Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Games, Midnight, and Broken Promises

Alternate title:  Obligatory Hunger Games Post

Y'all know I'm a fan of midnight movies with my older kids.  I love taking that time with them. Even if they leave me in the dust to sit with their friends, I still have them all to myself for the thirty-minute drive home at 3 am.  I wouldn't trade those 3 am discussions for any amount of sleep.  And that's really saying something.

Thursday night at the last minute, Ben decided he wanted to see if there were any tickets still available for Hunger Games.  No problem, so he called his buddy McKay and the three of us headed over to the theater around 9:45 pm.  Lines wrapped around the building, but we only waited about 40 minutes before we were allowed into the theater, where we found very good seats and made ourselves comfy for the next hour until the movie started.

I know most of the civilized world has already seen the movie or at least read the book, but I won't spoil it for any of you.  What I will tell you is this:  It is violent.  Very violent.  It is not well-acted.  It is not beautifully or creatively shot.  It's just okay.  It will not be one of my favorite movies.  I'm sure I won't ever see it again.

That all being said, I wanted to tell you what those two sophomore boys said about the movie on our drive home.  Both of them have read the books multiple times.  Both are huge fans (and both were disappointed with the ending of the series), and both were excited to see the movie.

Neither of them really liked the movie.  Both commented on the violence and missing story line.  Both enjoyed the movie on some level, but it was not their fave either.

What really opened my eyes was their concern about the violence--how graphic it was.  How explicit it was. So it wasn't just me as a prudish 40-something adult.

I had a hard time going to sleep that night.  You see, I had promised Lily that even though she was not allowed to attend the midnight showing (Hello! She's 11.), I would take her to see it first thing after school on Friday.

Now I was seriously reconsidering that promise.

There is a difference in the intensity of the written word and a visual image of those written words.  I had just read Hunger Games.  The story and images were very fresh in my mind, and yet I found myself worked up and tense through much of the show--so tense that I would have to consciously uncoil my fists and relax my arms.  Once I screamed out loud--very loud, in all honesty (you know the part, at the end, with the wolves?).  And that was gruesome.  I don't want the intensity of those images flashing through my daughter's head.  What really disturbed me about the visual images was that these were no longer just characters in a book, but that these people were children--young children.  If this concept had been penned with grown-ups in the arena, fighting each other to the death, all in the name of civilization, the movie would carry an R rating, but since it is a young-adult book, PG-13 was necessary.

When I dragged myself out of bed after a too-brief three-hour nap night's sleep, I found Lily sitting at the computer looking up show times.  How could I tell her? What would I decide to do? Tell her I'd changed my mind, and I wouldn't allow her to see the movie?

Am I a hypocrite?  I let her read the book, after all.  Is a movie really all that different from the book?
In this case, yes it is.  There is a reason the movie is rated PG-13.  She's not thirteen.  And I'm the parent.  I get final say.

As she left for school that morning, I told her I was thinking about it, but I didn't know if I'd let her see the movie or not.  By 2:15, I was sure--she would not be seeing Hunger Games any time in the near future. 

To say she was angry is like describing the Statue of Liberty as tall.  She was furious--anger, stamping, tears, shouting.  Her friends saw it at midnight.  Her friends loved it.  She wouldn't be scared. And the backbone of her argument, "YOU PROMISED!"

Yes, I had promised.  That promise had been a mistake, and I wasn't going to compound my initial mistake by making another, one that I couldn't take back.  She ranted and railed, but I never relented.  I stuck to my decision, and that's that.

Don't misunderstand me.  I like the books themselves--they provide a lot for kids to think about--to deeply consider and evaluate on moral levels.  I love that it had the big boys thinking about modern reality TV, politics, violence, and our society in general.  And I will let Lily finish reading the last two books.

But she will not be seeing the movie any time in the near future.

That's the beauty of being the parent.  I get to decide.  I get to set the limits.  I get to take the heat for my decisions.

