Hunger Games and Harry Potter

When the Hunger Games movie came out Aidan and I had the following conversation:
Aidan: Are we going to go to the Hunger Games movie?

Me: Yeah, everyone in the family has read the books and the reviews look good. I think we'll all go.

Aidan: You know what's weird?

Me: What?

Aidan: Bill [not his real name] in my class said that his parents won't let him read Harry Potter or go to the Harry Potter movies but that he's allowed to read and go to the Hunger Games. Because they are Christians. Why is that?

Me: Well, some Christians feel pretty strongly that things promoting witchcraft and sorcery are sinful.

Aidan: But the Hunger Games is all about making a tournament where kids kill each other. Isn't that sinful?

Me: Yes, yes it is.

Aidan: So what's the difference?

Me: Good question. Well, Christians, at least American Christians, are okay with murder but really, really scared of magic.

(Aidan ponders this as I ponder the fact that murder is real and that the Cruciatus Curse and Hogwarts are fake.)

Aidan:  I don't get it.

Me: Neither do I, son, neither do I.
Moral of the story: Conservative Christians are clueless and the Beck family is going to hell because we like both the Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

We sin boldly when it comes to youth fiction.

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40 thoughts on “Hunger Games and Harry Potter”

  1. I'd be classed an evangelical Christian, but we loved Harry Potter -- I didn't let my son read them all until he was a 4th grader -- mostly because the sadism of Delores Umbridge really bothered me.  Hunger Games I had a much harder problem with -- because of kids killing kids, and because the Games are entertainment for the adults.  I put off letting my 11-year-old read it, and now we're reading it together -- and while there are parts I love, I can't get past the sadistic elements and really say I enjoy it.
    But then, while I do live in the deep South, I don't really live in the evangelical "bubble", so maybe that's why we didn't get alot of blowback about reading HP.  And because we read them after the last book had come out -- once everyone saw that Harry sacrifices his life for his friends, it seems to me that the tone of the haters softened a bit. (Until Dumbledore being gay riled things up a bit).

  2. We love the HG and HP series too.  Some of our more conservative friends are against them.  Others still, who are more conservative than us, are O:K with HP.  When I read The Hunger Games, I was shocked and somewhat confused that some of my teen daughter's conservative evangelical friends were so enamored with HG.  I wondered if they had read all three books, to the end.  The author's perspective didn't seem to jibe with the political and religious views I had heard from the same folks.  In the HP series, I was disappointed that the final movie focused so much on the dazzling action and neglected the nuances in dialogue at the last moments.  The movie version of The Half-Blood Prince lost a lot in translation, my daughter and I thought.  Both HG and HP are wonderful works of literature.  A beloved librarian once remarked to me that if a children's book is as enjoyable for an adult as it is for the child, then it is true classic material.  I concur!

    A popular book-to-movie series that I dislike *intensely* ... which deals with a favorite fun subject of the Beck family ... is -- (I'll bet someone has guessed it):  Twilight!  I won't even begin to critique that garbage.  Long story short, my daughter begged to read it, because some of her friends were talking about it.  Ad nauseum.  I skimmed through book 1 in the library (gag), and gave it to my daughter.  The delightful outcome was that she recognized the poor literary quality of it, and disliked the characters and themes.  She found a website that corrects all the bad grammar and mechanics in the Twilight books!  :-D  We found a used paperback copy of Twilight at a rummage sale, and my daughter has been marking up the book -- making corrections.  Love it.  So what is the Beck family "take" on the Twilight series?  You have boys, and I have a teenage daughter...  Even if you don't hate it, I'll bet you can understand why I do.  ~Peace~

  3. I've been wondering quite a bit lately why our culture is extremely permissive of the most horrific, grisly scenes of murder and violence, but up in arms about the tiniest hint of sex.  In movies, video games, and primetime TV there is essentially no act of violence too over-the-top or too disgusting to show, but there would be howls of outrage if they tried to air a naked butt on TV.  I must admit that I never really noticed how far skewed American sensibilities are until I watched some European television where they have made the opposite choice.  How did we get to this point, and how do we justify this ourselves?  I'd love to know what kind of psychology is going on underneath the hood here.

