“I don’t want to kill you,” said Rylee Miller, 12.
“I will probably kill you first,” replied her friend Julianna Pettey, also 12.
Putting her hands on Rylee’s shoulders, she continued: “I might stab you.”
These words uttered by members of the 26 participants in Hunger Games-themed summer camp, held in Largo, Florida by the Country Day School:
But there’s no killing here: the campers instead run around the grounds collecting flags, which symbolize lives in a parentally driven attempt for political correctness.
Summer camp director, Jared D’Alessio, remembered plenty of debate and controversy when the “Hunger Games” idea came about, so that’s when all possible real violence was eliminated. Instead of even fake weapons, the players would be harmlessly pulling flag belts from each other’s waists.
Whoever gets the most flags wins, and the winning team is praised for their teamwork.
But of course, the camp counselors had to keep bringing the eager proto-Panemians down to earth when the tone became potentially too real.
“No! No violence this week,” the busy camp head counselor had to tell the children. However, preventing talk of murder proved difficult for the kids entranced by the central goal of The Hunger Games plot.
“What are we going to do first,” shouted Sidney Martenfield, 14. “Are we going to kill each other first?”
“If I have to die, I want to die by an arrow,” Joey Royals mused out loud. “Don’t kill me with a sword. I’d rather be shot.”
“But if you actually sit down and talk to them and they say, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ they don’t understand what they’re saying. Death for this age isn’t a final thing. It’s a reset.”
Susan Toler, a clinical psychologist specializing in children’s issues and an assistant dean at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, called the camp idea “unthinkable.” This is because when children read books or watch movies, they’re observers removed from the action.
“But when they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them,” Toler said. “The violence becomes less egregarious.”
At any rate, next door to the Hunger Games camp is another camp where 24 kids played a computer game where they build structures to protect their lives from monsters. Therefore, as counselor Simon Bosés said, kids can fake-die in nearly any game these days.