Hunger Games is a whitewash

23:37, Apr 01 2012

The movie version of The Hunger Games was a whitewash.

This is not just a case of "but, but, I read the books 17 times and I imagined her looking like this!" It's more important than that, and worth talking about.

The books on which the movie is based are commentaries on social inequality and in many cases the author is deliberately specific about characters' skin colour. People from the beaten-down Districts tend to have darker skins. This is not coincidence.

My main grievances:

- The casting call for Katniss said actresses "should be Caucasian".

If that doesn't scream whitewash, I don't know what does. Because Katniss and Gale, and most of the rest of District 12, are described in the books as having olive skin, straight black hair and grey eyes. We're not talking tanned-white-skin olive, because a few people in the District (Peeta, Katniss' mum, Prim) are described as having comparatively white or pale skin. We're talking olive olive. Mixed-race olive, at least. The author has said she didn't particularly intend these characters to be biracial, but that doesn't mean she intended them to be white.

- I can't believe they made Rue black!

Just kidding. Unlike the absolute winners who tweeted garbage like, "call me racist but when I found out Rue was black her death wasn't as sad", I thought Rue was far too pale.

The author and director have both said the character is African-American, so let's forget about that dickery on Twitter.
But let's compare the casting of Rue to the casting of the male tribute from her district, who was described in similar terms in the book: dark brown hair, dark brown skin.

They cast Thresh - a big, violent, scary male - very dark, but went much lighter for Rue, who is pretty and tiny and fragile and gentle, and basically symbolises all that is good about the world. Obviously, lighter = gooder.

If this was a one-off I wouldn't be ranting. But beautiful dark female skin is forever being lightened up for perfume ads and magazines and music videos, and it's disappointing that it happened here too.

- Buttercup the cat, clearly described in the books as yellow, was cast as black and white.

How did you feel about the casting choices? Were you particularly surprised by the ethnicities, or skin colour, of any of the characters?

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