And I won't budge.  I don't care who else has seen it.


  1. I loved the books but I am worried about the killing on the big screen especially since it is children killing children (I haven't seen the movie yet). I applaud you for doing the right thing and for sticking to what you know is best for Lily. Someday she will understand. I love your blog and I stopped your daughter in Broulim's to tell her just that.

  2. It's so hard in the moment to go back on your promise...but you're right, you are the parent and get to make those tough decisions. Someday she will understand how hard that was for you to do that. Proud of you Jen!

  3. Good for you Jen! I'm one of the few people who hasn't read the books or seen the movie, but you can't hardly get away with not hearing about it.

    I've seen trailers, read reviews, heard SO many people talk about it on Facebook & blogs. I had a pretty good idea what the storyline was & I wondered if it was really appropriate for young teens. (Or me, for that matter! I'm very sensitive to depictions of violence..especially when it involves children!)

    Anyway, I'm proud for you speaking up here on your blog (so other parents with children the same age can make a more informed decision about whether or not to take their kids). And, I'm proud of you for sticking to your guns.

    I agree with what Lesa said, even though Lily is upset now, someday she will understand.

  4. That is why I haven't let my 11 year old read the books. The first book is violent enough, but it opens up the second and third books, which are WAY too violent.

  5. I can't imagine why children killing children could be a good story line, and interesting to so many. What is the world thinking?

  6. Thanks for your post :-) I also have an 11 year old daughter who begged to go see the movie Friday afternoon with a friend. She is in the middle of reading the book, which I haven't read yet. I told her that I wanted to see the movie first, just to make sure it was okay. My husband and I went to see it Friday evening, and afterwards had the same feelings you shared. When we returned home, I told my daughter that she would not be seeing the movie, and that I wanted her to stop reading the book until I had an opportunity to read it first. The amazing thing is, she DIDN'T throw a fit. She was obediently compliant, and I was impressed. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I didn't read the books, but admire the plot. I'm seeing the movie tonight. I admire you for making a tough decision.

  8. Thank you for this post Jen,
    We are late to the Hunger Games party and just bought the book set this weekend. Eldest and Middlest can't put them down. I hate violence. They've even told me I likely wouldn't like the books. Middlest is only 12 and like Lily many of her friends have seen the movie. I always tell the girls to be careful about what they choose to look at. There is something about strong images that burn themselves into your memory. And once they are there you can never erase them. I will let Middlest read your post. We also subscribe to Kid's In Mind movie ratings to help us determine which movies to watch. It clearly describes the violence and gives a 7 out of 10 rating for it. I am fairly certain I will be making the same decision for Middlest that you did for Lily.

  9. I can understand that position. I went to the midnight showing with my 10-year-old girl. She'd read the books, and I felt we were prepared. To be honest, the violence didn't really get to me, or her. I guess I knew to expect, so it didn't bother me as much. Plus, my girl is so focused on the romance of the story and she's in love with Peeta - she barely noticed anything else. She actually went again that night with friends and another parent, and she said that friend had a lot of trouble with the violence, and it did make me think again about it. So I can understand what you're saying - I'm definitely glad I watched it with my daughter the first time rather than sending someone else. And I do think it would be too much for my 8-year-old who worries about everything in the world anyway, without visuals to help her.

  10. Hard choices...good for you for being a mom...instead of a friend on this issue. Lily will be frustrated for now, but in the grand scheme of things, her life will not be affected much by not seeing the movie. By the time the sequels come out, she'll be older and you may rethink whether or not she should see it, but for now, she is probably too young to see such things.

    I saw the movie with my kids on Thursday as well. I haven't read the books, but my kids have and I knew a lot about it before going. I knew it would be violent and closed my eyes at the Cornucopia Scene, the wasp scene, the brick scene, etc. I don't like those images in my head and can imagine just fine on my own. Just the same I somewhat enjoyed the movie and cried with confused emotion at the end. But it really isn't my kind of story.

