SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve neither read nor seen The Hunger Games, and you plan to do either, stop reading here.
TENDER SENSIBILITIES ALERT: If you would rather avoid reading hate speech, stop reading here.
LONG, ANGRY RANT ALERT: If you would rather avoid another of my pissed-off screeds, stop reading here.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This isn’t going to be a long discussion about the book or the movie. I need to comment about the crazy-ass nonsense going on around these here internets as concerns the casting of certain roles in this movie and the stupidity of certain viewers.
Here’s what I mean:¹
(You can click on the images to see them larger, I know some are hard to read … and they’re still hard to read even after you can see what they say.)
I was clued into all of this Monday by Fox, who sent me some of the screen shots from Hunger Games Tweets … leading me back to last November’s excellent post on Racialicious … and then I found the Jezebel article … and yesterday there was the Feministing article … and there are plenty of other pieces, besides.²
As with yesterday’s post, I may be disgusted, but I shouldn’t be surprised, right? Oh, but I am totally surprised. T-O-T-A-L-L-Y.
While Cinna isn’t really described in too much detail at all, Thresh and Rue are very clearly described as having “dark brown skin.” Dark. Brown. Games author Suzanne Collins has stated clearly that both are African American. Why are people surprised to find them cast as African American in the movie? Of course, if they were just surprised, that would be a sign of some really not careful reading of the novel, but it wouldn’t hurt my heart. Their reaction to discovering the blackness of these characters, however, makes them beyond the limit of my much-vaunted patience:
And yes, of course someone had to go here:
The assumption that “cute,” “innocent,” “frail,” and “pure” all have to mean “white” isn’t new, of course. But these posts are still shocking to me.
And, too, can we just establish once and for all: any time people say, “Call me racist, but …” they are basically calling themselves a racist. Any time people say, “Not to be racist, but …” it’s pretty certain they’re about to say something that absolutely is meant to be racist. Any time people say, “I don’t know if this is racist, but …” it’s a good bet that what they’re about to say is, in fact, racist … and nine times out of ten they are fully aware of that fact.
The response to the casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was equally troubling:
(Sorry, still working out the kinks with this “photo gallery” business. Click on the pics and they’ll enlarge.)
So this idea that a black Cinna couldn’t possibly be “sweet” or “loving” or “calm” or “quiet” is so frustrating as to make me not want to be any of those things, and to not be them all upside these fools’ heads. Seriously? Oh, he’s black, so he can’t possibly be a sweet guy? Really? Of course that would all fit perfectly with the earlier “of course” comment that labels Thresh as a “black gangster.” And, too, many of the commenters (see the Racialicious article for more of that fun) seem to think only a gay man could be the right Cinna, that straight men aren’t capable of being calm, sweet, quiet and loving. There also seems to be some question as to whether a black man can play a gay man. And what’s with these “eww!” responses? You see a black person and you respond the same way you would if you’d stepped in dog mess? I am so tired.
There were some voices of reason (rock on, George Takei) and humor to be heard in all the loud stupidity, however:
More interesting and ugly in all of this uproar are the posts that deal with the deaths of Rue and Thresh. Cases in point:
We are this desensitized to the deaths of black people? I’m not really asking that question. I can see the answer to it just about every day in the paper. Still, it amazed me to see kids write these things. Rue’s death didn’t have weight because of Rue’s color but because of who she was as a person, who she was to Katniss. Ok, Jashper Paras, I’m more than happy to call you a racist if seeing Rue played by a (sweet-faced, adorable) black girl made her death less sad to you. This is really where we are? Really?
And finally, we get to my own issues with casting. I knew Rue and Thresh were black. I thought Amandla Stenberg did a great job with the part. I thought she was mis-cast, however. Rue and Thresh are both supposed to be dark-skinned. Dayo Okeniyi is dark-skinned, Amandla Stenberg isn’t. I can’t imagine the horrific tweets we’d have seen if a girl as dark as Okeniyi had been cast as Rue. But the decision to lighten Rue was my one real complaint about casting for the movie. Please don’t try to tell me there probably weren’t any dark-skinned actresses interested in the part. There are so many lovely young dark-skinned girls acting, many of whom could have played Rue. I’m saying nothing against Stenberg. Only pointing the spotlight at the fact that the choice to cast Rue light-skinned is just as wrong-headed as the people who wanted to cast her white. I wanted to see a dark brown face, a deeply brown child play this meaningful role in this film. Amandla Stenberg, as I said, did a wonderful job. How could I not love a girl who, on screen, reminded me of my niece? But hers wasn’t the face I wanted to be falling in love with. I wanted to see a child as dark as Dayo Okeniyi, a beautiful, elfin black girl to pull my heart strings and call to the mocking jays. Instead, Hollywood did what Hollywood is almost always wont to do: lightened up, told me once again that dark-skinned black girls aren’t cute, aren’t sweet, aren’t innocent, aren’t lovable.
What I was really hungry for in this game was a break from the same crap I see all the time. I’m still hungry.
¹ All but three screen shots pulled from Hunger Games Tweets, an amazing compendium of the many unfathomably stupid things people are posting about the casting for Rue, Thresh and Cinna, sprinkled with — thank God — a little sense and sensibility from people who a) actually bothered to read the book, or b) care more about the quality of the portrayal on film than the skin color of the actor playing the role. The three Cinna comments were taken from <a href=”The Strange Ca