On The Hunger Games: A Response to Kevin Swanson

I guess I never realized just how controversial The Hunger Games really is… until yesterday. After putting some finishing touches on my review and sending it out into the world wide web, a good friend referred me to Kevin Swanson’s take on the film. I was intrigued, to say the least.

I’m all for opposing opinions – and when someone disagrees with me, I appreciate it when they put forward a strong, well-reasoned argument. It causes me to examine my own position and see if it stands the test. But after listenening to Swanson’s argument, I wasn’t impressed with its strength or reason. It fell flat. Very flat.

If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’d like to explain why I think it fell flat. This isn’t a detailed dressing-down – just an overview, covering the most prominent issues. And if you’re critical of what I’m trying to do here, be ye comforted: I listened to the “lecture” twice, just to make sure I was correctly taking in all he had to say.

1. INSINUATION
Throughout his talk, Swanson (and his daughter, Emily) seem to imply that if, in fact, you do appreciate/enjoy/recommend The Hunger Games, then something must be wrong with you. You’ve been “sucked in.” You’re a zombie, absorbing the mush of pop culture without a second thought. Wait… what?

This strikes me as a really poor way to argue: it’s sloppy and it’s arrogant. A species of the “if you don’t agree with me, you must be crazy” line of thought. I may not hold the same view as you on a given subject, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I have no good reasons for my own position.

More than once, Swanson reminds us how terrible it is that “little boys and girls” across the country are watching The Hunger Games and drinking it all in.

They’re enjoying the popcorn, they’re enjoying the pop, and they’re not thinking that they’re turning into Nazis.

*cough* Um, apart from the obvious stretch in logic here (Nazis? seriously?), Swanson’s core assumption ignores the fact that there are big boys and girls across the country who are watching (and reading) The Hunger Games, analyzing its themes and ideas, and reaching conclusions based on their analyses.

I know. I’m one of those “big kids.”

2. SELF-DEFENSE IS NOT ALLOWED
I also take issue with Swanson’s flippant dismissal of self-defense as a morally justifiable action. It’s actually a bit unsettling, to tell the truth.

According to this logic, if I’m assaulted on the street, I’m not allowed to use lethal force to defend myself. The “right thing” for me to do is just stand there and take it. Similarly, if my wife is assaulted, she must refrain from using any life-threatening measures against her attacker. If that means she’s raped, tortured, and her brains are then shot out, so be it.

Needless to say, I find this idea supremely loony. I’m not interested in starting an in-depth debate on the subject, but I think the evidence (biblical or otherwise) in favor of self-defense is strong and plentiful. Far more so than Swanson acknowledges.

3. “MURDER” AND ILLOGIC
Swanson’s intolerant view of self-defense is what leads him to brand Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of The Hunger Games, a full-fledged murderer. Why? Because on more than one occasion, she defends her life (or the life of a loved one) by using lethal force against her assailant. That, says Mr. Swanson, is a brazen violation of the Sixth Commandment. I’m not so sure.

Swanson also dishes up one of the worst, most illogical comparisons I’ve encountered in a long time. Seriously. It’s a humdinger.

At one point in the story, Katniss is chased by four “career tributes” (i.e. trained killers). Unable to fight or outrun them, she clambers up a tree. The tributes decide to play along, and promptly pitch their camp around Katniss’ refuge. They know she’ll have to come down sooner or later, and when she does, they’ll be waiting.

Hours later, Katniss’ pursuers are fast asleep, confident that she can’t escape without waking them up. That’s when she catches sight of the giant wasp nest hanging a few branches above her. She cuts it down with her survival knife… and sends it plummeting into the midst of the tributes below. Three of them run like heck. The fourth is stung to death.

Swanson dubs this “one of the most horrific murders” he’s ever seen in a film. Not only that, but he then proceeds to draw a comparison between it and a Bible story.

