The Hunger Games Brings All the Racists to the Yard

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Let’s be clear, I have not seen The Hunger Games. I have not read The Hunger Games. As best I can tell, I have no plans or interest to do either. Before last week, I had never even heard of The Hunger Games. When a movie grosses over $150 million in it’s opening weekend, the third largest grossing weekend opening of all time, I assume it must be a pretty good movie with a knowledgeable and wide-ranging fan base. This is why I was surprised to come across Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed on Jezebel.com yesterday afternoon.

An excerpt:

But when it came to the casting of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, many audience members did not understand why there were black actors playing those parts. Cinna’s skin is not discussed in the book, so truthfully, though Lenny Kravitz was cast, a white, Asian or Latino actor could have played the part.

But. On page 45 of Suzanne Collins’s book, Katniss sees Rue for the first time:

…And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that’s she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor…

Later, she sees Thresh:

The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He’s one of the giants, probably six and half feet tall and built like an ox.

Dark skin. That is what the novelist, the creator of the series, specified. But there were plenty of audience members who were “shocked,” or confused, or just plain angry. - Source: Jezebel.

Equally troubling were some of the screenshots of Tweets shared by disappointed fans.

Some will argue, “it’s only Twitter.” Or, “It’s only a movie.” Or, “It’s only a character in a book.” That’s exactly the point. These people found themselves intimately identifying with these make-believe characters in the book (even though they glossed over the ‘dark skin’ descriptions of two). In their imaginations, they only identified with characters who mirrored themselves. If there messages weren’t that big of a deal then they would have stood behind their opinions, instead of deleting their Twitter pages as a number of them elected to do rather than face the scrutiny of standing behind their own judgmental words.

Rue

The very idea that some of these characters might be black “ruined the movie” for them. If you follow the available links above, you’ll find many found Rue’s portrayal by a black girl outright repulsive. This is all the more depressing because, in this case, these were accurate depictions based on the author’s own writing and artistic vision. As one Tweets above suggests, perhaps dark skin is OK if you imagine it belongs to someone who is not “too black for what I pictured.” The brutal death of a perceived white girl is a tragedy, it moves you, it drew you emotionally into the character’s plight, but some little black girl dies in a book (or real life), who cares?

Is it any wonder that real-life tragedies like that of Trayvon Martin go largely ignored when people can’t even bring themselves to identify with make-believe characters whom happen to be black on the big screen. “EWW,” as one Tweeter laments. I guess the big screen is still reserved for others.

The inhabitants of Post Racial America strike again. Remember folks, there is no racism, bias, bigotry or racial ignorance left in this great country of ours. After all, Obama got elected and he’s totally black, but you know, not “all the way to black.”

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  • http://fromraewithlove.com/ Rae

    oooh! Thank you for this post! I have been reading about it all over the last few weeks. My thing is that it seems like people cannot handle diversity in any sense. I have often realized that although Octavia Bulter is one of the most prolific sci-fi writers of all time, her books may take some time to come to the screen. (although many of her ideas have been used & not credited). This doesn't surprise me at all. As for post-racial, post-black, post-racism – not happening any time soon. People really need to get a grip at what's really happening in the country and around us. The sooner they do, the better for them.
    My recent post What Happens When Your Worst Fears are Realized?

  • Babes

    I was reading about this yesterday and the part that stuck out to me the most (and someone even pointed out) was the age of some of these people tweeting. They are not who would imagine when you think “racist”. I couldn’t help but wonder, who taught these kids such hate? It truly hurt my heart. I also am increasingly curious to know how many people I interact with everyday feel the same way or at least would have a similar viewpoint in a different situation. Fortunately, I was raised to know that a post-racial America does not yet exist and to not be fooled into thinking so.

    • http://twitter.com/John_Cannady @John_Cannady

      Plus, I'm giving some of them the side eye because they look like they are also minorities…..I'm looking in the direction of EJ Santiago and 'Cliff Kiger'….

      • Babes

        Exactly! One boy still has his Twitter up and he apparently is half Black. I could write a whole book on that issue, but I’ll just leave it at *smh* for now.

      • Dr. J

        I was waiting for people to peep the dude who was Hispanic.

