Racist “Hunger Games” Fans Only Care About White People

As many of you have already heard, some racist “Hunger Games” fans were quite angry when they learned black actors were cast for the roles of Rue (pictured above), Cinna, and Thresh.  Blogs and websites collected screenshots of Twitter pages and Facebook status messages where “fans” shamelessly posted racist comments like, “Sense [sic] when has Rue been a n*****” (and no, the racial slur is not bleeped out), or “Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you picture.”

If you haven’t seen the screenshots, read these posts:

1. Why Racists are Upset with the ‘Hunger Games’ Casting

2. Yes, There Are Black People in Your “Hunger Games”: The Strange Case of Rue & Cinna

3. Hunger Games Tweets

4. Racism: Realer Than Fiction

The third link is a Tumblr page dedicated to exposing the racist “Hunger Game” fans. Aside from the fact that Rue is described as having dark skin in the book (the description is on page 45), what do the racist reactions from these fans say about the role people of color have in the realm of white fandom?  What does it say about the perception of real black people and other people of color in our own world? What really disturbed me was how these fans said they couldn’t develop an emotional connection with Rue simply because she was played by a black actor in the film.  In other words, if she was played by a white actor, those fans would actually care for her. I can’t help but think of how this racism and apathy reflects the larger society’s dehumanization and vilification of people of color, as well as the utter disregard for the lives of black youth.  If we are constantly being taught that only the lives of white people are valuable, then is it any wonder that there is such apathy towards the lives of young black men like Trayvon Martin or the countless other racialized youth who are unjustly murdered, not only in the United States, but in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, Pakistan, etc.?

Anyway, that is another blog post altogether. In the meantime, check out this comic strip I drew the other night. It’s been a while since I’ve drawn something, so don’t expect a masterpiece, lol. It’s not meant to be perfect and I didn’t spend too much time on it (as my friends know, I have other sketches that are much better than this). I knew I had to draw this when I heard the very same people who say “I don’t see skin color” get angry about the casting of Rue. It just boggled my mind to listen to the hypocrisy, but it definitely reaffirmed how “colorblindness” is racism.

17 thoughts on “Racist “Hunger Games” Fans Only Care About White People

  1. The biggest problem with Hunger Games is that anyone, anyone at all anticipated this story put to film, indeed, that anyone even likes it as a film.

    p.s. John Carter is a flipping masterpiece, shame about the idiotic dogpile it suffered. (At the hands of idiots no less.)

  2. Unless someone can come up with concrete numbers as to how many Hunger Games fans are racist as opposed to those who are not, compared with how many citizens of the planet are Hunger Games fans as opposed to those who are not, the only lesson to be learned here is that a percentage of any given population is two-faced and idiotic and that racism is not dead. We knew that. Anything beyond that is a ploy to suck people’s emotions, even if it’s only your own. Know that people sometimes suck, but don’t let it kill you. Nice cartooning!

    • Thanks for the comment, Deb. I appreciate the sentiment, but have you read the other articles I linked to?

      No one is generalizing about all “Hunger Games” fans, but the anti-black racism in the comments reflect the larger society’s continued dehumanization and vilification of people of color. I think it’s really important to draw those connections, otherwise we’re trivializing a very serious issue.

      So, the outrage against such racism is valid and important.

  3. The seemingly bizarre thing is that I actually imagined Katniss to be a PoC too. I distinctively remember thinking that she was part of a mixed race family, a father with olive skin & a fair skinned mother, I suppose it’s irrelevant now that even Rue’s getting hate for being casted as black.
    Colour blindness is another form of racism, also why mention it if it’s of no importance? Not acknowledging a person’s colour does not make you any less aware of the privileges & power white people have enjoyed in the history. Did the HG racists really envisage a post apocalyptic society with only white people? Ridiculous!

    Cinna was my favourite character, haters will never cease to complain on how they had imagined the book. I think he was the only character Katniss truly connected with, he embodied the perfect mentor & stylist image I had so I’m definitely happy with the casting choice!

    I love your comic-style commentary on racist HG fans! I’d love to see more of your artwork :)

    • hfm,

      That’s a really interesting point about Katniss being a woman of color because I’ve read a number of blog posts that are making the same argument. A friend lent me the book and I hope to get around to reading it some time soon!

      I know, it’s so racist to think people of color wouldn’t exist in a post-apocalyptic world! I thought Cinna was awesome in the movie and I’m sure there’s much more in the book.

      LOL, thanks for commenting on the comic. I used to draw a lot when I was younger, but stopped at one point. I still like to draw every now and then though.

  4. I loved the books, loved the movie, and loved this post. I completely agree that this is such an important issue to pay attention to, even if it’s only a minority of fans that actually behaved that way. Personally, I would’ve been disappointed if Rue hadn’t been black, she might very well have been the favourite character of my sisters and I, and we were all disappointed they hadn’t focused as much on the friendship between her and Katniss as they did in the book.

    • Thanks, Becky!

      I’m reading the book now, but at a slow pace due to other work, lol. I’m looking forward to reading more about Rue and her relationship with Katniss!

    • I fell in love with the novel after reading it but I’m kind of disappointed with the movie. Some scenes were not what I imagined them to be. And I’m not talking of skin color here. For instance, simple things like Katniss’ dress during the parade. It’s not as marvelous as I pictured it.

  5. I think in any screen adaption of a book people are going to be disappointed by certain casting decisions, and I do think that sometimes we should be careful not to label someone as racist just because they didn’t imagine a character as having a certain colour skin.

