Occasionally, as a mom, I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. Monday night, as I waited in line for a press preview of The Hunger Games with my 11-year-old daughter Clara in tow, was definitely one of those times.
Like millions of kids her age, Clara had read and loved the young-adult novel that inspired the movie. Even the millions who haven’t cracked open the book have seen the flashy promos on TV—so there’s no question this flick is going to be huge for the tween set. The bigger question is, is your child ready for such an intense plot?
In case you’re not familiar with the story, it revolves around a group of 24 kids, all forced to participate in a government-sponsored, televised “game” in which they must fight each other to the death. There can only be one winner, and contestants are armed with weapons like arrows and swords. So if you can’t hack it—literally—it’s curtains for you. Literally.
Yet there’s plenty of uplifting stuff mixed in with the gruesome parts, which are mercifully short. The movie’s heroine, Katniss, is the very definition of girl power, and of family values too: She’s volunteered for the Games to spare her younger sister. This determined 16-year-old has got plenty to live for—including a hunk back home—but still doesn’t kill without reason, instead forming friendships and even a fledgling romance amidst the carnage and chaos.
It wasn’t long before Clara and I were rooting for Katniss like crazy. The audience was right there with us—several fast-paced scenes had everyone cheering. But between action sequences, there was plenty to ponder. Is the United States of today, with our reality-TV obsession, so different from Panem, the futuristic North America in which Katniss lives? Are we becoming less sensitive to the needs of our poor, like the callous and pampered Capitol politicians who run The Hunger Games? (The Capitol’s reflecting pool bears an eerie resemblance to the one in Washington, DC.) Clara and I discussed these and other parallels the movie seemed to make.
My verdict: If Twilight scared your child, or she’s still sniffling over the death scene in Bambi, do something else this weekend. But if she’s at least 10 years old, and the type who can handle a bit of violence in service of a deeply moving tale, let her see this movie. Better yet, see it together — The Hunger Games will give you both plenty of food for thought.