Is The Hunger Games Movie Bringing out All the Closet Racists?

Pop by Twitter or Facebook over the past week and you’d be excused if you thought both Internet social networks had been bought up by some multinational conglomerate called “Team Peeta.”

Yes, social media has been taken over by The Hunger Games Horde, legions of fans gushing about the movie online. Fair enough, anything to get teen girls to stop talking about sparkly vampires for 5 seconds is proof God exists. However, a dishearteningly large and growing number of commenters have been complaining about the casting of one particular character: Rue. In the film, Rue is played by actress Amandla Stenberg, who happens to be half-black (her father is Danish).

I won’t single out any Twitter or Facebook user, but the all complaints take the tenor of, “Why did they have to make Rue black? I don’t understand why they had to make Rue black.” Okay, I’ll print ONE of the more disgusting comments, name withheld:

“Sense(sic) when has Rue been a nigger.”

Cue banjo music.

Let’s explore 2 Points:

1. Rue is black in the book. According to Katniss, Rue has ”dark brown skin and eyes.” Thresh is also black. It’s implied Rue’s entire District 11 is predominantly black (and in the deep south). So, you know, there’s that. Congratulations, commenters, you can’t read.

2. What if Rue wasn’t black in the book–would it matter? Is there any possible way Suzanne Collins could have written the character to ensure only a white person could effectively play her? “Sorry Katniss, I’d help you win these ‘Hunger Games’ here, but my northern European ancestry increases my likelihood of hemophilia compared to other, non-European races. So…”

Rue is a little girl who plays a key part in the story. Her most defining physical feature is she’s a little girl. If she were played by Rob Schneider, that would be a problem. Let’s say The author just describes Rue as a little girl, no race implied. You know, just like how Suzanne Collins doesn’t feel the need to tell us Katniss is of Irish-extraction or President Snow is part albino. What’s wrong a black girl playing Rue, if the character had been written race-undetermined or slightly implied as white? Nothing, there is nothing wrong with it. More to the point, the character could be written white and played by an Amer-Asian actress. No problem. I’m sorry, Dear Readers, but if your suspension of disbelief in escapist dystopian fantasies crumbles when someone tosses some crazy non-whites into the mix, you need to grow up and stay off the computer. Also, don’t leave your parents basement; have mom do your Slurpee and Slim Jim runs for you.

Okay, one more nasty comment found on Twitter:

“call me racist but when i (sic) found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself.”

I hate you too.

(Note: People have also criticized the film for casting Lenny “I’m a Black Guy” Kravitz in the role of “Cinna,” a character whose race the author never defined. On this one, the racists are right–not because Lenny Kravitz is black, but because he sucks in the movie. If only Stanley Tucci could have played two roles…)


UPDATE: Most of the tweeters swingled out for their racist comments have either set their accounts to private or shut them down altogether. And so back into the closet these racists go.

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8 Responses to Is The Hunger Games Movie Bringing out All the Closet Racists?

  1. It is so appalling the racism that has been spewing forth on social media about this. I mean it’s bad enough as it is, but the fact that the film matches the portrayals and descriptions in the books just adds an extra layer of stupidity to the whole thing. People really just need to learn to shut the hell up sometimes.
    Great blog, you summed it up really well! 🙂

  2. jbewing says:

    I feel weird liking a post, so for clarification. I like your writing and way about the topic, not the fact people are selfish jerks. Fewf, glad we cleared the air between us. Carry on good sir.

  3. Dust says:

    Exactly! Given that District 12 was North America, there should be black Americans at least in one district. But yeah. Haters gonna hate.

  4. Sigh. My dystopian nightmare has no haters in it. I didn’t think Lenny K sucked though, I just thought that if the character was important enough to be IN the movie (which he is) then they should have given him something to DO. He and the other designers were busy, busy folk. All he did was offer a couple of lame pep-talks. It was a missed cinematic opportunity. The only one-on-one Capitol-District interactions we really see is with Effie. Who was never introduced, btw. And it supposes, rightly I suspect, that since the hordes who will see this 2 or 3 times are already fans that they didn’t need to.

    • cogamble says:

      To be fair, you’re right–the fault doesn’t not lie with Lenny K. It was the screenwriter’s decision to neuter the character. Cinna was one of the most important characters in the books to me because he was perhaps the only person who kept Katniss sane. As you’ll remember, in the book Haymitch is still a lot meaner to Katniss than the suddenly sober and not-so-begrudging mentor he quickly becomes in the movie. Cinna is mercurial, has an edge and even fills a sort of male-role model role for Katniss, possessed of a fatherly assurance and calm Katniss desperately needs. When I heard Lenny K. was cast in the role I knew they were whittling down the part. A movie doesn’t have room for two sage mentors, and since they decided Haymitch needed to be nicer from the start, Cinna had to become a generic “nice guy.” A big miss, his exit in the second book is supposed to be a gut punch–as he represents Katniss’ first inkling of what the Capital people really think of the games and the empathy/capacity for rebellion they possess.

  5. lotsofcolor says:

    I guess my question is, where does this disgust and hatred stem from?

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