The Hunger Games may have made Hollywood history by scoring the third largest weekend box office opening ever, but that doesn't mean the film lacks detractors. In fact, some very vocal critics expressed their distaste for the film on Twitter. Their problem with the movie? They didn't like the fact that black actors played key characters in the film.
Amandla Stenberg plays Rue, who joins the film's protagonist, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), for the Hunger Games competition. Dayo Okeniyi plays Thresh, who hails from Rue's District 11. Author Suzanne Collins described both characters in the book the film is based on as having dark skin, but the fans who were upset over the film's casting choices apparently overlooked this. Fans also expressed dismay that Lenny Kravitz played Cinna, Katniss' stylist. His description in the book is more ambiguous, but certain viewers assumed that he was white and did not hesitate to say they were disappointed that a biracial black actor played him. "I thought Cinna was pale, with colored hair, and glasses?? Wtf," wrote one fan on Twitter in October once they learned Kravitz would play the character. Other Tweeters didn't explicitly say that Cinna should be played by a white actor but said that Kravitz simply didn't look like the character. After the movie opened, more of the fans focused on the fact that Stenberg, who's of black and Danish heritage, played Rue.
"I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue," said one Tweeter. Another remarked, "Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn't as sad." One Tweeter took aim at both Cinna and Rue, commenting, "Cinna and Rue weren't supposed to be black... Why did the producer make all the good characters black?"
I found the comment about Rue's death not being as sad because a black actress played her particularly offensive. It's one thing to say that you expected a certain character to be a certain race. It's quite another to say that you lack total empathy for a character because an African American filled the role or that a black actress playing her ruined the entire film for you, as another Tweeter said. Even more disturbing is that I assume most of these Tweeters are young people. So much for racism dying off in another generation or so. What's more is that Amandla Stenberg, the 13-year-old actress who played Rue, is aware of the controversy and commented on it. She released a statement saying, "'As a fan of the books, I feel fortunate to be part of The Hunger Games family. It was an amazing experience; I am proud of the film and my performance. I want to thank all of my fans and the entire Hunger Games community for their support and loyalty."
Can you imagine having to deal with a public, racist backlash at the age of 13? My heart goes out to her.
As for those fans who are upset that the Hunger Games has black characters--I would suggest they study film history. For years, whites played characters who were written as people of color. Natalie Wood played the Puerto Rican Maria in "Westside Story." Mickey Rooney played the Japanese Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and Ava Gardner played the biracial black Julie in "Show Boat." More recently, whites have played Asian roles in films such as "The Last Airbender" and "21" and Latinos in "The Perez Family" and "House of Spirits." Angelina Jolie played the mixed-race Marianne Pearl in "A Mighty Heart." Given this, the angry "Hunger Games" fans just need to get over it.