Yes, There Are Black People in Your Hunger Games: The Strange Case of Rue & Cinna

By Guest Contributor Roxie Moxie, cross-posted from Nerdgasm Noire Network

Last week the Hunger Games character posters were revealed to fans.

There were the usual complaints of actors not meeting book loyalist expectations.  However, among the usual complaints of “She doesn’t look as young as I thought” or “Where are Effie’s pink curls?”  There was a different kind of shock and surprise toward Rue & Cinna, who will be played by Amandla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz, respectively.

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

- The Hunter Games Wiki

She is 12 years old, with dark brown hair, skin, and “golden brown” eyes.

- Wikipedia

Rue is pretty clearly described as African-American which has been confirmed by director Garry Ross and author Suzanne Collins.

Entertainment Weekly: In the books, Katniss is described as being olive-skinned, dark-haired, possibly biracial. Did you discuss with Suzanne the implications of casting a blond, caucasian girl?
Ross: Suzanne and I talked about that as well. There are certain things that are very clear in the book. Rue is African-American. Thresh is African-American.

So then, why did comments like these show up on the Hunger Games Facebook when Rue’s poster was posted? (SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOKS, STOP AT GRACE’S COMMENT.)

Everything from the innocuous ”She’s not how I pictured her” to “I was all sad and like “she’s black!’”

Seriously? My good nerds, what in the entire f-ck?

While it is true that Rue is described maybe only twice in the entire book, she is described as having brown satiny skin that is darker than Katniss’ own tan skin.  While it is also true that the Hunger Games books are a very quick and absorbing read I don’t find that any of this an excuse to post on Facebook ”Shes Black?”

It makes me wonder if we all read the same book.

How is it, when Rue is so clearly described that fans insist they believed her to be white? White people are considered the norm in society; the default person.  It’s as simple as when you hear the words “All-American”, I can say with certainty that you are not picturing a minority person of color.  This is white privilege.

I’m a longtime Hunger Games fan and have followed many conversations on the internet concerning the casting of the film. Whenever the conversation comes to Rue there is always (1) person who is surprised to find out Rue is black and (2) another person who is upset that Rue is black. Upset as if they have been tricked or as if something has been stolen from them. Upset as if they now have to reevaluate how they feel about Rue–a character many fans love dearly because of her incredible courage.

“OMG, THERE IS A BLACK PERSON IN MY BOOK!?”

And the one that really kills me is {SPOILER AHEAD–HIGHLIGHT TO READ} “Where’s Prim? Her death is the one that gets to me most.” As if Rue’s death is not even worth this poster, and it should belong to Prim.

The reaction to Cinna is even more harsh.

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}

Cinna is very different from the other inhabitants of the Capitol; he does not use surgery to alter his features, wears simple black clothes, and leaves his hair its natural dark brown color, close cropped. His only evidenced feature is a slight touch of gold eyeliner that brings out the gold flecks in his eyes. {Wikipedia}

It’s true that Cinna’s description is vague. Cinna could be absolutely any race. I felt the lack of description was purposeful. Cinna could be a hero that looked like anyone. I can’t fault anyone too much for thinking he might look like them, however …

Really, fandom? You nearly make me want to revoke my love of this series with these comments! Especially those who pictured Cinna as “sweet and loving”–A statement that implies that Kravitz doesn’t look that way.

However, many fans get it

  • guest

    I actually defaulted to a tan Asian for Rue.

  • Julia

    This makes me so upset.  People are so racist.  

  • Briana G

    Do you mean Rue? Prim was described as looking like her mother which was blonde hair and blue eyes, but Rue was described as having dark skin and dark hair, or black in other words.

  • Mickey

    Actually, Blaise was not described as Black until the sixth book. Prior to that, people did not even know whether Blaise was male or female. So, I’m assuming that before the “great revelation” they thought he was white. Now if they thought he was white AFTER is clearly states that he is Black, and see the movies and still trip, then they’re a lost cause.

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  • Jessica

    Wow. I think both casting choices are great, especially Kravitz. I can TOTALLY see him as Cinna! Those commenters make me worry for the future…

  • Anonymous

    Yes. This is my biggest gripe with the casting. I always pictured Katniss as non-white. A white actress with a decent tan doesn’t cut it for me.

  • Anonymous

    Depressing. We’re a racially mixed family (Asian and Anglo), and we try our best to be open and constructive in our discussions about race, ethnicity, privilege and prejudice. And yet our kids — definitely brown — still sometimes say and think the stupidest things imaginable. 

    I’m grateful for Racialicious. You guys are a big help. These discussions make me a better person and, hopefully, a better parent.

  • Anonymous

    Depressing. We’re a racially mixed family (Asian and Anglo), and we try our best to be open and constructive in our discussions about race, ethnicity, privilege and prejudice. And yet our kids — definitely brown — still sometimes say and think the stupidest things imaginable. 

    I’m grateful for Racialicious. You guys are a big help. These discussions make me a better person and, hopefully, a better parent.

  • mulitracial&southern

    I actually thought Katniss was half black. Isn’t her dad described as black? maybe I’m wrong. I haven’t reread them in a while

  • Efdimowo

    This is one of the most intelligent, well articulated and thought provoking comments I’ve encountered in a while!:)

  • http://smizily.tumblr.com Emily

    I have to admit that the first time I read through the Hunger Games I probably didn’t realize that Rue was supposed to be black (I read the trilogy of the course of four days; time for picking up details was scarce). But once I reread them, it was obvious and very intentional. Katniss (a darker-skinned white person from Appalachia) and Rue (a little black girl from an agrarian district), despite those very shallow differences, are able to see something in each other that’s like family in a world where the system (Capitol, Hunger Games) wants them to perceive each other as enemies. The enmity between the districts is institutionalized, and once they decide that it is worth the emotional risk (because one of them will inevitably die) to befriend each other, and especially after Katniss takes the time to give Rue her proper respects after her death, the cracks in the foundation begin to appear. A sense of solidarity is the spark for rebellion. So yes, I’d say that the fact that Rue and Katniss are different races is important to the symbolism and plot.
    I also didn’t imagine Cinna as Lenny Kravitz, but I definitely can’t say I’m disappointed. It was a surprise, but I sort of nodded my head and said, “Yeah. Yeah! This could work.”

  • http://paxpinnae.dreamwidth.org/ Pax

    I have to admit, I had a “wait, Rue’s black?” moment when the casting for the part was first announced.  In my inadequate defense, I finished all three volumes of The Hunger Games in roughly a 36 hour period, so it wasn’t what you’d call a close read.  It was unsettling for me to realize that I’d missed that detail.  White privilege: it works even when you don’t want it to.

    Lenny Kravitz was hard for me to swallow, though, since my fantasy cast for Cinna was basically an excuse to picture Cillian Murphy in gold eyeliner.  Still, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the part!

  • http://www.facebook.com/fragglera Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    I had thought of the main characters a poc, based on descriptions… I think the only white folks cast should be the city dwellers. I’m all for racebending, just casting poc indiscriminately b/c hell, who knows, the descriptions are kinda vague. Most of the characters could have been any number of ethnicities, or mixtures.  I must admit, that I didn’t really notice that Rue was black, but I like the casting, she looks fragile and delicate, like Rue. And the supposed ‘fandom’ are inarticulate idiots. Ignore them.

  • Micbrando

    all I can say is, I’ve never read this book before, but That’s completely messed up on people judging the characters and actors for their race :/. I thought this new generation was passed this and only the elderly had such thoughts…

    • Anonymous

      “I thought this new generation was passed this and only the elderly had such thoughts…”
      Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! 

      [sorry. excuse me...]

      Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  • http://Momsomniac.Wordpress.com Momsomniac

    Ah, thanks. 

  • terekirkland

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Sure, Collins was a little vague on Cinna’s ethnicity, but I thought it was obvious that Rue is BLACK! Not just from the initial description, but other cues, as well. Collins seems to have written the people of District 11 (which is the SOUTH, if y’all are paying attention) as being the most oppressed, the most overworked. Add that to Rue’s love of music, which was something also intrinsic to her culture, which made me think Collins was treating the character as a stereotype at first. But the writing and the character development was enough to make me care about her death deeply, to the point that I get choked up when her character is introduced any time I re-read.

