A while ago I saw a blog post that brought into focus something I've been thinking about for a while. Now it's time to write it out, and see if I can make some sense of it.
The discussion (not the blog post itself) focused around parents who don't want their children to be exposed to The Hunger Games. Some of those on the blog (who had read Hunger Games and allowed their children to read it) stated flatly that they did not want their children reading Twilight because the relationships were unhealthy, but the Hunger Games were acceptable and laudable.
Why do some consider one form of antisocial behavior (murder, or in this case child gladiators) acceptable in media and entertainment while another (stalking) is not? What is the difference between these things that makes one a thing to be celebrated and the other anathema?
We have to think about the reasons behind the difference. Not just "this is not acceptable," but why is this acceptable to me and this other thing is not?
I think that part of the problem is the advent of genres that create a new reality. If it's another world, we can pretend it's all symbolic without wondering if children somewhere in this world are actually experiencing these things.
When something is set in our own world, we don't have that distance. It’s more disturbing to many people when it’s set in a familiar world.
New worlds are not a bad thing. New cultures and the stretch that comes with imagining something entirely different from our own understanding and experience--these are not bad things.
The problem comes in when things that would not be acceptable in "real life" are glorified in fiction. If your son crept into the next door neighbor's window to watch their daughter sleep I think you'd be seriously disturbed. If your daughter crept out to a field near your home and they had a war with real weapons, I think you'd be more than disturbed. If that same daughter was taken from your home for the purpose...
I talk to people who say "it would never happen," and I wonder...how long before the Romans are packing the gladiatorial theaters while people literally (rather than figuratively) hack each other to pieces in an effort to win their freedom? It would never happen? History proves otherwise.