Saturday, 9 January 2016

Mockingbird v Mockingjay

I've tried and failed to persuade my daughter to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.  She did start but it was a bit slow for her.  I suppose that bit at the beginning about the history of the Finch family is off-putting for some.  She likes more action and particularly enjoyed the 'Divergent' series by Veronica Roth.  It, like The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, is set in a dystopian future society and features a strong female character who takes on evil tyrants and corrupt leaders.  There's always a love interest but this doesn't distract the heroine too much from her quest to conquer evil. Both books have spawned a series of films, hugely popular with teenage girls.

Last night, as a reward for surviving a week of back-to-back mock examinations, I took Kate to see the latest of these films based on The Hunger Games, Mockingjay; Part 2.  Usually I avoid these films and she goes with friends but no one was around so I went along, expecting to fall asleep as I am prone to do on a Friday evening.  I dozed a bit at first but then woke up mainly because it was an incredibly violent and frightening film.  I had to cover my eyes in the part where Katniss Everdene (the 'mockingjay', a teenage girl who, like James Bond, seems to have an uncanny ability to survive every attempt to kill her) and her companions are attacked by zombie-like creatures in an underground tunnel. And this is certified 12A?  I certainly wouldn't be happy taking a 12 year old to this.  Sometimes I think they get these certificates wrong - the, Guardian review of the film also makes this point.  I'm worried about showing Zefferelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' to my Year 10 group because it has a 15 certificate, presumably because at one point we see Romeo's bare bottom.  This is hardly going to upset 14-15 year olds, but I bet some of the younger teenagers who watched Mockingjay Part 2 were traumatised by it: I certainly was!

There has been much discussion in the press about whether Katniss is a good role model for young women.  In general, I think she is: she is independent, strong and has a clear sense of justice.  She doubts herself but goes ahead with what she has to do anyway. But I felt the final scene of the film with Katniss cradling a baby while Peeta, the more sensitive of her two suitors,  plays with a toddler in a sunlit meadow was a bit disappointing and ultimately unconvincing. Why wasn't she leading the new regime instead of the army commander who was chosen instead? And what happened to Gale, her other love interest?

Despite the violence, these are good books for teenage girls.  Certainly better than the Virginia Andrews 'Flowers in the Attic' books they used to read when I started to teach.  But I'd still be happier if they were reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.


9 comments:

  1. Gosh, it sounds as though it would traumatise me! I think that I could cope with seeing Romeo's behind, but not the violence in the Mockingjay films. Like you I do wonder about the ratings for these films sometimes. I think it is good that you went with your daughter to see it. xx

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    1. It was a bit of an eye-opener! My daughter is fairly resilient at 16, more so than I am.

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  2. I read to Kill a Mockingbird as a teenager and really didn't appreciate it, had to reread it as an adult. This was true of many books I had to read for school: Kim, Les Miserable, any Shakespeare. I just didn't care.

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    1. I often worry about the fact that we are in danger of putting children off reading with the conventional GCSE texts. So I do try to encourage wider reading for pure pleasure. It's English Lit mock exam tomorrow and my daughter will be spending today rereading and analysing 'Of Mice and Men' which she hasn't enjoyed that much. A pity - but I wouldn't want to be teaching them 'Divergent' instead!

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  3. My daughter (12) was invited to see this film with friends. I was in two minds about letting her go but in the end I did. She didn't really talk about the film and I am not sure how she felt. Maybe our young people are more used to this type of fiction/film and find it less frightening? I can't remember much about 'To Kill a Mockinbird' but will refresh my memory for book group, we are reading 'Go Set a Watchman'. See you soon! x

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    1. Kate was a lot less upset by the film than I was. I suppose that's my point. They are used to this level of violence in what they read and watch. Surely they shouldn't be? Kate has been watching this kind of film since she was 12 too so there is no criticism implied here! I was just shocked at what she has been watching without me realising and I relied on the certificate too much.

      I haven't read 'Go Set a Watchman' and I'm not sure I want to as I don't want my image of the characters from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' changed.

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  4. What a good job you went along to the cinema with your daughter. The ending doesn't sound as if it fits in with the earlier films. I do wonder about the film classifications sometimes. You never know, also what might traumatise your children. My seven year old now has a thing about death after watching The Book of Life - a U certificate film.

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  5. I haven't seen the last Hunger Games book, but I read them all at the same time as my teenagers as I wondered if they were suitable. My daughter read To Kill a Mockingbird for her GSCE's and was horrified I hadn't read it, and made me at once!

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  6. I am visitiin you from Christina's. I agree with you about the movie/book series. They are very violent but she is a good role model and I love that she does not have to have a man save her like so many of the films we see. Still I am not sure it is a great series fro younger kids, so violent. As for To Kill A Mockingbird, the best book ever. My boys could not read it when they were younger. But they both agreed to watch it with Gregory Peck and they really did enjoy it in movie form
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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