Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hunger Games and Buddhism

This teen-search-for-meaning flick is setting stunning box office records.

In case you've been in a coma -- Hunger Games is a tale of violence and corrupt power: The evil government picks 24 kid-gladiators to main and kill each other in high def until only one is left standing. It's a variation on a plot older than Greek mythology. And it has the obligatory love-triangle, but there's also a twist.

In this post-armageddon HG world, where the starring adolescents are adorable and noble, there's not a hint of a formal religion. The tale hangs on teen self-discovery and emerging virtues of courage, selflessness, and commitment to the common good. It also addresses the eternal question of whether violence is OK if you murder in pursuit of some higher good.  These ethical questions are the ones the dharma has explored for for millennia. 

By the way, they're the same questions raised in the Harry Potter franchise, and even in the Batman movies.

It takes more than sex, violence, and really cute actors to capture the attention of untold millions of teens, so fast. 

Like our ancestors, we're hard-wired for this story, and long to hear it again and again. We want reassurance that in the midst of horrible loss and suffering, nobility of spirit triumphs and in the end all will be well.  This is the core plot in all literature, including sacred scriptures, and when you can come up with a fresh presentation like HG (or Potter, or Logan's Run) it's a matter of build it and they will come.