    It’s despicable to me that readers saw her as white only based on Katniss’s description of her demeanor as being very like Prim’s, overlooking so many other cues. It’s interesting how much whitewashing happens in people’s minds. So much for living in the 21st century. Ugh. So disgusted. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to link to this article from my blog.

  • terekirkland

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Sure, Collins was a little vague on Cinna’s ethnicity, but I thought it was obvious that Rue is BLACK! Not just from the initial description, but other cues, as well. Collins seems to have written the people of District 11 (which is the SOUTH, if y’all are paying attention) as being the most oppressed, the most overworked. Add that to Rue’s love of music, which was something also intrinsic to her culture, which made me think Collins was treating the character as a stereotype at first. But the writing and the character development was enough to make me care about her death deeply, to the point that I get choked up when her character is introduced any time I re-read.

    It’s despicable to me that readers saw her as white only based on Katniss’s description of her demeanor as being very like Prim’s, overlooking so many other cues. It’s interesting how much whitewashing happens in people’s minds. So much for living in the 21st century. Ugh. So disgusted. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to link to this article from my blog.

  • terekirkland

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Sure, Collins was a little vague on Cinna’s ethnicity, but I thought it was obvious that Rue is BLACK! Not just from the initial description, but other cues, as well. Collins seems to have written the people of District 11 (which is the SOUTH, if y’all are paying attention) as being the most oppressed, the most overworked. Add that to Rue’s love of music, which was something also intrinsic to her culture, which made me think Collins was treating the character as a stereotype at first. But the writing and the character development was enough to make me care about her death deeply, to the point that I get choked up when her character is introduced any time I re-read.

    It’s despicable to me that readers saw her as white only based on Katniss’s description of her demeanor as being very like Prim’s, overlooking so many other cues. It’s interesting how much whitewashing happens in people’s minds. So much for living in the 21st century. Ugh. So disgusted. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to link to this article from my blog.

  • terekirkland

    I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    Sure, Collins was a little vague on Cinna’s ethnicity, but I thought it was obvious that Rue is BLACK! Not just from the initial description, but other cues, as well. Collins seems to have written the people of District 11 (which is the SOUTH, if y’all are paying attention) as being the most oppressed, the most overworked. Add that to Rue’s love of music, which was something also intrinsic to her culture, which made me think Collins was treating the character as a stereotype at first. But the writing and the character development was enough to make me care about her death deeply, to the point that I get choked up when her character is introduced any time I re-read.

    It’s despicable to me that readers saw her as white only based on Katniss’s description of her demeanor as being very like Prim’s, overlooking so many other cues. It’s interesting how much whitewashing happens in people’s minds. So much for living in the 21st century. Ugh. So disgusted. Thanks for posting this. I’m going to link to this article from my blog.

  • Textualchemist

    Oh, he’s a good actor. Have you seen him as Nurse John in Precious? He does an amazing job. 

  • Textualchemist

    My major problem with the casting of Lenny Kravitz is that Cinna is explicitly described as young. Kravitz is almost fifty. As one of my friends pointed out too, they’ve also not made him take out his piercings, which somewhat goes against Cinna’s whole anti-modification stance.  But, beyond that, yes, I’ve always seen him as biracial at least. 

  • Textualchemist

    Why is Cinna  a negative representation of black masculinity? He’s smart, composed, supportive, talented, and courageous, to name just some of his good qualities. He is one of the most unambiguously positive characters in the series. 

  • Textualchemist

    Why is Cinna  a negative representation of black masculinity? He’s smart, composed, supportive, talented, and courageous, to name just some of his good qualities. He is one of the most unambiguously positive characters in the series. 

  • Textualchemist

    Why is Cinna  a negative representation of black masculinity? He’s smart, composed, supportive, talented, and courageous, to name just some of his good qualities. He is one of the most unambiguously positive characters in the series. 

  • Textualchemist

    Why is Cinna  a negative representation of black masculinity? He’s smart, composed, supportive, talented, and courageous, to name just some of his good qualities. He is one of the most unambiguously positive characters in the series. 

  • Carling Bateman

    Another thing that concerns me about the Cinna responses: how in the f’k did they all decide that he’s skinny and gay?  LOL ONLY GAY GUYS DO FASHION AMIRITE LOL LOL 

    Also, weirdest: I don’t understand how the “I thought Cinna was flambouyant? Not black” thought process works. Whatsoever. In the least.

  • Carling Bateman

    Another thing that concerns me about the Cinna responses: how in the f’k did they all decide that he’s skinny and gay?  LOL ONLY GAY GUYS DO FASHION AMIRITE LOL LOL 

    Also, weirdest: I don’t understand how the “I thought Cinna was flambouyant? Not black” thought process works. Whatsoever. In the least.

    • Anonymous

      I know flamboyant Black gay I mean I know not everyone watched ANTM but come Miss J. Alexander!!! Or is he not Black now?

  • Alison

    I think it’s interesting to hear all the different ways people pictured Cinna, because when the Kravitz casting was announced, I was in an online discussion group where myself (white) and another poster (also white, IIRC, though I could be mistaken) were both like, “But… Cinna is Asian!” and everyone else went “What?”. And then somebody went and looked up the description when he was introduced, and sure enough – totally ambiguous, definitely no specific indication he was Asian. I’m not even sure what it was that made me picture him that way but it was so clear in my head.

    For the record, I was on the fence about Lenny until I saw the trailer. Now, I think he’ll be awesome. Also, I always read Rue as being black and would have been some kind of pissed if they had white-washed her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1619492072 Barbara Belotte

    I don’t know about you but this is not disheartening what it is is  creepy and  sinister.. these people look young.. 
    they imagine a white future where we black  brown people don’t exist  .. where we don’t matter , this is not only  white privilege it’s something much sinister..  and this will not be the lasyt book movie where they completely erase us.. it’s like someone killed their puppies or something.. this make me uneasy  for the real future ..  it really show what we black and brown folk  have to deal with .. the erasure will never stop.. and the fact is the author agreed to this white washing ..  this is why i’m careful about the media i pay to consume.. i vote with my dollars  

    • Anonymous

      Those who imagine a future without people of color are just uneasy because in reality, one day it will be the other way around!

  • Anonymous

    people are fucking awful and fucking clueless. i mean the implications that a black man can be soft-mannered or sweet, or GAY? what on earth?

    i’m also still annoyed at how white Katniss is in the film, and the rest of the people in her district for that matter. apparently ‘olive-skinned’ is a colour we can just ignore and assimilate into the wider “us”.

  • Nisha_10705

    This article just confirms to me that most people are really unintelligent. I could rant and rave about White privilege and the appearance of Black in Hollywood all day every day, but really, the main point is that: people are dumb as hell.

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  • JM Z

    Gay is not a physical descriptor. It is a sexual orientation. Did you mean something like “effeminate” or “flamboyant”?

  • Sandbalance

    And, since Katniss and Gale are said to look similar in coloring to many people in District 12, that means an entire population of people that I read as ethnic are likely to be whitewashed, too. 

  • Sandbalance

    And, since Katniss and Gale are said to look similar in coloring to many people in District 12, that means an entire population of people that I read as ethnic are likely to be whitewashed, too. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/galiotica Nejasna ちゃん

    Wow.  Just, wow. 
    I didn’t read the book, but if it clearly states what those two look like, there is no room for “surprise” of any kind.   And what the hell is that rubbish about having a black guy play Cinna conflicting with him being simple and lovable guy with calm temper and quiet personality? 
     ( Lenny <3 Believe In Me playing in the background ^__^)
    ps:  If the book is set in future America and the people in the district are mixed, then that is why Katniss might be mixed too. I imagine the big majority of people will be after some time, if not all. And not just because "olive skin= must be biracial",  Med. and ME Caucasians come in darker shades by nature. No need to pretend we either don't exist or are not really White.  

    pps: Amandla is gorgeous.  

