Friday, November 18, 2011

What Book Were YOU Reading? Of Course Rue is Black...

I know, I'm posting twice in two days. The Apocalypse has come early. It may as well be the end of the world the way certain "fans" of The Hunger Games are objecting to the casting of a black girl as Rue. Whose character was stated as being black in the book. Yes, Katniss said the girl reminded her of her own sister, but that comparison was not based on her appearance. That anyone would think Rue couldn't possibly remind Katniss of her little white sister because of the color of her skin makes me sick.

Y'all. She's from the south and she loves to sing. I almost thought Collins was being a little stereotypical in her portrayal of Rue at first, until the character won me over. To the point where I can't even re-read the passage where she and Katnis meet without getting weepy, knowing she's not gonna outlive the Games.

An Entertainment Weekly article out last year even told readers:

Don’t worry if you didn’t know that Rue and her fellow District 11 tribute Thresh were black. I didn’t either after my first read. (Like most people, I raced through the book in about three seconds.) But now that it’s time to cast the movie, we should ask: How important is it that Rue be played by an African American actress?

Ugh, really? Yes, it matters! A. it was obvious. B. whitewashing is flagrantly egregious and only seems unimportant from the prerogative of white privilege.

I don't have the energy to rant any more about this today, so I'll direct y'all to, where you can see for yourself just how thoroughly some readers have whitewashed the character in their own minds. It's pretty discouraging—and disgusting, even—especially the comments directed at Lenny Kravitz's casting as Cinna. 

At least the movie-makers didn't follow the same train of thought. But it IS disappointing that there's nary an Asian character to be found in the trailer.

My theory: All of the Asians must have wised up by this point in time, and abandoned all us gwai-lo while they jet off to colonize the moon. Actually that sounds like a great story. Too bad it would never get made into a film... :P


Cynthia Lee said...

Who are these people? (I mean that rhetorically).

I hope their indignation is met with a rousing round of indifference.

Krispy said...

Tere, I love you. Seriously. *hugs this post*

I was making an "o really" face when they first cast Jennifer Lawrence (who I think has the acting chops but is not really how I imagined Katniss - like coloration aside she looks too...healthy? Well-fed?), given how she's described as dark haired and olive skinned - like most of the people of the Seam (a distinction in District 12 that looks lost from what I saw in the trailer), but there's like room for racial ambiguity with her character. So her casting was more of a lost opportunity than whitewashing/racebending.

Being all surprised about Rue being non-white though is ridic considering Rue and Thresh are some of the only characters Collins seems to distinctly describe as non-white. I can forgive people who really just missed it during their read of the book (the descriptions are quick and not oft repeated), but to be all indignant about makes me judge-y of these people.

And YES Entertainment Weekly, it IS important that Rue is played by an African American actress.

Because she's written as such in the book, and maybe because, I don't know, THERE ARE NON-WHITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

Ahem, as for Lenny Kravitz as Cinna - the race-based negative reactions are not cool, but I have to admit I'm not thrilled with this piece of casting either. He's just really not what I imagined Cinna to look like (I thought more slender, more delicate, whereas with Lenny, I just see Lenny Kravitz :P - kind of like how I see Justin Timberlake as Justin Timberlake in every movie he's in), but I guess I can't really judge until I see him in the movie.

As for the Asians, I think from what I've seen of the actual Tributes, there are a few in there who are Asian. That was a while ago though, so I'm not sure.

Actually that sounds like a great story. Too bad it would never get made into a film... :P

Yeah, seriously. Even movies about Asians don't have Asians (e.g. The Last Airbender, and now Akira). :P

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Interesting post. I never even thought about the races of the characters in Hunger Games.

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh my gosh, I can't believe anyone is objecting to Rue being black! That is absurd. I got chills when they flashed a quick image of her in the trailer and I felt the actress had been perfectly casted in the role. I would have been REALLY upset if they would have cast some blonde haired chick as Rue.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

grrrr...I can't believe anybody is complaining about the casting of Rue. She looks just right to me.
All I know is the trailer is amazing, and I don't want to judge whether the characters have been well cast until I see the movie.
I do agree that everybody looks a lot healthier than the book describes conditions in the districts. But it might be off-putting if the main characters were starved-looking, you know?

Emy Shin said...

I've always found it perfectly ridiculous that fans would object to the casting of a character by stating, "I never imagine s/he'd look like that!" as though their perception should trump the book's canonical descriptions.

There are commenters on there who insist that they should cast a white actress to play Rue if she could act, and that just really enrages me. Because I'm sure the same people would be ones to scream their objection if an African American were chosen to play, say, Peeta. Just. Ugh.

Thank you for this post!

JEM said...

I actually didn't realize she was black in the book either, or that Katniss had dark hair. I was so focused on the story and the characters themselves that I never thought about what they looked like. They could have all been purple and had antennae, I would have skipped over that too :). I believe characters should be cast as true to form as possible when it comes to movies, though, no matter what we're talking about. If the character has green eyes in a book, I don't want to see a blue eyed actor. Honestly, though, I can't believe in this day and age that this kind of thing is even a conversation. I can't believe people would even protest a thing like this, especially if it's IN THE BOOK. What kind of sad life is that?

Karen Denise said...

How did it take me 4 days to see this? I'm at a loss for words. I immediately saw Rue as black and I felt the way you did at first, that Collins was being a bit stereotypical in her description. But like you, I fell in love with this little girl. Sometimes people are too literal. I've met people who remind me of my sister and they aren't black. People are more than their race. To me, this is one of the MANY definitions of ignorance.

I remember someone commenting on all the black people in the Matrix trilogy. Are black people supposed to be extinct in the future? I hope to see, in my lifetime, a day when a character (fictional or otherwise) will be judged on what that character brings to the table and not something as basic as the color of her skin.

I worry about this as a black author who writes all different races. I don't want to be accused of NOT writing for my race or ONLY writing for my race. My family and friends are a rainbow of races and ethnicities. This is how I was raised--thank God--and so I write what I see, what I know. I'm never going to apologize for that. And I hope I never have to worry about white washing.

Sorry about my rant :-/

Love this post and love you for being so awesome.

Anonymous said...

In the first book, I didn't really think about it, but by the second book, it's clear that she was black. On the victory tour, Katniss describes her family having dark skin when she spots them in the square.

Sounds like some people didn't pay attention to the second book.

Brendan said...

I didn't even know she was black until I saw the trailer and I was like "does it state it in the book?" and i found out it did and I totally passed the description of her because I was really focused on what was going to happen next so I didn't notice it untill I reread the pages with rue. I don't know why people would object the use of an actor that fits the desc. of the character in the book