Youth, Popular Culture & Texts

Fight for survival

As a teacher I like to be up to date with what my students are reading and talking about. Over the past few years I have noticed an increase in the number of fictional novels being published that champion the idea of young people fighting against each other in the fight for survival.  The novels that I am specifically referring to in this post are:

Hunger_games_Books_t600
Image from: KPBS Book Review
maze-runner
Image from: According to Brie
books-1
Image from: extra

These novels are all part of a series and have all since been made into movies.  They have been extremely well received by teenagers and often have associated Fandoms (a topic discuss in my next blog post called:  What’s popular? Fandoms).

For those that haven’t read the books or seen the movies, these stories often involve young people becoming entrenched in some form of battle between other young people or a type of governmental figure head.  They regularly face the moral dilemma of “kill or be killed” and often have emotional repercussions to deal with.

My issue is this:

Is our society really at the point where young people are needed to be warned and taught about the experience of taking someone’s life, even if it is the “right thing to do?”  Dealing with dwindling hope and not getting that perfect, happy ending that we have grown up believing is possible for everyone?

Please don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the books myself. I fell in love with the characters and became emotionally invested in their struggles.  However, I do wonder at the factors leading to authors writing novels with underlying values such as these.

The actual themes of the novels, such as faith, strength, justice, friendship, love, teamwork, etc., are a very welcome inclusion into today’s popular culture trends. However, I often wonder about the setting in which these themes are portrayed.

Of course, I could be overreacting to the whole issue. However, I do remember vividly being at the premiere of The Hunger Games and at the end, the majority of the audience cheering for the survival of Katniss and Peeta, not seeming to understand that:

  • They haven’t actually won
  • The fight for their survival continues
  • Killing someone will haunt them for the rest of their lives
  • Their hope is dwindling
  • They do not believe that they will ever get a happy ending

I suppose then that authors may feel the need to try and educate the youth of today regarding some of these slightly more sensitive issues. It is certainly something that contrasts with the “once upon a time stories” and “happily ever afters” that we are so used to seeing.  Perhaps this is exactly what our society needs, a good dose of reality that says:

Life is never easy.  Not everyone will get their happy ending.  You can only hope that during these trying times, whatever they may be, you find love, friendship, faith, justice, teamwork and strength, just like the characters in these novels.

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