Racist comments from fans of Hunger Games a big disappointment and begs the question – are we addressing race in YA novels enough?

I have to say, I was shocked to read some of the Twitter comments by fans who watched the Hunger Games movie and disapproved (and that’s putting it nicely) of Rue and Thresh being cast as African American (see story here). I was stunned for two reasons – I never pictured them as anything else (Collins clearly describes them as dark skinned in the book), and secondly, and I really thought we were better than this! We have such a multi-ethnic country, and because Panem is based on a futuristic North America , the fact that so many of the characters are white should be more surprising.

This opens the door for discussion of larger issues. Are teen novels doing enough to integrate race (and especially interracial relationships) into the mainstream? Is describing someone as dark skinned enough? How else was Collins supposed to emphasize that these characters were not white (because in a futuristic society, the term African American might not be a racial designation)? How clear do authors need to be?

In my new book, Danny’s best friend, Reggie Allen, is black. I try to clarify this on several occasions. This creates some uncomfortable situations throughout the trilogy. First of all, the mob is not known for its lack of racism, which makes the relationship between Reggie and Danny’s godfather, Gino, pretty strained. I don’t try to sugarcoat it, although I probably could have explored it even further. Also, Reggie has the biggest conscience of Danny’s group of friends, always reminding Danny of the “right” thing to do. In fact, when Danny wonders how Reggie knows who the district attorney is, Reggie first jokes that it was because he got in trouble, and then when Danny takes the bait, he then explains he actually met him through a debate competition. In this way, I had hoped to shed some light on how our minds work. Stereotypes can only survive as long as we let them. And apparently, people are still letting them.

Long story short, the comments on Twitter were a deep disappointment for me. No one can argue that racism no longer exists in this country if people are still saying things like this.

Speak out.

Isn’t she beautiful? Amandla Stenberg did a bang up job as Rue!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. missygirl
    Mar 28, 2012 @ 04:04:18

    omg how could people be so rude amandla is beautiful racist people need to fall in a well


  2. Michael McAndrew
    Mar 28, 2012 @ 13:18:17

    Are you really that surprised? I mean, the series has no pull for ethnic readers, it’s about a white girl from a white family fighting in an arena game to the death against teens. I’m pretty sure the main pull of readers are white, so imagine that they are a bunch of racists! Just saying, I am usually disapointed by people on a daily basis.


  3. Matt
    Sep 16, 2012 @ 00:48:16

    I’m going to give my input here:
    As far as I’m concerned, “The Hunger Games” is in the top 10 biggest waste of money for movies this decade only being surpassed by such films as:
    Prometheus , Paranormal Activity (1, 2 & 3), Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Predators, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem.
    First and foremost, “The Hunger Games” was advertised the movie as something it never actually was. It was portrayed as a combination “The Condemned” Meets “The Running Man” (Note the Condemned is basically a remake of Battle Royale (Except with kids)
    There are numerous plot holes that are not only never filled in and or finished, but the basic plot was changed at least 3 times throughout the movie if not more. It’s almost as the author had absolutely no concept in which direction to take the movie in, and when the author saw something which might possibly be better, the plot then changed to that as well.
    Except for little flashback scenes (That were never explained) None of the characters even had any backgrounds. There is also no explanation on what the word hunger has to even do with anything either. Is this actually about food, or something to strive for as in I’m hungry for more). On top of that, it’s never explained why no one is allowed to leave the district, and if they do what happens.
    Taking that into account let me forward to the scene where the first plot hole gap is, it’s where 2 teens from District 12 are discussing this aspect on a cliff top overlooking the woods and start discussing how they never want to have kids, and how if no one watches, then they don’t have a show. So that is setting up the viewer that they are going to crash the network to stop this brutality. HMM where have I heard this before…Oh yeah now I remember that was from “THE RUNNING MAN”. on top of that it was setting up the 2 teens to have chemistry between them. Both of these aspects were never touched up on again, thus shouldn’t have even been included in the movie because it has nothing to do with anything.
    Forwarding a little further, now we have all the Contestants (AKA TRIBUTES) all in one place now living it up before going into the arena to fight to the death for what is still at this point, an unknown cause. Sure it explains 2 teens from each district gets selected, but it has never really ever explains why.
    Now we forward to the contestants spending 4 days training for skills that most of them supposedly already have, in which they will be brought to an arena where the sole purpose is to eliminate each other for again a completely unknown reason.
    Now we forward to all the tributes getting ready to start, now there is one tribute from District 12 that is portrayed to have a very serious Bow and arrow skill due to her mysterious hunting background she somehow magically wound up with that has never been explained. Half the tributes are eliminated running to get equipment while the rest take off into the woods where they run into each other and let each other live. UMMM …. OK…I’m in an arena where I have to kill my opponents but I let them live…UMM OK….
    Moving right along we now forward to The bow master who spends 3/4 of the movie hiding and climbing trees all the while letting her opponents live every single time she has a chance to take them out with her master bow skill.
    Forwarding even further you are then made aware that the arena isn’t even real, but a computer holographic area where nothing in it was real…Hmm how is she climbing non existent trees? Anyway, moving along the alliance that was formed by the leader who killed every single person he could at the beginning, now somehow has a groupie following that manage to find the Bow Master and trap her up a tree because they saw here while her head was sticking up out of a small pond while wearing dark clothes. At some point, another tribute manages to point to a wasp nest hanging in a tree that wasn’t there before, and while everyone that trapped the bow master up the tree is sleeping on the ground, The bow master decides to use her awesome bow skill by using a survival knife she has to proceed to saw off the branch the wasp nest is on instead of shooting every single sleeping person with he arrows…..UMMM YEAH makes perfect sense.
    Forwarding even further, we now find the bow master wasting her arrows on destroying the food supply instead of the people or killing the person that has his back to her.
    Yeah instead of killing the opponents with a weapon killing them instantly, lets starve them to death and make it take longer.
    Forwarding we find the food has been destroyed by landmines (Yeah good job lets kill our own food supply) and the leader of this brigade now snaps the kids neck that should have been killed and despite that leader seeing the bow master in the water with dark clothing on, doesn’t see her dark clothing on a totally green background through the grass and not only that, doesn’t see her get up and run into the woods. This leads into one of the tributes getting killed by another opponent throwing a spear, while the Bow master shoots an arrow at the opponent that threw the spear. (First time the bow master used her bow for it’s intended purpose)
    Anyway forwarding we now find what look like CGI dogs chasing 2 of the tributes from district 12 that manage to get themselves up onto some structure where they first entered this arena. So instead of contestants killing each other, now we have animals…UMM OK
    This leads into a fight on top of the structure that somehow the leader of the brigade got on top of. This leads into a hand to hand battle where the leader of the brigade gets pushed off the structure into the awaiting CGI dog things, where the bow master does a mercy killing on the brigade leader, after the demise of the brigade leader, the dog things just walk off like nothing happened.
    Forwarding to the end, we now find that Romeo & Juliet have been in this area the whole entire time, due to them both going to commit suicide, together in which the arena leaders say stop, Both are declared the winners, and go home, with no riches as described near the beginning of the movie.
    So 10 being the best, I give this movie a 2 out of a possible 10 simply because the only reason I kept watching it was to see just exactly how much dumber this movie could get.


  4. teenmobster
    Sep 16, 2012 @ 14:10:51

    Matt, I would definitely read the book. It will answer every question you have. Does that mean the movie didn’t? It’s hard to say. Having read the book, it’s hard to see the plot holes.


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