The following story was published by Catholic News Agency on March 31.
Father Robert Barron says the storyline in the blockbuster film The Hunger Games, based on the widely popular young adult book, warns of what can happen when a society becomes totally secularized.
“There is something dangerously prophetic about The Hunger Games,” said Father Barron, founder of the media group Word on Fire and host of the PBS-aired “Catholicism” 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, The Hunger Games 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 “hunger games.”
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 Catholic News Agency, Father Barron said he thought the movie contained elements of modern French philosopher Rene Girard’s theory of “human scapegoating.”
He explained that scapegoating has been used throughout history as a means of discharging “all of our fears and anxieties” 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, Father Barron said, Christ undid the need for humanity’s scapegoating by taking on the role of victim himself in his Passion and Resurrection.
The Hunger Games shows not only “how very consistent this theme is in human history” and in “human consciousness,” but also what can happen in a totally secular society.
“When Christianity fades away,” Father Barron said, “we’re in great danger because it’s Christianity that holds this idea at bay.”
Just as Christ’s sacrifice was the ultimate “undermining” of humanity’s scapegoating, Father Barron noted Peeta and Katniss’ defiance in the arena is a disruption of human sacrifice in their own culture.
“Christianity,” the priest said, “is the undoing of the scapegoating mechanism which lies behind most civilizations.”
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 “human reality,” Father Barron said, “it’s called war.”
Although he does not think violence should be shown just for entertainment value, Father Barron said he thought that “there wasn’t enough violence” in The Hunger Games.
He understood why the producers would want to make the film more age appropriate, “but there’s something about revealing to people what’s at stake here that I think is important.”
Muting much of the teen killings “was a bit of a weakness” on the part of the film makers, he added, because “it’s actually good to let this violence be seen for what it really is.”
The film was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense violent thematic material and disturbing images – all involving teens.”
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 12:06 AM By Abeca Christian That is good to read. I heard it was a great example too of what happens when the democrats run this country because they want to much government control, they are OK with unborn killings etc etc….so we can share this with our kids so they can see what happens when we lose our rights and religious freedom.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:03 AM By 4unborn It is not good for any of this type of violence to be seen. For “good” graphic violence, see “The Passion.”
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:33 AM By JLS “Katniss” and “Peeta” respelled: Catness and Pieta, the huntress and the Mother of the Redeemer. But the term “scapegoating” is a good one, and Fr Barron’s comments are bullseye dead right on. The other Catholic set of motifs should be obvious, which is the Woman Fleeing with the Child from the Dragon and the Woman saving mankind.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:52 AM By Sandra I wouldn’t waste my time and $ to see Hunger Games–but I agree that watering down the violence would not hold to the reality of such a depraved society as in Hunger Games. Fr. Barron’s lesson on scapegoating should be meditated on so we can stay aware of this very real result when man blames the unborn for poverty.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 7:18 AM By Gabriel Espinosa I agree with Father. Enough hiding the brutality of violence. After all who is it that dies most often in wars, Afghanistan today? OUR YOUTH.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 7:30 AM By JMJ Another movie that I won’t see or a book that I won’t read. With t.v. that bought violence into our living rooms non-stop, including the live murders of JFK and Robert, the Vietnam war and now we have violence in full-color;with God not allowed in schools and the public light; shootings in schools; pro-lifers and anti-abortionists being attacked trying to save lives; families torn apart because of birth-control, which leads to divorce; kids being abused by their mother’s various sex partners, the hatred of the homosexuals against God and His people; the evil of OBAMANISM and Obama; yep; I can see where the kids need to be shown how to find more ways to get violence into their lives, as these are only a few of the good and wonderful things that the evil one has been feeding us and our children with for the past 60 or so years. In the ‘good’ old days, we only had radio or the movies to enlighten us. When the author says ‘Capitol’, it sounds very much like Obama, just with a little different spelling. +JMJ+
