April Fools, article #1: “My Body is a Story”

Editor’s Note: This article by OTW contributor, Adrienne Sandvos, was originally published in February by Darling Magazine. In this article, Adrienne discusses the ways in which culture defines ‘beauty’ for us.


I remember the first time I saw Mary Shore. She was one of those people that carry a presence with them wherever they go. She had a wonderful rugged, natural beauty about her that I loved; looking at her, you knew something about her life. She had dark textured skin that told of days in the sun, and eyes that were framed by sweet trailing lines–the handiwork of years of smiling. Her hair was long and dark with greying strands (a tribute to her age), and she had a strong yet delicate stature. Her figure said that she was a mom, but her physique spoke of an adventurous, active spirit. I didn’t meet Mary until only a couple of years before her precious life was lost in a car accident. But these are things I will never forget about her. She taught me something about beauty.

The truth is that our bodies often tell a story, but there are some truths we don’t want to actually se e. It goes without saying that any physical sign of aging is generally rejected in the media world, thus setting a standard of beauty that is inseparable from the appearance of youth.  Attributes that may have once testified to life experience and wisdom are now worn like a scarlet letter. Wrinkles need wrinkle cream. Greying hair needs hair dye.

What is most interesting to me is how directly related many self “improvements” are to being pre-maternal. Post-baby breasts tell the story of the little ones you nursed in the dark hours of the night, and the stretch marks on your abdomen tell the tale of the nine months you carried that child inside of you. Yet when we see these things, we see something different: Imperfection that needs to be remedied. Deflated looking breasts need to be fuller and perkier. Sagging or scarred stomach skin needs to be tightened up. Flat rumps need a lift. No body part is exempt. We are willing to go to great lengths to maintain and manipulate our bodies in their natural form so that we can edit the insinuations our bodies make.

There is a natural cause and effect system in life that exists for everyone. When we go through a major life change, many times we wear it. In the same way, when we abuse our bodies, there can be visible consequences. Somewhere along the line we decided we wanted to try and rewrite that story, and we found a way to do it.  We want to control the content of the message that others read when they look at us, along with our skewed interpretation we’ve developed when we look into the mirror.

I was recently talking with a friend about her future plans for her own cosmetic surgery to restore her once firm and slender tummy to its former glory. When I suggested that it might be motivated by her desire for others to see her as beautiful, she answered, “It’s not because I care what other people think. It’s because I think it’s ugly. I think it’s gross. I’m doing it for myself.” I could see that she was sincere and it made me begin to understand that it’s not as simple as insecurity and self-comparison. The more complex issue at hand is the conditional love we’ve placed upon ourselves. We can’t really love ourselves or embrace the stories our bodies tell unless they are telling the version of the truth that we are comfortable with. We have solidly converted to an unnatural and alien view of what beauty is. We want to create a fantasy-land of beauty where anyone can be anything. There is one major problem with that: It’s not reality! We are willing to put our bodies through the trauma of anesthesia, surgical lacerations, laser burns, narcotics, and painful recovery time so that we can comply.

As women, we have to love truth more than we love control if we are ever going to be able to love ourselves and others unconditionally. We have to learn to be OK with what is instead of feeding the silent beast of self-hatred by trying to force what is not. If we don’t, the original story gets lost in the pile of revisions.

I don’t want to cast a blanket of judgment upon women who have had cosmetic surgery or use a beauty regimen. No doubt there are a myriad of reasons and motivations behind a woman’s decision to alter her body as well as infinite “grey areas” within its grandiose scope. Instead, I just honestly want to encourage us as women to seriously think about our opinions on these issues, as we should with any belief or conviction we hold. My hope is that our view on our own beautification is a thoughtful one. And more importantly, that we can fully accept ourselves not only for who we really are, but also for what story our physical appearance may tell those who look upon us. When we put the pen down and stop trying to rewrite the story, we may discover and enjoy a different kind of beauty altogether.

*Photo Credits: Mary Shore pictured as a young mother. Contributed by her son, Seth Shore.

