News

Multiracial Hunger Games cast inspires racist outcry from lazy readers

Pin it

Listen, I'm sure some of you are tired of hearing about The Hunger Games. I get that. Maybe you haven't read the book or seen the movie, or maybe you didn't like either of them, or maybe you're just "over it." These things happen. But the internet is talking about exactly three things right now: this movie, that "Zou Bisou Bisou" song from the Mad Men premiere, and Trayvon Martin. (That last one is clearly much more important than the other two, but you should find someone who is smarter than I am and read their thoughts about it. Shouldn't be hard to do.) So that's where we are. It will all go away soon, I'm sure.

Anyway, The Hunger Games! As predicted, it made all the money. It's gotten generally positive reviews. (I myself would give it a six out of ten. Maybe a seven, I'm not sure.) It managed to show children slaughtering other children in a relatively tasteful way, even! But some people are still not happy with the movie. Why? Black people.

That's right! Some fans of the book were shocked, shocked and appalled, when they settled in with their popcorn only to find beloved characters like Rue, Cinna, and Thresh played by African-American actors. Because that reaction is both racist and stupid, these fans decided to express it on the internet, and the new blog Hunger Games Tweets has been collecting them. They're… pretty awful:

This is more than just a handful of tweets; this is a reaction that's popped up again and again in Hunger Games conversations — even before actors had been cast in the adaptation. A character like Rue, meant to be sweet and innocent and beloved, simply can't be black in the mind of some audience members. Even when she is written that way; that third tweet, "on the real," is simply wrong. Author Suzanne Collins never explicitly states any character's race, though given the futuristic setting, you'd probably do well to imagine a more multiracial society than our current one. But she does describe skin and hair color, and Rue has "dark brown" skin.

Yes, sometimes it's possible to miss bits and pieces when you read a book, especially with a page-turner like this one. And it's common for people to imagine characters to look like themselves and the people around them. But what's really troubling is the reaction once the precious little white girl in the mind's eye is portrayed as a precious little black girl. It's one thing to say "that's not how I pictured her" — though really, reading comprehension, please. But to say you could no longer care about the character because she is black? That her death isn't as sad? That's an incredibly scary message about the value you place on skin color, and one that's distressing to find among the fans of a story that treated race in a way that (hopefully) allowed people of all different backgrounds to recognize themselves in the characters.