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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Movie Smackdown: The Hunger Games vs. October Baby

I'm annoyed, and a bit offended, by something that just showed up in my inbox. It's an ad for a movie I've never heard of called October Baby. Obviously it's a "Christian movie" about abortion. Now, I am totally 100% opposed to abortion (because I think that human beings are human beings from the moment of conception, and I oppose the killing of innocent human beings), but the copy of the first paragraph of the email got under my skin. Here it is:
This weekend, when the biggest box-office hit is expected be a film based on a popular book about young people being forced to fight to the death, OCTOBER BABY hits theaters with a resounding message about the sanctity of life. Talk about a culture in need of a wake-up call!
I'm annoyed because that paragraph unfairly implies that The Hunger Games is against the "sanctity of life" (which is almost the diametric opposite of the truth), and I'm offended that whoever wrote it either decided to take a pot-shot at a movie they haven't seen and don't know anything about, or thinks that I and every other Christian out there is too stupid to know baloney when we see it. The whole message of The Hunger Games (which, full disclosure, I have not seen yet on the big screen, but I've read the book series and from all accounts I've read, the movie is remarkable in its fidelity to the book) is that life is too precious to be manipulated and exploited for the entertainment of others. The story does not glorify the fact that the kids are killing each other in an arena; the arena combat is absolutely painted in a negative light. You might as well say that Star Wars is a story that celebrates the idea of blowing up whole planets full of people. Ridiculous.

The cherry on the ice cream sundae is the crack about "...a culture in need of a wake-up call." Ironically, The Hunger Games IS a wake-up call. The underlying themes are about a too-strong totalitarian government manipulating their population into complacency by using "reality TV" as a propaganda tool. Over the past half-century, real governments have become better and better at using the media to spin the facts to their own advantage; take a look around in an election year and see for yourself. At the same time, "reality TV" becomes more and more outlandish. Government-sponsored and approved violence could, given the right set of circumstances, become reality one day in this or any country. Just ask first-century Christians, who, depending on who was in charge, might wind up getting eaten by lions in public. Cruelty of man against man, heightened by the fact that the persecuted persons are children, is totally, unequivocally condemned by The Hunger Games. When we wake up to the fact that although they are not physically cutting each other's throats, many times the players in "reality TV" programs are mistreating each other publicly for their own ends, and we watch it and call it entertainment, then we will have learned the lesson of The Hunger Games.

According to reports on the Internet today, The Hunger Games has already sold fifteen million dollars worth of tickets, even though it doesn't actually open until tomorrow. It's obvious that some marketing person at October Baby is somehow trying to get a piece of that. I'm not sure what the exact idea is (viewing their movie as a protest against another movie?), but it's not going to work. The millions of Hunger Games fans are not going to say, "Oh my goodness, you are RIGHT! I will throw away the ticket I stood in line for and now buy a ticket to see YOUR movie instead!" In fact, the only thing I can see this kind of advertising accomplishing, if it accomplishes anything at all, is to put the idea in the head of a parent who is too lazy to really find out what The Hunger Games is all about that it is harmful to their teenagers, and forbid the teenagers to see it. What's that going to do but drive a wedge in families? The kids will either sneak out and see it anyway, or miss out on what could actually be a highly positive message for them (violence is bad, and so is believing that everything you see on TV is okay). Shame on you, American Family Association.

AFA, if your film is any good, you don't need to slam other good movies to sell it. Especially not films with a positive message. I won't be wasting my time with October Baby, but I will see The Hunger Games. Because I enjoy a movie with a positive message.

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