With "The Hunger Games" hitting theaters Friday, fans are pointing to parallels between the film's storyline and the message conveyed in the Gospel, but some critics have dismissed the story as too violent, despite the stated effort of the author to highlight the dangers of glorifying violence.
The Hunger Games book trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, is described as being suitable for readers 13 and older, and was reportedly intended by the author to be a commentary on the horrors of war and violence and their negative effects on people and society.
"The Hunger Games" is set in a post-apocalyptic society called Panem, where teens must battle to the death in an arena-like setting as amusement for a live television audience. The winner of the Hunger Games is allowed to return to his or her home with wealth and fame.
Collins, 50, has said that she decided to write The Hunger Game book series after flipping through television channels to discover that the themes of gore and competitive reality TV were being marketed to the teen demographic.
"One night I'm sitting there flipping around and on one channel there's a group of young people competing for, I don't know, money maybe? And on the next, there's a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story," Collins shared with Scholastic.
"If there's a real-life tragedy unfolding [on TV], you should not be thinking of yourself as an audience member. Because those are real people on the screen, and they're not going away when the commercials start to roll," the author told Regent University's The Daily Runner Online.
The movie, like the book, involves teens killing each other in a graphic assortment of ways, including death by spears and blows to the head by rocks. One "tribute," or teen warrior, kills another by snapping his neck. Another is stung to death by mutant yellow jackets, while yet another is devoured for hours by rabid dogs. The film received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Such gore is enough for some to dismiss the film version of the book series as inappropriate for teens, and insist that "The Hunger Games" has no Christian themes. Yet, there are others who have embraced the novel's popularity, and make an effort to connect it to the teachings of the Bible.
As previously reported by The Christian Post, the Rev. Andy Langford and his daughter, the Rev. Ann Duncan, created "The Gospel According to 'The Hunger Games' Trilogy" for their North Carolina church's Bible study in an attempt to reach to connect with the youth.
Some Christians in support of "The Hunger Games" argue that it teaches crucial morality lessons to teens, primarily the importance of self-sacrifice.
Throughout the film, protagonist Katniss Everdeen struggles to stay alive while sacrificing everything to protect the people she loves. Her sacrifice begins when she opts to compete in the Hunger Games instead of her sister, Primrose.
Supporters of the series say that another recurring theme in the story is that of hope. According to ChristianityToday, the fact that Everdeen and fellow protagonist Peeta continually strive to win the Game shows that there is continued hope in a dark world.
"Permeating it all is the persistence of pervasive, cyclical, generational sin. And yet, growing through the cracks in all of it, hope," Amy Simpson wrote in the publication.
According to The Daily Runner, "The Hunger Games" accurately conveys what a godless society would look like.
"Panem is a godless society and the entire time I was reading the books, I was so grateful for the presence of God. I believe any society without Christ could easily turn into that type of violence. Quite frankly, we're already heading there," wrote April Allbritton.
"The Hunger Games" premieres in theaters nationwide on March 23.