        Re: Zimmerman

  • Dr. J

    This is the thing tho… most of us on this site are on Black Twitter. Black Twitter is separatist, but it's also very dangerous. The rest of the world is on the regular twitter. And racism is still allive and Twitter is a filter free way of expressing yourself. If you want to see something frightening, search for racial slurs on Twitter and see how many tweets are from people who ain't of that race. That's just the way the world is.

    Another thing, if you go to MediaTakeOut to get your gossip, you get one version. If you go to Perez Hilton, you see mad racists comments on his posts about Black people. He rarely even edits them, makes me wonder about that guy.

  • http://www.learninglover.com AfterMath

    As people, Black people in particular, there's a hell of a lot of stuff that we can get pissed off about, but what some arbitrary person who watched Hunger Games thought about the character playing Rue isn't at the top of my list. Does racism exist? You betcha! Am I going to let it ruin a really good book series and movie? Nope! I found it so interesting that THIS is what's getting all the attention right now. I hope it fades because I'd love to get back to talking about the actual book and actually comparing the differences between the book and the movie, and wondering how they're going to do parts 2 and 3. And if some privileged little kid or grumpy old man or racist in between wants to hate Hunger Games/Catching FIre/Mocking Jay, then maybe it means the lines will be shorter next time and I won't have to wait til Monday night to catch the movie.

  • @svictoria24

    Wow. I’ve never seen those comments or anything surrounding the race of the characters before now… Though I generally avoid all commentary about movies/books before I judge for myself… But I disgress. The commentary is repulsive…. I’ve both read the book and seen the movie and I can tell you that either way race neither adds or detracts from the plot line. Post-racism? I’ve never understood when people say things like “I’m not racist but….” Recognizing your ignorant comment does not negate the fact that it’s ignorant.

    • http://1219sibmtt.blogspot.com/2012/03/hunger-games-fans-reflect-post-racial.html a.eye

      We've reached a point of post racism, not post-racism. People are now more free to post their racist comments on various forms.
      My recent post Hunger Games' fans reflect post racial society

  • Keisha Brown

    Sigh.
    Reading is no longer fundamental though?

  • http://www.prutledge.wordpress.com Ms. Not-Right-Now

    Wow. Brilliant and timely article. Thank u.

  • brian

    Like many of my white friends there is a specific group of black people I hate, truly despise. On the whole I think they are lazier, do not have the same value for rules or societies acceptable behaviors. They are louder and more obnoxious then others. They do not consider other people before they act, and think it’s better to hustle or steal then work hard. And yes I think they are more likely to be criminals then other people and violence to them is viewed as acceptable. Most white people wont say they hate this group of black people for fear of being labeled a racist, but here’s the thing. We don’t hate them BECAUSE they are black, it just turns out that this particular group of people happen to be black. If they were white we would hate them every bit as much. Every other black person we see outside of this group we view as equals and love them as much as anyone else who is white, so how can we be racist?
    http://thetop10.squarespace.com/the-politics-of-i

    • Blue

      You know brian what you described is not intrinsic to one race. The way you typed your response you make it out to be. What you said is true but, it is not an ethnic issue it is a cultural one and not just in the culture of blacks but, it is part of the toxic culture of this age.

    • Hugh Jazz

      @ brian: That's understandable, but one is forced to wonder why it is rare to see a hatred with the same passion towards people of your own race when they do the same things. It's rarely, "I had those lazy people", but "I hate those (insert slur of choice)".

      Particularly in this case, are Lenny Kravitz, Dayo Okeniyi and Amandla Stenberg "lazier", "do not have the same value for rules or societies acceptable behaviors", "do not consider other people before they act, and think it’s better to hustle or steal then work hard"? Does this look like someone who is "more likely to be (a) criminal"? http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3964350/

      Clearly "we" don't view those outside of that group as equal and "love them as much as anyone else who is white". Now I'm not saying you feel the way the people that made those Tweets feel, but it is clearly obvious that a sizeable percentage of white people feel that way.

    • http://www.WisdomIsMisery.com WisdomIsMisery

      Hello Brian, by way of introductions, I'm WisdomIsMisery, author of the above post and an admin here at SBM. You are free to your opinion and I believe you've done nothing more than share an honest albeit unpopular opinion with us today. I don't like it but I respect it because you didn't hide behind the guise of political correctness that is often used to express an opinion you know will not be well received. That's fine. Here's the thing, Brian, and you can take my opinion with a grain of salt, much as I have taken yours.

