Happy Hunger Games! Sex vs. Violence

Last year or so (a while back), somehow, my spouse and I got into reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  (No links.  Seriously?)  So we were very excited to see that a movie was being made of the books.  It was even cooler that it was scheduled to open on my birthday, so last Friday we went and saw it.

I liked it.  There were some oddities.  Katniss’s arrows aren’t very functional, and yet she manages to do an awful lot with them.  They don’t appear to have bladed heads, yet she uses one to slice open a mesh bag.   Also,  she seems to have a near-infinite supply of arrows, though I wasn’t counting.  Maybe some parachute I didn’t see dropped a bunch.

There were some things I didn’t think were terribly well-done, but these are in no small part the book’s fault:  Peeta really comes across as pretty helpless (though they do show him as an expert in camouflage.  The Actor who plays Katniss–and indeed, many of the actors who play teenagers–don’t look the part.  There is a certain gawkiness that people from 12-18 have that they simply don’t.  They look far too comfortable in their skins.  I was vaguely reminded of Logan’s Run by some of the shots of the Capitol.

That out of the way, I found the handling of the kid-on-kid violence to be less than ideal.  I don’t generally like movies with a lot of bloodletting, but when bloodletting is integral to the story, it shouldn’t be quite so sanitized.  Violence–the circuses of this society of bread and circuses–needed to be seen.  The book was partly a warning about that way of living.  On the other hand, they clearly had to get PG-13 for this film, so I can understand some of the trimming (though does anyone think, had these been adults, that the violence would have been quite so hidden?).

The book is essentially de-sexed (Alexi Panshin’s [wonderful] Right of Passage is more explicit) and the movie hews pretty closely to the book.

Which is why I thought it rather odd when I heard a parent behind me telling his daughter “cover your eyes” when Katniss and Peeta kissed in the cave.  I mean, he hadn’t said anything when Rue and her killer died within seconds of each other (the latter from Katniss’s arrow).  Or when at opening bell people are hacking at each other wth axes and knives.  Or when the alliance leader snaps the neck of his hapless camp guard.

Why is it OK to show incredible violence, but it’s not OK to show tenderness and love?  Consider that in many popular PG- and PG-13 films people die by the car-, bus-, plane-, train-, city-, and/or planet-full.  But show a little skin, and you get bumped to R pretty quickly (Titanic was a titanic exception).  Go beyond implication the merest implication of sexuality (by doing more than have people come out of the same bedroom) and you lock the film down.

Yet young people are far more likely to encounter love and sex in real life than they are to encounter robots, killer aliens, mercenaries, gang members, etc.   It would be nice for them to have good role models for that, wouldn’t it?  Or is that the real explanation:  that we try to protect sex and love because they are common experiences?  Well, if so, we’re doing a rather poor job of it.  We tell them that hate and violence are acceptable, and love and sex are not?

I don’t think much of the MPAA rating system.  Your thoughts?

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