The Hunger Games books are a massive hit with young readers for several reasons. One thing that makes the dystopian story so appealing is that it presents characters who are easy to identify with. They represent a variety of groups and seemingly could be any of us. This is especially true of Katniss Everden, a ruthless young woman who demonstrates strength and tenacity. Though the entire story is crafted through her perspective, a major aspect of her identity is never revealed...her race. Katniss is described as having dark hair, eyes, and skin. This allows readers to project whatever race they like onto the character. Of course, as you may have heard, Hollywood casting agents didn't take any liberties when choosing an actress to take on the role.
Blonde, blue-eyed, Jennifer Lawrence was transformed for the role. Yet hair dye and a bit of bronzer couldn't hide the fact that movie Katniss is white. Sure, Lawrence is Tinseltown's newest It girl and has shown considerable acting chops but she is never going to have difficulty finding roles. The film version of The Hunger Games offered a rare opportunity to feature a bi-racial, Native American, Latina, or (gasp!) black actress in a leading role. But alas, ethnic looking and black actresses are hard to find on the front line of any film, let alone a franchise. So the producers of the film played it safe and evidently, they did so with good reason.
Countless tweets and internet jabs reveal that the choice to feature black actors in supporting roles is unacceptable to some. It's 2012 so can we stop making racist comments like it's 1865? Apparently not. A gaggle of unfathomable responses have been accumulating since the film debuted:
Why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie.
Why did the producer make all the good characters black?
I'm still pissed that Rue is black.
Ewwww rue is black?? I'm not watching.
The comments prompted one Tumblr user to retort:
I just finished reading all the twitter comments on Rue and Thresh being black and I haven't even tried to pick my jaw up off the floor because... DEAR GOD ARE THERE STILL PEOPLE LIKE THAT IN THE WORLD? I MEAN, I WANT TO HUNT THEM ALL DOWN AND JUST... I DON'T KNOW. BUT I'M VERY ANGRY ABOUT THIS.
If casting black actors in minor roles (even if they are an icon like Lenny Kravitz) is so disturbing to the public, it's safe to assume that had Katniss been played by a black actress, it would not have been as successful a film. It would have likely grossed closer to $50 million during it's opening weekend (the average opening gross of a Tyler Perry movie). Seeing a young black actress portray a strong and compassionate warrior would have contradicted the all too familiar association of dark women as junkies, women men cheat with, and hookers.The unsettling tweets are an indicator of such. The shocking social media reactions have led to such articles as I See White People: Hunger Games And A Brief Cultural History of White Washing, which revealed:
You can see whitewashing in a grillion places-from old chestnuts like black characters dying first;(get out of the way! White people have stuff to do!). Remember the sassy black friend in 2011 rom-com Friends with Benefits? Probably not, because she only exists for like two seconds at the very beginning of the movie to establish that our heroine has an ethnic friend, and then disappears forever. Because that's enough! Tip o' the hat to you, black people! You're welcome! Now quiet down-the white people are talking.
The article also mentions that before wholesome British actor Andrew Garfield was cast as Spiderman, Donald Glover was considered for the role. However, the fact that a African-American actor was even considered for the film sparked outrage.
Anyone planning to see the re-release of Titanic will learn, yet again, that no black people were on the ship (well, according to James Cameron, they weren't). The film was released way back in 1997 and sadly cinematic prejudice still has yet to dissipate.