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:31 AM By Ski Ven Today the adults kill the children. I guess one day they will figure out that it would be more entertaining to let the children grow up a bit before packing them into a Colosseum so they can hack away at each other in front of frothing spectators.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 11:38 AM By Maryanne Leonard Yes, today the adults are not merely killing children in general, but are murdering their own young – with the legal sanction of our severely misguided society. Having an abortion keeps a single girl or woman marriageable, whereas having a child will greatly reduce her chances of success in all endeavors from schooling to career to marriage. This is an element that contributes to an adult’s decision to kill her baby and is selfishness in its purest form. I kill you because you are inconvenient; never mind that you are a child of God. I will think about that later; right now I want you dead. How is it that we can look away from this huge problem in our modern society? Why are we not more vocal in the public arena, and more helpful in the private hell a young woman is living while considering killing her own child – while the man is usually off cavorting? This is the basis for all female rage, which often results in murdered babies. Let us face all of this and deal with it productively! Hunger Games focuses on a fearsome fantasy world; we need to focus on the fearsome reality faced by young women, men, and their innocent babies! A really good movie that dealt with this prevalent dilemma without sugar-coating it would be an excellent beginning, as our screen-addled society is more moved by flickering lights on screens than by black letters on white pages these days, sad to say. We need to address the people making murderous decisions on their own turf and in their own language so that they might stop and think – not about hunger, but about murder, and what it means to murder a baby they themselves were chosen to love, nurture, and care for.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 11:54 AM By JonJ I’m not so sure I agree with Fr. Barron. Christianity is no guarentee against social scapegoating. For example, during the middle ages, europeans scapegoated people they believed to be witches and engaged in witch hunts (this also happened in the New World). The Church’s former practice of torturing suspected heretics was likely exploited by some communities when the Inquisitors came to their area. And, Catholic faith in no way stopped the conquistidors from visiting slaughter and slavery upon the Indians in order to take their gold. In one of the most despicable twists of catholic doctrine in history, many conquistadors (including clergy), claimed the theft and slaughter helped the Indians because they also brought the word of God. Some sick individuals even had the temerity to argue that the Indians were not human beings in a great debate at the theology school of Salamanca in order to justify their evil. To the great shame of the Salamanca theology school, they actually seriously considered the question. Today, ‘christian’ televangelist Pat Robertson has scapegoated gays by claiming ‘God would have protected America against 911’ but for tolerance of gays; scapegoated haitians by claiming they deserved their recent disaster bc people long dead sold their soul to Aatan for freedom from Napoleon III; and scapegoated the Denver Broncos for ‘mistreating’ Tim Tebow.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 12:40 PM By Philippe A timely warning full of truth by Fr. Barron. Here is a quote from a book by William Bush, “To Quell the Terror”: “Blood sacrifce, human religion’s immemorial rite – was thriving in revolutionary Paris and proved itself the mystical keystone for constructing the new order with its idealism and childlike faith in human nature.” In never discarding the rejection of God by the French Revolution, the “human religion” is bound to revive blood sacrifice. If nothing else, “liberalism” IS deadly, and at least half of mankind seems as drawn to it as a moth to flame. Who can doubt the words of Our Lady on September 19,1846 at La Salette that “In the year 1864, Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be loosed from hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even those dedicated to God…etc, a frightening long “etc”. “You can look it up” as Paul Harvey (I think it was) used to say on the radio.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:13 PM By Mary Ann Eiler Fr. Barron’s mention of Rene Girard’s theory of scapegoating is very crucial to understanding Ft. Barron’s point. To try to summarize Girard’s work in a sentence is a bit ridiculous, but : Girard believes that the practice of scapegoating was universal and unrecognized until the scapegoating of Christ. Meditation on what happened to Him over the past two thousand years has brought about the recognition of scapegoating for what it is. Yes, historically Christians did scapegoat and do dreadful things to Indians, conquered people and each other; still do. (But, then, they were/are not being Christlike at all in doing so). In THE SCAPEGOAT Girard points out that various instances of Christian scapegoating (e.g. of the Jews for “causing” the Plague) rather quickly (decades, not centuries) came to be seen for what they were. The movie sounds as if it were scripted from Girard’s complex series of theories and anthropological insights. And his work has yielded useful information for theologizing. (He is a very devout Catholic, brought back to the Church by his research.) There’s a lot on good info on Girard on the web, including a couple of articles in First Things, and a fairly decent Wikipedia account (with a good starting bibliography). And see the websites of Imitatio, Colloquium on Religion and Violence, Association Recherches Mimetiques, Raven Foundation and Gil Baillie’s web page and Cornerstone Forum website (among others).