Posted in Beauty & Fashion, Being a Woman, Culture & Media, Self Esteem | 2 Comments

April Fools: Don’t be Fooled by Culture

Happy April to readers of On the Willows!

Lately, I have had many discussions on the issue of culture … and its influence on us. It’s a great, blogable topic … so we have decided to make this our very first series for April! Our amazing contributors have an array of experiences that have shaped their perspectives on this topic. I am excited to read all of them … starting tomorrow!

Today, I wanted to discuss a few things to help guide us as we read the April Fools series throughout this month.

The title of this very post is a little cheesy (I’m not a big fan of ‘play on words’), but it communicates the main goal and idea for this series. I wanted to also clarify that “don’t be fooled by culture” is a warning and encouragement. As Christian women, we can take responsibility for how culture influences us. But, it is not easy to do! Erving Goffman, a sociologist, says that the “socialization depot for each of us is our family.” I agree with him, but it’s important to see that each family has its own “culture” created by different contributing factors (location, ethnicity, religion, media, and definitely mass culture, in general). So, regardless of how our parents raised us, or where we grew up … we see how culture is one of the strongest indirect and direct influences on us! On the Willows was created to be a place where we can all come to learn from one another. So, I hope this topic continues outside of April.

One other important thing I wanted to discuss today is that … being counter-cultural is not necessarily adapting to modern “Christian-cultures”. As a matter of fact, before we adapt to the thinking and methods of modern Christian cultures, we should be very careful and thoughtful, since these, too, can be flawed. A very simple example of this is … sometimes modern Christian culture tells us (or shows us by example) that God will love us if we do “good works” for Him. But scripture clearly tells us that He loved us first. And as a result of His fatherly love toward us, our hearts respond to that in ways that results in doing good works for Him, and loving Him back. We are not accepted by Christ because of our obedience. We are obedient because we are accepted (undeservingly) by Him. It’s a backward, counter-cultural way of thinking!

The bottom line is, for us as Christian women, being counter-cultural is being skeptical of counter-gospel mentalities and methodologies. Some of the ways we will discuss being counter-cultural is by looking critically at the way culture portrays romance (and romance in media), friendships, parenting, entitlement, rest & work, self-pity, and more. Tomorrow, we will begin by hearing how culture tries to define beauty for women.

Disclaimer: The articles are always the personal view of the individual authors. On the Willows simply provides a way for these topics to be discussed, but does not always claim these views as perfect and absolute. Always think for yourself and use God’s Word as the prevailing test for these views!

Have a wonderful week!

Posted in Being a Woman, Culture & Media, Theology & Philosophy | 2 Comments

Dead Mom Walking

Me, about two weeks before Fiona’s birth.

It’s a miracle that I’m sitting here, typing this right now, because I should be dead.

That’s not an exaggeration; I’m not trying on a dramatic opening line for effect. I should be dead, and in any other time or place, I would be.

I’ve never written about the circumstances of our first daughter’s birth before, because my husband, Erick, was the one writing all the updates during and after. So here it goes:

I had a fairly easy, uneventful first pregnancy. No morning sickness, no notable symptoms of any kind aside from an insatiable craving for movie theater popcorn. When they took the 20-week ultrasound, the doctors noticed that our baby was a little on the small side, but nobody worried much about it. “You’re a small person,” they said, by way of explanation.

Then my doctor went to Korea for six weeks. The two substitute doctors I saw in the interim noted that the baby was still measuring small, “But you’re a small person,” they kept saying. Other than smallness, both the baby and I seemed healthy.

When my regular doctor came back and the baby was still lagging behind in size, he was nervous. This doctor, who saw me through all three pregnancies, is long on brains and short on bedside manner — which was fine by me. Imagine a very, very pessimistic, Korean Mr. Miyagi, and you’ve captured him. (His introduction to genetic testing was: “Sometimes, baby is born with no brain.”) He sent me to a specialist in high-risk pregnancies for another ultrasound, and he prescribed me a weekly non-stress test (where you sit for an hour while a nurse monitors the baby’s heart rate — then it was boring, now I’d call it a vacation). The baby continued to measure small, but everything else was a-okay. I tried to eat more and move less.

