The Washington Post

Watching ‘The Hunger Games’ through a racial lens

Last Friday’s highly anticipated release of the movie ‘The Hunger Games” pulled in a cool $155 million and delighted moviegoers nationwide. But for some fans, the casting people of color in key roles was a disappointment.

Fans went straight to the Internet to express their outrage that two of the main characters Rue and Thresh, Amandla Stenberg and Dayo Okeniyi respectively, were African American. Some also were disappointed that Cinna, Katniss’ stylist, was played by Lenny Kravitz.

Amandla Stenberg of "The Hunger Games" signs autographs at Barnes & Noble at The Grove on March 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevin Winter/GETTY IMAGES)

In her book, Suzanne Collins clearly describes Rue and Thresh as having dark brown skin and dark eyes. Cinna was described as having green eyes and short brown hair, meaning his ethnicity was open to interpretation.

On Twitter, some questioned why Thresh was cast as a black man. Others said their sorrow at Rue’s death was lessened because the character was played by a black girl. Some tweets included the “n-word.” The outpouring of hatred has spawned an impassioned, and sometimes witty, response.

Never mind that these fans of the “Hunger Games” story misread basic descriptive sentences in the narrative. Why do some readers automatically assume characters are white?

And why-- especially in the midst of the controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin--does finding out otherwise lessen their movie-going experience?

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