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Wednesday
Mar282012

Amandla Stenberg is Adorable and What We Can Learn from Rue - Related Hunger Games Racism

I was going to write a post about coping skills for  readers who have a problem with me calling out foolishness when I see it, but instead you get a Hunger Games post!

Right now I'm sure those of you with delicate sensibilities are glad that my screenplay got selected by my classmates as one of the two films we will produce this semester- so I'll take that as ANOTHER sign pushing me out the door here. Not to mention I finished my first 10K on Sunday, even made the local news, in a time 20 minutes less than my personal goal. Yay me! You don't have to say amen, I'll say it for myself :) Woot! Woot!

Joy= the ultimate snark killer. 

So we temporarily pause this week's edition of The Blogmother vs The Sisterhood of Traveling Rants to focus on more important things.

You know, like fans of the Hunger Games books being  disappointed that the character Rue was a Black girl. They are also mad that Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Thresh (Dayo Okeniy)are Black as well. By the by, I am loving Lenny Kravitz's acting choices. He's picking roles well within his range and doing a nice transition from singer to actor. 

 I won't spoil the movie too much. 24 children thrown into an arena and forced to fight to the death while the world watches. I got the allegory with the ravages of war, some people didn't. I WOULD NOT let my child watch the movie... they'd have to sneak in without me knowing. It's gory and I don' t know if children get the symbolism or the "message." They just see what they do in video games play out on screen. Hacking shooting, killing and sanitized death with blood droplets.

Anyhow, the character Rue is a central figure in the plot of the movie, and I would say the entire trilogy. I won't say why.

Anywhoo, Twitter, the raw sewer of public discourse, was the home of a flurry of angry tweets from people who didn't realize that Rue was a Black girl. You can read a Tumblr blog dedicated to capturing the racist Hunger Games Tweets in  response to Rue's casting. 

Many of the tweets are peppered with racial slurs.

One particularly shocking tweet reads: "Sense when has Rue been a nigger."

Another alluding to Rue's untimely death reads: "call me racist but when i found out rue was black her death wasn't as sad #ihatemyself." Chicago Trib

What's also important to remember is that there are equally compelling anecdotes about entire theatres full of people gasping when Rue experiences a particular hardship in the movie- again, I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now.  ***SPOILER ALERT***

So what have we learned?

A) Racism still exists! (I'm shocked!) but more important...

B) There is an audience of people who will invest in the life and care deeply about an African American girl character.

Rue's death provoked some of the most audible and sustained gasps I've ever heard in the packed, midtown NYC screening I attended. Press Play 

An on Thresh avenging Rue's death by breaking one of the fundamental rules of the game:

At the screening I attended (which included general viewers along with critics), the audience erupted with cheers when Thresh let Katniss (who had previously saved Rue’s life) escape, saying, “Just this once, Twelve. For Rue.” (In the novel, he says, “Just this one time, I let you go. For the little girl.”) Both the book and the movie suggest a sort of ethnic solidarity that even trumps the rules of the “game,” and I suspect that this, rather than the mere casting, is what freaked out some racist viewers. New Yorker

I would suggest you focus on B.  B means that there is hope that stories featuring Black women and girls as characters could be "four quadrant" movies if a filmmaker figures out a way for audiences to connect with those characters. . . to the tune of $200 million dollars. I'll take 15% of $200mil. anyday. 

As for the movie, Jennifer Lawrence owed the role of Katniss. I agree with critics of the director and his camera movements and editing style. I'm not a fan of blood and gore so watching what happens at the cornucopia in the beginning of the competition is gory and I just covered  my eyes completely during the final chase scene. 

I can't wait for Pixar's Brave and more importantly, your/my films featuring little Black girls in the lead of four quadrant action adventure movies. After the reception of my script by my classmates, I got a great confidence boost.  I don't only amuse myself, but other people find me quite hilarious. Who knew? My film will debut on May 12 at oneo f the local movie chains. How cool is that?

Script Frenzy starts this weekend! Woot! Woot! In honor of the savage attacks on fat Black women launched by the sisterhood of traveling rants guess which character won the prize of getting their own feature length screenplay this April? Here's a hint :)

 

 

 

Reader Comments (16)

I have yet to see this movie or read the books. The story does pique my interest, but I have to make time to try and do either one. I read the article about the racist tweets from those fans. Fanboys are the worst when it comes to stuff like this. These are probably the same people who shit bricks when Marvel came out with a half black/half Hispanic Spider-Man last year, or when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall in Thor. From what I hear, the book describes Rue as having dark skin, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that they cast a black actress.

Reading is obviously NOT fundamental to these fools.

BTW, what is your movie about?

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Sniper

CONGRATS GEM! Proud of you!No really I am.Someday I am going to run a marathon too.Even if I have to run it alone.

The response from those racist movie goers are just sickening.I have nothing to add to that.
I look forward to seeing your film.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTruth P.

Reminder: I want my shout out when you hit the stage at the Golden Globes. That is all.

