What I’m really hungry for in this game …

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:

Yes.  There.

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

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20 thoughts on “What I’m really hungry for in this game …

    1. Reading them makes me sick, too. I am always torn: do I share this stuff and turn someone else’s stomach but also give myself a chance to vent and start processing or do I keep it to myself? I’ll still do some venting, but it takes me longer to get to the processing part. I think I have to shout into this darkness to be sure I’m not the only one feeling this way.

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  1. I woke up this morning thinking about your post.

    I find that this kind of thing makes me react with a strong desire to hurt someone–(images of decapitations, mauling, siccing dogs, blood)–it brings me down to their level– and it does make me literally feel sick.

    And it wasn’t just one or two twits and twats. The list goes on and on.

    Both times I saw the HG I cried when Rue dies. That people didn’t cry makes me sick and sad for the human race. I worry about the real actress who played Rue, and Treyvon, and all the real children in this real world who suffer and die at the hands of repulsive humans like these.

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    1. I have to admit I was relieved to find the sensible tweets … but I was so beat down by the awful ones, that I was surprised when I read good ones, so beat down I assumed ever tweet was going to be awful.

      I, too, worry about Stenberg and Okeniyi, about how they are taking all this negative attention. I hope they have strong, loving families to support them. I’m less worried about Lenny simply because he’s grown and has surely learned ways to deal with this kind of ugly before now.

      The relationship between these tweets and the death of Trayvon Martin is the most painful part. Is it any wonder that society is so able to casually accept the shooting death of an unarmed black teen when this is the way his peers think?

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    1. It does … And I don’t know, really, what to do about it. I don’t think it’s my job to educate people like these … but if no one else is doing it, how/when/where does it get done? And how do you reach people like these, anyway? Anyone who can plainly say that the death of a brown child is less sad to him than the death of a white child … how would I ever reach that person?

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  2. My initial reaction was, what rock have people like this just crawled out from under? Why tweet something so repulsive?
    But as your evidence of their crazy-stupid continued I just became saddened- that their thoughtless words hurt you and others. Sad that in 2012 they are so very unaware.

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  3. Paul

    Unbelievable. What’s most galling here is the ha-ha-look-at-me-I’m-such-a-bad-person tone in some of these. Not to be racist, but I’m being racist, and somehow my self-recognition makes it okay.

    This is fast becoming a rule of the 21st century: if you want to completely lose faith in humanity, there’s a lot written on twitter and the comments attached to newspaper website articles that will help you.

    Your post also made me think of this movie:

    http://www.reelinjunthemovie.com/site/

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    1. Yes, the laughing, self-excusing is particularly hateful. I tend to avoid comment streams on news articles so I don’t have to read these awful things.

      Thanks for the link to the movie. I’ve heard of it, but haven’t seen it. Wonder if it’s on Netflix …

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  4. When certain movies such as “The Hunger Games” receive a lot of hype, I have a tendency to blanket out all media because I do not want to accidently see spoilers. Having never read the books and avoiding all press, I rarely watch television, so I did not even see commercials for the movie, I had no concept of anyone’s color other than the one or two previews I saw in the theaters. As such I had NO clue to all of the racist commentary going on in the social media until this post.

    What really kills me are the ones who write, “I’m not a racist but…”, Guess what children, that the need was felt to write the words in effort to excuse all else written, pretty marks them as exactly that which they are denying. And their ignorance also shows: Thresh – looks like “a thug” and Lenny Kravitz – is a rapper? Why? Because all black males must be one or the other, if not both?

    I want to say I’m surprised, I really, really do, unfortunately, I’m really, really not overall. The only thing close to surprising is the youngish age of the commenters. I always hope with each generation that’s born, we get a just a tiny bit closer to that racial utopia where race doesn’t matter.

    This is our youth speaking. It is such a blatant reminder of just how very far we still have we have left to go on that path.

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    1. Yes, I want to talk one-on-one with all the “not to be racist, but …” “maybe it’s racist, but …” etc. people. That kind of thing drives me crazy. You know what you’re saying is racist. Announcing it as racist doesn’t let you off the damn hook.

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