  4. Hi whelmed, I like your user name.  It made me smile, as I wondered, "Over- or under- ?"  Anyway, I wanted to say that I feel the same concern that you expressed.  Graphic, gratuitous violence in movies and video games disturbs me.  I really feel the same way about sex, for the sake of marketing to the masses.  The questions that I try to ask, of myself, and as I discuss with my children, is in what way was the violence and sex portrayed?  Glorified/sensationalized, with a twisted, depraved angle, or exposed as being an unhealthy, hurtful (to self and others) path?  In HP and HG, I think the point was to expose the inhumanity of corrupted power and violence.  In Twilight, which I mentioned in my earlier comment, the romantic relationship is so, so unhealthy.  And I think that it is glorified as true love.  Kids are very, very aware of sex in our culture.  I have a 12yo and a 16yo, so I'm fairly in the thick of this issue at the moment.  In the main, kids are not only sexually aware, but active.  From my mother's perspective, especially with my daughter, I am saddened and worried for girls.  Whether extremely religious (read: conservative) or secular, the culture of violence and sex is worrisome.  As a mom, I have spent a great deal of time discussing these topics with my kids, and building relationships of trust with them.  I know that the messages they are seeing and hearing can be so confusing.  And that there is tremendous pressure on them to "fit in."  I pray a lot and hope that my kids will understand and make good choices.  ~Peace~

  5. The thing that impressed me about The Hunger Games was how well it told the story of the Empire using up an individual.  I bet there are a lot of people who thought that the violence in the first book (or movie) was great drama but haven't read the other books (or even the first).

  6. My speculation is that there is some sort of Freudian tradeoff going on, sex OR aggression to give some libidinal catharsis.

  7. I don't think HG is glorifying murder, I think it is showing the atrocities of dystopian government control.  I didn't care much for the books (poorly written), and I have several christian friends who have read HP (I haven't - seems like a large commitment that I don't have time for) - and it's not a big deal.To write "murder is real and the Cruciatus Curse and Hogwarts are fake" is inconsistent and a little dishonest, though.  The characters and specific scenarios of HG are just as fake as those of HP, and witchcraft and sorcery are just as real as murder.You're critical of those who are OK with one and not the other, but you're doing the same thing.  Sin is sin.  Murder and witchdraft are both terrible.  I will not be exposing my kids to either - which is consistent.  I am OK with my mature christian friends reading both - which is consistent.Calling all conservative christians "clueless" is a clue to me that your opinion may not be thought out very well, and claiming to "sin boldly" strengthens my suspicion.

  8. "Calling all conservative christians "clueless" is a clue to me that your opinion may not be thought out very well, and claiming to "sin boldly" strengthens my suspicion."

    Not all conservative Christians are clueless, but some of their musicians are suspect. ;)

    Sinning boldly? Heck, we're all sinners. Why not do it with some conviction?

  9. There have been pastor conferences/conventions which the nearby hotels experienced a huge spike in pay-per-view porn subscriptions.   Gary Y.

  10. Totally okay with you calling me out on the clueless comment. I was trying to crack a joke rather than make an argument. And stereotyping is a part of jokes. "A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Hooker walk into a bar..."

    As for "sin boldy" that's a Martin Luther reference.

  11. Good attention to detail, Jim!  I am indeed a conservative christian musician.

    We're all sinners, yes.  But to sin with conviction?  Jesus makes us a new creation so that we hate lawlessness and thirst for righteousness.  I am guessing the author of the post is saying this in jest, but it's scary to see how many people profess to be christians and still love their sin.

  12. I don't know...  I'd rather love people (even "clueless Christians) than congratulate myself for hating.  That old saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" just doesn't work out well.  It's a nice theory, but in

  13. Well said, and intriguing too.

    I posted a link to this on Facebook and a friend commented "... but they're ok with magic wardrobes." which is equally insightful.

  14. Good points Peter, and thanks for recognizing the jest (both mine and Richard's). 

    But if Jesus *has* made us a new creation then we would not still be sinning. It is a promise for the future, NOT a present condition. Too many Christians pervert this notion in order to take credit for their own righteousness/salvation - as if it was they who had made themselves a new creation - and in order to blame others for not doing so.

    *When* we are made new creations, that will all be God's doing and none of our own. For anyone to claim otherwise is to promote salvation by works -- the clay vessels molding themselves... the lost sheep finding themselves... the dead raising themselves.

  15. May years ago when I used to get to go to the Tulsa Worshop, some of the speakers used to joke about us all meeting at the southeast corner of Heaven so we could see each other. 

    So maybe for those of us who end up in Hell because we love our Harry Potters, our Hunger Games (and our Lord of the Rings) we should agree on where we can all meet up and enjoy each other's company reminiscing about the good ole days with our sinful books and movies. 

