The bestselling author Suzanne Collins penned the novel The Hunger Games which has been made into one of the highest grossing films of all time. In fact, it has become such a sensation that girl tweens are having Hunger Games themed birthday parties where guests come in costume as the characters from the novel and film. When I saw the movie many of the children in the audience were also dressed up. The actors who star in the film are all over the talk shows and rumors tell us that there will be three sequels.
In case you’ve missed it (I don’t know how anyone could!) The Hunger Games is about a dystopia that was once North American and is now a horrible place ruled by a fascist government simply called “The Capital.” Every year the powers that be hold a lottery and force children from each of the many communities that make up this society to participate. A boy and girl are picked from each of these “districts” and are forced to partake in The Hunger Games and fight each other to the death. Twenty four children begin this horrific game, which is broadcasted live in all of its bloody glory for all to see, and only one – the winner – remains alive at its conclusion. It is a fascinating story, a beautifully written book and a suspenseful and well-crafted movie. It is a truly astonishing.
On the book-jacket of the first volume Suzanne Collins is described as an author who explores “how war and violence affect young people.” I find this very interesting because The Hunger Games is about a lot of things: distrust of the government, loyalty to family, the complexity of love – it’s about the essence of who we are as human beings and how strong our survival instincts can be. It also makes a strong anti-war and violence statement that I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about.
I hope that through reading the book and seeing the movie young people will get a message that isn’t as flashy as the sexy stars on screen or as appealing as the triangular love-story at the heart of the tale. Actually there are several take-aways: It is important that we question our government and keep ourselves healthy – both mentally and physically – as communities. It’s important to keep hope alive for every human being and it is important to give aid to those to rightfully fight for our country. It’s also important to sacrifice for others. With these thoughts in mind I think that children and young adults can find true meaning in this story. As a counselor in training it brings to mind real wars – both literal and figurative –that are being fought all over the world every day…and how essential mental health professionals are. Whether we are working with soldiers with PTSD or the homeless we are on the frontlines of helping people cope with their world.
Susan Jennifer Polese is a counselor in training, a personal coach and a freelance writer. Her areas of interest are mindfulness, divergent thinking, and creativity in counseling.