Skip ahead to Saturday, November 17, 2007 — two weeks before my due date. I noticed my heart racing a little bit that morning, and my ankles and feet were suddenly very swollen, but I didn’t think much of it; both seemed within the realm of normal third trimester symptoms.

The next morning, which was also the day of my baby shower, I woke up with what I thought was heartburn. Again, a normal pregnancy discomfort. Skipped church, did some work on the couch, sent Erick out for Tums and 7-Up. A few hours later, when the heartburn seemed to be getting worse, Erick suggested I call the advice nurse. I did so, reluctantly — I have this fear of annoying nurses with silly concerns, which comes from decades of people pleasing. But I figured that maybe she could hook me up with some prescription-strength Tums. “You’re pregnant with chest pain,” the nurse told me bluntly. “You need to go to the ER.”

We obediently went to the ER (me looking at my watch in annoyance to see how much time was left until my baby shower). When the intake nurse took my blood pressure, it was much higher than usual — much higher than it had been at my checkup three days earlier. I noted this, but he told me that increased blood pressure was normal in late pregnancy. The EKG was normal. I was sent to the outpatient clinic.

It was at this point that my “heartburn” became excruciating. The people in the waiting room thought I was in labor, and, having been through two subsequent labors, I can tell you that the pain was right up there. I remember very little from that point on, just that they took my blood pressure again and it was even higher than before. Suddenly, a nurse was running with me in a wheelchair over to Labor & Delivery, cursing the people at the ER who hadn’t thought to send me directly there in the first place.

The Labor & Delivery nurses hooked me up and started running tests. These nurses were amazing. I remember asking them two things: “Can you please make the pain go away?” and, “Do you think I can make my baby shower? It starts in 30 minutes.” They made the pain go away, but one of the kind nurses said, “Honey, I think you’re going to miss your baby shower.”

It turns out I had sudden, severe preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. In my case, preeclampsia was combined with a condition called HELLP Syndrome, which is an acronym for Hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelets. Possible outcomes of this combo include hemorrhage, liver and kidney failure (my “heartburn” was, in fact, my liver swelling), pulmonary edema, stoke…and death. The only cure is to deliver the baby immediately. Fiona was delivered via emergency c-section. At 37.5 weeks, she was full term, but she weighed in at 3 lbs. 11 oz.  She spent one night in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for observation, and was released the next day, completely healthy.

The first picture ever taken of Fiona.

Because I was recovering from a rather traumatic birth, and because I suddenly had a 3 lb. 11 oz. baby to care for, I didn’t initially spend a lot of time reflecting upon what had just happened. And I still don’t, since that baby was followed very quickly by two others. But here’s what I know now:

The causes of preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome are unknown. Researchers currently suspect insufficient blood flow to the uterus, immune system problems, or poor diet as possible causes. My case was a little strange, both because of its sudden and severe onset, and also because I had only one of the usual risk factors for preeclampsia: that this was my first pregnancy. Nobody has ever been able to explain Fiona’s tiny size, other than that it must have had something to do with the preeclampsia (and our other two daughters weren’t exactly linebackers when they were born).

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia affects at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, and HELLP Syndrome accompanies 15-20% of cases of severe preeclampsia. While preeclampsia rarely causes maternal death in the developed world these days, it is a leading cause of worldwide maternal and infant deaths. Conservative estimates are that preeclampsia is responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths worldwide per year.

It’s not just the numbers that get me. Since Fiona’s birth, I’ve read several accounts of preeclamptic women in third world countries who died (along with their unborn children) while waiting for medical care outside of health centers. I’ve even read of a woman who died from preeclampsia in this country during the last century. So, every once in a while, I will stop and think, “If I’d been born in just about any other time or place, I would be dead right now. And so would Fiona.”