  • BrenGersh

    Terrific article. This does seem to be about white priveledge, and the default set to “white”. Let’s change the default to “great” instead, and then Lenny Kravitz makes perfect sense. Let’s judge these actors on how they deliver the characters we know and love.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Um…..why would anyone automatically think that Cho Chang, and the Patil twins were anything but characters of colour? People kill me with this bull. As for Lavender Brown, I wasn’t sure what she was race-wise, but ‘Chang’ and ‘Patil’ read pretty clear as Chinese and Indian to me.

    People can’t possibly be that dumb…can they?

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Ah, Fandom F*ckery. It never ends. Even if their ethnicities were spelled out down to the very last letter, some folks would still be flailing at the reveals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jordan-Moore/745066135 Jordan Moore

    actually, before i found out who was cast, I pictured Cinna as a black fella. I figured Rue was dark as well actually. So I’m surprised that this comes as a surprise to other whities (like myself) lol
    it’s annoying that there has to be this drama about it, where it wasn’t necessary.

  • Alona Turner

    I can pretty much guarantee you that if any of these people read Push before seeing Precious, there was NO DOUBT in their mind that Precious was black.

  • http://twitter.com/lilith210 Traci Cohen

    I’ll be honest, I thought Rue was white.  I read the same book as everybody else, but when reading descriptions become altered to fit what I’m most comfortable seeing (I should clarify that.  It’s not that African-Americans make me uncomfortable, but I am white, I grew up in a white neighborhood and have mainly white friends.  I have become accustomed to seeing whiteness everywhere I go).  I’m white so for me it is easier to default to white for most characters.  Honestly, I’ve done it with Beloved and other African-American texts.  Without a constant reminder of her race I quickly moved to default settings.  Three chapters earlier I had read the description, but it hasn’t really sunk in. That being said, I’m upset that I missed that detail.  Before making a public comment people should look it up.  I know that sometimes I’ll forget details or make them up in my head, so I like using wikipedia or other fan sources to make sure I’m right before I go on a tirade.  

    All that aside, there is something about this girl that makes me sad.  Her face is just so vulnerable.  They have guaranteed that I will cry.  I think as long as she has the acting ability (I fear child actors after watching “The Last Airbender”, but she will probably have a better director) she will be a wonderful Rue that the audience will love and they weep at her death.  I’m getting all teary thinking about it. I am a bit surprised by Lenny Kravitz.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him act and Cinna is my favorite character.  I personally pictured James Franco for the role, but that was because the trait I most picked up on was the possible androgyny.  When first meeting Cinna I found it difficult to keep in mind which gender he was.  That is actually what drew me to the character.  I have nothing against Lenny Kravitz, I mean he is COOL!  I just hope that he can bring the character to life, and I’d have this concern for almost any actor taking on the role.

    • Medusa

      This is such a display of privilege right here.

    • Kairitu

      Just because you grew up in a white neighborhood and have white friends doesn’t mean you should just assume every character in every book you read should be white. It’s quite absurd actually. America is a melting pot, there are different races and cultures, maybe POC are invisible to you. It’s just sad, white priviledge indeed.

    • Anonymous

      “I’m white so for me it is easier to default to white for most
      characters.  Honestly, I’ve done it with Beloved and other
      African-American texts. ”

      Excuse me for being rude, but WTF?

      • Anonymous

        Excuse me for being rude, but WTF?

        You took the words right out of my mouth.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_POZN7DB2VG25LOOXENCUWHGR4Q Ellington

    This is non too surprising but it is still lame and just plain ignorant, that some white people think that every character has to be and is a reflection of them. 
    The same jank happened in the casting of Avatar:The Last Airbender, thankfully that film TANKED big time, and is hopefully forgotten in light of the fantastic aninamated show!

    This “outcry” from some white posters reminds me also of the second Matrix film. I remember one of my friends who is white wondering why most of the people in Zion were black? She thought it odd. Roger Ebert wrote a review explaining why the characters/leaders in Zion would and should be mostly black.
    But alas there are those and there will still be those who think that everyone in every story should be and are white.
    And that is just lame racist white privilege.

    • Anonymous

      I’m black and I hadn’t even noticed that many of the people in Zion were black until white people started pointing it out! (You included, Roger Ebert.) I found it disturbing that they were so uncomfortable with the amount of black people as if people of color don’t watch movies with predominantly white casts ALL THE EFFING TIME.

  • http://www.facebook.com/erikakharada Erika Harada

    …These people haven’t actually read the books before, have they? o_o

    Also as I was reading, I pictured Cinna as being Latino, haha. I think Lenny would be perfect as him :)

    Katniss’ casting upset me. Olive skin and dark hair — I figured she would look more Mediterranean :(

  • Skeeter

    I was shocked that so many people were … ‘against’ Rue being African-American. I mean, I can get that people were probably reading quickly and breezed over descriptions, but it’s mentioned more than once. And with Thresh, as well.  Like, how can you miss that? I guess most people just read “she was like Prim” (obviously not the exact quote but you get it), and automatically assumed “small, white, blonde, duck-tail shirt”, etc. When they cast those two, I was honestly not surprised … at all. Rue was perfectly cast, and I never saw her as anything but at the VERY LEAST, biracial.

    And Cinna, I always imagined as ‘tan’ or biracial because it matched the rest of the physical description leads you to believe that he is at the VERY LEAST biracial. At least, that’s what I got the first time I read it. The green eyes, the gold eyeliner would’ve looked good on dark tan skin, etc. 

    I don’t know if I just want people to read the books a little closer, or stop being so close-minded.

  • Skeeter

    I was shocked that so many people were … ‘against’ Rue being African-American. I mean, I can get that people were probably reading quickly and breezed over descriptions, but it’s mentioned more than once. And with Thresh, as well.  Like, how can you miss that? I guess most people just read “she was like Prim” (obviously not the exact quote but you get it), and automatically assumed “small, white, blonde, duck-tail shirt”, etc. When they cast those two, I was honestly not surprised … at all. Rue was perfectly cast, and I never saw her as anything but at the VERY LEAST, biracial.

    And Cinna, I always imagined as ‘tan’ or biracial because it matched the rest of the physical description leads you to believe that he is at the VERY LEAST biracial. At least, that’s what I got the first time I read it. The green eyes, the gold eyeliner would’ve looked good on dark tan skin, etc. 

    I don’t know if I just want people to read the books a little closer, or stop being so close-minded.

  • Skeeter

    I was shocked that so many people were … ‘against’ Rue being African-American. I mean, I can get that people were probably reading quickly and breezed over descriptions, but it’s mentioned more than once. And with Thresh, as well.  Like, how can you miss that? I guess most people just read “she was like Prim” (obviously not the exact quote but you get it), and automatically assumed “small, white, blonde, duck-tail shirt”, etc. When they cast those two, I was honestly not surprised … at all. Rue was perfectly cast, and I never saw her as anything but at the VERY LEAST, biracial.

    And Cinna, I always imagined as ‘tan’ or biracial because it matched the rest of the physical description leads you to believe that he is at the VERY LEAST biracial. At least, that’s what I got the first time I read it. The green eyes, the gold eyeliner would’ve looked good on dark tan skin, etc. 

    I don’t know if I just want people to read the books a little closer, or stop being so close-minded.

  • AllieBoBallie

    I have so many thoughts on the matter I can barely form a coherent single thought. I will say, though, that people who “read” the books and didn’t realize that Rue is black and Cinna is a blank slate didn’t truly read the books. They shouldn’t call themselves fans because the product they love is a product of their own imagination and not the story told by Suzanne Collins.

  • AllieBoBallie

    I have so many thoughts on the matter I can barely form a coherent single thought. I will say, though, that people who “read” the books and didn’t realize that Rue is black and Cinna is a blank slate didn’t truly read the books. They shouldn’t call themselves fans because the product they love is a product of their own imagination and not the story told by Suzanne Collins.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think any of these comments are excusable or acceptable, but I’m now thinking that they’re almost *understandable*, just because I’ve had lots of experiences with white people (especially Midwesterners, probably just because that’s a very homogenous area of the US) who use the term “dark skinned” to mean people with tans. You see it throughout history, like how Italians used to be described as dark–sure, they probably are compared to the average Swedish person, but then what of PoC? It just doesn’t enter the radar. I’m biracial (half black and half white and fairly dark considering) and my sister is half Mexican, half Russian but appears very light unless she’s been out in the sun, and we have a close family friend who once commented on my sister’s “dark skin.” It was really hard not to laugh, because I was like, if she’s dark (really she’s olive), what am I? Is there not even a word for what I am? So I think some people really do just have a different vocabulary, probably because white is the default, so that even when descriptors come into play, so do their defaults, and they assume someone described the way Rue is is, like, Sicilian.