    Redikalus!  It's all RE-DIK-A-LUS!

    Someone please tell me if I got the southeast corner location wrong.  Was it the southwest corne?  Oh my goodness!  Help!

  16. Narnia. Lord of the Rings. Fairy tales of all sorts (from literature to Disney movies). Wizard of Oz. The magic stories Christians are comfortable with go on and on.

    Let alone the Twilight books.

  17. Perhaps the violent roots of many  "new world" western nations explains why we as christians tend to find violence more palatable than witchcraft. We live in countries with an history that includes invasion, dispossion, genocide, segregation etc. We as christians have even glorified some of these actions under the banner of "manifest destiny" I think it's also the case that we tend to overlook the sin we are beholden of, and campaign against the sin we have no trouble with. Most of us aren't struggling with the temptation of witchcraft. We are however in the West constantly falling to the temptation of violence. Particularly the violence of Empire.

  18. Kris, your comment resonates with me.  I am reading Ched Myers' book "Who Will Roll Away the Stone: Discipleship Queries for First World Christians" which talks about our history having been devised and dismembered by the official scribes, and our typical unquestioning devotion to these false and incomplete stories...because the enormity of the predicament we're really in feels too big to confront and repent of.  (How to turn this thing around?)  We detach instead of engaging constructively.  Which I have been guilty of at various times.  I am finding the reading to be very heavy (as in sad) truth to absorb.  But good and helpful.  Not too long ago here, I went a little batty over a post/discussion on Nolan's TDKR.  So, going back to Ched Myers' thesis, can we -- should we avoid the reality of violence in our world?  In terms of HG and HP, our art forms (films, books, music) often just reflect the cultural realities (or at least desires).  Until we can see and hear and tell the whole story, and then learn another way (healing and peace) to narrate the forward journey, we are doomed to repeat history, individually and as people groups.  As parents, teachers, and church leaders, I hope that we can help to give our children another Story.  That, by the way, is the beautiful message at the end of the HG series, imho.  So similar to what I think that Ched Myers is trying to say, in part at least, in WWRATS.  There is also a very good article at The Other Journal online (Hobbits, Heroes and Football, by Chelle Stearns - 9/2011) that compares the warrior-hero to the healer-hero -- and Jesus as Gardener-Hero.  Really lovely.

    Thank you.  Your words encourage me to dig deeper and press on, though the way be difficult.  ~Peace~

  19. An interesting point another friend brought up is the balance between "believable" and "unbelievable" magic in the different books. For Lord of the Rings, we're in this place called Middle Earth, with all sorts of weird characters and places we've never heard of, so the magic is very "detached" from reality so to speak. Same could go for Narnia, since you go through a wardrobe to get to this place.

    However, with Harry Potter, it is set in a "current time" England where everything is just "behind the veil" and ties in very much with the reality we experience today. Hence one could be a little more worried about kids trying to make wands out of duck feathers, than trying to grab an elusive war hammer in Moria.

    I guess this might be what makes Hunger Games just a smidge more "acceptable" since it is in this future time where the US doesn't even exist anymore and people can create amazing arenas where fireballs appear with a couple presses on a keyboard.

    That's not to say it's any less tolerable, but it intrigues me greatly on the scale in which things seem to be judged.

  20. Growing up, I read the Harry Potter series in secret under the covers at night or at school away from home because my mom had the view that the books promote witchcraft, but after she looked into them for herself she changed her mind, but for a good four or five years I always felt the whole situation was a bit comical; I felt like I was being sinful by lying to my mom by reading books (a good thing!) in secret that my mom viewed as sinful, when they really aren't at all. I justified it all by telling myself that even if I was lying, at least I was reading, right? My eight year old self convinced itself that it's not lying if you're avoiding the truth by omission of details. Oh, memories!

    Love this post, by the way! It's a good mix of humor and seriousness.

  21. For those who wants to read more about it, there is the book "Harry Potter and the Bible : The menace behind the Magick" I read it so long ago, I dont remember lot of it. But I think it partially takes what Dillie-O said : that is magic in Harry Potter is described as real in our day, not in a fantasy world (and in lord of the ring or narnia, magic isn't made by the humans mostly). And that Rowling took many references to real witchcrafty (from dates, names, practice, etc...). I think it was also about how the children lie all the time and break the rules and it comes good from it...and many other things probably.
    The critics can be applied to other books, but it probably comes out because of the success of Harry Potter.
    I personally read it without problem and will give it to my children to read, though I don't know at which age yet.

