youtube?

These are the themes I stressed with my daughter, because her peers think nothing of the stuff they watch on tv and youtube. It really wasn’t that hard of a stretch for me in watching the first movie of the Hunger Games that watching kids killing kids in a world that survives after a nuclear war do what they have to do for the government to think they have to keep control of their people. I think its a serious message to what people consider entertainment and what it could be in the future.

Well they banned in because they were reading Michael O’Brien book called ‘Landscape of Dragons’. It into detail about how different shows give kids the wrong message. His point in the book was that the ‘force’ was a power not everyone had which could lead children in taken a elites stance that ’ you don’t have powers your nothing’ as well as giving kids the idea they had powers/magic.

As much as I respect him as a writer and a father I think hes over thinking some of his points.

I think he would get hung up on the ‘children fighting children’ plot point too. Hunger Games isn’t meant for young kids I’ll grant you but that doesn’t mean its a bad story.

As I said, showing the bad guy being Evil and the world he makes with that Evil provides contrast the viewer can see as the why it must be stopped. If evil has no face then the conflict has no meaning.

“Hes evil!”
“Cause he… wears a black hat and everyone says hes evil!”
“Do they even tell you what he did wrong or show you?”
“No… not really…”


I read his book as well. And maybe I’m remembering what I read selectively, but I thought he used Star Wars as the clear cut of example of being able to tell the good from the bad. That both were clearly distinguishable and the measure to use against other stories.

I can point out the page if i had the book but his point was in chapter two about how the force can’t be used as a plot device because powers in the real world are linked to evil.

As a published author and professional editor, I will present good and evil unambiguously.


Is this your preference, or a moral imperative to which you adhere? If the latter, what is the basis?

I remember reading an article about fairy tales that argued that children like fairy tales because children have an “inherent sense of justice”. Good prevails, evil is punished, all is right with the world.

But, as children go older, they see that the “bad guys” in the real world aren’t like cartoon villains. Let’s take Hitler for an example. No one’s going to dispute that Hitler is pure evil (except for Neo-Nazi cretins) but Hitler went on picnics with his family, Hitler owned a freakin’ dog, for Heaven’s sake! There was once talk of destroying the footage which showed Hitler, being, well, normal, because no one wants to think of the Big Bad of the last century being anything but the mastermind behind the Holocaust.

I think that adults are (obviously) much better equipped to handle ambiguity, but at some point, there comes a time when kids learn: “Sometimes, the bad guy wins.” (Granted, that doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes.) As much as we might want the guilty to get their comeuppance, that doesn’t always happen.

As for heroic types, I still enjoy the “knight in shining armor” at times, but I also like the characters who are flawed but still someone you want to root for, and then there are those characters that you root for because, well, the alternative is much worse. Sometimes good characters aren’t very nice people, someone who isn’t very nice might be a softie on the inside, and just because they look creepy doesn’t mean that they’re evil.

I’m going to stop referencing TV Tropes now.

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