  • http://twitter.com/danthrasher Daniel Thrasher

    I’ll admit my white privelege acted up when I read the book.  I completely missed the descriptions of Rue and simply imagined everyone to be white-ish because I am white.  However, what’s important isn’t that people have their priveleges – because we can’t prevent that from happening – it’s about how people deal with their priveleges.  When casting first started and it was pointed out that Rue should be Black, the proper response for people like me was “oh, really?  How did I miss that!”  The fans that bury their heads in the sand and vehemently ignore evidence that their privilege lead them to misinterpret the book are the people who don’t understand why the Halloween costumes were a big deal, or the parts of the gay community that’s ‘embarrassed’ by the T in GLBT. 

    The ideas we are seeing in these facebook posts that the characters were white may have been sparked from the readers’ white privilege, but their response to the casting goes beyond that into racist territories over and over again.  I’d like to think some of the more innocent “that’s not how I imagined it” posters are just being honest with their mistake, but I know it’s naive to think that’s what they all meant.  Add in the people who are actively against the casting and the whole thing gives me a feeling like when you go into a public restroom and the floor’s sticky.  Hold your breath and go fast.

  • http://chainreading.com/profile/baiskeli Baiskeli

    On the same note,

    I once had someone ranting and raving that there were rumors that a movie was being made from the Alex Cross novels by James Patterson and that he was black. They were pissed off at ‘political correctness’ in turning the character black.

    Except if they’d ever bothered to read the book, they would have realized that Alex Cross IS black.

    Seriously.

    Also, one of the best articles I’ve read about this was Ursula K LeGuin’s article after her Earthsea saga was whitewashed for TV
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/12/a_whitewashed_earthsea.html

    • http://Momsomniac.Wordpress.com Momsomniac

      “I didn’t see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had “violet eyes”). It didn’t even make sense. Whites are a minority on Earth now—why wouldn’t they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger colored gene pool, in the future?”

      Thanks for sharing that LeGuin article ~ I have always thought this too, but doubt I have ever said it as well. 

      I am not familiar with the Hunger Games, though I have heard the book were good. The lovely actress in the picture above does not look 12 to me, but that’s the only REAL issue I could see anyone having with the casting based upon the posted description. It’s a shame that Hollywood continues to foster and pander to the attitudes seen in the FB (?) comments. Lowest common denominator?

    • http://Momsomniac.Wordpress.com Momsomniac

      “I didn’t see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had “violet eyes”). It didn’t even make sense. Whites are a minority on Earth now—why wouldn’t they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger colored gene pool, in the future?”

      Thanks for sharing that LeGuin article ~ I have always thought this too, but doubt I have ever said it as well. 

      I am not familiar with the Hunger Games, though I have heard the book were good. The lovely actress in the picture above does not look 12 to me, but that’s the only REAL issue I could see anyone having with the casting based upon the posted description. It’s a shame that Hollywood continues to foster and pander to the attitudes seen in the FB (?) comments. Lowest common denominator?

  • http://twitter.com/Kimimel13 Melissa S.

    On Cinna, I think it’s the green eyes thing that instantly makes them think he’s white. Which unfortunately has me wanting to point them in the direction of my girl Meryl Cassie (who played Ebony on a show called The Tribe) she has green eyes. It’s not totally impossible people!

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t know the girl who played Ebony had green eyes. I’m trying to remember her, but didn’t she have sisters Silva and Java on the show? All those girls are sisters in real life. XD

    • Anonymous

      I would add that Katerina Graham who plays Bonnie on TVD has green eyes too. Smokey Robinson.

    • A. Noyd

      Also, Gary Dourdan (Warrick Brown on CSI).

  • http://twitter.com/Efabulous1 Efabulous

    Nothing has changed, all the racism and bigotry remains the same… it’s a new generation with another cool name.  I think the casting is perfect and I look forward to reading the books and seeing the film.

  • Mickey

    Obviously, the artist does not know that biracial black/white people can be dark-skinned.

  • LSG

    I’m very nervous about the portrayal of Thresh — he could easily be portrayed as hulking and subhuman (the hitting people with rocks thing…). Thresh was one of my absolute favorites in the book, though, and there are a few moments where I think Collins was trying to show readers that he was actually smart, resourceful, honorable and kind as well as being tough (his defense of Katniss because she’d helped Rue, his refusal to join the Careers, his use of the grain fields, his domination of a whole section of the arena…). They could go “caveman” with him, with all the stereotypical “savage black man” crap, or they could make him awesome.

    Please please please awesome!

  • LSG

    I’m very nervous about the portrayal of Thresh — he could easily be portrayed as hulking and subhuman (the hitting people with rocks thing…). Thresh was one of my absolute favorites in the book, though, and there are a few moments where I think Collins was trying to show readers that he was actually smart, resourceful, honorable and kind as well as being tough (his defense of Katniss because she’d helped Rue, his refusal to join the Careers, his use of the grain fields, his domination of a whole section of the arena…). They could go “caveman” with him, with all the stereotypical “savage black man” crap, or they could make him awesome.

    Please please please awesome!

  • LSG

    I’m very nervous about the portrayal of Thresh — he could easily be portrayed as hulking and subhuman (the hitting people with rocks thing…). Thresh was one of my absolute favorites in the book, though, and there are a few moments where I think Collins was trying to show readers that he was actually smart, resourceful, honorable and kind as well as being tough (his defense of Katniss because she’d helped Rue, his refusal to join the Careers, his use of the grain fields, his domination of a whole section of the arena…). They could go “caveman” with him, with all the stereotypical “savage black man” crap, or they could make him awesome.

    Please please please awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/janflora Janet Flora Corso

    Sad and disgusting, but not surprising. I think it was obvious that Rue was Af-Am, and she reminded Katniss of her sister b/c they were both so young and sweet. She wanted to protect Rue just as she stood up for Prim. BTW, the comment about “where’s Prim” shows yet more ignorance b/c she’s in the book for about 10 pages and doesn’t (*SPOILER ALERT* lol :P) die until Book  3. Those “fans” should probably reread the books.
    I CANNOT WAIT to see Lenny as  Cinna. He will be smooth and cool and unbelievably sexy without even trying, just as Cinna was, and IT DOES NOT MATTER what race he is (tho he’s bi-racial btw and noone seems to remember that). He has acted before so why do they act like he’s invading the HG?

    One thing HG fans need to remember is that the kids have been separated from the other Districts their entire lives, taught to view them as enemies, and forced to fight each other. It is when they figure out how to work together that they take down the totalitarian government. Katniss looks beyond District qualities as well as physical attributes and learns how much alike they all really are. By being so racist and rude about the actors representing teh characters, they show me that they did not learn anything from Collins’ masterpiece, but just see it as a  cool story when it is so much more than that.
    Also, if viewers haven’t figured this out yet, the film is not the book.
    Directors make their own decisions. Usually to the detriment of the
    literature they represent. I am still reeling over the blatant
    disclusion of Dean Thomas from the Deathly Hallows films and Lavender’s
    white-washing (though Jessie Cave in OotP was hilarious). Dean was a
    major player in the 7th book, and got completely written out which was
    racist, imo. As big a fan as I am, I may never forgive them for that.

  • http://twitter.com/janflora Janet Flora Corso

    Sad and disgusting, but not surprising. I think it was obvious that Rue was Af-Am, and she reminded Katniss of her sister b/c they were both so young and sweet. She wanted to protect Rue just as she stood up for Prim. BTW, the comment about “where’s Prim” shows yet more ignorance b/c she’s in the book for about 10 pages and doesn’t (*SPOILER ALERT* lol :P) die until Book  3. Those “fans” should probably reread the books.
    I CANNOT WAIT to see Lenny as  Cinna. He will be smooth and cool and unbelievably sexy without even trying, just as Cinna was, and IT DOES NOT MATTER what race he is (tho he’s bi-racial btw and noone seems to remember that). He has acted before so why do they act like he’s invading the HG?

