Last night I finished Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games). I may or may not finish the final installment by the time the first movie comes out this weekend, but it's okay because I still have a good amount of time before the next movies are released. My friends and I have talked about the books over the past few months - about how much it alludes to Ancient Rome, or how we struggled with the caliber of writing. I've also noticed how absent God is from the world of Panem in the stories. And I got to wondering if other people have thought the same thing.
An article on Movie Line titled Hunger Game-Change: How Suzanne Collins Made the Most of Hollywood's Young-Adult Obsession caught my attention today. It attributes some of the success of The Hunger Games franchise to the fact that the books don't overtly criticize religion; and I have to agree. I would much rather someone write a dark story without any bad religious references, than to write a story which makes oversimplified, kitschy pronouncements or misrepresentations of Christianity or any other religion. That's exactly what Collins was able to avoid. It was actually that much darker to me because God was nowhere to be found in all the pain and suffering of the characters and the ruthless oppression of the Districts by the Capitol. The article says this about her handling of religion:
Collins didn’t even touch it. One of her smartest moves was writing books that were dark without piquing mass boycotts – she’s killing kids, but at least she’s not killing God. Pullman’s wonderfully strange, angry His Dark Materials trilogy spooked Hollywood, which stripped out much of his anti-religion message before the first and only adaptation of his novels made it to theaters – and then Christian groups boycotted it anyway. The Golden Compass movie had other flaws, including dropping the last third of the book’s plot, but the boycott didn’t help its buzz or its studio’s fortunes. The rest of Pullman’s novels are unadapted to this day.
Positive stories about religion seem to fare better. While its sequels have stumbled, the recent adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a critical and commercial success, regardless of – or perhaps thanks to – the book’s exceedingly on-the-nose Christian allegory.What do you think? How did you respond to the atheistic world of Panem? And is there a lesson here for writers and filmmakers?