Remember 1 Samuel 26? King Saul is after David (again), trying to kill him (again). In the midst of this madcap chase, Saul encamps on the hill of Hachilah and lies down to sleep. David’s men see this, and urge their leader to take advantage of it. “Kill him in his sleep,” they say. But David refrains from doing so.

Swanson tries to compare this to Katniss’ situation. According to him, what she should’ve done is… well, we’re not actually sure what she should’ve done. But killing wasn’t on the list. David had an opportunity to eliminate his enemy the same way Katniss did. He restrained himself. Katniss should’ve done the same.

The comparison and conclusion look good on the surface, but it falls apart under scrutiny. Just take a look at the actual passage: David refused to kill Saul, not because he had moral qualms about killing in self-defense, but because Saul was God’s anointed.

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 26:9-11)

I don’t think those tributes were anointed in any way, shape, or form.

4. EXAGGERATION
At some point in his talk, Swanson labels Katniss a “potty-mouth.” And it was at this point that I laughed. Out loud. Not in derision, but in complete disbelief. You’ve got to be kdding me, I thought. A potty-mouth? Really?

Consider: in one or two scenes, Katniss says “damn” and “hell” to express her frustration. She may also exclaim “God” once or twice (though I don’t remember her doing so). Now, I’m not excusing such talk, but come on – does that really make her a potty-mouth?

Think about the connotations. A potty-mouth generally refers to someone whose speech is characterized profanity and vulgar language. Richard Pryor probably qualifies, but I don’t see how Katniss Everdeen does.

If you’re going to be sloppy and exaggeratory in your choice of words and epithets, don’t be surprised when I get suspicious of anything else you might have to say on a given subject.

5. UNACKNOWLEDGED DIFFERENCES
Another thing Swanson repeatedly fails to do is distinguish between the descriptive and the prescriptive. If you’re not sure what I mean, think about this: George Orwell’s 1984 is descriptive. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto is prescriptive. If I don’t acknowledge the difference between the two, I’ll wind up believing that Orwell was as big an advocate of communism as Marx was.

Crazy stuff, right? But that’s pretty much what Swanson does when examining The Hunger Games. Using the logic that he does, it’s no surprise he winds up dismissing it altogether.

6. LACK OF DISCERNMENT
As I wrap this up, there’s one more thing I’d like to address, and it has to do with the conversation between Mr. Swanson and his daughter, Emily, who participates in the recording.

Maybe “participate” is too strong a word.

Swanson is supposedly co-reviewing the film with his daughter. But over the course of their half-hour recording, she contributes very little to the conversation. In fact, I don’t think the review would’ve ended up much different if she had just kept quiet altogether. Her Dad did 95% of the talking. No offense to either of them, but it reminded me of a one-sided conversation… with a parrot in the background.

Emily tells us several times that the only reason she wasn’t “drawn in” was because her Dad came along. To which I say, If these problems with the film do exist, why can’t you see them? You’re able to watch the film but unable to discern its messages? Seems like a fishy combination to me.

I’ll quote an excerpt from one of my mother’s posts, as it concerns this very subject:

When our children are little, we shield them from much of the ugliness, the sin of this world. It’s our job not to let a 7 year old view content meant for a 17 year old. We ground them in the truth of the Word and the seeds of discernment grow ever so slowly. We can’t preview every exposure, every book, every movie, every conversation they overhear. The goal is to equip them to stand fast and stay faithful, long after we’re six feet under and unable to whisper cautions in their ears.

If we had an 8-year-old watching this film (bogus, I know, but humor me), then I would understand his inability to discern the themes and ideas. But Emily isn’t an 8-year-old. She seems to be over the age of 13, but the lack of discernment is as big an issue as ever. Without her Dad, it sounds like she wouldn’t know what to think of the movie.

This leads me to conclude that 1) she’s not been trained to think biblically for herself or 2) her Dad doesn’t trust her to think biblically for herself. Either way, there’s a problem. At that age, you should at least be making an effort to consider what you believe and why you believe it. She seems content to let her Dad do that for her.