    One thing HG fans need to remember is that the kids have been separated from the other Districts their entire lives, taught to view them as enemies, and forced to fight each other. It is when they figure out how to work together that they take down the totalitarian government. Katniss looks beyond District qualities as well as physical attributes and learns how much alike they all really are. By being so racist and rude about the actors representing teh characters, they show me that they did not learn anything from Collins’ masterpiece, but just see it as a  cool story when it is so much more than that.
    Also, if viewers haven’t figured this out yet, the film is not the book.
    Directors make their own decisions. Usually to the detriment of the
    literature they represent. I am still reeling over the blatant
    disclusion of Dean Thomas from the Deathly Hallows films and Lavender’s
    white-washing (though Jessie Cave in OotP was hilarious). Dean was a
    major player in the 7th book, and got completely written out which was
    racist, imo. As big a fan as I am, I may never forgive them for that.

  • http://twitter.com/janflora Janet Flora Corso

    Sad and disgusting, but not surprising. I think it was obvious that Rue was Af-Am, and she reminded Katniss of her sister b/c they were both so young and sweet. She wanted to protect Rue just as she stood up for Prim. BTW, the comment about “where’s Prim” shows yet more ignorance b/c she’s in the book for about 10 pages and doesn’t (*SPOILER ALERT* lol :P) die until Book  3. Those “fans” should probably reread the books.
    I CANNOT WAIT to see Lenny as  Cinna. He will be smooth and cool and unbelievably sexy without even trying, just as Cinna was, and IT DOES NOT MATTER what race he is (tho he’s bi-racial btw and noone seems to remember that). He has acted before so why do they act like he’s invading the HG?

    One thing HG fans need to remember is that the kids have been separated from the other Districts their entire lives, taught to view them as enemies, and forced to fight each other. It is when they figure out how to work together that they take down the totalitarian government. Katniss looks beyond District qualities as well as physical attributes and learns how much alike they all really are. By being so racist and rude about the actors representing teh characters, they show me that they did not learn anything from Collins’ masterpiece, but just see it as a  cool story when it is so much more than that.
    Also, if viewers haven’t figured this out yet, the film is not the book.
    Directors make their own decisions. Usually to the detriment of the
    literature they represent. I am still reeling over the blatant
    disclusion of Dean Thomas from the Deathly Hallows films and Lavender’s
    white-washing (though Jessie Cave in OotP was hilarious). Dean was a
    major player in the 7th book, and got completely written out which was
    racist, imo. As big a fan as I am, I may never forgive them for that.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1561530085 Ilana Newman

    Oh ffs. These people profess to be fans of a series of books, and apparently they don’t read. Even if Kravitz and Lawrence’s characters are ethnically ambiguous (although don’t get me started on the casting call for Katniss) it could not be clearer that Rue is Black. Or at least that she isn’t white! It says that she has “dark skin.” I mean, that’s about as clear as it gets. People are stupid, and racist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1561530085 Ilana Newman

    Oh ffs. These people profess to be fans of a series of books, and apparently they don’t read. Even if Kravitz and Lawrence’s characters are ethnically ambiguous (although don’t get me started on the casting call for Katniss) it could not be clearer that Rue is Black. Or at least that she isn’t white! It says that she has “dark skin.” I mean, that’s about as clear as it gets. People are stupid, and racist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1561530085 Ilana Newman

    Oh ffs. These people profess to be fans of a series of books, and apparently they don’t read. Even if Kravitz and Lawrence’s characters are ethnically ambiguous (although don’t get me started on the casting call for Katniss) it could not be clearer that Rue is Black. Or at least that she isn’t white! It says that she has “dark skin.” I mean, that’s about as clear as it gets. People are stupid, and racist.

  • msgray

    I don’t know the book or anything related to the movie, but I will investigate. But that is beside the point of my comment, which is: 

    IN WHAT WORLD IS LENNY KRAVITZ NOT CUTE???!!!!

    That’s all

  • msgray

    I don’t know the book or anything related to the movie, but I will investigate. But that is beside the point of my comment, which is: 

    IN WHAT WORLD IS LENNY KRAVITZ NOT CUTE???!!!!

    That’s all

  • http://twitter.com/private42 private

    She was black in the first couple of movies. They changed her actor (to white, of course)when she was Ron’s love  interest in the later movies. Best (worst) magic trick ever.

  • http://twitter.com/private42 private

    She was black in the first couple of movies. They changed her actor (to white, of course)when she was Ron’s love  interest in the later movies. Best (worst) magic trick ever.

    • Mickey

      You know,  I saw a picture of the black actress  that was said to be the original Lavender, but I really wasn’t sure if it was her until I did a bit of research. But they did keep Angelina black and she dated Fred Weasley (as she did in the books). At least, they kept that part in tact.

  • Medusa

    You know, this made me do some Google and I came up with this:

    http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Lavender_Brown

    I am now thoroughly confused. Is she simultaneously a dark-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed black girl AND a pale-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl?

  • Medusa

    You know, this made me do some Google and I came up with this:

    http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Lavender_Brown

    I am now thoroughly confused. Is she simultaneously a dark-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed black girl AND a pale-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl?

    • Mickey

      Maybe she’s took polyjuice potion. :P

  • Medusa

    I have to say it’s kind of driving me nuts to see Rue and Thresh constantly described as being African American:
    a) Isn’t the country they live in called Panem? How are they African American then? Katniss explicitly states that they are not living in a country called America.
    b) Collins wasn’t particularly specific in her description. Yes, she did say that they are dark brown-skinned, but so are indigenous people from Australia, Asia, and the Americas.
    In fact, I found all of her descriptions to be ambiguous, and I had a discussion with one of my friends who said that she thinks Collins’ descriptions are intentionally vague in order to sort of portray how she thinks people may look in 100-1000 years time in (what is now) America.

    Also, the comments from Facebook featured in this post make me sick. As other commenters have said, seriously? Being black precludes you from being sweet? You thought Rue was WHITE and it makes you fucking SAD that she’s black? “Dark brown skin” isn’t the most *racially* specific description, but it is a pretty specific description of skin, and that is NOT WHITE.

    Also, I was kind of shocked at the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. The second reason is that I was picturing someone much younger and thinner. Lenny Kravitz is sort of… well-built. The first reason…. well, I guess this culutre of white supremacy has even conditioned me to see white as the default. Sad, that with such a vague description, I couldn’t picture someone who looked like me and automatically imagined him to be white.

    I love, love, love this comment:
    @kayjay68:disqus
    They seem completely incapable of imagining that a small, quiet black
    girl could ever remind Katniss of a small, quiet white girl- as if race
    is the one thing that defines the two of them, and not their entire
    demeanor and characterization.

    Also @molecularshyness:disqus swipr: You made me spit out my tea.

    • Sandbalance

      Yeah, since America doesn’t exist in this story, I assumed that African Americans (as currently defined/identified in 2011) didn’t either.  And, I don’t remember there being explicitly black characters in the other dystopian YA novels I’ve read, so I figured there wouldn’t be any black characters in this story by this particular white author, either. I thought the descriptions of dark brown for District 11 characters and olive skinned and dark haired for District 12 characters just meant that there were plenty of vaguely not-white people in Panem.
      After reading other people’s thoughts about these black characters, I realize that I would have enjoyed the books less (and might not have made it though the trilogy) if it had occurred to me that Thresh and Chaff were black and that the only remaining black people in what was once the United States are strong, malnourished, people who are treated like slaves or stylists that go above and beyond for white protagonists even from the grave. 

    • Sandbalance

      Yeah, since America doesn’t exist in this story, I assumed that African Americans (as currently defined/identified in 2011) didn’t either.  And, I don’t remember there being explicitly black characters in the other dystopian YA novels I’ve read, so I figured there wouldn’t be any black characters in this story by this particular white author, either. I thought the descriptions of dark brown for District 11 characters and olive skinned and dark haired for District 12 characters just meant that there were plenty of vaguely not-white people in Panem.
      After reading other people’s thoughts about these black characters, I realize that I would have enjoyed the books less (and might not have made it though the trilogy) if it had occurred to me that Thresh and Chaff were black and that the only remaining black people in what was once the United States are strong, malnourished, people who are treated like slaves or stylists that go above and beyond for white protagonists even from the grave. 

