Yes, There Are Black People in Your Hunger Games: The Strange Case of Rue & Cinna

Many people were shocked to learn that black actors were cast in the Hunger Games movie. It makes me wonder if we read the same books.
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By Guest Contributor Roxie Moxie, cross-posted from Nerdgasm Noire Network

Last week the Hunger Games character posters were revealed to fans.

There were the usual complaints of actors not meeting book loyalist expectations. However, among the usual complaints of "She doesn't look as young as I thought" or "Where are Effie's pink curls?" There was a different kind of shock and surprise toward Rue & Cinna, who will be played by Amandla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz, respectively.

"And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that, she's very like Prim in size and demeanor."―Katniss Everdeen, while watching Rue's reaping:

- The Hunger Games Wiki

She is 12 years old, with dark brown hair, skin, and "golden brown" eyes.

- Wikipedia

Rue is pretty clearly described as African-American which has been confirmed by director Garry Ross and author Suzanne Collins.

Entertainment Weekly: In the books, Katniss is described as being olive-skinned, dark-haired, possibly biracial. Did you discuss with Suzanne the implications of casting a blond, caucasian girl?
Ross: Suzanne and I talked about that as well. There are certain things that are very clear in the book. Rue is African-American. Thresh is African-American.

So then, why did comments like these show up on the Hunger Games Facebook when Rue's poster was posted? (SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOKS, STOP AT GRACE'S COMMENT.)

Everything from the innocuous "She's not how I pictured her" to "I was all sad and like "she's black!'"1

Seriously? My good nerds, what in the entire f-ck?

While it is true that Rue is described maybe only twice in the entire book, she is described as having brown satiny skin that is darker than Katniss' own tan skin. While it is also true that the Hunger Games books are a very quick and absorbing read I don't find that any of this an excuse to post on Facebook "Shes Black?"

It makes me wonder if we all read the same book.

How is it, when Rue is so clearly described that fans insist they believed her to be white? White people are considered the norm in society; the default person. It's as simple as when you hear the words "All-American", I can say with certainty that you are not picturing a minority person of color. This is white privilege.

I'm a longtime Hunger Games fan and have followed many conversations on the internet concerning the casting of the film. Whenever the conversation comes to Rue there is always (1) person who is surprised to find out Rue is black and (2) another person who is upset that Rue is black. Upset as if they have been tricked or as if something has been stolen from them. Upset as if they now have to reevaluate how they feel about Rue-a character many fans love dearly because of her incredible courage.


The reaction to Cinna is even more harsh.


Most people who live in the Capitol follow very absurd fashion trends. This is not the case for Cinna. The first time he is seen in the book, he is described as wearing a simple black shirt with matching pants. His one strange fashion choice is gold eyeliner, which brings out the gold flecks in his green eyes and which Katniss describes as attractive. Other than that, Cinna looks very normal, with close-cropped natural dark brown hair and slightly dark skin. {The Hunger Games Wiki}

Cinna is very different from the other inhabitants of the Capitol; he does not use surgery to alter his features, wears simple black clothes, and leaves his hair its natural dark brown color, close cropped. His only evidenced feature is a slight touch of gold eyeliner that brings out the gold flecks in his eyes. {Wikipedia}

It's true that Cinna's description is vague. Cinna could be absolutely any race. I felt the lack of description was purposeful. Cinna could be a hero that looked like anyone. I can't fault anyone too much for thinking he might look like them, however ...

Really, fandom? You nearly make me want to revoke my love of this series with these comments! Especially those who pictured Cinna as "sweet and loving"-A statement that implies that Kravitz doesn't look that way.

However, many fans get it:

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