You spend months, maybe years, creating a world and developing a cast of characters. You’re in love with your story and you can’t wait to share it with the world. But then other people start reading it and you suddenly realize they’re not exactly seeing things the same way you are. Apparantly, this is what has happened with the release of the Hunger Games movie.
First, I saw the movie this weekend and I thought it was fabulous. I am a notoriously tough critic on book to movie adaptations, especially for books I already love, but I have to give the screenwriters, director, and crew recognition for a job well done. Were things taken out or changed? Yeah. Did those changes make perfect cinematic sense? Totally. Did they miscast any of the characters? Not a single one, but according to this article, not everyone agrees with me on that last one.
Already, the Hunger Games has crashed through multiple opening weekend records and is only stymied by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight which both have the strength of an established series of movies behind them. Viewers, even those who have read the books, didn’t expect what they got from a few characters, though. This excerpt is from the article I mentioned above:
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.
The author of the article goes on to directly quote a bunch of Tweets and other internet posts that range from confusion to outright racism. One of the worst, in my opinion, states “Kk call me racist but when I found out Rue was black her death wasn’t as sad”.
A moment of silence, please, to contemplate the myriad of ways that statement is utterly sickening.
Okay, moving on.
Rue looked exactly like I thought she would. Actually, ALL the characters seemed to be plucked straight out of the movie that plays in my head when I read The Hunger Games. It was a little freaky. Not only did Rue look like I thought she would, she was also adorable! And she played the part very well.
I always saw Rue and Thresh with dark skin. IF ANYTHING, I thought Suzanne Collins was playing off racist expectations by making the only black tributes in the Games come from the agricultural district. (Come on. Field hands? Really?) If you look closely, the people in district 11 are practically the only black actors you see in the entire movie. Whether this was intentional on Suzanne’s part to demonstrate another facet of the Capital’s expectations and control or an unconscious reveal of her own prejudice… well, we can speculate all we want, but we can’t know unless we ask her. Either way, fury over a black actress and actor playing black characters (and playing them well)? That’s just flat out stupid.