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:21 PM By goodcause There is another very potent form of violence in our world….that of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the family unit. Our Church ignores this huge problem because it supports parents attacking their children, ostensibly to “correct” them. Children are the ultimate scapegoats in our culture, with parents and the Church leading the charge to continue Catholic family violence that damages lives forever. We have ourselves to blame for this problem, not secular culture. When you see the violence in our world, just ask yourself, “Gee, I wonder where they learned that”? Where else, at home!
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:32 PM By Philippe Pat Robertson may know that the founder of Haiti, Toussaint L’Ouverture, decided to help or celebrate either his cause or its success in breaking Haiti away from France by consecrating it to Satan. Within the last 10 years, possibly within the last 5 years, the president of Haiti re-consecrated Haiti to Satan, in a well-attended public rite, during a declared national holiday, although that has not much to do with “scapegoating” iIt seems that the leadership, at least, is happy with what Satan delivered over the lsst 200 years.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:46 PM By JLS JonJ, Christ guaranteed the Church, not society. The Church is tasked by Christ to reform societies … a formidable task, which seldom if ever is completed. Jesus told the parable about the grain and the chaff growing in the same field … Unless you are a Puritan, you will understand that there is no such thing as a pure society.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 1:50 PM By JLS Ski Ven, there was a L. A. Times column written by a top journalist a while back. He theorized that it would be better for society to send only its over fifty men to war. They’ve already raised their families, and established their life insurance policies, and their kids can support their war widow moms.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 3:30 PM By Camille In real life we stand aside while mother’s kill their children in the womb. In Oakland and Richmond, Ca. esp. young adults and teens are shooting and maiming each other. maybe not for food but for power just like in the movie, apparently. Don’t let the movie’s plot which can end in any manner the producer wants it to, blind us to the reality which will end the way the devil wants it to, if we do not return to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 5:12 PM By Abeca Christian I’m glad that CalCatholic reported on this, I think this would be good for kids to reads people’s comments here and view things from a Christian perspective! Since kids are having to read this book in schools, we can prep them by presenting the Christian views on things.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 5:50 PM By JonJ Philippe, most certainly Pat Robertson’s attack on the Haitians imvolves scapegoating. He is blaming many innocents for the acts of their leaders and exacting punishment on the innocents by discouraging aid. Pat Robertson is a thoroughly despicable individual who is very likely to experience severe punishment in the afterlife for exploiting others with his fake profession of Christian beliefs.
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 6:47 PM By JonJ JLS, Fr. Barron is claiming that ‘Hunger Games’ is what happens in a totally secular society, clearly implying that the same thing cannot happen in a Christian society. Unfortunately for Fr. Barron, history has supplied us with an openly Catholic society that was every bit as sick and depraved as the fictional government in Hunger Games. The torture and slaughter of the Indians only stopped after the conquistadors seized all the gold and conquered all the land. Despite the Pope’s command that the Indians should not be enslaved and converted by force, the spaniards only belatedly paid attention after they had taken everything of value. How, then, is the horror of ‘The Hunger Games’ the exclusive province of a completely secularized society?
Posted Wednesday, April 04, 2012 9:24 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher 1:32 PM By Philippe. There was another Toussaint from Haiti, he came to America as the slave of a devout Catholic French couple who gave him Catholicism and an education, he is now known as Ven. Pierre Toussaint for all the good holy works he did for all races. Pray for his Canonization. You can find out more about him in a book “The Other Pierre Toussaint”. God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher
Posted Thursday, April 05, 2012 11:01 AM By Juergensen JonJ: The Catholics by and large tried to convert and even interbred with the Indians. That’s why there are so many extant pure Indian and partially Indian populations in Central and South America today. By contrast, the Protestants wiped out the Indians in North America. That’s why there are so few Indian populations in North America today. So, when you talk about “the torture and slaughter of the Indians”, don’t forget that the Protestants were far more effective at it than were the Catholics. Always give credit where credit is due.