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‘The Hunger Games’, Storytelling, and How to Not Be a Twit

March 26, 2012

It would make discussing movies a far more profitable and less exasperating endeavor if the discussors would remember that a movie is not “about” the things that happen to occur in the course of the story. To get into specifics, The Hunger Games is no more “about” kids killing each other than The Lord of the Rings is “about” a short guy with hairy feet bringing a ring from one place to another. These series of events are what Aristotle would call the mere action (often rendered “plot”) of the story. If a story is “about” its action, then a painting is “about” the way the paint is ordered on the canvas.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"No, a story is about its theme, which the characters reveal through their action and diction, supported by the aural and visual aids of the storyteller (music and spectacle). Anyone can look at a story like The Hunger Games and ask, “Why would a good Christian man ever want to see a movie in which kids are forced to kill one another?” The unthinking person assumes this question is some sort of rhetorical/reductio slam dunk and claims victory in the silence that follows. But the thinking person recognizes the question for the emotionally-laden straw man that it is and seeks to answer the real question at hand:

“Why do so many people love this story? What is it about?

And that is a far more complex question, unanswerable by pompously pithy Facebook statuses.

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