7. CONCLUSION
Needless to say, I appreciate/enjoy/recommend The Hunger Games. Is it perfect? No. Does it tout a distinctly Christian worldview? No. There are problems with it, and I’m more than ready to acknowledge that. We should exercise discernment with it the way we should with all literature.

That said, I think the story is challenging, thought-provoking, and rich – well-worth the time of mature Christian readers. My advice: chew the meat, spit out the bones. There’s a lot more meat than bone there, anyway.

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45 thoughts on “On The Hunger Games: A Response to Kevin Swanson”

  1. I like this breakdown, and not just because of the subject matter. I like it because you bring up a very valid point when it comes to critiquing and analyzing something (such as a movie, book, whatever). I made a similar argument recently when I defended The Catcher in the Rye. Personally, I believe that if you’re going to analyze something, do it with cold hard evidence. Simply bashing those who enjoyed the piece (as Swanson did), and/or bashing the piece in general, should be backed up with some real live examples from the work in question. Good post!

  2. Indeed. I have not seen the film nor read the books, but just from what I’ve collected from all I’ve heard about The Hunger Games this appears to be a gross misrepresentation. Nice breakdown, very thoughtful and convincing.

  3. I have read so many opinions, descriptions and articles on “The Hunger Games” series (which I have read all three of) that it will be very interesting for me to finally see the movie tomorrow night. I very much liked your post, and especially your Mum’s paragraph. My Mum often quotes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” and I think that would apply here too. :)

    Thanks again! I’ll probably be writing my own review after I see it.

  4. I don’t think that Mr. Swanson is against self defense. In fact, in researching a little bit, I know that he definitely is not against self defense. CLICKY
    What Katniss did, with the bees (since I don’t know the circumstances in which the other killings were in), was murder because she was not at the moment being attacked. That’s my view. It’s not like she didn’t know that the bees were killers. But then again, isn’t that the message of the film? Don’t we start out with the premise that it’s a gladiatorial contest? They’re out to kill.
    I can’t apply it as thoroughly as I’d like, because I haven’t seen the film, but I think that’s pretty much the gist of it.

    “Another thing Swanson repeatedly fails to do is distinguish between the descriptive and the prescriptive. If you’re not sure what I mean, think about this: George Orwell’s 1984 is descriptive. Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto is prescriptive. If I don’t acknowledge the difference between the two, I’ll wind up believing that Orwell was as big an advocate of communism as Marx was.”
    Perhaps you’re right, perhaps you’re not. But I look at it this way: the film does not say, and most viewers will not take away from it, that communism/marxism/romanism/statism is wrong. They won’t. People don’t analyze the films they watch, they go in for the entertainment, and they soak in what they watch without even knowing it. Maybe the film wasn’t advocating socialism. But our ‘heroine’ isn’t exactly opposed to it, and they don’t provide an alternative. If anything, it’s a depressing film that shows just how corrupt the world is, but it doesn’t give us a way out, besides ‘luck’ and ‘odds’. Sheer chance, survival of the fittest.
    And that’s not how life really is (Thank God).

    I would agree with Mr. Swanson: Katniss is a foul mouthed character. I wouldn’t have a particular problem so much with “damn” and “hell” (although I find those words used as cuss words rather vulgar); you laughed: but you’re used to much worse language, remember. You watch some pretty foul movies. ;)
    But in the Bible, a man who used the name of the Lord in vain once was stoned to death. It’s no light matter. And while I don’t recall anybody getting punished in the Bible because they used ‘hell’ out of context, I don’t think it’s advisable. But the Name of God?! That’s pretty serious. No, scratch the ‘pretty’. It’s serious.

