Fiction Creates Sense of Place
10:53 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Hunger Games Catches Fire as Learning Tool

The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman means a new actor will have to take on his role in the third installment of “The Hunger Games.”

The series has ‘caught fire’ in more ways than one. An education professor says ‘The Hunger Games’ can become a powerful teaching tool in rural classrooms. 

Robbie Harris has more.

Amy Azano teaches in the school of education at Virginia Tech.  Her specialty is adolescent literature. In a a recent blog post she wrote about how warm it makes her feel to see tweens and teens waiting in the cold for tickets to a movie based on the young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins. 

The Hunger Games is a post apocalyptic story of a fight to the death, shown on live TV each year to mark the anniversary of a failed revolt against the capitol.

In the movie, District 12 is a rural, mountainous region reminiscent of southwestern Virginia. In the novel it’s described as, ‘an area once known as Appalachia. ’  “It was after my daughter read it and we watched the movie together and she said, “Wow! We’re from District Twelve?”

Bells went off in Azano's head because her daughter was making what in her field is called a “place to text connection.”  It’s something that happens when fiction captures the popular imagination and creates a palpable sense of place. 

Azano says The Hunger Games series’ treatment of rural culture is different from typical stereotypes.  “When we think about who rural people are, the places, we often think about it with such a deficit perspective. We think about what rural communities don’t have. We talk about rural schools as being financially constrained or not having opportunities, so what I like about the novels is that it gives a more dynamic perspective to think about what are the things that rural communities do have that are sources of strength for the people in those communities?”

Azano says teachers can use the Hunger Games series to talk about a variety of issues across disciplines, from the absurdity of the dystopian society story depicts, to how hunger is used as a means of oppression and the qualities courage and community shown by the inhabitants of District 12.