      It's this line here: Every other black person we see outside of this group we view as equals and love them as much as anyone else who is white, so how can we be racist?

      How are you to distinguish me from this group of black people you admittedly "hate" and "despise" when you know nothing more of me than the color of my skin? This, I'm afraid, is why as you have lumped me with them, I am forced to lump you in with the "racist."

      You see, Brian, I cannot walk around with my resume imposed on my forehead at all times. This group you speak of, "this particular group of people [whom] happen to be black." I'm one of those people, as far as you know. Therefore, on sight alone you will despise me just the same. You will draw similar conclusions about me, that I am "lazier, do not have the same value for rules or societies acceptable behaviors. They are louder and more obnoxious then others."

      It is those preconceived notions of an entire group of people based largely, if not solely, on race that is unfair. It's unfair that I would have to prove myself to you (or anyone) that I am worthy of the same respect and accolades you freely wield on people who look like you or, perhaps more accurately, do not look like me. In the end, I too am left to wonder if everyone who looks like you merely sees me as another member of this group of people you describe as hating and despising. Again, I repeat your own quote, "Every other black person we see outside of this group…

      This is a barrier – make believe in this case – which you, and people like you, have created whereby only people you deem outside of "this group" – by whatever arbitrary measurement you elect to use to define entry and exit – is worthy of respect, regardless of how inaccurate or accurate your assessments; all others are not. This can only mean that everyone is hated and despised until you deem them worthy of equal measure or simply put in the opposite of the law that allegedly guides this land, we are guilty until proven innocent – assuming we are ever afforded the latter opportunity to 'prove' ourselves to "you" – and people like you.

      Unfortunately, that is our daily reality. The opposite is yours.

      Have a nice day, Brian.

      • Hugh Jazz

        Glad you touched on it WIM, as I couldn't with the limited word count. Why do I need to demonstrate anything to you? I'm a criminal until I perform some act of valor or fealty to you? Really?

        Trying to be White or a Jew,
        But ask yourself, who are they to be equal to?

    • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jermaine-spradley/a-millennial-manifesto-jobs_b_956053.html Most

      Eff you and your friends.

      • Adonis

        *shrugs*

    • Tea

      Trying to understand how you despise for a specific type of Black person related to folks despise at seeing Amandla Stenberg play Rue. #confused.

      Otherwise, why not just keep it all the way real and recognize that some people "do not consider people before they act," "think it's better to hustle or steal then work hard," and are more likely to be criminals ("BE" criminals is not the same as "BE" arrested) and view violence as acceptable. You really believe that's a "Black thing"?

      You could start trying to have a more objective view by looking into White history. There are too many examples of "hustling and stealing" instead of working hard (please don't leave out embezzlers and copyright infring-ers). Violence? Do I even need to dig deeper into this one? I'm sure just remembering what you learned in history class will be illuminate violent White groups/individuals. But why stay in history, we can take a look around present day too. All of that counts right?? And who is less likely to get arrested and prosecuted for drug abuse, violence, and other criminal acts?

      Well, I could go on forever, but…I'll stop. If you really try a little bit harder to think a little more critically, it ain't too hard to see that, you can always find people in different racial groups that have the characteristics you say you despise. Why then solely focus on Black people in this negative light? idgi

  • cynicaloptmst81

    Heartbreaking…it really is…

    And we wonder why people of color don't get major roles in Hollywood…smh…

  • sherylleigh

    Wow. This surprised me, although honestly I'm not sure why. But it really adds merit to what movie producers have been saying for a long time: other races typically don't want to see black faces on screen. How difficult must it be to convince Hollywood to take a chance and cast a black actor in a leading role rather than a white one, when they catch flack like this for casting a black person in a role that was clearly meant for a black person? And who reads a book and just ignores the description that the character is black? That means that you're paying little attention to the description because you've already determined what you think the character should look like. Sad.
    My recent post To Trayvon: An Apology

  • Tea

    I read the book a little while ago (there was a big buzz amongst several of my friends). I feel for Rue…she is the angel of the book. I loved her thoughtful character. I was happy to see the little real life angel faced Amandla Stenberg playing Rue in the movie.

    Earlier this week when I first saw that people were disappointed is really disgusted me. Thoroughly. Its unbelievable to me that they felt the same sympathy I felt when reading the book but solely because the character turns out to be Black (obviously so) in the movie, they no longer can empathize? This makes no sense! I tried to understand but I cant.

    All I can say is that I'm happy the movie was a block buster and that these idiots cant read well enough to see that the author wrote them in as Black characters (District 11). In terms of Cinna being Black, well I didnt picture him as Lenny Kravitz while reading but I love seeing Lenny whenever I can. I've had a crush on him since forever (gold eyeliner and all…lol).

  • http://knockingonthirty.blogspot.com/ Bri

    It's scary because these twits twittering are our future……….*sigh*

    OAN: I really enjoyed the movie and plan to read the books. The actors in the movie did great jobs no matter what race they were or age. It was definitely in good taste.
    My recent post Justice for Trayvon Martin

    • http://knockingonthirty.blogspot.com/ Bri

      Also I read some excerpts from the books……

      The book mentioned dark skin, as well as pointed out that district was known well for farmland……

      Sharecroppers. Also the districts peacekeepers where described as being notorious for their malevolence. "Beating" and starving its residents. Slavery anyone? It wasn't rocket science.

      I was "surprised" no one had issue with the sole 3 black people being pickaninnies or gay. Collins had some slick shit with her in those books if you take it on with a jaded, focused eye, lol.
      My recent post I didn't take the job….

  • Ade

    One of the reasons that persons couldn’t handle the fact that these characters were black is because they don’t fit into the usual molds and binary opposites that have been created by the media and by the society that we live in. Good, angels, hardworkers, sweet hearts, girls next door and the like have almost always been white on screen compared to the badass, bitch, fighting, under achieving, only-good-for-rapping and hanging out on the street corner characters that have epitomised the characterisation of blacks for decades. Brian’s perception of people of colour probably has very little basis in reality but is all too real in the virtualised, mediatised America. Black actors then have a responsibility to vehemently reject any roles that perpectuate these stereotypes and binaries. If all actors were like Sidney Pottier who refused to accept stereotypical roles, perhaps by now a person of colour playing the role of the good guy in a movie would not have ‘ruined the whole experience’ for him.

  • Beef Bacon

    This surprises some people? Really. When on EVERY show that is white they have on One Black Character maybe. That shows you that in THEIR world…we don't exist.

    I am starting to think that most of us Blacks really thought that we were finally seen as equal to white people. I think the that fact that some of us have money. degrees, etc that has blinded us to the REALITY…we are less than to THEM. It shows in every aspect of REALITY.

    I for one am okay with them thinking that. I just will that MY People understood this as a WHOLE and begin to come together. It wouldn't matter what THEY think, do or say if we did what we as a People should.

    • Beef Bacon

      You don't have to hate others to take care of your people. It is not about hate, however you gotta keep your house clean before you can brings others into it…..Our house (Community) is very dirty.

  • Lloyd

    This is sad/funny. But I remember when Harry Potter's love interest was a pretty little Asian girl which led to a torrent of racist abuse, courtesy of jealous and disturbingly bitter young caucasoids.

  • Jon

    Having only every read general forums and websites, it was a little shocking to read an article and comments that are targeted for blacks and responded to by mostly blacks. By shocking, I mean that this it was the most biased, racist, bigoted stream of hate that I have read in a long time. I almost feel better about the random racist that pops in on a forum and is an asshat. Just shocking…

  • Erika M

    I was shocked when I heard about all these horrible comments. I read the books, saw the movie and sure, when I first saw the preview I thought, "Oh, Rue is really dark skinned". I remembered right away that it was what I read and it didn't matter to me at all.
    For these people however, I don't even think it was them being black that was the problem. I think they were more upset to find that what they had pictured when they read the book was different from what the movie had.
    It happens alllllllll the time. You read a book, you watch a movie, and realize that the characters look nothingggg like you thought they would. It happens. And yes, it could ruin the whole movie for some people. But the bottom line is that when I read the hunger games, I got a perfect description of Rue and Thresh and I have No Reason to complain about it because It's a good book, a good movie and I don't care about skin color.

    For everyone else, I just like to think that it wasn't the color that upset them. More the shock of expecting something different and being disappointed to see something they didn't imagine when reading the books. Racism might exist today but not like that.