(The following was originally posted (by yours truly of course) in a social group, but I've to take the subject public for discussion.) A few days back, on the day before the film's opening, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News included in his program a segment where two guests of conveniently unspecified background endeavored to criticize the level of violence in the new movie, The Hunger Games, which is based on the best-selling book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I recently had the opportunity to see the movie in question. Here's my response: The Hunger Games is one of the relatively few movies in which I think that large doses of fairly intense violence are morally justified. Why? Because one of the main points, both of the book series and of this movie, is precisely that our society is losing its moral compass. The Hunger Games is about a distant-future, post-nuclear-war/post-ecological-disaster North America called Panem in which selected teenagers from poor and desperate backgrounds are required to annually entertain the affluent residents of the Capitol in a gladiator-style, life-and-death reality show/contest called the Hunger Games. The author of the book series, Collins, says that the inspiration to write the books came from channel surfing on television. On one channel she observed people competing on a reality show and on another she saw footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two, she says, "began to blur in this very unsettling way" and the idea for the book was formed. The Greek myth of Theseus served as basis for the story, with Collins describing Katniss (the main protagonist) as a futuristic Theseus, and that Roman gladiatorial games formed the framework. The sense of loss that Collins developed through her father's service in the Vietnam War also affected the story, whose heroine lost her father at age eleven, five years before the story begins. Collins has stated that the deaths of the young characters and other "dark passages" were the hardest parts of the book to write, but she had accepted she would be writing such scenes. She considered the moments where Katniss reflects on happier moments in her past to be the more enjoyable passages to write. In an interview with Collins, it was noted that the books "[tackle] issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, and the effects of war, among others". I personally observe that the nation of Panem Collins presents can be in many respects compared to the shape of the contemporary world if we mentally substitute the individual districts for countries instead. The Hunger Games are a form of punishment for a rebellion that was waged at an earlier point by the 13 impoverished districts against the wealthy Capitol and a source of entertainment for a privileged Capitol populace whose principal life concern seems to be the resolving its own boredom...in ANY way possible. If mentally juxtaposed to a world scale in the aforementioned way, this plot says a lot about imperialism. Ultimately, the book series, and this movie, are about hope on the one hand and about a society that has completely lost all moral sensitivity on the other. The irony of such productions, of course, is that, while lamenting the use of violence as entertainment, the artists are forced to employ it in the process. And it is THAT aspect which Fox criticizes. But the criticism is offered in a remarkably de-contextualized way. None of the main plot points I just highlighted are discussed on Bill O'Reilly's program. The Factor portrays the film as motivated by bloodthirsty sensationalism rather than by the obvious aim of PROTESTING bloodthirsty sensationalism. In thus separating the means from the ends in this strict way, we are presented with the argument that this is a film too violent for the intended audience. On the contrary, I'd argue that the ends clearly justify the means in this case because one important aim of the film in question is precisely TO sensitize the next generation to the question of violence-as-entertainment! It is in just such exceptional cases that I believe the conveyance of heavy violence to the youth can be justified. It is notable and convenient that the Factor hardly seems to bother critiquing the levels of violence in films and TV programs that DON'T involve such a progressive message, by contrast. If anything, the film pulls too many punches. The book on which this movie is based contains qualitatively heavier doses of violence and mutilation; the kind that would surely have gotten the movie rated R. The filmmakers thus opted to water down the level of violence somewhat in order to render the contents more accessible to the main target audience. Some critics on the other (liberal) side contend that that amounts to compromising the message of the book. Maybe and maybe not. The author of the book series is also a producer of the film though. If the result of these alterations is sufficiently true to the book for her, it is sufficiently true for me. She is the artist. It is her story to tell, not mine or anyone else's. The only times I insist that films should duplicate something exactly are when we are talking about either real-world history or a book written by a deceased author (who thus cannot have input into the film's contents). Artists have the right to reinvent their own stories in any way they see fit. They do not have the right to reinvent OTHER PEOPLE'S stories without their consent, IMO. But this isn't one of those latter cases. Conservatives believe The Hunger Games should be rated R with its PRESENT contents. Many liberals believe the movie should be rated R with MORE GRUESOME contents that are truer to the corresponding book. I say it should be rated PG-13 with the present contents, as it is, because that is apparently what the original author herself believes is best.