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The Hunger Games:

May 24, 2012


 Based on a wildly popular young-adult science fiction book trilogy, The Hunger Games is one of the most anticipated movies hitting theaters in 2012. But months before the movie’s premiere, the casting of the film is stirring one of 2011’s hottest debates about race in Hollywood. The debate was stoked up again recently, as The Hunger Games trailers and posters were released to the public.

Hunger Games poster

Actress Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the forced, fight-to-the-death competition that is a commonplace in the post-apocalyptic society setting.

Just like the vampire romance book-turned-film series Twilight, the fandom is rabid. Many fans have taken an emotional interest in the characters, so when the film posters were released earlier this month, some people were outraged when the characters they had imagined in their minds did not look the same as the actors who will portray them in the film. The casting of secondary characters Rue and Cinna, who will be portrayed by Black actors Amandla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz, was met with outrage. The below comments were posted on The Hunger Games’ Facebook page. On Rue:

What the hell does that mean? Because she is Black, she is not female? “Ethnic” people are usually not attractive? And about Cinna:

“But despite the really offensive (and quite frankly, really troublesome) comments, the most telling issue about these comments is how people have envisioned these characters, not because of how they were described in the book but because of how they see the world.

A White world. A White world in which everyone is yes, white, but to them a perfect world where everyone has the same assumed “temperament,” values and perfect looks. On the website Nerdgasm Noire Network, Roxie Moxie posts the descriptions of the characters from the book from the official Wiki page. About Rue:

“And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor.” — Katniss Everdeen, while watching Rue’s reaping. (A reaping is the event in which children as young as 12 are chosen to eventually participate in The Hunger Games.) {The Hunger Games Wiki}

On Cinna:

Most people who live in the Capitol follow very absurd fashion trends. This is not the case for Cinna. The first time he is seen in the book, he is described as wearing a simple black shirt with matching pants. His one strange fashion choice is gold eyeliner, which brings out the gold flecks in his green eyes and which Katniss describes as attractive. Other than that, Cinna looks very normal, with close-cropped natural dark brown hair and slightly dark skin. {The Hunger Games Wiki}

So what’s the issue, unless people thought that “brown skin” meant a White person with a tan? This could be the case (even though a stretch), but still doesn’t quite explain the above commenter’s thinking that a Black actor playing the role will not have the intellectual capacity to portray the character in the way in which they see fit.

And to post this shit on a public forum also means that the commenters felt that — or perhaps didn’t care, but I doubt that — that the only people who are passionate about the books and upcoming movie must also be White, too. It’s amazing how one’s limited sense of the world, the way these people believe life should be, is projected through to others as an absolute.

Even the casting of the heroine, Katniss, stirred up allegations of white-washing. The book contained only a brief physical description of the main character.

What do you think of this movie?
Suzan Bafford
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