    About Emily being unable to discern for herself–well, to be honest, I think I agree with her. I mean, sometimes I’ll read something or watch something and not find anything wrong with it, but then my parents talk about it and I see “hey yeah–I didn’t see it from that angle. I was getting drawn in. Shucks, I don’t really know all I thought I did. They……they really do know more than me.” Don’t tell me that you don’t ever have moments like that. ;)

    All-in-all, I think Mr. Swanson did a very good job analyzing the film by a Biblical standard. I don’t think that secular films like this are redemptable. I don’t care if it does have some nice lessons that just might be squeezed out of the sewage of an admittedly anti-Christian, anti-God film. Pardon my language, I know you don’t see it like I do. :p I just wish I was more eloquent so I could really say what I think.

    Good thing you’re not armed at the moment…..*alarmed look*…….are you??
    *moaning to self* why am I always the minority on a debate like this?

    1. I don’t think that Mr. Swanson is against self defense. In fact, in researching a little bit, I know that he definitely is not against self defense.

      If you’ve listened to the recording, and I think you have, then you know what I’m referring to. Swanson did dismiss self-defense – if he says he’s all for it elswhere, then fine. But I was addressing what he said in his talk.

      What Katniss did, with the bees… was murder because she was not at the moment being attacked.

      She was under siege. Siege is attack. They were keeping her pinned down with the intention to kill her. Dropping wasps on them is, to my mind, completely justified. I fail to see how it qualifies as a violation of the sixth commandment.

      … the film does not say, and most viewers will not take away from it, that communism/marxism/romanism/statism is wrong. They won’t. People don’t analyze the films they watch, they go in for the entertainment, and they soak in what they watch without even knowing it.

      First of all, the messages about government and voyeueristic culture are so plain and obvious that I don’t think too many people miss out on them. But even if some of them do miss out, that begs the question: just because a portion of the audience fails to discern the worthy themes, does that mean the themes don’t exist?

      If that’s the logic we’re going to use, then we should toss out any and all cautionary fiction – after all, some people might not understand it.

      1. If anything, it’s a depressing film that shows just how corrupt the world is, but it doesn’t give us a way out, besides ‘luck’ and ‘odds’. Sheer chance, survival of the fittest.

        That’s really not true, CG. (And I think I have an advantage here, since I’ve read the books and watched the movie.) While it doesn’t hold a distinctly Christian worldview, The Hunger Games trilogy ends up pointing the reader to something outside itself. It doesn’t have the answers; but it recognizes that the answer doesn’t lie with human effort alone, nor with the state, and certainly not in a dog-eat-dog worldview. In that respect, Christians can actually use it as a spring-board for discussing the Gospel with unbelievers.

        I would agree with Mr. Swanson: Katniss is a foul mouthed character… in the Bible, a man who used the name of the Lord in vain once was stoned to death. It’s no light matter.

        Of course it’s not. But let’s one thing straight: one (or two, or three) uses of God’s name in vain does not a potty-mouth make. Like I pointed out earlier, a potty-mouth is one whose speech is characterized by such vulgar language. Katniss’ speech is not.

        About Emily being unable to discern for herself–well, to be honest, I think I agree with her. I mean, sometimes I’ll read something or watch something and not find anything wrong with it, but then my parents talk about it and I see “hey yeah–I didn’t see it from that angle. I was getting drawn in.

        Look, I’m not talking about recognizing your parents wisdom and advice in matters of worldview. I’m talking about an inability to think for oneself. Emily just parrots what her Dad says. I honestly don’t think she could articulate what’s “wrong” with the film if her Dad wasn’t around to help. At her age, that strikes me as rather pathetic.

        1. *laughs* I have a hard time arguing with you, Corey. Doesn’t mean I agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t know enough about the topic to hold my own against your arguments…. :D
          I think both Lady Amy and Charisse made some very good points that I agree with.

          Like you said before; I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the subject, since neither one of us is going to relinquish our views!

          CG
          (Isn’t it nice that friends don’t have to agree on everything?) ;)

          1. Well, it may be a bit easier to argue if you read the books/watch the movies. One point you made that I just wanted to point out is that you said the story shows a problem with no way out. However, if you continue to read the two other books, the solution, or “Way out,” becomes obvious. Especially in Mocking Jay. Sorry, it just caught my eye.