Erick and me with Fiona, the day after her birth. You’ll notice I don’t look so great, because I wasn’t.

I’m writing this on March 8, International Women’s Day. (It’s a shame I didn’t write it in time to actually post on International Women’s Day, but that’s how life is.) Thinking about International Women’s Day got me reflecting on Fiona’s birth, because even though this is a personal story, the conclusions I draw from it are quite global:

1. I am so stinking grateful for health care. Sure, the hospital made a few snafus in my case (they should’ve sent me to Labor & Delivery right away, for instance), but Fiona and I were able to get quick and appropriate medical attention to save our lives. The nurses and doctors who cared for us were competent and compassionate, and during most of the experience I had confidence that everything would turn out okay. It did; I came out on the other side, and followed up with two completely normal and healthy pregnancies, labors, and deliveries. So I think of myself as a “dead mom walking.” Then I look around and realize that I know a whole lot of dead moms walking: women who, like me, would be dead had they not received appropriate medical care during their pregnancies and deliveries. I bet you know a bunch of dead moms walking, too — you may even be a dead mom walking. Childbirth is, and always has been, a very risky proposition; it’s a luxury that, in this time and place, most of us go into covered by the assurance that everything will likely be well.

2. I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that so many women in the world don’t have access to the health care that I do. Why are so many women and babies still dying from a condition that my baby and I lived through? A condition that can be cured by a timely c-section? Why are some of these women dying on the sidewalk outside of health care centers? I can imagine why; if I’d had to walk to the hospital, or if we’d had to take time to figure out how to pay for my care, or if the hospital didn’t have the capacity to do c-sections, it would have been too late. I believe this reality fits squarely into the definition of “injustice.”

There are a few excellent initiatives and organizations involved in preeclampsia research, and working to address the imbalances in maternal health care, like the aforementioned Preeclampsia Foundation, The United Nations Foundation, and the Million Moms Challenge. I wish there were more. I would love to see those 5- and 6-digit death figures diminish to near zero: more dead moms walking, less dead moms. If I were First Lady, or Miss America, or Angelina Jolie, this would be “my issue.” And I guess, even though I am just me, it still is my issue.

Fiona now.
Posted in Adversity, Being a Woman, Family, Grief & Loss, Health & Fitness, Parenting | 7 Comments

Bedtime Prayers

To be honest, I am a bit nervous about this post.  Like, I just inhaled an entire bag of pretzel M&Ms in 30 seconds flat, nervous.  It’s not because I don’t believe this concept to my core, because I do.  It is because careful consideration of our bedtime prayer routine with our girls led me to a deep revelation that I did not expect.  It, without announcement or fanfare, flung open a door in my heart and shone the light of truth in an otherwise undisturbed and unchallenged corner.  And as we all know, before we can truly accept and absorb new truth, we have to dislodge and banish the old lies that have been taking up that precious bit of space.  This is how it happened for me . . .

My husband and I have always taken our children’s bedtime routine seriously, realizing how much little ones thrive on structure, and wanting to model the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer.  All in all, this was a time in each day that we looked forward to, enjoying the meaningful connection and, or course, the snuggling.  Occasionally there would be a question that went something like this: ” Mommy, we asked Jesus to give me good dreams, but I had bad ones.  Why did he do that?”  Or, “Mommy, we asked God to keep me safe, but I still fell off my bike and got owies all over my legs.  Why didn’t he keep me from falling?” These questions were coming from sincere hearts who were trying to reconcile what they had been told so many times about God – that He loves them, has a good plan for them, and is the most powerful being alive, and yet who seems to simultaneously let a lot of bad things happen.

At first, I didn’t handle this in an award winning fashion.  I tried to reason with them.  I said things that, while they were true, were not helpful.  “God didn’t give you that bad dream sweetie. He only gives good gifts.” And, “God didn’t push you off your bike. You just fell. It was an accident.  And he may have protected you from getting  a much worse owie, like a broken bone.”  Like I said, these are true statements, but they did not address the questions that were truly troubling them . . .

