Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunger Games: The Atheist's Utopia Revealed


My Past Week
I've noticed lately that I have a harder and harder time going to see movies purely for the entertainment value of the show. This weekend I went to see one that really made me step back and look at society, not just as portrayed in the movie, but the society of the audience. Last week I had a conversation with a person that was still fresh on my mind, and I finished reading a specific book on the topic. Those allowed my mind to make some interesting connections.

What Conversation?
Last week's conversation was a political/worldview discussion with a friend on Facebook. This person was more concerned that he be allowed to believe whatever he wanted to believe rather than be concerned about the truth of the content of his belief. He stated that he was a moral relativist and that nothing could be considered "right" or "wrong" on his view; he also believed that the government and its official documents (the US Constitution, in this case) is from where people derive "intrinsic" rights. When he asked me moral questions, I asked if he was asking from within his worldview or mine. He told me to just answer the question however best suits me.


What Book?
The book that I finished reading is by Stephen McAndrew. It is "Why It Doesn't Matter What YOU Believe If Its Not True." (My review). The main purpose of the book was to show how a post-modern perspective and worldview, like what my friend above held, is completely incoherent and will logically lead the adherent down extremely dangerous paths.

...And What Movie?
This leads me to the movie I saw this weekend: "The Hunger Games" (no spoilers coming up). It is based on a very popular book series. The story has all people divided between two different societies: those in The Capital and those in the Districts. The ones in The Capital essentially rule over those in the Districts. In order to keep the Districts from rising against The Capital again (it happened once in the past), a yearly "game" takes place that requires two "tributes" from each District. This "game" is reminiscent of today's "Survivor"-style reality shows without the "voting off" and with an abhorrent twist. The way that a tribute wins is for all the other tributes to be dead, either by natural causes or murder by the others- the latter being preferred by those watching the event from The Capital.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the tributes are children. But the immorality doesn't lie only with The Capital. Because of the rewards of winning the game, some of the Districts focus all their training of certain children to quickly carry out murders. What I have described here is only a portion of just how immoral the "Hunger Games" event is. You will have to either read the book or watch the movie to get the other sickening details.

A World of Relativism and Survival of the Fittest
A couple things stood out to me about this world that the writer takes the audience into: the first is that no one in The Capital challenged what was happening- not on utilitarian grounds, not on moral grounds. The Districts (the society being victimized), though they knew that it was wrong, did not make any attempt to challenge The Capital- their only protest was a hand signal that demonstrated that they didn't agree.

The second thing that stood out was the very fact that the people who were in charge of putting on the "Hunger Games" event was of an elite class- those with money and power. They used that money and power to make the poor and weak people be their entertainment- to the point of not just dying, but murdering each other. The rules in the game were set with the expressed purpose of seeing that the Tributes carried out murder, and the very existence of the "Hunger Games" event was to keep one society in submission to another.

I'm Making Moral Judgments
As morally reprehensible as the premise behind the movie is, it is a work of fiction that has no affects on reality....or does it? I find it quite interesting that so many movies are produced that show a morally debauched society "sometime" in the future, yet they never show how society became that way. They make no effort to connect the present world to the future world that they draw the viewer into. I believe that that is because of the fact that that would be a little too scary for people. I mean imagine a story that makes a logical connection and shows how our society not only could lead to the "Hunger Games", but is on that track...then show the "Hunger Games" in all its murderous glory. That would give a whole new meaning to the genre titled "horror".

What YOU Believe?
Today, moral relativism is running rampant. People try to ground morality in themselves or in the thriving of the most humans. The problem is that no two people will agree completely on all moral issues that come up. Each person will react according to their own desires, and when conflict arises between those who don't agree, the stronger will overtake the weaker. If we appeal to the thriving of the most humans, we are still back to a subjective standard. How are we to define "thriving"? It can certainly be defined in such a way that very few humans actually experience it, but it would be the most possible. Either one of these scenarios could be what happened leading up to the story of "The Hunger Games." But these are not just fiction, they are the reality of not having an objective moral standard.

Am I Over-Reacting?
Many are likely thinking that even if our secular society could end up making the "Hunger Games" event a real part of their history, people will not allow it to happen because man is good and would never tolerate this. I beg to differ. I know that for many years people have been saying how modern entertainment glamorizes and desensitizes people to violence, death, and murder. I know that I am a victim of this. One of my thoughts while watching the movie was, "Why did the makers of the film not show the true horror of the murders? Why did they hide the blood? Why did they not show the death strikes in their detail? Why did they drown out the screams of the children as they were brutally killed by one another? Did not the Nazis do the same at the gas chambers when they murdered the Jews?"