  5. i haven’t read the books or seen the movie, but I appreciate your discernment, Corey. Short of living in a bunker, we will be exposed, and our kids will be exposed to who knows what, which is why we all need to think Biblically and critically for ourselves. Your mom’s post was spot-on in this regard.

  6. Hmm, even if I decide to dislike the Hunger Games, Swanson’s review goes too far, and you did a good job of refuting him, mostly. :)

    Because I didn’t want CG to be all on her lonesome…:)
    3.) Here’s my question on the ethical questions of the Hunger Games, how can you question specific instances within the Hunger Games, when the whole setup is unethical. Seriously, does the fact that it’s kill or get killed mean that it’s okay to try to kill everyone else? Why was it right for Katniss to kill the other tribunes, but wrong for her to be chased by others? And no, I haven’t read the Hunger Games, but I am reading them…
    http://www.credenda.org/index.php/Reviews/christians-and-the-hunger-games.html

    By the way, I do agree with your disagreement with Swanson. :)

    4. EXAGGERATION
    Well, first off, I can see where Swanson’s coming from, I know plenty of people who won’t even say damn or hell, and my most embarrassing moments with them come from when they say that a movie has the d-word in it, and I’m staring at them trying to figure out what on earth the d-word is… but then maybe I’m desensitized from sneaking one too many books off the shelf when my mom wasn’t looking. :) Anyway, I see where Swanson’s coming from, and from his point of view, that is pretty close to a potty-mouth. My only objection then to Swanson calling Katniss that, is that it leaves no room for actual potty-mouths. If Katniss is a potty-mouth, what on earth do they call people who really do use profanity and vulgar language?

    6.) And here is where you lost me. :) I think this time you went too far, and were even just a little bit unkind. Which to your credit, is I think the first and probably last time I”ll ever be able to say that about you. :)
    Emily is by your assessment 13, but she has to know what she thinks about every film she watches? Corey, at 13 I doubt I would’ve known what to think of the Hunger Games, and I would certainly have ended up in the wrong ditch on them. (Swanson’s ditch) Yes Emily should have some discernment by now, but I think it’s unjust to her and Swanson to fault her for lack of discernment based on one audio review, and considering that she’s 13. Some kids have more discernment than others, and some develop it later than others. It isn’t pathetic for her not to know what to think about the Hunger Games at 13, she’s still a kid under her parent’s direction, and you have no idea at what point she is in her education. The level of education you’ve received makes a difference. And as a last point, there are plenty of 13 yr. old kids I know, that I’m fairly certain would either not know what to think about Hunger Games, or jump on a bandwagon without even knowing what bandwagon they’re on, or why that bandwagon thinks what it thinks. Alternatively, I know an 8 yr old kid, who would definitely be able to read Hunger Games, process it and come to a conclusion.

    Other than that though, you make good points. :)

    1. One last thing on Emily, if you heard an audio review by my Dad and me of certain issues, you would probably think I had no discretion or didn’t know what to think on that issue, but the truth is, there’s more history to that discussion than you know of, and there are some issues that no matter my own opinions, I would never disagree with my Dad to his face on an audio review, even if I really did think he was wrong about it. And there again with that decision, there’s history you don’t know about in my family.

      I hope I haven’t thoroughly jumped on you or insulted you too much. :)

      1. … does the fact that it’s kill or get killed mean that it’s okay to try to kill everyone else? Why was it right for Katniss to kill the other tribunes, but wrong for her to be chased by others?

        Again, we’re talking about the difference between self-defense and hunt-and-kill-’em murder. Katniss doesn’t hunt her fellow tributes – in fact, she does everything in her power to avoid a confrontation. When she’s attacked, however, she really has no other option than to kill in self-defense or let herself be slaughtered.