  11. I find your take on it so fascinating. While I thought the cinematography was awful, choppy and just hard to watch at times, I really did not feel like it was overly graphicly violent. In fact, the discussions i've had with people about it were the opposite. Like it certainly COULD have been much more violent, but I thought they kept it muted and for the most part tastefully done. Interesting indeed. I didn't LOVE it, but I didn't dislike it either. But for sure, they certainly left A LOT out which was bothersome. As for the promise to Lilly, good for you. You ARE the Mom and you do know what is best for her in the end. She'll get over it.....eventually.

  12. Oh, and also...I too HATE how the series's so utterly lame. I can't imagine why or how they plan to split the last book into TWO movies. BLECH! Just sayin.

  13. Love this! I am in the same spot, but I wouldn't even let Thane read the books, although he did admit to checking it out from the school library and reading the first one last year--funny boy! But he can NOT see the movie, and Sage has been begging too--that's not going to happen either! Sometimes it's hard to be the Mom!

  14. Love the honesty on this show.
    I hated the first book and someone said you need to read the second book. I hated it worse.
    I have the third book but I haven't read it.
    I won't see the movie either.

    Sorry she's upset with you.
    You took a tough stand.

  15. I have to agree that this is not for 11-year-olds, or even young teens, but I thought they handled the violence quite well in the filming. What happens in the books is brutal, but the way they did the camera work made it seem not as extreme or as gory as it could have been.
    But good good for you for doing what you feel is best for your daughter. You are an awesome mom

  16. I will not see the film, and my 11-year-old daughter will not see it, either. Both of us are too susceptible to the violence. I have a fair case of Weltschmerz at the moment, anyway, and I don't need to compound it.

    My teenagers' discussion was equally fascinating. They wanted to talk about the cult of celebrity we currently live in and the way the books comment on that. High talk for kids, and that is fantastic.

  17. hoping we can figure out a night this week to go before i have this baby.

    way to go mama! stick it to 'em.

  18. That is why YOU are the MOM!! Sometimes we promise and then we get more information and that changes the dynamics. Not easy but....worth it!

    PS: I love Tuckers letter!

  19. I haven't seen it yet - we weren't up for standing in line because we're old geezers. I respect your opinion and now I don't know if I want to see it. I've heard others say the same thing as you. I'm curious though... it's kind of like that old Saturday Night Live skit where the one person smells the milk and says "Ew! It's sour!!" And the other one immediately says, "Let me smell it." Luckily, I have no kids in the mix this time around, so if it's a bad decision, it'll just be my own bad decision, and I can leave.

  20. I love that you pulled the plug and went with your gut. Being the parent sucks sometimes...but it's so important. I read the book and finished it on Saturday. My kids are 12 and 14 and didn't read the book- both read the first page and said they didn't like the premise. Hmmm...and here mom reads it. Talk about making me think. I'm not going to see the movie. I always like the book better, and I don't want those images in my head. Not sure if I'll bother with the rest of the series.

  21. I love that you pulled the plug and went with your gut. Being the parent sucks sometimes...but it's so important. I read the book and finished it on Saturday. My kids are 12 and 14 and didn't read the book- both read the first page and said they didn't like the premise. Hmmm...and here mom reads it. Talk about making me think. I'm not going to see the movie. I always like the book better, and I don't want those images in my head. Not sure if I'll bother with the rest of the series.

  22. I read the books after my 16 year old daughter had one in her hand constantly for the last few months. I enjoyed the first one but was so put off by the violence I really had a hard time making my way to the end of the third. My daughter has been so excited to go and see the movie but after comments from several of her friends she seems to be in no hurry now. I for one won't offer to be the driver for this one! Good for you for sticking to your guns. I appreciate parents being parents hard as it it sometimes!

  23. Haven't read or seen it, but I agree wholeheartedly with your right to make these decisions.

    And well done on being willing to revisit a decision when necessary. And on sticking to your guns.