Race in The Hunger Games
So there was a minor uproar, recently, when post-racial America flipped the fuck out over the fact that Rue and Cinna were OMG BLACK. I am positively fascinated that this was an issue. Well. I’m negatively fascinated. Oh, and horrified.
As most of the literate world has figured out, if you read The Hunger Games, Rue and Thresh were described as having dark skin and hair, and Cinna wasn’t described at all, apart from his makeup.
And yet, somehow, the fact that Rue, one of my favorite characters, was oh-so-suddenly Black, ruined the movie for people. Despite the fact that Amandla Stenberg is a stunning little actor, who took what little of her character the filmmakers thought to include in the film and still managed to make me adore her. Despite the fact that watching a child die, brutally murdered by another kid so that the evil wealthy folk might keep their fancy, frivolous boots on the necks of the twelve districts should be heartbreaking regardless of her race. I cried when I watched Rue die. And it had nothing to do with her race, and everything to do with the fact that she was wonderful, lovable, and fucking tragic. Even Katniss, for all that she has the social aptitude and compassion of your average turnip, figured that out.
To be perfectly honest, my primary concern was not that Rue is Black. It’s that both Black tributes come from the same district, which hints at segregation (I know, the film showed District 11 and there were White people there, but it wasn’t that clear in the book, and I really wonder how much of a conscious choice that was). But that’s neither here nor there for this particular discussion.
As for Cinna, he could have been any race at all, so the choice of Lenny Kravitz for such a wonderfully sympathetic and essential character must have been positively devastating for the bigots who defaulted to White in their limited imaginations.
America, what the fuck. This is just gross.
Look, I don’t have scales over my eyes about the racism that is rampant in this country. I am not surprised by this. But that doesn’t stop me from being disappointed. It doesn’t stop me from being disgusted. And while I am not saying anything new or deep in this post, I still have to say it. In the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, in the wake of the attempts to free Zimmerman of blame, in the wake of tweets complaining that a character in a movie was Black (and that one tweet from the individual who was less affected by Rue’s death because of the color of her skin), in the wake of those godawful “Don’t Re-Nig“ bumper stickers, being speechlessly horrified feels a lot like silence.
And silence, in the wake of these things, won’t do.