        If someone put me in a gladiatorial arena, and then told me to go kill this or that kid, I wouldn’t lay a finger on him. He’s an innocent person, why would I harm him? If, however, that other kid attacks me, he’s no longer innocent. He’s making an attempt on my life. I will defend myself, with lethal force if necessary. And I’m supposed to believe that’s breaking the sixth commandment?

        If Katniss is a potty-mouth, what on earth do they call people who really do use profanity and vulgar language?

        A good question, to be sure. :)

        As for point #6… sorry I lost you. I’m sending a search-and-rescue party out now. ;) Seriously, though, I’m surprised this point keeps getting misunderstood the way it does. Allow me to clarify and explain:

        1) I never said Emily was 13. I said she “seems to be over the age of 13.” My guess is she’s closer to 15. but since I don’t know for sure… I think it’s safe to say she’s a teenager.

        2) Considering this, I would expect her to be making at least some attempt at thinking biblically for herself. Does she have to have all the answers? Not at all. Nobody, not even an octogenarian, has all the answers. But she should be thinking for herself.

        3) Keep in mind this is Kevin Swanson’s daughter we’re talking about here. Her Dad is all about cultivating a biblical worldview, discipling children in the ways of the Lord, etc. His radio show is called Generations, I believe. Emily isn’t your average teen raised in your average home. If she’s been saturated in God’s Word since she was born (and I have every reason to believe she has) then I would expect more discernment from her, especially at this age.

        4) Again, for a co-review, it’s pretty one-sided. Emily contributes very little, and seems content to just parrot what’s been said already. I’m not saying she should disagree with her Dad – but even in agreement, she’s not really putting out anything suubstantial.

        5) We can play the “there’s more to the story” game all day long, but what I’m adressing here is the recording. If she really does have tons of discernment, that’s fine. But that begs the question: why wasn’t it evidenced in the recording? You don’t just flick discernment on and off like a switch.

        1. …If, however, that other kid attacks me, he’s no longer innocent. He’s making an attempt on my life. I will defend myself, with lethal force if necessary…

          Actually, I’ll agree with you on that, you put it well. :)

          I’ll let you know if the search and rescue party find me. :) I think I understand what you’re saying here, but I’d like to beg to differ. Quick note, I just reread my comment and realized I had left in the bit about unkind, I disagree with myself there, you weren’t necessarily unkind, I just think you went too far.

          1&2&3) Yes, she should be able to think for herself some, but not necessarily every time. You’ve heard one co-review with her Dad, you can’t assume based on that one review that she doesn’t think for herself. And no, you can’t flip discretion on and off, but it can momentarily disappear.

          4) If she agrees with her Dad, then it sounds like her Dad said everything and then some that needs to be said. If she agrees with him but thought the movie was fine until he started pointing out problems, and since Dad is always right, clearly he’s right, what exactly is she supposed to say? If she disagreed with him what could she say except to parrot Swanson.

          5) Of course, that’s the beauty of that game. :) Basically see what I said under 4).
          The point of this is not that there is more going on, it’s that you don’t know if there’s more going on, and you should give Emily the benefit of the doubt, especially considering that you heard one recording of her.

          1. Actually, I’ll agree with you on that, you put it well. Cool. :D

            On this whole Emily thing… I think we’re just gonna hafta agree to disagree. You say she should be given the benefit of the doubt, and I disagree. We’ve laid out our reasons for and nobody has changed their mind (much), so… whaddaya say to a handshake? Otherwise, I think we might keep going in circles. :)

          2. Haha, and the problem with going in circles is?

            Sure, as my birthday gift to you, we’ll agree to disagree. :) *holds out hand*

  7. Fantastic response, Ink. I particularly like your approach to self-defense. While I think there is a legitimate theology of pacifism, it has always been debated amongst believers. While self defense may violate the conscience of some, the claim that self defense is always wrong is far stronger and not definitively articulated in Scripture.

    Also: Happy birthday!

