The Hunger Games - Camp For Kids

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: August 21, 2013

The Hunger Games caused a huge stir when it was first released last year due to its graphic violence largely comprised of small children killing each other in increasingly gruesome ways. Now just imagine the onslaught of outrage that would occur if the futuristic society of the Hunger Games were to suddenly become a reality.

Well for the next few weeks that lurid dystopia has become all too real for a small group of Floridian children and no parents (or news sources, for that matter) seem to be batting an eye. A Hunger Games themed camp has opened in Largo, Florida where twenty-six pre-teen kids compete against each other for a few days in tournaments before concluding their competition in a fight to the “death.” The summer camp’s director, Jared D’Alessio, was faced with ample debate when the idea of the camp first came to fruition, but he and the other staffers felt they could make their Hunger Games theme work as long as they cut out any real violence. Children pull flags from each other’s belts instead of inflicting any real harm on one another with weapons.

An article covering the camp for the Tampa Bay Times, however, makes it immediately clear that just because you erase any real, physical violence, doesn’t mean that anyone’s forgotten about it. The article opens with a conversation between two camp-goers, Rylee and Julianna, saying, “‘I don't want to kill you,’ [Rylee] told Julianna Pettey. Julianna, also 12, looked her in the eye. ‘I will probably kill you first,’ she said. She put her hands on Rylee's shoulders. ‘I might stab you.’” Another camper, Joey, is quoted saying, “If I have to  die, I want to die by an arrow. Don’t kill me with a sword. I’d rather be shot.” All this talk of death in the midst of counselors shouting to their charges that there will be no violence this week.

Of course, I find no issue with kids wanting to reenact and engage in the fictional world of their favorite films. I can recall on more than one occasion in my youth standing in my backyard working to perfect my own Grease-style hand jive. What I do have a problem with is the way these children are being systematically desensitized to violence, and even the conception of death itself, by the adults who surround them. If we raise children teaching them that violence, pain, and murder are fictional games to be taken lightly, how can we be surprised when they grow into adults who handle these issues in a similarly dismissive and unemotional way?

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