I’m still on about Hunger Games craziness. No spoilers here, just a conversation I wish I could have with a few of the people whose reactions to the casting of Thresh, Rue and Cinna inspired Wednesday’s rant.
A couple of tweets struck me as leaving an open enough door for the possibility of conversation.
The idea that when we read we imagine that all of the characters look like us is benign enough on it’s face, right? It’s a way for us to relate to the people we’re reading about. That makes sense to me. Sort of.
I don’t always spend a lot of time worrying about what characters look like. As I read, an image develops, seemingly on its own. If an author makes a point of specifically describing someone, I pay attention because there has to be a reason for that especial description.
The comments on those tweets, however, interest me. Is it true that people assume every character they read in a book is their race? So when these kids read, they imagine completely white worlds, worlds in which every person they encounter — even the ones that are specifically described as black — is defaulted to white. It would never have occurred to me that people read this way, imagined characters this way. Even if I imagined that the protagonists I read looked like me, I know that I live in the actual world, in a place where not everyone looks the same. I would never imagine that every single character was black.
My initial response to that second tweet was along the lines of, “Oh, check your hemline, dear. Your white privilege is showing.” At the same time, I love the question of that tweet. That shows me someone’s home, that there’s a person there, thinking, allowing herself to be pushed to wonder about something she’s never thought of before. That’s a person I can talk to, a person who imagined Cinna as white and who might still wish he’d been cast white but who is open to being challenged to seeing him as a black man and letting that challenge make her think about (these mysterious, exotic) black people and not respond with “Eww,” or profanity.
What’s that I hear? Could it be … hope?