In these days of The Hunger Games, I am finding I have little appetite for violence in movies, especially when the violence involves children.
Oh, I know The Hunger Games is a fantasy movie based on what everyone tells me is a superbly written trilogy. I realize the main character in the movie is a teenager, arguably not a child, but arguably not an adult either.
While I’ve not yet read the book by Suzanne Collins, I have read reviews and blogs, which suggest the story is a well-developed metaphor that skewers North American culture (our penchant for war and reality TV shows in particular) and its influence on young people. I have no general complaint against a movie or book that raises such issues.
In fact, normally I would be eager to first read such a book, then impatiently wait to see the movie. If it is the page -turner everyone claims it to be, The Hunger Games is just the sort of book I love, one that keeps me reading well into the night, often with only one eye open as I fight off sleep but need desperately to know what will happen next.
I started to read it, actually, last spring, when several people recommended it. But, for some reason, I couldn’t engage with the fantasy world it portrayed. And I was wary of its anticipated violence.
At the time, I put my disinclination down to the fact I’d just finished a lovely novel, one that caught me by surprise with its plot and restored my faith in humanity’s simple ability for kindness.
Called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, the story, by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows, takes place on a small English island just after the Second World War. It’s funny, full of human idiosyncrasy, yet gives space for the dark shadows of Nazi occupation.
The book’s characters are so interesting I didn’t want them to leave me when I reached the last chapter. I definitely wasn’t ready to take up with a new cast of characters, especially the ones inhabiting the world of the Hunger Games.
A year later, I still don’t want to enter the post-apocalyptic world of Katniss and Peeta. I don’t want to watch them engage in the fight-to-the finish reality game show specifically designed so that teenagers will kill each other.
There is too much of that happening in real life.
There are two heart-wrenching, stomach-turning trials taking place in Ontario courtrooms these days, trials that have eerily similar storylines, even though they are not connected.
In both trials, a man and women are accused of murdering young children. In one case, the accused are teenage girl and an older man. In the other case, both of the accused are young adults.
Both cases are being reported in all their gruesome details by journalists, who are doing the job our society asks them to do: ensure that justice is seen to be done. Journalists are the public’s eyes and ears in a courtroom and, having been there myself at one point in my newspaper career, I appreciate their effort.
Increasingly, though, I am wondering how much detail of a trial the public needs to know in order to be certain that justice is being served. I have taken to turning off the news when the reports of the trial are made. I skip multiple paragraphs in the newspaper coverage.
Journalists covering the cases will argue that to report every detail of what happens to a victim gives dignity to that person. His or her whole story needs to be told.
But I’m not sure about that. Tell me the story of the person’s life – who she was, what she loved to do, her giftedness. Don’t tell me the brutal details of what was done to her to kill her. Don’t broadcast the indignities with such graphic penmanship.
I don’t want those images in my mind.
And that’s why I can’t bring myself to see The Hunger Games. I don’t want more violent images taking up space in my head. I know from experience just how difficult it is erase them.
Violence will not relegate itself to a small space. By its very nature, it seems to have a capacity to root itself in a person’s mind, doing one of two things: it breeds more violence or it sends up shoots of desensitization.
The more violence I witness, the less it bothers me.
Perhaps this is not true for the majority of people who will watch movies like The Hunger Games or read newspaper reports of murder trials. But it is true for me.
I am not naïve enough to think I can avoid violence. Nor am I a Pollyanna who thinks the world should only be viewed with rose-coloured glasses.
But I am increasingly becoming convinced that I don’t want to be entertained by violence, even if that means I will miss a great movie.
Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column appears each Friday in the Moncton Times & Transcript. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon.