By Arturo R. García
The main character and narrator of the story. Katniss is slender with black hair, grey eyes and olive skin. She is sixteen years old and attends a secondary school somewhere in Appalachia, known in the book as District 12, the coal mining sector. She is often quiet and is generally liked by District 12’s residents, mostly because of her ability to provide highly-prized game for a community in which starvation is a constant threat. Katniss is an excellent hunter, archer, gatherer, and trapper, skilled just like her deceased father. She and her father shared singing ability, too. Since his death in a mine explosion, which killed Gale’s father too, Katniss has been the sole provider for her family, a role she was reluctantly forced to assume at the age of eleven when her mother’s grief overcame her ability to function. Katniss is surprised when her sister is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games, and willingly steps forward to take her place out of love.
– Character profile for Katniss Everdeen, via Goodreads
Does that description – more specifically, that physical description – sound like it matches Jennifer Lawrence, pictured above?
Only in Hollywood.
It was announced yesterday that Lawrence, coming off an Academy Awards nomination for Winter’s bone, had been chosen to play Katniss in a film adaptation of The Hunger Games, the first story in a three-book series that sees the character become a folk heroine, then a revolutionary leader, in a post-apocalyptic North America.
According to Racebending.com, Katniss’ skin tone is of specific interest to her character’s backstory: she shares that description with other residents of The Seam, an impoverished area in the Appalachian district where she lives. Among them is her father, a mixed-race miner. By comparison, her mother and sister stand out in the community of the Seam precisely because they are blonde and white-skinned. Which makes Racebending’s conclusion nothing short of accurate:
Given this story takes place hundreds of years into the future, Katniss is almost definitely of mixed ethnicity–making her one of very few protagonists in young adult fiction who would be considered biracial or multi-ethnic by “real world” standards.
Of course, as Marissa Lee notes, Paramount Pictures, which is financing the film, stacked the casting deck right off the bat, saying candidates for the role, “‘should be Caucasian, between ages 15 and 20, who could portray someone ‘underfed but strong,’ and ‘naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness.’”
Director Gary Ross justified the choice to Entertainment Weekly by saying the series’ author, Suzanne Collins, gave him her blessing:
Suzanne had no issues with Jen playing the role. And she thought there was a tremendous amount of flexibility. It wasn’t doctrine to her. Jen will have dark hair in the role, but that’s something movies can easily achieve. [Laughs] I promise all the avid fans of The Hunger Games that we can easily deal with Jennifer’s hair color.
Whether the series’ fans respond as positively has yet to be seen. If Paramount and Ross aren’t careful, they might have another Airbender mess on their hands.
Meanwhile, the updated version of Red Dawn, the 1984 action-cult “classic” is getting another update, this time behind the scenes: The Los Angeles Times reported that the remake, which was to feature China as the invading force in place of the original Soviet Union, will now cast China as a smaller player in a coalition led by North Korea, with digital trickery being used to minimize the Chinese threat.
But don’t go thinking this decision is based on an outpouring of sympathy toward the Chinese people by MGM. The studio, which has had the film on the shelf while sorting its’ financial affairs, is hoping the switch will make the new Dawn easier to sell in the increasingly-important Chinese film market:
A number of Hollywood studios are deepening their business ties to the world’s most populous nation. Disney is building a theme park outside Shanghai, Sony Pictures co-produced the recent “Karate Kid” remake with the government-affiliated China Film Group, and News Corp.‘s Fox International Productions recently made the Chinese-language hit “Hot Summer Days” there. Even independent studios like Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment will release their films “Killers” and “Red” in China in coming months.
Dan Mintz, whose DMG Entertainment is a leading producer and distributor of movies in China, said the “Red Dawn” story dramatizes how Western companies can fundamentally misunderstand how the nation works. If the picture had gone out without redacting the Chinese invaders, he said, “there would have been a real backlash. It’s like being invited to a dinner party and insulting the host all night long. There’s no way to look good…. The film itself was not a smart move.”
Mintz, who met with the producers of “Red Dawn” to offer some suggestions on how they could proceed, said that doing business in China requires a partnership approach. “The more you reach out, the better your relationships will be,” Mintz said. “This is bigger than a single film.”
So, a movie about Communist invaders is being edited so as to not offend a Communist nation. Instead of WOLVERIIINES, maybe the battle cry in the remake should be IRONYYYYYYYY!
Top image courtesy of Celebrity Pictures