    • Sandbalance

      Yeah, since America doesn’t exist in this story, I assumed that African Americans (as currently defined/identified in 2011) didn’t either.  And, I don’t remember there being explicitly black characters in the other dystopian YA novels I’ve read, so I figured there wouldn’t be any black characters in this story by this particular white author, either. I thought the descriptions of dark brown for District 11 characters and olive skinned and dark haired for District 12 characters just meant that there were plenty of vaguely not-white people in Panem.
      After reading other people’s thoughts about these black characters, I realize that I would have enjoyed the books less (and might not have made it though the trilogy) if it had occurred to me that Thresh and Chaff were black and that the only remaining black people in what was once the United States are strong, malnourished, people who are treated like slaves or stylists that go above and beyond for white protagonists even from the grave. 

  • Medusa

    I have to say it’s kind of driving me nuts to see Rue and Thresh constantly described as being African American:
    a) Isn’t the country they live in called Panem? How are they African American then? Katniss explicitly states that they are not living in a country called America.
    b) Collins wasn’t particularly specific in her description. Yes, she did say that they are dark brown-skinned, but so are indigenous people from Australia, Asia, and the Americas.
    In fact, I found all of her descriptions to be ambiguous, and I had a discussion with one of my friends who said that she thinks Collins’ descriptions are intentionally vague in order to sort of portray how she thinks people may look in 100-1000 years time in (what is now) America.

    Also, the comments from Facebook featured in this post make me sick. As other commenters have said, seriously? Being black precludes you from being sweet? You thought Rue was WHITE and it makes you fucking SAD that she’s black? “Dark brown skin” isn’t the most *racially* specific description, but it is a pretty specific description of skin, and that is NOT WHITE.

    Also, I was kind of shocked at the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. The second reason is that I was picturing someone much younger and thinner. Lenny Kravitz is sort of… well-built. The first reason…. well, I guess this culutre of white supremacy has even conditioned me to see white as the default. Sad, that with such a vague description, I couldn’t picture someone who looked like me and automatically imagined him to be white.

    I love, love, love this comment:
    @kayjay68:disqus
    They seem completely incapable of imagining that a small, quiet black
    girl could ever remind Katniss of a small, quiet white girl- as if race
    is the one thing that defines the two of them, and not their entire
    demeanor and characterization.

    Also @molecularshyness:disqus swipr: You made me spit out my tea.

  • Keith

    If they are upset about this wait till they read up on Jesus! I kid, I kid.

  • Keith

    If they are upset about this wait till they read up on Jesus! I kid, I kid.

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  • http://molecularshyness.wordpress.com jen*

    Speaking of Biblical references (not trying to derail but…), I teach kids at church and this weekend I had to answer this question: “how did black people become black if Adam and Eve were white?”

    I know everyone doesn’t believe in the Bible, but for those of us that do, the nonsensical casting of Biblical peoples as all white does harm the message overall. If for no other reason than it’s just not true.

    • laprofe63

      I just had this talk with my sophomore seminar class (college level)–on Jesus and Santa Claus, and the question “does image matter?”  On the last day of class I will come in with my Richard Dawkins t-shirt that says “We are all Africans” because even after an entire semester of this, some cling helplessly to the idea that they do not need to see themselves in a brown, black or asian face, rather that white is the “natural” default, when science proves otherwise.  

    • laprofe63

      I just had this talk with my sophomore seminar class (college level)–on Jesus and Santa Claus, and the question “does image matter?”  On the last day of class I will come in with my Richard Dawkins t-shirt that says “We are all Africans” because even after an entire semester of this, some cling helplessly to the idea that they do not need to see themselves in a brown, black or asian face, rather that white is the “natural” default, when science proves otherwise.  

    • laprofe63

      I just had this talk with my sophomore seminar class (college level)–on Jesus and Santa Claus, and the question “does image matter?”  On the last day of class I will come in with my Richard Dawkins t-shirt that says “We are all Africans” because even after an entire semester of this, some cling helplessly to the idea that they do not need to see themselves in a brown, black or asian face, rather that white is the “natural” default, when science proves otherwise.  

  • Francie

    Aside from Rue being clearly described as black,  there is also the historical context: Collins makes it pretty clear which parts of the current US some of the districts are meant to represent.  District 12 is in Appalachia–a mining district; District 3 is in the Northeast and specializes in electronics–read, early industrialization in New England/Mid-Atlantic States; and District 11, Rue & Thresh’s district, is in the Deep South–the agricultural district.  And **SPOILER ALERT** In the 2nd book of the series when Katniss & Peta travel to District 11, Collins paints an unmistakable picture of an apartheid, agricultural South, purposefully reminiscent of the era of share-cropping & Jim Crow.

    It’s for this reason that I think there is sense in seeing Katniss as white, as Appalachia is generally used as a symbol for rural white poverty, but that so many would read the book and think that Rue is white just makes me sad because they have clearly missed the point of this totally brilliant piece of young adult social science fiction.

    • Obsidianpunk

      Having relatives who come from Appalachia I was told that, though seen as a locus of white poverty, historically these “backwoods and backward” areas have been ignored by US society and thus those who wished to live a lifestyle frowned upon by majority society would “disappear into these hills” to live in peace.  Stories are riddled in my family of couples in taboo interracial relationships who fled to the mountains and lived happily ever after so to speak.  So, there are groups of multirace people in Appalachia along with the poor. But then, this is not something widely known so … *shrugs*

    • Obsidianpunk

      Having relatives who come from Appalachia I was told that, though seen as a locus of white poverty, historically these “backwoods and backward” areas have been ignored by US society and thus those who wished to live a lifestyle frowned upon by majority society would “disappear into these hills” to live in peace.  Stories are riddled in my family of couples in taboo interracial relationships who fled to the mountains and lived happily ever after so to speak.  So, there are groups of multirace people in Appalachia along with the poor. But then, this is not something widely known so … *shrugs*

  • Anonymous

    When I saw Precious, based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, I was all sad and like “shes black!”

    Seriously though, in terms of the Hunger Games, it’s interesting that no one has said anything about being shocked that Thresh is/was black, but maybe that will come out with the movie… maybe he fit the mold of what they expected a black teen to act like?

    Full Disclosure: I complained quite a bit about the Peeta and Gale casting- hair color and build seemed all wrong. 

    • Keezy

      That’s a very good point, about Thresh. I had wondered that myself, but your reading of it seems accurate based on the comments up there.

      And you’re not alone in your disappointment with the casting of the mains–I thought that the roles of Katniss and Gale, at least, would be a fantastic opportunity to find some talented actors that weren’t white and blonde. To assume that the American audience cannot connect with a minority lead is to assume that your audience is 1. insensitive and racist, and 2. isn’t minority themselves. I hope we can look back on this in 10, 20, 100 years and point out the stupidity of those assumptions.

    • Keezy

      That’s a very good point, about Thresh. I had wondered that myself, but your reading of it seems accurate based on the comments up there.

      And you’re not alone in your disappointment with the casting of the mains–I thought that the roles of Katniss and Gale, at least, would be a fantastic opportunity to find some talented actors that weren’t white and blonde. To assume that the American audience cannot connect with a minority lead is to assume that your audience is 1. insensitive and racist, and 2. isn’t minority themselves. I hope we can look back on this in 10, 20, 100 years and point out the stupidity of those assumptions.

  • healingroom

    “I’m curious if they even considered an olive-skinned person to play the role.”

    Lindsay, no, the casting call specifically called for only “Caucasian” actors. >:(  Granted, that would theoretically include olive-skinned actors of Greek or Italian descent, etc., but still. Barf. I believe Racialicious wrote about it back in May or so? I’d post a link but I don’t know if that would get my comment stuck in a filter. :)

  • imelda

    OK, in defense of fandom, let me add that there were *also* a lot of people who, before casting was announced, were all like, “they had better make Rue black and not whitewash her!” But maybe that’s just my corner of fandom.

