‘Hunger Games’ Faces Racial Backlash
Do you think that racism was a theme in "The Hunger Games?"
- No (70%, 19 Votes)
- Yes (30%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 27
BY STEPHANIE COSBY, News Editor
While the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ beloved book The Hunger Games raked in a record-breaking $155 million during its opening weekend and had many critics raving, it has received a wide range of race-based criticism.
As Jezebel reported, hundreds of fans flooded Twitter with racist comments regarding several of the film’s casting choices, specifically that of 12-year-old African-American Rue. “Why does she have to be black not gonna lie that kind of ruined the movie,” tweeted one. “Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” tweeted another.
What makes these racist responses even more befuddling is that most of the characters of concern were specifically described as black in the books. Rue, for instance, is described as having “thick dark hair,” “dark satiny brown skin,” and “golden eyes.” Writer Suzanne Collins also confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Rue is African American.
Jezebel writer Lindy West pointed out that these responses “raise knotty questions about what we see when we read– how our brains conceptualize things that aren’t explicitly dictated, the ways our subconscious is conditioned to fill in the blanks.”
Even when race is explicitly stated, as in the Rue situation, many readers apparently still envisioned her and the other characters as specifically white. Could this be an effect of the overrepresentation of whites and the underrepresentation of minorities in American mass media?
Media and other fans expressed related surprise and concern over the race-specific casting call and the subsequent choice of white actress Jennifer Lawrence as the racially-ambiguous main character Katniss Everdeen.
In the books, Katniss has olive skin, dark hair and grey eyes, meaning she could be any number or mixture of ethnicities. The Wall Street Journal and other sources reported, however, that the casting call specifically stated the ideal Katniss should be a female who is “Caucasian, between ages 15 and 20, who could portray someone underfed but strong and naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness.”
Racebending, a “grassroots organization of media consumers that advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media” wrote that The Hunger Games casting call process “reflected the continued barriers actors of color and communities of color face in accessing representation in film.”
The underrepresentation of minorities and/or “Hollywood whitewashing” is nothing new. Jezebel pointed back to the Avatar: The Last Airbender controversy, in which director M. Night Shyamalan cast white actors in the heroic, “explicitly Asian roles,” and cast dark-skinned South Asians as the villains. You might also remember the Couples Retreat controversy in which the American poster featured three white couples and one black couple, but the UK version featured only white couples.