It made me sick to my stomach- not the presence of the violence, but the lack of it! How ironic is that? First, I've been so desensitized that I am wondering why its not portrayed accurately or at least more gruesomely than it was! That alone tells me that the constant barrage of violence has done something to me. Second, the director appears to be counting on the prior desensitization to make the murders not appear so bad to the audience. (I could be wrong about this; the censoring could be to keep the movie at a PG-13 rating, be for cinematic/artistic effect, or to leave something to the imagination of the generations who grew up with Mortal Kombat).

What really got to me was that when the movie was over, I did not hear a single word of disgust over the premise of the story from the audience. All I heard was people comparing it to the books. People have been trained to not focus on the moral aspects of movies, but on how accurately the movie follows a book. Our attention has been diverted from what matters to what does not matter. Who focuses on if the movie followed the book while ignoring the possibility that the content of the book and the movie could actually happen? The post-modernist...today's society. We are being led down this road without knowing what we are doing...but I won't let us off so innocently.

Just How Far Are We, Really?
Exactly how many steps are we from actually accepting something like the "Hunger Games" event? Well, you tell me...our society is entertained by death in the fictional world and in the real world. We are entertained by the fact that fictional characters are entertained by the "Hunger Games". There is little to no cries of outrage from our own society on the moral repugnance of "The Hunger Games". People are well aware of what they are entertained by, not just once, but over and over and over and over again. People are also well aware of what they refuse to stand against...perhaps because they are afraid they might lose that entertainment, be seen as a critic of artistic expression, or be seen as intolerant of other people's/societies' views of right and wrong.

What will happen when our society gets bored with death and murder being just a part of fiction? Don't tell me that what I'm insinuating won't happen. Look at the porn industry. Many people are no longer satisfied with what they see just on a screen, they have become bored with experiencing it second-hand...they must experience it for themselves. Let me ask this: what is part of a relativistic society that will keep man from doing what he does with porn with another form of entertainment? It certainly won't be the Constitution, that document can be, has been, and will continue to be changed by those in power: who vote based on the desires of those who put them in power (the society) or their own agendas.

There Will Be Hunger In Utopia
People, we are not far from realizing that we are part of a "drama" movie that should have been labeled a "horror" movie. If our society continues to reject God, they reject the only possible source of objective morality that will keep this possibility in check.

Many of you are aware of the "Reason Rally" that took place in early 2012. It was a celebration of the rejection of God (the only objective moral standard) and a celebration of man's triumphs, knowledge, "wisdom," and utopian dreams for the future. (If there are any Christian screenwriters and movie producers reading this, here is a great starting premise.) If you plan to go see the movie or read the books, I ask that you take a step back to see the logical track that leads to the utopian dream of "The Hunger Games."

I answer critics of this post here: Revisited

For more movie reviews, check out the NEW Cultural Apologetics page. 

See also these posts about "The Hunger Games":
The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective and Review by J.W. Wartick
The Hunger Games: A Film Review and Reflections by Holly Ordway
The Hunger Games: Tribute to Life by Marcia Montenegro
The Hunger Games: Wall or Bridge- video panel discussion from TC Apologetics
Deeper Hungers and Darker Games- by Anthony Webber

5 comments:

  1. Are you sure that such a scenario as is in "The Hunger Games" is the only possible outcome? The modern media has a variety of methods to appear to kill someone without actually doing it. But that is only the second most important bit. The MOST important piece of information that has to be recognized is that the entertainment industry isn't out for blood; They're out for cash. And if they can get cash without spilling blood - and they can - then they will. And why bother to kill a character, when character resurrections are so GOSH DARNED popular?
    Further, morality being relative or not is entirely beside the point. You think it's objective, your friend says it's subjective. The beauty - and irony - of your argument, discussion, or what-have-you, is that IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO'S RIGHT! If morality is objective, then BOTH of you will act as though it is, because in REALITY, it is. If it isn't, it isn't and the same applies. Fundamental reality doesn't change based on popular opinion. That is one of the great subtleties of religious and related debate - it won't change a darned thing about the world, except for humanity's understanding of it. That's why I engage in it - to increase my own understanding of the world, in the physical, and metaphysical aspects.

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    1. Itarion,
      Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delayed response.

      I'm not sure if you have seen the movie. If you have, you have completely misunderstood what the Hunger Games are. If you have not, I highly recommend that you do. If you place yourself in the story, you will see that the Hunger Games are not a fake show put on by Hollywood for entertainment. It is a real-life fight to the real death of real people. The people in the Hunger Games are not actors playing a character that dies (and the actor lives). The person really fighting for their real lives. In the story, the Hunger Games is not a fictional show, it is real.