    About America and Europe, I'm from Europe and yeah America does seem weird for us how sex is so hidden and violence so normal. However, I find the european way less disturbing (maybe because I'm from here), because I think the christianity isn't the "rule" like before, some lands like France tries a lot to separate state from any religion... and most kind of sexual relation aren't a problem anymore for many people, or for the laws (except adultery or other exceptions) when violence is still seen like a problem.

  22. The apologetics that I've heard on this difference--and I don't agree with this explanation myself--is who uses the magic in the books. If a human character performs magic and is considered a protagonist, then the book is bad. If only non-human protagonists (specifically, extra-human protagonists) perform magic, then the book could be OK. So in Narnia, the only humans who cast magic are villains; good magic users are normally divine. In Lord of the Rings, the wizards (Gandalf, Saruman--sp?) are actually demi-gods sent to earth to fight evil (which doesn't really come out in the movies). So we mere humans aren't tempted to use magic. But in Harry Potter. Well. Human kids use magic in that, which will tempt children to use Ouji boards and tarot cards and other Satanic crafts. (I'd like to see a strong empirical study that shows reading Harry Potter causes the practice of the occult.)

  23. Awesome. Last week, my son was lectured at church for carrying around the graphic novel version of Twilight because it was 'satanic witchcraft'. Am I a bad Christian if I was more annoyed simply that he was reading Twilight than about any concerns about 'satanic witchcraft'?

  24. I'm not sure that just because the historical context of a book isn't set in "reality" as we presume it, doesn't mean that it's implications, meanings, and messages are not just as potent as more non-fictional contexts. I really don't think you can make a very strong case that children or anyone for that matter learn more about "reality" in these non-fictional contexts such as in HG and HP than they do from Narnia, Middle-Earth, or any other fictional and fantastical world.  I think you've missed a large point of many authors if you think the degree of "reality," as in historical context and its accuracy, makes much if any sort of difference to the substance of a story or message. Indeed, what is hidden and not tangible or visceral is often times more "real" than the visible world around us, a strong point that both Tolkien and Lewis attempt to expound in their famous works.

  25. Mh Ive lot of problems to read/see something about real events that is implying violence, happening nowadays. And same goes with fictional movies or books. I'm unable to watch a movie about ww1 or ww2, or with people shooting with modern gun, when I can without problem see a battle with a sword. But I'm not sure at which age the children start to separate the real from the imaginary.
    HP happens maybe nowadays in our world, but is for me still quite unreal (magic spells, parallel world as it is here described...)
    That messages, meanings, etc.. are not less potent in fiction such as Middle-Earth is right, but I can totally understand that someone is more disturbed when its child reads a scene about "real" witchcraft, that is practiced by people, than when it reads about the kind of magic Aslan or Gandalf do. But again, even if Rowling did take some references in reality, it is really not obvious, especially for a child. And it's not by waving a stick saying "expelliarmus" that they will practice witchcraft.

  26. (I know that people did fight with swords before, but seems that for my brain it is too long ago to take it in account)

  27. And let's not forget that some characters are praised for making a huge deal out of the fact that they are still virgins--which in and of itself, is a way of exposing kids to sex.

  28.  I think her point is that different people have different views on what forms of literature are, and are not, sinful.

    I personally think it's a sin to not talk to your kids about troubling themes in the media they consume.  Kids learn a LOT by talking to parents.  Also, there's a lot less resentment if you calmly explain that while some parents allow their kids to read books about witchcraft, that you don't feel it's right.  That's a lot better than just "You can't read books with magic in them BECAUSE I SAID SO!" :)

    (By the way, I'm Wiccan.  I can assure you that Harry Potter's fictional magic has absolutely nothing to do with real-life Wiccan witchcraft.  Every single spell in all 7 books is completely made-up by Rowling.)

  29.  As a student in a private Christian elementary school, I remember asking why it wasn't OK to bring my Aladdin video for after-school daycare, and the teacher said "Because it has magic in it."

    Meanwhile, the same school showed Cinderella all the time.

  30.  I was fascinated by magic and tarot cards long before I'd ever heard of Harry Potter or Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. :)

  31. It is an interesting point that the petty, bureaucratic cruelty of Umbridge inspires a far more visceral hatred in most readers than the over-the-top evil of Voldemort or Bellatrix LeStrange.  I suspect it's because most of us have encountered that kind of small-scale sadism in real life, whereas torture and murder are remote from most HP readers' first-hand experience.  Also, Umbridge doesn't have any qualities that are even potentially admirable (things like strength, resolve, audacity, or loyalty, that would be virtues in a virtuous person, but only serve to make a vicious person more dangerous): she's purely loathesome.

