Rue This

The non-Trayvon Martin-related racial issue (I stopped writing about it for a while because the absolute clusterfuck of misinformation, stupid opinions, and racism out there on it is kind of irksome) of the moment is the controversy over the race of a fictional character in a movie. As you probably know, a lot of the fairer contingent of the hardcore Hunger Games fans expressed their displeasure at the fact that Rue, a beloved character in the books, was portrayed by Amandla Stenberg, a black girl. Also, many were upset that two other characters were portrayed by Black actors.

**SPOILER ALERT:::Everything below the following picture is a spoiler. If you haven’t read/watched the Hunger Games then you should do so and come back after you have**

There were so many folks that were outraged or sad that three of their favorite characters (three of the good guys in the books) turned out to be Black. A lot of folks caught on (and to the Beige folks’ credit, most of the people who fought back against the twitter outrage were White) and basically trolled a lot of the folks saying these things out of existence, but the fact still remains that a good amount of folks stopped liking or stopped finding characters sympathetic simply because they were Black. Most of them were upset that the little girl they cried for after her brutal death turned out to be Black. As if Black folks are somehow less worthy of their tears. The fact was that the books described a little 12 year old girl being killed with a spear with her family watching, but far away, by another child in a brutal gladiator game between kids. Regardless of race, that’s sad and touching, and it was written in a way that really could bring tears to your eyes. I didn’t even have an established construct in my mind as to what Rue looked like and it was sad to me.

Of course they were all upset because the book so clearly establishes all of these characters to be White, right? Wrong. Cinna is never officially described in any terms that indicate what race he is or even what skin color he has. He is played by Lenny Kravitz, who is 40% Black, 40% White, and 20% leather jackets with no sleeves. What’s the issue with that? He did a damn good job as Cinna, and it seems like he was a natural fit. The other two characters, Rue and Thresh were both described as having “dark brown skin” and hair in the books. I don’t know how you come out with a white character in your mind unless you simply cannot read.

This is dark brown

That shit is darker than me man. If anything, the actress that played Rue was a bit lighter than the dark brown complexion described in the book. But of course most people thought she was just “dark” for a white person.

Artist's rendition of Rue


What’s worse is that if you didn’t understand that Rue and Thresh were Black, or more importantly why they were Black, then you missed out on an absolutely MAJOR plot point of the book and the series. The Capitol was kind of an amalgamation of Rome [thus why all the Capitol folks all have Roman/Latin names (Coriolanus Snow, Cinna, Seneca Crane, Caesar Flickerman) and also why the Hunger Games=The Colosseum w/ gladiators] and England when it colonized America (13 districts = 13 colonies). And the District (11) where Rue and Thresh came from (whose inhabitants had dark brown skin) was described as an agricultural district in the South and the one with the most brutal tactics. It is surrounded by a fence topped with razor wire with guard towers. They grew cotton. They worked from sun up to sun down and were forbidden to eat the food they picked. They lived in shacks and were not allowed surnames. The punishment for any offense was public whipping, and a mentally challenged boy was shot and killed for trying to steal goggles.  If it isn’t abundantly clear to you what District 11 is a metaphor for by now, then just stop reading now. It’s IMPORTANT, and a necessary plot point that Rue and Thresh are Black, not just a throwaway line or a meaningless casting choice. Their district ends up being the first to revolt (which is put down brutally) in the first actions of the war.

But really, the most important plot point here is that Katniss loved Rue simply because of who she was, and not in spite of her race or anything. And she was upset when Rue died because of the simple injustice of her death. Nothing to do with race. In fact, she’s a rallying point for all of the districts in the story. It’s crazy that so many people can’t see that when reading and are legitimately upset at her portrayal. Simply because of her race. Crazy how in our “Post-Racial Society” we still come out in an unfavorable light against a fictional world that uses children as gladiators.

8 Responses to “Rue This”
  1. donnica22 says:

    Great commentary!!!

  2. Theo says:

    This Hunger Games ‘outrage’ is a classic case of white privilege. Their (the white people who were unable to use basic reading comprehension skills) assumption that Rue was white is based in their desire to have sympathy for white characters. The fact that they were not as sad for a black Rue as a white Rue speaks volumes.

  3. Jason says:

    Blacks have already ruined the real world. Now they want to ruin made up fantasy worlds? Crap. And here I thought fiction was supposed to be an escape from all the rapes, robberies, and murders.

  4. C says:

    As a white woman, i am deeply disgusted and saddened by the surreal and stupid responses to a beautiful character (and a beautiful actress). It feels to me like middle/upper-class white folks often don’t really understand that racism is alive and well, because we don’t experience it ourselves and usually see such a small fraction of what is still happening to millions of people on a daily basis- “didn’t the Civil Rights movement take care of all that?” But if people are speaking out publicly against this kind of idiocy and hate, even those who aren’t being directly targeted by it, maybe there’s hope that we can learn something from this incident (something like “stop being bigoted as*holes, guys!”) and grow as a society. I have to hope so, anyway.

  5. Even though this post isn’t about Trayvon Martin…. it kind of is. A little bit of sympathy goes a long way.
    Great post.

  6. lexy3587 says:

    I just read an article about this yesterday and thought – I bet 40 acres will do a post on this 🙂
    It’s ridiculous – some of the people claimed that they had imagined a little blonde, blue eyed girl, or that “They got the book so wrong!” – It isn’t like the author was subtle about describing Rue and the guy from her region. I think the worst tweet I saw basically said, “I was less sad that she died when I saw that she was black”. I don’t understand why the anonymity of the internet makes people think that they can say whatever they want. Plus side – apparently a lot of the tweeters whose tweets were included in all these articles shut down their accounts… nice to see the internet isn’t as anonymous as all that.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] goal against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup. Or when people began tweeting their outrage and disappointment at the fact that the adorable character, Rue from The Hunger Games movie, was Black instead of White, even though the author described Rue as Black in the […]

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