To preface everything that follows, I must say I have not read The Hunger Games, I have not seen The Hunger Games and I don’t intend to do either until it somehow falls into my lap. I have nothing against Suzanne Collins, her books, or films based off her books—the series didn’t land on my generational radar, and I have far too many other bandwagons to jump on for the time being.
Now, that I have cleared the air, I am following the hype train surrounding the Hollywood-fueled cultural event that the release of the film has become. I saw the trailer (Donald Sutherland looks quite severe with all that facial hair), I saw Hunger Games lunch boxes at a Target, and I even predicted that archery will be “in” after the film empties the world’s pockets.
Post-Hunger Games, Archery is going to be SO “in”
— Blake J. Graham (@blakegraham) March 22, 2012
I was totally thrilled when I heard The Hunger Games grossed around $155 million in its opening weekend, making it the third most successful opening weekend for any film. What’s even better is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Dark Knight are the two films that have grossed higher. Of the top three, two are based on literature that engaged the minds of a generation of kids and adults alike, the third is based of comics and graphic novels—another medium requiring mental engagement to process and enjoy.
What wasn’t thrilling was learning about an entire subgroup of people who took to the Internet to complain that their imagined Hunger Games didn’t match the one made by Gary Ross. Their specific complaint: a character named Rue was played by African-American actress and LA native Amandla Stenberg.
Again I have not read the Hunger Games, but I have seen two excerpts of Suzanne Collins’s text:
Most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that’s she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor.
The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there.
I don’t know who Prim, Rue, or Thresh are, but I can use my ability to read, comprehend, and parse words to determine Rue has both dark skin and eyes (something Prim does not) and Thresh also has dark skin. Of course it doesn’t say how dark, but I am fairly certain (positive actually) that “dark brown skin” does not mean “white girl.”
The tweets and comments ranged from casually misinformed to awful, asshatted bigotry I refuse to reprint on this website. Hunger Games Tweets set up shop as the website responsible for collecting all the tweets and displaying them in one grotesque collection. A lot of media attention has since been directed toward those making the comments and many have since disabled, or set their account to private.
Collectively, their message essentially said, “I was disappointed Rue was not a white character, like I stupidly assumed due to my overbearing illiteracy and consequently couldn’t relate to her as a character because I couldn’t let my preconceptions leave my big, fat head.”
This might be giving the writers of the insidious remarks too much credit but I’ll bite. I’m sorry your mental picture didn’t become a film reality, but I can’t say it was totally unexpected. Collins gave enough instruction to cast Rue with an actress with “dark brown skin.” It sucks, for you, that you were disappointed. A basic ability to read could have prevented such confusion. (If “dark brown skin” is outside your linguistic understanding, I recommend some easy reading materials such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Dr. Seuss books to prevent you from looking like a complete ass in the future.)
The thing is, in film, anybody can be cast as anyone. That’s a right totally up to the casting director and whoever is paying for the film to be made. The Hunger Games film is based on the Hunger Games book. It is the director’s responsibility to interpret a source material and create it for the silver screen. Rue could have been cast as a giant octopus if said octopus played Rue in a manner that the director really liked. It doesn’t matter. When you go to see a movie that’s based on a book, leave the book at the door. And don’t you dare audibly complain the book was way better than the movie, because guess what? You can return to the book and the imaginative fiction it endowed unto you.
The point where these commenters became normal people saying awful things is the moment they decided to open their mouths (err articulate their fingers over keyboards). If you start a comment “This might be racist, but…” you are most likely being racist. And no, prefacing your comment in that way doesn’t absolve you of any guilt. You’re just as much of an ass, if not more so. To say, in print, “when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” makes you an absolute shit person.
We live in a progressive, well-mannered society for the most part. There is no degenerate institutions for anyone to defer responsibility to if they issue racist remarks. Plain and simple, if you slander another person for the color of their skin, you are culpable. We, modern inhabitants of the world, will find you and level you for your ignorance.
So please, everyone, I have three requests.
First: read carefully and correctly.
Second A film is a manifestation of somebody’s imagination. Just because it isn’t the same as yours doesn’t mean it is inferior. In fact, they might have insight that can lend to and augment your own understanding.
Third: If you have shitty racist thoughts floating around in your head, keep them to yourself lest you reveal what a fuckface you actually are.