“Is God REALLY  as good as you say he is?” “Can I trust him?” “Why do I pray if it doesn’t change anything?”

Cue the crickets . . .

In hindsight, I can see that I avoided addressing these core questions because there was something unresolved in my own heart.  In some areas, I was still asking the very same questions.

This began a season of soul searching for me.  I did not want to raise kids who were so dependent on their earthly circumstances that it shaped how they viewed God.  I took a good, hard look at our bedtime prayers.  And in just the right way and time, as only the Holy Spirit can do, I felt him gently ask me, “Do you notice how much direction you give me on how to take care of you and your children?”

WOAH there.

I mentally replayed a typical bedtime prayer I would say over my daughters in that season of life . . .

“Dear God, thank you for this day (okay, starting off with thankfulness should be pretty good). Please give Olivia lots of good rest tonight and happy dreams. Help her body to fight off all the nasty cold and flu germs going around. Bring her a special friend at school that she really enjoys. And help her do well on her spelling test tomorrow. Keep all our family and friends safe and healthy. We love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

In a moment of clarity, I could see that I had unknowingly been giving my young child a nightly measuring stick to grade the performance of God with.  Sandwiched between a “thank you” and “love you” was my list of instruction to God about how he should take care of Olivia.  I closed my eyes and imagined myself in my daughter’s shoes, struggling to understand a concept as abstract as an invisible God, and asked myself what I would visualize as that prayer was prayed over me.

In my mind’s eye I saw God as a giant vending machine in the sky.  As the requests were listed, I saw my daughter press the “no bad dreams” button, the “no cold and flu” button, and so on, as the requests were made.  I realized that even as an adult I would not return to a vending machine over and over again unless it was spitting out the exact product that I wanted.  I repented and asked the Lord to lead me to a new way of praying for my kids, especially at bedtime, that would inspire and prepare them for a deeply rooted faith that was not dependent on their circumstances in life, but on the unchanging, never stopping love and faithfulness of God.

It didn’t happen overnight; old habits are hard to break.  But once I made a commitment to pray the character of God over my children rather than circumstances, I found it not only easy, but encouraging and inspiring.  I found that more and more often we were discussing the bigness and goodness of God, so much so that one of our favorite lines has become, “God, we just can’t make you good enough or big enough!”  My hope and belief is that I am painting such a lovely (and accurate) picture of the face of God that on that day when then Holy Spirit draws them to a place of personal revelation, and they choose which master they will serve, it will be an easy decision.

Because who wouldn’t want to serve a God who is THAT BIG and THAT GOOD?

My encouragement to you is this: ask the Lord to help you discern the picture of God you are offering to your little ones at the closing of each day, just before they drift off into slumberland.  Do you need to lead them in disconnecting the circumstances of life from the character of God?  Are you inadvertently raising circumstance junkies?  Where else, other than bedtime prayers, is there an opportunity to point out a display of God’s great love, faithfulness, kindness, compassion or mercy?

Now, is there a time to ask for what we think we need?  Of course!  The Bible specifically addresses this in terms of sickness.  When someone in our family becomes ill, or we become aware of a need for healing, we stop and pray for them right then.  If we realize one of us has wronged another, we try to stop and ask for forgiveness at that moment.  But I no longer save these things for bedtime.  I do not want the last thing on their minds to be some area of actual or perceived lack, raising their anxiety level while at the same time asking them to feel relaxed and safe.  I want my little ones to drift off  peacefully, being regularly reminded of the faithful God we serve, who is even now watching carefully over their hearts and lives.

I confess, I am a women of practicality.  I appreciate new ideas and the analysis of theories, but give me practical  application if you want me to make a real and lasting change.  So, in the spirit of practicality, here are a few examples of what it looks  like to focus on praying the character of God over our young ones rather than allowing circumstances of this life to take center stage.

