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.
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.
**BELOW ARE SPOILERS FROM THE SECOND AND THIRD BOOK OF THE SERIES**
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.