Race and "The Hunger Games" - Interpretation vs. Reality

"The Hunger Games" was released to theaters a few weeks ago and received some pretty good reviews. Critics claimed that it was one of the highest grossing pictures of all time, and viewers were applauding the film's adaptation of the story -- well not all viewers. On Twitter, some Hunger Games "fans" were enraged that Cinna, Rue and Thresh, all pivotal characters in the book, were African American on the big screen. Some users posted racist remarks, saying that the black appearance of the characters "ruined the movie" and that portrayals were not at all what they "imagined." It's one thing to be opinionated about the film's adaptation of the story -- but upset? It's interesting when people claim that characters in a movie were supposed to look dramatically different, when there is a clear description of the characters in the book that blatantly defeats their claims.

On page 98, author Suzanne Collins gives a description of Rue having "bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin." Thresh has a similar look, with "the same skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there." The only character who was criticized that's not blatantly described as African American is Cinna, who's "cropped hair appears to be its natural shade of brown." So the twitter fans were flat out wrong -- and borderline imperceptive for criticizing the film's portrayal of Rue and Thresh. Even the criticisms towards Cinna were somewhat offensive. Since there was really no blatant physical description of Cinna, filmmakers pretty much had free range to decide what he would look like. There have been several films in the past where characters who originated from an African region appeared white on screen -- like the films Cleopatra, The Ten Commandments or most recently Angelina Jolie's character in A Mighty Heart. If filmmakers were open to the possibility of casting a black male/female white, why not cast an ambiguous character black?

As the years continue, the world is becoming far more diverse -- giving more opportunities for people of color to claim significant movie roles. It's unfortunate that actors Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Amanda Stenberg (Rue) and Danyo Okeniyi (Thresh) were not acknowledged for their excellent performances throughout the film. These three actors were placed in a box-office hit, playing strong roles. If anything, they should be applauded for taking a risk with their acting abilities -- rather than criticized because of their physical appearances. Hopefully in the future, race won't be an acceptable characteristic to criticize for a poignant film role.