ACA Blog

Stacee Reicherzer
Apr 03, 2012

“The Hunger Games” as an Invitation to Social Critique: A Step in Dialogue About Media Exploitation?

I’m often a day late and a dollar short when it comes to social movements. I was the last in my circle to get a smart phone. Until late last year, I still watched the same box television that I’d bought for my first apartment 20 years ago. I almost never read the same books that everyone else is reading (Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” was a fun exception) and I miss most of the blockbusters until they’re out on DVD. I was extremely pleased with myself for seeing “The Hunger Games” last night, then, just a few days after its release. No, I didn’t read the book (See? I’m just not up on what’s hot).

A good dystopian tale is always of interest for me as a counselor because I appreciate a critique of social trends, often questioning as I do their impact on mental health. Author bell hooks has commented on movies as a powerful source of pedagogy in that they reach mass audiences and can revise our understanding of culture. Over the years, as I’ve witnessed our appetite for lurid reality television and news that graphically depicts humanity as a greedy and amoral social organism, I’ve wondered about how we evolve, and the things that shape how we see the world.

What I appreciated about “The Hunger Games,” a story of how young people from 12 different regions compete to the death in an ultimate reality show, was its ability to tell a tale of media as a source of amplified exploitation; and exploitation is a topic that should be of interest to all counselors. We should be intensely concerned about not only our client populations who are being directly exploited, but also our dominant culture that consumes exploitation as news and entertainment. If the dialogue about exploitation goes public and we all begin talking about what “The Hunger Games” represents of a dystopian future society, we might begin dismantling problematic cultural trends.

Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.

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