Never expected to be talking about The Hunger Games in the context of racism, but here we are.

AZM Ally Kenneth Lyons, Jr. writes in with word that apparently, there is a select group of people who saw the movie this past weekend who were surprised to see Amandla Stenberg play the character of Rue. In the book, Rue is described as having “dark brown skin and eyes” so to me it makes sense that cast someone who has, um, dark brown skin and eyes. Apparently, it doesn’t make sense to everyone.

Hunger Game Tweets popped up over the weekend to document tweets written by people who are incensed that Rue is black. Funny enough, some of these people actually read the book!

One of the powers of literary fiction is that your mind gets to cast the characters in any way you see fit. Sometimes, even if the description of a character is explicit, your mind swaps in your personal ideal. I guess some people read “brown skin and eyes” and thought, hey, Rue’s a cute little blond. I mean, I guess Snooki has brown skin, well, brown-orange skin. Were they thinking Rue was a Snooki with blond hair? So confused.

If there were no physical descriptions of skin tone in the book, I could more than understand the confusion. I don’t understand why it would ruin the movie, but I could understand some of the surprise. I think a few of the tweets that have been posted were ones of genuine surprise. Maybe some read the bit about Rue looking like Prim just glossed over the brown skin part.

I suspect that this reaction to Rue is a minority opinion. Until Kenneth sent over this tumblr, the only thing I ever heard about The Hunger Games was ZOMG FUCKING HUNGER GAMES HAVE YOU READ THE BOOKS THEY ARE THE AWESOME SAUCE HOLY SHIT THE MOVIE AND STUFF! A quick search of twitter now comes up with a whole lot of people making fun of those who are surprised that Rue is black. The box office numbers clearly indicate that more people did not have a problem with Rue than did. That gives me a lot of hope.

  • Robert Aube

    At least this movie is good, even after the “racist” casting. Wish we could have said the same for Avatar: The Last Airbender…*sob*

  • Kyle Wright

    So wait…it’s racist because it has a diverse cast? LOL I don’t understand it. I’m mostly white and I don’t think the world is only full of white people. It’s like in my costume design class, we got to pick whoever we wanted and say they were cast for the plays we work on, because it’s all on paper anyways. I was the only one who didn’t cast “All white, with the occasional black or mexican immigrant as the crazy hobo” Yes there were people in the class who literally said “I see this character as a mexican immigrant” when they were showing off their designs. Also yes, everyone in class aside from 1 person and 1/8 of me were white…I don’t get it.

  • lionthetiger

    The movie isn’t racist. Some people ignored the descriptions in the book and then were surprised by the accurately diverse casting.

  • Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

    The movie is good, saw it yesterday. But I think it’s missing a lot of the “Katniss viewpoint”, because there’s little way to put character’s thoughts on screen. I suppose the books throw you into the action and make it personal because you almost ARE Katniss, and in the movie you’re a bystander observing from the side. And to be honest with you? I *was* surprised by the casting for a lot of the characters, Rue being one of them. However 99% of them just… Fit. However I was a little shocked that Rue was black, not that it made any difference, she was endearing all the same. But why the shock precisely? Because when I was reading (actually, listening to the (amazingly voiced) audiobooks) The Hunger Games, I paid VERY LITTLE attention to character details. The only things that registered very clearly were: Katniss is lean and nimble, has dark hair consistently made into a braid and grey eyes. Peeta is strong and lean, blond and handsome, I don’t even know his eye colour XD! Rue is tiny like a fairy. That’s -IT-, I swear. And I honestly didn’t need much more, the story was so engrossing on its own I was dragged in without the need to delve into too much detail. I suppose this also was because of the very strong psychological “all these other characters are probably DESTINED to die, don’t get too attached” aspect, so don’t diss. As such I can understand people being surprised, but I can’t understand why this would ruin the movie. Racist fucks.

  • Aenya Hiri Silverleaf

     As an aside, I think it’s a huge credit (and envy from me) to Mrs Collins that she has this incredible way of portraying characters by their actions, motivations, thoughts – their appearance being cast into the story nearly as an aside. I cried quite a bit during Rue’s death, even without clearly knowing just how she looks. Did you ever have a situation where the character you ‘saw’, imagined while reading – changed after you’ve seen the movie? It happened to me with Harry Potter for example, my character portrayals became the actors, I can’t remember how I saw them in my mind back then, before the movies, anymore. For The Hunger Games the characters just became that little bit … sharper, as if someone tweaked the display settings in my mind.

  • noirlapin

    [warning. spoiler below]

    Interesting. I’ve heard the racism angle from the other side as well. That Rue and the male from her district were both black, and both helped Katniss and then died. Black folk as motivation and plot device. Not sure I agree, but can see the argument.

  • Jimmy

    I was very much disgusted to hear this today, especially as I saw the film on Saturday and thought it was great. I wish I could put it down to ignorance, but even Collins herself said in an Interview that District 11 were African-American.

    Reading the comments in other articles actually boiled my blood, I wish it could be washed out as the usual lets-cause-a-stir on social media by being a bunch of racist assholes, but it is totally unacceptable.

    The actress is 13 years old and being called a “nigger” and a “black bitch” simply for portraying her character extremely well and being cast accurately.

    If I could castrate each person involved, I would. Joyfully.

  • awesomemvs

    the problem was that idiots went on twitter saying that they weren’t so sad after Rue’s death because she was black. And that sort of thing. 

  • awesomemvs

    I’m glad your takes on these are usually positive. I’ve seen some mean tweets this month, but morons will be morons, especially when given twitter.

  • Kyle Wright

    *GASP* A diverse cast? Accurate casting?! Blasphemy! This is America. Next thing you know we’ll have reasonable gas prices, affordable health care, and eco-friendly power! Horrible!

  • FmF

    It was probably do to simply forgetting.If an author don’t make a huge point of what race a character is.It’s very likely a reader will forget some where along the 20 or so chapters.To be honest though I don’t see what so good about this book or movie.I seen this same movie like 5 times be for.Just a lot cornier.I’m looking at you Rollerball!

  • Romerostokes

    It’s very sad that there are so many ignorant people out there. But regardless, my wife and I both listened to the audiobooks last year, and it was clear to us that the characters Rue and Thresh were black – as Collins very clearly described the common characteristics of people from their district. I believe that some people, especially those that don’t know or interact with Blacks, Asians, or Latinos, tend to picture their fantasy and literary worlds as entirely whitewashed. And while all white communities do exist in pockets in this country, they do NOT reflect the reality. There are dozens of diverse people from the USA and other countries that are all over the place and don’t receive fair representation in the media- real or fictional.