      Because the deaths are actually taking place, the objectivity or subjectivity of morality is quite important. If morality is subjective, then the Capital cannot intellectually be accused of doing anything "wrong"; however, they can emotionally be accused of it, but emotion is as far as it can go...there is no intellectual reason for disagreeing with them.

      What makes the story so reprehensible to us is that we see people in the Capital who are entertained by actual death (not just fake death). That was my point. We, as the audience, are entertained by fake death; while the people in the movie are entertained by real death. I then ask what is to keep us from crossing the line from being entertained by fake death to being entertained by real death.

      Here is another place where the objectivity or subjectivity of morality is quite important. If morality is subjective, then there is nothing to keep us from crossing the line. In fact, if morality is really subjective, there is no moral line of distinction between fake and actual death.

      Notice too that in the entire comment, I have only spoke to "death", I have not even mentioned that the majority of the deaths are the result of murder. But again, if morality is subjective, there is no moral distinction between a death by natural causes and a murder.

      You ask if I believe this to be the only possible outcome. I ask you how you expect to avoid such an outcome.

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  2. Here's the hysterical thing about how wrong you are.

    Theists are the capital. That's right. If Hunger Games depicts anything it shows us where we are headed under your guise of "My god is the only right one and all must listen to me."

    I'm an atheist and many times during this movie I found myself internally revolting against the oppressive stranglehold the Capital had on the Districts.

    Think of it this way. Christian missionaries who travel the world to "tame the heathen" and destroy the indigenous culture in an attempt to implant their own Christ-worshipping, European-based culture is the Capital. The long suffering indigenous people who are held captive under the oppressive thumb of force and coercion are the Districts.

    Morals are relative. There can be no argument about that. Killing is supposedly morally reprehensible and yet when done in self-defense or in the defense of an innocent it's not only not a crime but something to be admired.

    If that is not the very definition of relativism than I don't know what is.

    Now, as for being entertained by death you can't possibly be trying to argue that this falls to a secular society? Are you serious? The Romans had the Coliseum. Once Christians rose into power they simply ignored the entertainment aspect of it and just went with wholesale torture. Spanish Inquisition anyone?

    Lastly, it is painfully clear to anyone who has seen the movie that you obviously did not. They hid the blood? Really? The opening fight scene was a bloodbath. Twice we see grevious wounds. Wee see an innocent child killed by a spear to her chest and held in the arms of Katness as she dies.

    It's incredibly clear that you have no right to discuss this film, first because your sectarian culture will bring us to this situation far sooner then my secular one ever will and two, because you obviously haven't even seen the movie.

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    1. Uncommonsense,
      Thank you for your comment. I have a few questions for you:

      1. In what way is the behavior of the Capital consistent with that of the teachings of Christianity? (I can ask the same of Rome and the Spanish inquisition, btw). Keep in mind that behavior can be inconsistent with claims of belief, thus that behavior is not necessarily an accurate representative of a claimed belief.

      2. Where in the movie did you see the Capital claim to be theistic? If they did not claim this, then your conclusion that the Capital was promoting the Hunger Games in the name of theism is actually an incorrect representation of the story. The fact that there was no mention of a God or objective moral standards actually supports my view that the society of the Capital was, at least, agnostic and at most, atheistic- both of which lead to moral relativism. Since they both do, my critiques stand.

      3. If morality is unarguably relative, on what objective grounds can you say that the defense of an "innocent" (an objective moral term) is "admirable" (another objective moral term), and on what objective basis do you ground your internal revolt against the Capital?

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  3. I'll start off by saying that I've read the books but have not seen the movie.

    I understand where you are coming from but I don't see the way forward as progress but rather a regression.

    The premise of the story, sending tributes to fight for the entertainment of the conquering overlord, has its roots in antiquity, most specifically in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Also the nature of the Hunger Games is very much gladiatorial, where people are put in enclosed spaces and forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the crowd. Images of the Coliseum come to mind. Also, a link that is made in the books (at least)is the nature of the games is two fold, suppression of the districts as well as to distract those in the capital from the reality of their situation. Again, thoughts spring back to ancient Rome and Juvenal's "bread and circuses." Interestingly enough, the country in which the Hunger Games take place is Panem, "bread and circuses" in latin is "panem et circenses".

    The horrific elements of the Hunger Games are not some far flung fantasy but rooted firmly in our past. A past that Christianity raised us out of but with the rejection of Christianity we are likely to return to. Is it any wonder that the school board in Cornwall, England recently announced that paganism will be part of the religious curriculum in schools going forward?

    As for uncommmonsense's comments, the only thing that I would say is that the realities of Panem in the novels much more closely mirror the realities of atheistic totalitarian regimes of Russia and China than any Christian nation, past or present.

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