  8. Fascinating. I’m looking forward to listening to Kevin Swanson’s talk on this, as well as the Plugged In podcast on the subject. Regardless of what they say though, you’ve made some very interesting points here.

    Thanks for the reviews.

    1. Hey Jefferey! If PluggedIn’s podcast is anything like their review, then it’s going to be a lot more favorable towards The Hunger Games than Mr. Swanson. :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Dear Inkslinger,

    First off Happy Birthday!

    Interestingly, as have been working through the immediate and long term effects of this book series, I was struck by the cover and it put me in mind of my beloved John Bunyan’s “Vanity Fair”. “…lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of blood-red colour.” Pilgrim’s Progress pg. 96

    I am going to do what the Pilgrims did. “Thirdly, but that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares. They cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears and cry, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,” and look upward, signifying that their trade was in heaven. One chanced mockingly, beholding the carriage of the men, to say to them, “What will ye buy?” But they, looking gravely upon him, said, “We buy the truth.” Pilgrim’s Progress pg.97

    Being that I am very simple minded I can’t afford any distractions in my walk with Christ!

    In humbleness of heart, charisse

  10. I’ve never visited your blog before now and I just want to say thank you so much for this post! I’ve been rather confused by the whole Hunger Games debate and I honestly yearn to go and bury my head in the sand. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to ignore the Hunger Games now. :P

    When I read the books (and loved them!) I knew that they weren’t perfect, but I had no idea until the film came out that they were so controversial. Before the film, people who read the books discussed them together, but now that the movie’s out, it seems like everyone thinks that they’re a Hunger Games expert and take sides either for or against it.

    Personally, I’ve decided not the see the film for several reasons, but the main ones being that I want to stay out of the debate (I’m tired of constantly being on the defensive) and I don’t want the movie to change the way that I view the books. I thought that Swanson’s article had some interesting points (regarding remarks by Rue and Peeta especially) but I do agree that he was generally too harsh.

    Thank you again for your response. I greatly appreciate it.

    God Bless!

    1. Before the film, people who read the books discussed them together, but now that the movie’s out, it seems like everyone thinks that they’re a Hunger Games expert…

      I couldn’t agree more. Well said. :) Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment – I appreciate it! :)

    2. Cassandra, I wouldn’t give Mr. Swanson too much credit, even for his comments about the remarks by Rue and Peeta. Mr. Swanson seems to be entirely ignorant of the concepts of symbolism and message in fiction. He seems to have believe that the words characters speak are the whole message, that they are to be taken at face value. When Rue says, “You have to win,” what do you think she was saying to Katniss? Is it possible that Rue understood what Mr. Swanson does not: that Katniss must win because she is the one tribute who is willing to stand up against this evil tyranny?

      When Peeta says he just doesn’t want the Capitol to own him, that, in my opinion, does not represent a Sartorial existentialist worldview. That represents a spirit that discerns the evil of the Capitol, and longs for the autonomy to determine his future. His life has been, for all intents and purposes, cut short because of the games. He finds himself with NO CHOICES in life, choices that our Creator endows men with, like life; liberty; and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t see any hint that he is saying he’s just “gotta be me,” to “do it my way.” It is a God-given desire for self-determination, not a snarling, “I want the right to have an abortion because it’s my body.” It is this indwelling longing for self-determination that drives Mr. Swanson to take the measures he takes with his own family.

      There are many more problems with the reasoning in Swanson’s review, but I will try to write those in a separate post.

  11. A very good break-down of the review, and the movie itself. A lot of what you pointed out were things I thought while listening to his audio as well–you just said them far more eloquently than I ever could have. -_-

    I tend to think that Mr. Swanson sort of missed the point entirely. The point of The Hunger Games was the fact that they were being forced to kill each other. The parallel between the Games and the Roman arenas was intentional. It was a way of reinforcing the depraved nature of what the Capitol was doing to these kids. But he seemed to completely miss that side of it and insist upon disliking it…even as he proved the whole point of the series with his words.