    More interesting, IMO, is Suzanne Collins’ racism. I find her depictions of blacks (or lack thereof) really problematic, as I explained in this LJ post right before Mockingjay came out: http://imelda72.livejournal.com/196236.html#cutid1 (extremely spoilery for the first 2 books!)

    As my roommate summed it up: (SPOILER)

    “Collins really just ran through a list of black stereotypes. Sympathetic sidekick character who dies to play on our emotions? Check. Black man as violent, subhuman, and terrifying? Check. Black man as sexual aggressor? Check.”

  • healingroom

    I also really hate the one that says “I don’t think he’ll be able to reenact Cinna’s calm temper and quiet personality.” Really? Because black men are all loud, shit-talking gangstas, amirite? Has that poster ever even seen an interview with Lenny Kravitz? I’ve MET the guy (albeit only briefly) and yes, he is calm and quiet. Which she’d also know if she bothered to YouTube any interviews with him.

    • Anonymous

      That’s exactly the subtext here.

  • Anonymous

    Wow! I haven’t read any of the books, but this is pretty amazing. Why wouldn’t they cast a black actor to play a  character that’s black? People suck!

  • Jinx J

    First book is GREAT. My mom liked it so much she actually bought a kindle and the entire series. A little dark and derivative, but good characters, nice pacing, and the action’s good.

  • Tanisha Mayo

    I forgot to add that Carter Kane is described as being a bit nerdy – highly intelligent, clever, and basically a walking encyclopedia. He’s also very clean cut and not at all stereotypically black.

    • http://twitter.com/private42 private

      “not at all stereotypically black”
      Not sure what your argument is. We cannot imagine a person as black (in accordance with or against the character description) because of … stereotypes? So it should be OK to continue to do so (i.e. not cast black people in these roles), rather than rail against such a thought process?

    • http://twitter.com/private42 private

      “not at all stereotypically black”
      Not sure what your argument is. We cannot imagine a person as black (in accordance with or against the character description) because of … stereotypes? So it should be OK to continue to do so (i.e. not cast black people in these roles), rather than rail against such a thought process?

    • http://twitter.com/private42 private

      “not at all stereotypically black”
      Not sure what your argument is. We cannot imagine a person as black (in accordance with or against the character description) because of … stereotypes? So it should be OK to continue to do so (i.e. not cast black people in these roles), rather than rail against such a thought process?

      • Tanisha Mayo

        That wasn’t quite a complete thought. I guess I figured that the point would be a bit more apparent.

        What I was saying was that Carter’s description is absolutely free of any of the stereotypical markers that make black characters tropes rather than full characters. To answer your question, yes, it seems that some people can’t see him as black because he isn’t a walking stereotype. For some people, that’s “unrealistic” or “weird.” Their internalized racism and privilege goes so far that they erase anything that doesn’t fit with their prejudices. Am I saying that this is okay? Not at all. I should hope that the fact that I even posted it as something I found appalling would demonstrate just how I feel about the default white setting on which this society operates.

         He’s “normal” like them, which goes against their ability to see him as a black kid. So, his character “makes more sense” as a white kid… because we apparently can’t be smart, or heroes. Carter is actually very deliberately written as a clean cut kid because his father instills in him the knowledge that as a young black man, he has to work harder just to be thought of as “equal.” That’s why it’s important that he’s, as I said “not at all stereotypically black,” because he (and therefore the author) is aware of how black people are perceived.

        I think that the automatic whitewashing that happens, even when race is explicitly mentioned as with Rue in HG, and Carter here demonstrates just how ingrained the thinking is. Which is why it’s incredibly important that poc are represented more. Sadly though, when that happens in any capacity, we’re either “self-segregating” by telling our own stories (if they receive enough funding to be told), or it’s “shoe-horning” or “shoving diversity” down their throats when characters of color exist as more than satellite characters.

  • Jinx J

    This is really depressing. Not only because the lack of reading skills, but the presumption that white is the default and everything else, to quote Jadiye above “ew.” And black people aren’t loveable? What’s the most interesting to me is that these people–who are all
    about authenticity  apparently–have no problem with a slightly tan
    actress playing an olive skinned character.

    Sidenote–Maybe I’m old, but Lenny Kravitz IS Cinna. Cool, collected, always fashionable.

  • Renee Campbell

    i haven’t read the book – i want to – but i’m flabbergasted at people saying comments like “i’m so upset that he’s BLACK!” ; you know they are folks who would claim they aren’t racist and start crying whenever someone comes up to them and confronts them on their bigoted statement.

    this is the same concept as nude stockings and white characters being the norm.

    • Anonymous

      And beige-colored Band-aids!

      • http://muninandhugin.wordpress.com/ Quinn

        And nude bras/underwear.

  • blackgrrls4ever

    My teen girls haven’t read the books!  But SHEESH!!!  The Internet is really good for bringing out latent racists.  Their comments connecting “white” “good” “black” and “ew” reveal their subconcious(sp?) thoughts.  When they grow up and get to do the hiring, the black folks are doomed.

  • http://inprofessorialfashion.blogspot.com A-Dubs

    Love your post’s critique, as always, Racialicious. Am especially loving the address to “my good nerds.” Solid gold, that.

    p.s. am in agreement that white supremacy masquerading as concern about true-to-text casting is the height of creepitude.

  • http://twitter.com/radicalhw Shannon Drury

    “I imagined her to be a little girl and def not ethnic” ???  Do these people actually READ the things they type?

    • Leo the Yardie Chick

      Nope. First, they’d need to THINK before they typed. That’s not happening.

      • Anonymous

        Kids are like people, only stupider.

        • Anonymous

          Give kids some credit – we hope they grow out of it, instead of adults who stubbornly hold on to bigotry like it’s their life raft.

          • Anonymous

            No, you’re right. Just kidding, mostly. 

        • Anonymous

          Give kids some credit – we hope they grow out of it, instead of adults who stubbornly hold on to bigotry like it’s their life raft.

      • Anonymous

        Kids are like people, only stupider.

  • Just Once

    I see this in a lot of Hunger Games posts.

    When it comes to the casting choice for Katniss, it’s like: “Oh, she isn’t as young or “tan” as I pictured her but they picked the actress based on talent.” But when any POC steps into the limelight all hell spews forth and no one mentions talent or choosing the actor based on selling power/talent. I totally agree with this “white as default.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/shoomlah Claire Hummel

    I was honestly surprised that so many people saw Rue as white- I’m always looking for character descriptors when I read a book (lest I want to draw fanart OF COURSE), and so Rue’s description immediately stood out to me.

    I think fans get caught up on the fact that Katiss says Rue reminds her of Priss, which is especially interesting.  They seem completely incapable of imagining that a small, quiet black girl could ever remind Katniss of a small, quiet white girl- as if race is the one thing that defines the two of them, and not their entire demeanor and characterization.

    -C

    • Nisha_10705

      THANK YOU! Could not have said it better myself. I agree completely.

  • Anonymous

    Is it very telling though that at least one of the commentators thought of such an overused and overrated white appearance: blonde hair and blue eyes. I mean, if you’re going to assume someone is white the least you could do is come up with something original. Why not gray hair and brown eyes?

    • Mickey

       Because, apparently, blonde hair and blue eyes are the measuring sticks for whiteness. I wonder how that makes dark-haired and dark-eyed white people feel. Less white? Closer to being black? Hmm……

      • http://www.facebook.com/galiotica Nejasna ちゃん

        We’re unicorns. 

      • Keezy

        Yep, definitely unicorns.

      • Keezy

        Yep, definitely unicorns.

      • Jennafer Devany Waters

        I used to always play the villain when I was a little kid, never the princess/heroine. When my mother asked why, I told her it was because only evil characters had black hair (not to mention wild curls). And I distinctly remember reading Anne of Green Gables, in the scenes where she lusts after Diana’s “raven locks”, and thinking she was stark raving mad – who the hell wanted curly black hair? I’m as white as a snowflake, but there were some definite issues with feeling “good”, pretty and/or desirable.