Lord Jesus, you know Daddy needs a new job.  We thank you that you already have the right job in mind, and while we are waiting, you will take good care of us.  You are so faithful, and we are so glad we don’t have to worry.

Holy Spirit, I ask you to comfort Olivia in her disappointment over this situation.  You know how it feels to be sad.  Remind her that you will still take care of us, and we will be okay.

Lord, I thank you for the gift of Olivia.  I thank you for choosing me to be her mom.  Thank you for her strong and healthy body, her smart mind, her kindness and cooperative spirit.  Thank you for sending me a daughter who encourages and helps me.

Lord, I see the gifts you have given Olivia.  I see the mercy and compassion she has for others in need.  I see how you’ve gifted her to be a friend to those who don’t have many friends, and how she notices when others need help or a hug.  I see how she shares your love with others in this way.

Lord, I thank you that you have prepared a great life for Olivia, full of special things you planned just for her to do.  I thank you that she has a purpose and a destiny.  I am excited about the adventure ahead of her.  And I thank you that Olivia is going to love and serve you all the days of her life.

Just remember, always character first.  Either the character of God himself, or the Christlike character being formed within us as we look to him.  The eternal always trumps the temporary.

So why was I nervous about this?  Because to you, bedtime prayers may seem like such a small part of our parenting.  And, in a sense, you would be right.  I doubt anyone turned their child into a serial criminal by asking God for stuff.  But there is no “little mission”.  Even in this small act, we can make a significant and lasting deposit into our kids’ current and future relationships with Christ.

Photo Credit 1
Photo Credit 2

Posted in Family, Parenting | 6 Comments

The Hunger Games

1. Theater-worthy! See it!
2. Definitely rent it.
3. Stream it on Netflix, if you must.
4. Don’t even bother.

I will begin this review by saying it really is meant for people who have at least read the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven’t read it (and you should read it), I would recommend checking out this very excellent review by Allyce Gilligan for Relevant Magazine. Read it here. It gives a more traditional review and comments on some of the moral value of the movie, which I would normally do as well.

That said, I both loved the movie and despised it. I realize I may make some enemies by writing this article, but, as somewhat of a self-proclaimed film critic, I’m allowed to have some critiques, right? I will say that I am not actually one of those people who is disappointed with every movie that is based on a book. For instance, while I do prefer the Harry Potter books over the movies, I am perfectly happy with their screen adaptations, and watch them with utter enjoyment and without disappointment. Did the films leave parts out that I loved from the books? Sure. Did they improve on some parts of the books? You bet. I’ll take ‘em both. So, for however much I despised The Hunger Games movie, you will still notice that I recommended seeing it in the theater – absolutely. That’s because I loved it too.

What did I love about the film? Well, a bunch of things. First of all, we all know that the story itself is brilliant, unique, and very entertaining. I couldn’t help but think as I read the first book that it was pretty much written for the screen, so I expected it to be a great film. Honestly, I had serious doubts about Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss. I didn’t think she looked the part at all. I pictured Katniss as a strong but scrappy girl, because even though she got to eat squirrel meat every once in a while as a hunter, she was still living in a starving district. Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful and very healthy looking. It just didn’t translate to me. BUT, her performance in this film was what stood out to me the most. It was … fantastic. I thought her acting actually carried the film, and made up for some of the areas that I thought were lacking. I actually liked Katniss’s character more in the movie than I did in the book. So, major kudos to Jennifer and the casting director for getting her on this project.

I also loved Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. I had high expectations for that charming, capitol host based on the book, and he definitely delivered. Also, even though Lenny Kravitz isn’t exactly an actor, the directing and editing made up for it, and he ended up being every bit the lovable “Cinna” from the book.

My absolute favorite scene in the whole film was actually one that I was really looking forward to, because it moved me so deeply in the book: when Katniss volunteered to take Prim’s place as tribute. The dynamics between Katniss, Prim, and Gale in this scene brought emotion to it that I was really moved by. For that scene alone, I must give Willow Shields props. Her small role as Prim was absolutely powerful.