    I admit I had invisioned Rue being white, but that was because of the description of her reminding Katniss of Prim, so if Katniss was white then I reasoned that blonde haired Prim was too, and by extension, Rue would be as well. Having said that I do like this actress and think she makes a very sweet Rue, even if she’s not the Rue I initially pictured.

    • Just a little anti-racism 101, Pam: It is not about you. In fact, I was just reading an excellent piece yesterday that was saying that people who get accused of being racist often behave like it is as worse as living with the oppression itself.

      I think it’s problematic to tell someone to “be careful” when they’re presenting a perfectly valid critique of racist sentiments. Rather than getting defensive, people need to take responsibility and hold people, including themselves, accountable. Please read the Twitter and Facebook posts again and you’ll notice that people are saying much more than “oh I imagined her as white.” They use racial slurs and express outrage over the fact that Rue isn’t white.

    • Except that the book never claims that Katniss is white; her physical description includes olive skin and black hair, and this was enough for many people to picture her as being a person of color. She was cast as white in the movie, but Katniss=Prim=Rue=white doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense.

    • Pam, although the book describes Rue as being very much like Prim, the actual passage from the book reads as follows…”And most hauntingly,a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor”. To the fact of her being like Prim, I can see that, but Collins explicitely states that Rue has “dark brown skin and eyes” an that Rues likeness to Prim is based on her “size and demeanor”. Just because someone pictures a character a certain way, doesn’t make him/her a racist…it’s just one’s personal interpretation and we as humans base our assumptions on our personal knowledge.

      I honestly think it’s a combination of poor reading comprehension and just personal interpretation as to why people were shocked to see Rue as a person of color. To be honest, I sometimes imagine characters that I KNOW are caucasian to be people of color for no other reason than it’s my imagination and I can picture the characters to elephants if I want to. That’s the beauty of reading books without pictures…it leaves room for personal interpretation.

  6. Just to add, yes, I know what the description in the book said about Rue. Prim’s description just seemed to stick in my head more though. I do like this Rue, she’s sweet, young and beautiful.

  7. I think I must just read books in different ways (and other poc – because it’s so rare to have characters that might look like you). Because the FIRST thing I noticed was that Katniss was describes as having olive skin and dark hair and that there was a hierarchy within District 12 (white blond hair people were treated better, had some measure of privilege). Honestly I had trouble with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss because I imagined a younger Zoe Saldana. Also, the entirety of District 11 (where Rue and Thresh are from) are described as largely black plantation/agricultural workers. It didn’t escape my notice that the most highly militarized district is District 11, the one full of black folks.

    Now the books are largely about capitalism/imperialism/ world systems theory (the Capital is clearly the core and the districts are the periphery that provides to the core), but there is definitely a legacy of race worked into the books. The author has done all these interviews with the director of the movie and has made it clear that while Rue and Thresh are black, she had more ambiguous racial identities intended for other characters — and this tells me that at the very least, it *was* important to not just concerns of whitewashing *but for the story* that District 11 was largely black — because she was making a point about the US’s legacy of slavery.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sitara! I still haven’t read much of the book, but is District 12 supposed to be the poorest district? If so, I have trouble believing that white people make up the poorest and most oppressed group in the future.

      Also, I was told that the District 11 riot scene in the movie didn’t happen in the book. Is that true?

      • The poorest districts are on the periphery — both District 11 and 12 are pretty poor, but in diff ways. 11 is agricultural workers while 12 are mostly coal miners (other roles too of course, like Peeta’s family is more privileged in 12 because he’s the baker’s son, but the majority of roles in the District depend on what they export to the Capital, like in world systems theory).

        I read Katniss as a poc — possibly black and indigenous (in my mind, since there is a history of black and indigenous people in Applachia)– and it’s talked about how most of the more oppressed folks in the district have that same “olive skin and dark hair” and how the blond people have some measure of privilege– her mother for instance does not, she is blond but she also married “down” when she married her father.

        District 11 is mostly black folks and not only is it poor but they are not allowed the freedoms that District 12 is allowed — sneaking off to hunt for example would never happen in 11 because it’s so much more highly militarized than 12.

        That is true, the riot scene in District 11 doesn’t happen until Book 2. I think that was a disservice to black folks in a couple of ways — while we were meant to identify with that anger, the first thing they do is *mourn* and extend an arm in solidarity. They throw up a funeral salute, sure, but they also *send Katniss bread*. That’s almost unheard of, a different district sending another tribute bread. It was a gesture of resistance that not only implied they didn’t want to be isolated from other districts anymore but that the Capital was wrong. The other way that it bothers me is that we see the black liberation movement in the US as being this spontaneous thing, while really it was built off the long slow hard work of folks for many decades (like Ella Baker, Fanie Lou Hamer, and all the nameless folks who struggled). The riot scene made it seem like 1) actions can just be spontaneous and work and 2) the Capital’s power was not so far-reaching that there wasn’t that huge of a risk to riot like that. Both of which are not true at all in the books. The Capital’s power is emphasized a great deal and a riot like that took planning and a signal and was at a HUGE personal risk to everyone in the District. I think it was a lot of fetishizing of black liberation movements without much homage to the huge amount of effort and planning and risk that it took, as opposed to the book, which actually emphasized that.

        Now I’m not saying the books are perfect. SPOILER: What does it mean, for example, that the explicitly black people are pretty much fodder for angst and personal catalysts for Katniss and other main chars? Why *isn’t* Katniss explicitly a woc? But they’re pretty damn good, especially when you consider how mainstream a book about peripheral exploitation of exports from poc is… though most people seem to be missing the point.

  8. Pingback: Beyond “Equal Representation”: Some Thoughts on Racebending Villains of Color in White-Dominated Sci-fi and Comic Book Films | Muslim Reverie

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