    1. Hi Kayla! Thanks for commenting! :)

      You make a good point: I find it frustrating when people try to convince me that a book is advocating this and this and this… when actually, the whole point is to warn us against this behavior/ideology/etc. It all goes back to confusing the prescriptive with the descriptive: something Mr. Swanson does repeatedly in his review.

  12. I listened to Swanson’s review before I read this post about it. I agree with you. Swanson completely misrepresents some things in the film/book. Thank you for your thoughtful review.

  13. I am heartened to see such insight and eloquence from one so apparently young. Good job, Ink Slinger!

    I found many more weak/fallacious/irrational arguments from Swanson, and will quickly mention some of them.

    He completely misunderstands and misrepresents the story. He may have been so absorbed in talking with his daughter and writing his seven pages of notes, which he says he did during the whole movie, that he simply did not follow the story. He equates Katniss and Peeta (and Rue!) with Nazis. What??? If anything, Katniss was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    He builds quite a case that Katniss is a pagan feminist animalist, who attributes her win to the “amulet.” The mockingjay pin was a GIFT from her sister (in the movie, anyway; read the book if you want the back story), a token, a memento. It became the symbol of the move to “push back” against the Capitol, kind of like the American flag is to American soldiers in battle; and as a secret identifying symbol, like the ictheus “fish” symbol was to early Christians.

    He really offends me in his assumption–no, more than that, his accusation–that one of the characters is a homosexual because he is thoughtful, sensitive, and caring, and has body piercings. What??? There was nothing whatsoever, in my recollection, even in the book, to even hint that this guy was a homosexual. Are thoughtful, sensitive, caring men now at risk of being branded as such by people in the same theological camp as Swanson? I pray my daughters don’t marry anyone Swanson would approve of if that is the case.

    He refers to one of the most ruthless, murderous girl tributes as “a little girl” whom Katniss killed with the killer wasps. He makes much of a boy tribute killing a girl, but fails to mention that the boy was avenging the death of Rue, and that same boy let Katniss go free as thanks for befriending Rue. He says Katniss pushed a boy to some wild dogs; in the book, the boy fell. I can’t say for sure in the movie, but she was definitely defending someone else at the moment it happened. He talks incessantly about killing in self-defense, but Katniss never did. She would rather have died and been done with it. All the way through the entire trilogy. It was about a greater cause.

    But Swanson does not get the big picture. He does not even seem to understand fiction, and theme, and symbolism, and inference, and analogy, or literary analysis altogether. Ink Slinger put it well in saying he does not distinguish between the descriptive and the prescriptive. Swanson speaks like a man who made a quick trip to the theater, approaching the movie with an agenda and a closed mind, and leaving with an arrogant ignorance of what he just saw.

    The most telling part of his broadcast is at the end, where he says, “I hope that hundreds of thousands of Christian families will download this radio program and talk about this sort of thing . . .” followed by his promotion of his book.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful and engaging comment, Diana. I especially liked the way you addressed the “pagan feminist animalist” argument. Nicely done. :D

  14. I’ve already said so on my blog, but I want to leave it here for the record; Love your post and I agree whole-heartedly. Very well thought out, you express your disagreements maturely, and you nailed everything on the head. Thank you, thak you.

    ~Jamie

  15. Thanks for this review! I just read the books after watching the first Hunger Games, and then I thought I’d tune into Kevin’s review. I know him personally, and his daughter is a good friend of mine. But I was really disappointed. I was thinking about putting something of a response together myself, but yours is exactly what I wanted to write. Thanks again. (Thanks also for doing it in such a kind way, really. I love the Swansons, despite disagreeing with them on some things.)

  16. The Swanson post was very well done except this one line was a cheap shot, “No offense to either of them, but it reminded me of a one-sided conversation… with a parrot in the background.” Poorly done sir. You should apologize for that remark. And I do hope you had the guts to send Swanson a copy of your post.

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