        • Mickey

          But wasn’t Anne a redhead? And I know of the crap redheads get in America, although it’s worse in the UK. Ever hear of Gingerism? Plus, you could have played Snow White! :)

  • Anonymous

    My god this white section of the fandom is pretty dense. But what do you expect? To be honest I think this author used the same tactic as Octavia Butler. Lilith in the Lilith’s Brood series hardly receives any physical description. They only way you know she is black is if you paid attention to the fact that the aliens initially paired her with someone of African-descent and also recalled her son’s physical description. It doesn’t help that there are two white women on the cover of the first book; I assumed the one with black hair was supposed to represent Lilith, but clearly she wasn’t representative of Lilith’s real appearance.

    I understand why a black author might have to do this, because you want your book to sell and have mainstream appeal. But why not spread the blackness a little? Sometimes referencing a person’s appearance can be a show of character. Like a describing a scowl or describing the complexion of one’s skin as a sign of health. Whatever. I’m wondering if this lack of physical description also affected Katniss. Or JUST the black people.

    White privilege blinders will keep the white people from being offended b/c they only see the description once and as the story continues they will forget that the character is even non-white. Or they will have the assumption that all characters are white unless THEY notice their non-whiteness.

  • Boombuh

    As a white, YA lit nerd, I am ashamed of this behavior. It’s sad that not only is YA lit overwhelmingly bereft of diversity, but that the occasional racially ambiguous characters and explicitly described characters of color get whitewashed EVEN IN WHITE PEOPLE’S IMAGINATIONS. “Thank god literature is subjectively interpretive, so I can construct worlds where POC DON’T EVEN EXIST.”

  • aye

    its kind of fascinating how the comments perfectly illustrate the situation…
    Ignorant people who can only imagine white characters because they only know white people, straight-up racists, other ignorant people who eat up the media representation of African Americans, etc….

    However, I’m a fan and I think the casting for these two is SPOT ON! Interestingly I envisioned Cinna as Latino but once I saw the picture I instantly thought “that’s Cinna!” even without reading the description.

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me more of what Chimamande Idiche talks about in her lecture The Danger of a Single Story: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html than a pure example of white privilege.  These kids can’t see these characters as being black because they have a very narrow view of what it means to be black. 

    • Sugabelly

      Chimamanda Adichie not Chimamande Idiche.

      Sorry  for nitpicking but I am Igbo like her and the way you spelled her name it means “My Spirit will not write” “You are Unique” instead of “My Spirit will not fail” “Daughter of  Ichie” which it actually means.

      Yay to being an Igbo nerd!! ^_^

      • Anonymous

        No problem, I come from a family of nitpickers, so I’m glad you caught it.  Plus I’m seriously anal about people spelling my name right, so I’m embarrassed that I missed this! 

    • laprofe63

      thank you for the TED talk link!! I needed that and will use it in class.

    • laprofe63

      thank you for the TED talk link!! I needed that and will use it in class.

    • laprofe63

      thank you for the TED talk link!! I needed that and will use it in class.

  • Anonymous

    What is fandom without racism? Unless the author states in clear bold the ethnicity of a character or gets a bit too descriptive white is assumed, automatic and default, even if you mention dark skin.

    • Soulsentwined

      Actually even when a character is clearly labeled by the author as not white the fans will still prefer a white actor. I had the misfortune of being in the Twilight fandom when the movies were announced and the majority of the fandom pictured Jacob (described as Native American, “dark russet skin”, “dark eyes”, and “black hair”) as white.  Fans advocated the casting of white guys with dark hair.

      • Mickey

        That is beyond my comprehension. They are just so self-centered in their whiteness that they cannot stand to see a POC in an acting job that CLEARLY states that the character is a POC. Maybe someone should say to them, “HEY! Actors of color need jobs, too, you know!”

      • Leo the Yardie Chick

        Sounds as if they grew up on too many of those ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s Westerns, where the speaking ‘Indians’ were distinctly white (with wigs and makeup for authenticity, or course).

    • Guest

      I just have to say that I was very pleased when I found out that there would be African-American actors/actresses portraying these characters because that’s how I pictured them when I first read the books. Characters just seem to make an appearance in my mind as something whenever I read and, even despite the descriptions of them as being dark-skinned, those are the images that came to my mind.

    • Guest

      I just have to say that I was very pleased when I found out that there would be African-American actors/actresses portraying these characters because that’s how I pictured them when I first read the books. Characters just seem to make an appearance in my mind as something whenever I read and, even despite the descriptions of them as being dark-skinned, those are the images that came to my mind.

  • Soulsentwined

    In addition to the racism there is also a great deal of homophobia in the reaction to Kravitz’s casting as Cinna.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UDT75LUB3REHCQZEK5D2XHJXFA MorganB

    Got here by Googling “why are people surprised that Rue and Cinna are black”.  I don’t get it either. I mean, aren’t most people who have “dark brown skin” considered black?

    • sandbalance

      Depends on where dark brown starts. I teach in a multi-ethnic school where none of the white kids are dark brown. And, generally, the black kids aren’t really any darker than the other non-white kids. 

      As a dark brown (by anyone’s standard) black woman I read Rue as a dark ethnic person. Maybe with Indian (from India) ancestry. But, not black. 

      The story takes place in the future. While Prim, Katniss’ mom, and Peeta were described as blonde/white looking, I read many the other characters from Katniss’ district as undefined ethnic. I guess I assumed that white people were in the minority in this future. At least among the common folk.

      Knowing what happens in the books, having Rue, Thresh, and the people from their community cast as black doesn’t make up for the white-washing of Katniss. I’ll probably see the movie though.

      I didn’t read Cinna as black, either. And, as controversial as it may be to say, I’m not thrilled that the flamboyant Cinna is likely to be the primary representation of black male masculinity in this movie.

    • sandbalance

      Depends on where dark brown starts. I teach in a multi-ethnic school where none of the white kids are dark brown. And, generally, the black kids aren’t really any darker than the other non-white kids. 

      As a dark brown (by anyone’s standard) black woman I read Rue as a dark ethnic person. Maybe with Indian (from India) ancestry. But, not black. 

      The story takes place in the future. While Prim, Katniss’ mom, and Peeta were described as blonde/white looking, I read many the other characters from Katniss’ district as undefined ethnic. I guess I assumed that white people were in the minority in this future. At least among the common folk.

      Knowing what happens in the books, having Rue, Thresh, and the people from their community cast as black doesn’t make up for the white-washing of Katniss. I’ll probably see the movie though.

      I didn’t read Cinna as black, either. And, as controversial as it may be to say, I’m not thrilled that the flamboyant Cinna is likely to be the primary representation of black male masculinity in this movie.

      • Guest

        Yes, well unfortunately for you there is more than one way to be a black man.  Nice to inject subtle homophobia into a discussion railing others for their racism.

      • Guest

        I’m wondering why people keep saying that Cinna is flamboyant….. he’s described as being calm and collected….. just saying.

        • Jennafer Devany Waters

          Agreed – Cinna is decidedly not portrayed as flamboyant. He is in fact the only person Katniss encounters in the Capitol who is a foil to the flamboyance and superficiality of Octavia, Flavius, Venia, Ceaser, etc. This is a whole sub-conversation about projection and the limited view of straight privilege: fashion designer = gay = flamboyant. (Flamboyant and white, of course.) None of those qualities automatically necessitates either of the others.  

          • Alix

            Page 64, “I had expected someone flamboyant… Cinna has met none of these expectations.” 

        • Jennafer Devany Waters

          Agreed – Cinna is decidedly not portrayed as flamboyant. He is in fact the only person Katniss encounters in the Capitol who is a foil to the flamboyance and superficiality of Octavia, Flavius, Venia, Ceaser, etc. This is a whole sub-conversation about projection and the limited view of straight privilege: fashion designer = gay = flamboyant. (Flamboyant and white, of course.) None of those qualities automatically necessitates either of the others.  

      • Guest

        I’m wondering why people keep saying that Cinna is flamboyant….. he’s described as being calm and collected….. just saying.

  • RB

    What I don’t understand is why people aren’t more upset at how Katniss is portrayed. She was described several times as having black hair and olive skin. How they get away with the blonde girl is hard to understand. 

  • Anonymous

    One of the most depressing comments is the one that says Cinna is supposed to be loving (internal quality) and therefore he can’t be black (external quality). Post racial, eh?