P.S. Congrats on your future movie theater debut.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne

OMG amazing!!! go you ! There is a hunger for movies staring black women and girls ! which is why i write .. let's give studio a run for thier money! Hope i can see your movie soon ! let haters hate !! the snarking is brilliant The sisterhood of travelling rants ! haha

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterzi

Congrats to the BlogMother on your success. Looking forward to your future feature film. You go, Girl!!

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia Kayden

@DJ Sniper

Frankly, I was unaware that there was any racial controvery over "The Hunger Games." Most debates on the books and movie spin-offs have been about "Are they too violent for kids?" and "What are their sociopolitical themes?" I am glad that the majority of THG fans called out the Rue haters for their racism and lack of reading skills. The author of the books, Suzanne Collins, had said that Rue is SUPPOSED to be Black.

Since we're talking about race and sci-fi, I actually sympathize those Thor fans who criticized Idris Elba playing Heimdall in the movie. In myth and comic books, Heimdall is as a White guy since he's a Norse god:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimdall_(comics)

So, as great as Elba was in the role, a Black guy playing Heimdall should cause a double take like a White actress playing Storm in the X-Men movies.

Regarding the Black/Hispanic Spider-Man, I think Marvel Comics would have shown REAL guts breaking the color barrier by developing a brand new hero. The fact that THG fans, especially teens, would so quickly defend Rue indicates that the public could handle original non-White heroes and heroines in sci-fi and fantasy.

Just my two cents.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFred

If white actors can play Iago, then black actors can play Heimdall. It's all make-believe.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandra77

can anybody tell me if rue's appearance in the movie is longer than 15 minutes?

i don't want to waste my money on anymore movies that do black women and girls like "the princess and the frog", where we see an actual young black woman for all of about 12 minutes.

the movie sounds interesting an d has gotten rave reviews, but i'm not seeing anything where the black girls play suvh small roles compared to the other actresses. I know that many say Rue had a big part in the book (which i have not read), but for us moviegoers, please do tell the approximate length of time/number of times rue had in the movie.
thanks and congrats on your film being selected, gem!

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteraj

@Sandra77

Iago is SUPPOSED to be White. The title character in Othello is the only Black guy in Shakespeare's play.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFred

How many white actors over the decades have played in black/ethnic roles from Othello, The last airbender, Cleopatra, The Lone Ranger there has been little complaint from us. These racists are sick, the book describes the character Rue as dark skinned what did they expect an Italian. It is because in the book the character is innocent, pious, and wholesome things they do not associate with black people. It is sadder to see some Indian, latino and women insulting this young girl.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

@aj Rue is central to the movie. She's pivotal at two different points. Does she have as much screen time as the leads? No, but she's not an unimportant character. Probably the closest analogy would be that she's the Emmett Till of the trilogy. After all of this death over decades, her death is one death too many. I think she got about 10 speaking lines, but most of her role is physical in the sense that it's what she does as opposed to what she says that endears her to the audience.

March 30, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

Saw HUNGER GAMES opening weekend. Have not read nor do I plan to read the books. That said I did not a backlash was in the works. The character posters have been online for weeks. None of these malcontents of racial stupidity had noticed that Amandla Stenberg was playing Rue from the poster? Yeah reading is fundamental. As for the character Rue. Rue is unique because she is allowed to be sweet, to be one who needs protection. When she does die it's not a horrid death but its the way Katniss reacts. Katniss, played by Jennifer Lewis, shows profound sorrow and anger. If people are left in their seats angry over Rue being Black after watching those scenes than morally and spiritually they have little to no humanity. Hip Hip Hooray for post racial America. :insert sarcasm:

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChele Belle

I found it interesting that in THG, as in real life, someone stepped up to protect the little white girl from a situation that meant certain death whereas no one did the same for the little black girl who was just as precious and innocent. The real life racist reaction to her casting emphasizes the differential in perceived value even more.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZoopath

@Chele Belle - the racist uproar about the Black characters actually started last year when the cast was announced. There was a post on Racialicious about it.

What I found really shocking was the age of the fans complaining. I keep hearing that racism will die out with the old racists. Yet these are teens and young adults stating their hatred for a Black child. These young people (some even non-White) are so used to their main characters and heroes being Whites, that they lose their minds when a non-White character appears that is good or not marginal.

We have to change that. Thank you Gina and others for taking steps in that direction. I plan on making my contribution too.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersaadiyah

@saadiyah

Racism is an evil that crosses lines of age, race, class, religion, sexual preference, etc. So, it's not shocking that some Hunger Games fans freaked out over Rue being Black even though she is described as such in the novels.

Fortunately, many Hunger Games fans did denounce the racists in their midst so that is some encouraging news.

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFred

I'm very late. However I read the book first and knew that Rue and Thresh were black by the discription in the book, but white and some black readers ignored this. Kravitz character could have been anyone but I'm glad he got the role.
This shows that many of us think characters in books especially are white by default, otherwise the author will have to clearly state 'black or african', how sad is that.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKChild

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