Ok. “Despise” is a strong word, I know, but when the book is written so strategically to translate to the screen, I think I was justified in having high expectations. When I found myself actually checking the time halfway through the movie, I knew there were some major misses. My main, overall disappointment was what I will describe as anemic dynamics. The book had a lot of intensity in it; whether it was the love story, the inward battle within Katniss about Peeta and Gale, the brutality of the actual games, the outrageous culture of the capitol, and even the unpredictable nature of Haymitch. The movie, from my perspective, took all of those elements and dialed them down so drastically that in the end it seemed almost like a one-note film. I understand making some themes understated to let others rise and shine, but when all of them are understated, nothing really shines. Is that too harsh?

Examples. Where do I begin? I’ll try to pick just a few.

The capitol people definitely dressed weird. Crazy hair, makeup, outfits, the works. I wasn’t “wowed,” but I give it a passing grade. I wish it had gone a few steps further, though. The book refers to the capitol population as having certain ways they talked: accents, high pitches, and talking in sentences that all sounded like they had question marks at the end of them. I was really looking forward to seeing how that would materialize on the screen. But if all of that was embodied in Effie occasionally throwing in a slight British accent to the way she talked, I am pretty unimpressed. Also, movies have this fantastic, magical way of making things appear real when you know there’s no way they could be in reality. That was what I was hoping to see a lot of, particularly when it came to the “progressive” ways of the capitol. I must have missed it if it was really there.

Moving on. The actual Hunger Games. According to the movie, it seems the games only lasted a few days, tops. We who read the books know it was much longer than that. A friend of mine pointed out that there are ways the director can easily show time elapsing without adding hours onto the film. Maybe Gary Ross only wanted the games to last three days? Also, the tracker jackers. I liked how real they looked, but their effects were so understated, it almost seemed like they weren’t that big of a deal. Lots of people are allergic to bee stings, even to the point of death. But these things were genetically engineered by the capitol, and, to me, were one sign of how vicious the capitol was. As I read the book, I remember thinking the scene with these fictional creatures could be really amazing in the movie. Turns out it wasn’t. The book describes their consequences as being significantly more intense than we saw in the film. Next, the dog-like creatures that attacked Katniss, Peeta, and Cato in the end – horrible graphics. Not to mention their entire significance was pretty much completely excluded. They were just thrown in there. Lastly, Rue’s death. I can’t be the only one disappointed by this very emotionally intense part. Maybe the adorable little actress wasn’t up to making a dying scene believable yet, but it just wasn’t. Then of course the sense of urgency wasn’t there, because we didn’t see any of the tributes whisked away by the mysterious hover crafts that retrieved the dead. A cannon never even went off for Rue in the movie. And then it launched into a scene with District 11 in rebellion, rather than sending Katniss the signature bread as a “thank you.” That was a deviation from the book that I think took away from the potency, rather than adding to it.

Almost done. The character development was so lacking. I didn’t even think the book did a particularly good job with this, but it was infinitely better than in the movie. There are some exceptions, I will concede. But overall, they were all so dialed down that I didn’t think the audience could really understand most of the characters. I can’t even get into all the examples, just know I’m shaking my head at the screen writers. Maybe that will change by the time they’re done with the trilogy (assuming they will be doing the triology), but I think the first movie should be able to stand on its own.

My last major gripe. The love story! I think they forgot about it until they were just about done filming, and then someone realized they needed to throw it in there, so they put in a two minute cave scene with just Peeta and Katniss, half of it taken up by Peeta rubbing ointment on Katniss’s wound. That’s it? It was pretty disappointing.

Had I not read the books, it is possible that none of these things would have bothered me at all, and I would have thought it was an amazing movie. My husband read the books and he loved the movie. Most of the things I didn’t like, he didn’t actually have a problem with, so I know not everyone will agree with my critiques.

Anyway, go see it, and let me know what you think! I hope you love it!

Photo Credit

Posted in Movies | 9 Comments