Monday, April 09, 2012

The Hunger Games, Race & Disappointed Readers

Photo Credit: k-ideas
The Hunger Games, the young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, has not only taken bestseller lists by storm the past several years, but its film adaptation has been the leader at the box office the past few weeks. Released less than three weeks ago, it had the third highest grossing opening weekend in cinematic history and has already generated over $400 million worldwide.

In spite of the immense popularity of the film, some fans of the book have taken to social media to demonstrate their displeasure with what they witnessed on screen. tells the story:
"In "The Hunger Games," wealthy Capitol citizens of all races and ethnicities come together to watch the 74th annual bloodbath of the same name. It seems some present-day moviegoers, however, are a bit less "post-racial." 
Earlier this week, some "Hunger Games" fans tweeted their discontent because the characters of Cinna, Thresh and Rue are played by black actors in the big screen adaptation. This, despite the fact that both Thresh (Dayo Okeniyi) and Rue (Amandla Stenberg) are described as having "dark skin" in Suzanne Collins' novel, while Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) is simply described as having short brown hair. 
Whether fans' remarks -- such as, "Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little innocent blonde girl you picture" -- stem from poor reading comprehension or intolerance, they're indicative of a larger issue in Hollywood, said Harry M. Benshoff, an associate professor of radio, TV and film at the University of North Texas who co-wrote "America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies." 
"Hollywood has never been on the forefront of the civil rights movement," said Benshoff, who hasn't read or watched "The Hunger Games." 
Despite certain character descriptions being spelled out in the book, Benshoff said, people typically project themselves onto a character in order to empathize with that person. 
"For a white person reading a book, they're very rarely going to go, 'I'm just assuming this is a black character' if he or she isn't marked as such," he said. "A nonwhite person might project their own identity onto the character."
Even when characters are described by the author as having "dark skin," some readers still assumed that the characters were white. This is just one demonstration of how our own racial prejudices and biases can cause us to not see what is quite apparent to others. All too often Hollywood has represented characters of color with white actors. In this case, Hollywood got it right... but some fans of The Hunger Games didn't.

One fan, whose Twitter handle is not included in order to protect the guilty, tweeted this:
"Call me racist but when I found out Rue was black her death wasn’t as sad.”
Sadly, there is probably more of this sentiment out there than we realize.

To read the complete story please click here.


Unknown said...

First of all I would like to say Hunger Games, although good, was really disturbing. I cant handle watching kids kill other kids. It is over the top disturbing.

Anyway Baniah and I were discussing the discrimination that has been coming out since the movie was released and man it speaks to some serious heart issues. It always goes back to the heart no matter what. We are some sin sick people. I am so glad for Jesus.

scottmcrocker said...

Tyshan - I think The Hunger Games demonstrates where we are headed if left to our own devices. As you said, it presents a vivid picture of our need for Jesus.

Unknown said...

Yeah, there was a nice little political "rich are evil and consumed with self" theme in there definitely.