    Harry's sacrifice and miraculous survival at the end of Deathly Hallows is about as clear an allegory for the story of Christ as Aslan's death and resurrection in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, once you understand that by doing what he did, he conferred on all the witches and wizards defending Hogwarts against the Death Eaters the same protection his mother's sacrifice had given him -- that's why Voldemort's spells couldn't burn Neville or silence the crowd.  It's just that Rowling wrapped a much longer, more complex and engaging story around her allegory than Lewis did, so most of us never saw it coming until she sprung it on us at the very end.

  32. Followed her from a link on Slacktivist. 

    As a (wannabe) writer of fantasy / YA literature (been trying to get published for years, without success, which maybe means I'm not actually good)... I've decided that if my work ever does get out there and it annoys Fundamentalists, that I'm doing at least one thing right. 

    I sadly haven't read the Harry Potter books, but upon seeing the film adaptations - enough of love, courage and heroic sacrifice came off in those to make me think back to a lot of specifically "Christian" literature and wonder why there seems to be more of the things that first drew me to Jesus in secular and supposedly "evil" media than there is in the "Christian market" stuff.  Like I said, I clicked this from Slacktivist - the blog that eviscerates the love-less Left Behind series (books which I have read half the series of. And, yes, they are that bad).

    One thing that I'm into currently that I find interesting, beyond the "videogames are evil" idea is the Legend of Zelda game series. I wrote an article once for a fan site I go to specifically about the use of symbols from various religions in those games. They make a particularly interesting example of audience-weirdness. The first games in the series used a lot of crosses and psuedo-Christian things (for aesthetic reasons) and in bringing the original game over from Japan, Nintendo of America re-translated the "Bible" item to a generic "Spell Book" because, apparently, most American Christian parents had no problem with their kids playing a character who kills dog-monsters and animate skeletons with a magic sword in a quest for pieces of a magical artefact, but using the "Bible" to make fire happen was too much.  Today, the games have a more-developed mythology with their own in-universe pantheon.  I find it interesting that fans of the series on the forums I go to range from conservative Christians who love the games even though they're about magic and goddesses to hardcore anti-theist-stripe atheists who love the games even though they're about magic and goddesses.  

    Yeah, I'm goin' to Hell, too. Apparently.

  33.  "And that Rowling took many references to real witchcraft"

    I have read 6 of the 7 books.  I have also read numerous books on historical witch-hunts, and on Wicca.  The only things I can think of (literally, the only things!) that HP has in common with historical witchcraft accusations are:

    1. An animal as your familiar.  In HP, it's just an animal friend.  In witch trials, it was actually a demon in animal form.  (Also bear in mind that when "Scabbers" revealed himself to be Peter Pettigrew, everyone was horrified.)

    2. The use of wands and potions...neither of which is limited to witchcraft.  Stage magicians use wands all the time, and a cauldron full of ingredients pretty much describes all cooking prior to the invention of the stove.

  34. I have been advocating to get our high schoolers in an after school program discussing Hunger Games. It is a Christian program that is urban and in a very violent area.  Many of our kids have seen shootings and violence.  But our director thinks the violence of the book is too much.  I think the violence of the book would give a good way for our kids to talk about the real violence in their own lives.

    But we are a Christian program so we can't talk about it :)

  35. Slightly off topic, but magic and tarot cards are not satanic. Pagan yes, evil no. There is a difference, and one that almost all Christian authorities refuse to recognize. Magic was an intrinsic part of most native celtic and germanic religions prior to being forcefully converted and the symbols on the tarot cards are carry overs from the remnants of those faiths. Practitioners of such faith have been persecuted as devil worshipers and witches since the early days of the church because they were a threat to Church power. This fear of the "occult" is just a hand-me-down that's been in the system for over 1500 years

  36. A late, late comment, but whilst we are at the crossroads of Rowlings and Lewis: In "Peleandra", where Lewis remakes the Adam/Eve story on another planet, the devil comes around just like that - A very verbal, social, persuasive character when he wants to, and then when he is on his own he amuses himself by pulling the legs off frogs and suchlike. Evil as the petty, meaningless, ugly little things. 

    The rest of the book I most definitely did not like (a discussion for another time) but I found the portrait of the devil to be very interesting.

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