.- Father Robert Barron says the storyline in the blockbuster film âThe Hunger Games,â based on the widely popular young adult book, warns of what can happen when a society becomes totally secularized.
âThere is something dangerously prophetic about 'The Hunger Games,'â said Fr. Barron, founder of the media group âWord on Fireâ and host of the PBS-aired âCatholicismâ series.
The movie, which has already brought in $214 million worldwide since its March 23 release, is based on the young adult book of the same title by Suzanne Collins.
Set sometime in the undefined future, âThe Hunger Gamesâ tells the story of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen's struggle for survival after she volunteers to take her sister's place in her country's annual âhunger games.â
Ruled by the wealthy and authoritarian Capitol, the impoverished Twelve Districts within the country must annually offer its children as tributes to take part in a live television broadcast of an arena battle to the death. The gruesome killings between the children serve as a reminder of the Capitol's absolute power and as punishment for the Districts' failed rebellion decades earlier.
However, as the events in the arena unfold, Katniss and her teammate Peeta begin to rise against the Capitol through attempting to maintain their humanity.
In a March 29 interview with CNA, Fr. Barron said he thought the movie contained elements of modern French philosopher Rene Girard's theory of âhuman scapegoating.â
He explained that scapegoating has been used throughout history as a means of discharging âall of our fears and anxietiesâ by assigning blame to an individual or group of people.
This practice is seen as far back in history from civilizations such as the Aztec and the Roman empires and as recently as Nazi Germany.
However, Fr. Barron said, Christ undid the need for humanity's scapegoating by taking on the role of victim himself in his Passion and Resurrection.
âThe Hunger Gamesâ shows not only âhow very consistent this theme is in human historyâ and in âhuman consciousness,â but also what can happen in a totally secular society.
âWhen Christianity fades away,â Fr. Barron said, âwe're in great danger because it's Christianity that holds this idea at bay.â
Just as Christ's sacrifice was the ultimate âunderminingâ of humanity's scapegoating, Fr. Barron noted Peeta and Katniss' defiance in the arena is a disruption of human sacrifice in their own culture.
âChristianity,â the priest said, âis the undoing of the scapegoating mechanism which lies behind most civilizations.â
Some critics have said that the book's plot is too graphic for the young adult audience at which it is targeted because it focuses on children killing other children. As a result, much of the child-on-child combat is toned down in the movie.
Youth violence is unfortunately a âhuman reality,â Fr. Barron said, âit's called war.â
Although he does not think violence should be shown just for entertainment value, Fr. Barron said he thought that âthere wasn't enough violenceâ in âThe Hunger Games.â
He understood why the producers would want to make the film more age appropriate, âbut there's something about revealing to people what's at stake here that I think is important.â
Muting much of the teen killings âwas a bit of a weaknessâ on the part of the film makers, he added, because âit's actually good to let this violence be seen for what it really is.â
The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for âintense violent thematic material and disturbing images â all involving teens.â