Despite my immense excitement, I still haven’t yet seen The Hunger Games. While I’m sure there will be some things in the movie that aren’t how I imagined from the books, you know what won’t be surprising? The fact that some of the characters are played by people of color. That’s because it’s abundantly clear in the books that the nation of Panem is a multi-racial society–and at least two major characters are explicitly described as black.
But, as Jos mentioned yesterday, there are some horribly racist people on Twitter who are not only shocked but downright pissed off to learn that Rue and Thresh, who are described in the books as having “dark brown skin,” actually, ya know, have dark brown skin. The tumblr Hunger Games Tweets has collected some of the worst tweets. Here’s a terrible, bile-inducing taste:
First, a little reading comprehension would be nice. Second, author Suzanne Collins was quite clear that Rue and Thresh are African-American, but there’s also absolutely no reason to just assume that all of the other characters in Panem are Caucasian. In fact, the film was significantly white-washed as it is. As Julian Sanchez points out, the Hunger Games is set in the distant-future and in the not-to-distant future, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than half of the U.S. population. At some point, Hollywood will hopefully start reflecting that reality–and audiences will need to let go of the apparently incredibly ingrained belief that the default color must be white.
But it’s not simply that these Tweeters mistakenly had a different image in their heads and were surprised by the casting in the film. The reactions to Rue are particularly sobering. For those who haven’t read the books, (spoiler alert!) Rue is the youngest and smallest competitor who is loved by all and then tragically killed. These Tweeters are straight-up disgusted to learn that the character they adored is black. As the person behind the blog writes, “These people are MAD that the girl that they cried over while reading the book was ‘some black girl’ all along.”
As the writer of the blog rightly points out, this isn’t just about one blockbuster film or an obnoxious minority on Twitter. This shit matters. The sentiment so awfully and succinctly summed up in the first tweet above–that a black girl cannot, by definition, be a little, innocent girl–is reflected everywhere. This is why 40 percent of missing persons are people are color but the media usually only gives a damn about the young, white, upper-middle class girls. This is why people of color make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, but 60 percent of those imprisoned, why black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes, and why 80 percent of people who receive the death penalty have murdered white people. This is why some children’s lives are valued more than others. This is why a black boy can seemingly never be “innocent” enough–at least not if he’s wearing a hoodie.