The Hunger Games: Rated M for moderate machete use

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games

Is the ‘there’s too much violence on our screens’ argument passé? Or has it been long enough that we can circle back to it? I only ask because I saw The Hunger Games on the weekend, in which twelve year old children were slaughtered… but that’s okay, because we all know that good will triumph in the end, right? And there were children in the cinema, as young as seven and eight years old… but that’s okay too, because the film was rated M, which means the content is ‘moderate in impact’. Ahh yes, I thought it was quite moderate when I saw a small boy slashed with a knife, a young girl killed by a spear to the chest and a teenager with his neck broken.

Now is it just me that is feeling so confused by all of this? When did this happen? When did this level of realistic violence become so commonplace? And I stress realistic. Because the movies I used to watch as a child (or perhaps a young teenager) were violent – I know that’s not new – but it was the ‘crazy, action, it’s-just-a-flesh-wound’ sort of violence. The innocent were always protected. When Sandra Bullock ploughed that bus into a sweet navy-blue pram, we all gasped… but then we all sighed with relief when Keanu reassured us all, ‘It’s just cans!’ Why was a woman pushing a stroller full of cans? A fine question – but that’s getting off point.

The point is, if Speed were made now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the pram was instead carrying twin eight-month olds, who would be hurled across the street. What’s worse is I’m not sure how many people in the cinema would even blink. Because next, the lead character would sob uncontrollably for several seconds, and then she would resolve to avenge the deaths of those babies. A suitable ‘I’m getting ready to kick ass’ montage with swelling music would follow. The audience would be placated, ‘it’s okay, Sandra is going to get the bad guy, never mind the woman left standing on the sidewalk holding the empty pram.’

I know it’s all about impact, about billion dollar sales figures, about telling a story, moving an audience. But God do I miss those fun Beverly Hills Cop style movies, where your heart races because even though you know that Eddie Murphy is going to catch the little girl from the top of the Ferris wheel just before she falls, it’s still exciting to see how he’s going to achieve it. Now I leave the cinema with my neck aching because I’ve sat so tense and stiff, terrified for the fate of the main characters, because it’s no longer a given that they’ll make it. I know, I know, who wants to watch a predictable movie, right? A good twist is what leaves you talking about the movie for days afterward… I just miss the days where you could rely on the sanctity of the pure and innocent characters (children, the elderly, the odd nun) being left unharmed – at least in an M rated movie anyway.

Is anyone else out there with me on this? Am I likely to have a following if I attempt a dramatic walkout from the cinema next time I see an orphanage blown up? Or do you think I’m being just a tad too sensitive?

Nicola Moriarty is a writer, student and mum from Sydney’s north west. Her debut novel Free-Falling was released in February of this year and she is currently working on her second novel. Find her website here.

What do you think about the level of violence in movies? Did you see The Hunger Games?