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#Hunger Games and Ethnicity (SPOILERS)

Unconventional Librarian bailey hunger gamesIf you haven’t figured out by now, An Unconventional Librarian has been all about The Hunger Games!  I love reading YA books and I especially love sharing books with my kids.  I feel it’s a gift that I hope they never get tired of sharing with me.

So you can imagine my joy when Pumpkin said to me a few weeks ago that she was interested in reading The Hunger Games.  I’d had the book on my mental TBR list and was excited to have an excuse to buy it; esp since Pumpkin is more of a girly Twilight fan.

So we bought all three books and raced to finish them before the movie opened.  I tend to get caught up in pre-movie hype and then am disappointed by the time I see the movie (which is ALWAYS opening night: aka several years ago when Twilight opened and we almost got trampled).

Anyway, I avoided the pre-movie hype except for bloggers and the newspaper’s movie review. That’s it.  Ok, well I discovered that I’m from District 5.  Power. POWER.

Here’s my badge:

Games movie hype, I made a few cards at someecards.com  You can find them on my FaceBook page or on my Pinterest boards. Here’s a sample:

Unconventional Librarian Hunger GamesBut that’s it.

Now on to the bad news.  I would not be true to myself if I didn’t comment on the multicultural aspects of the movie.  In my head, books read very ethnically diverse and Peeta, was a pretty Southeast Asian (Indian) boy like from Slumdog Millionaire.  I know he’s blond in the book but whatever, that’s how I imagined him.  So I was hoping for something similar in the movie.  And if I’m remembering correctly isn’t he the little boy from Bridge to Terabithia? When did he grow up?

As the movie opened I was angry because everyone in District 12 looked white and I thought to myself “are you kidding me? this book appeals to so many and there is not ONE brown or yellow face???”

Then the kids got to the Capitol and I saw all the beautiful colors: brown, yellow, light brown, etc and I was satisfied.  Happy almost.

But then the movie continued and I became deeply disturbed.  Our sweet little Rue was Black.  Could she have been any cuter? I knew what happened to her and I was already hurting.  The other tribute from her District: Thresh? Also Black. What’s up with that?  My senses perked up and I don’t know whether intentional or not, I saw that many from Rue’s district were Black.  To be sure, there were Whites but it struck me as odd.  Rue’s District 11  is agriculture, a fancy name for farming: reminded me of plantations and slavery.   And then the riots. Oy.

As if my sensibilities are not upset enough, the violence started and it occurred to me that White children are pitted against Black children. Children killing each other.  And of course, since the main characters were White, there could not be any Black victors.

Was any of this profiling intentional on the part of the industry? I don’t know; probably not.  But does it have an impact? I’m pretty sure, yes.  The subliminal message is: White will always win, and any other racial group will not.  Take a look at horror movies and see who is usually one of the first to die: Blacks.

Let me be clear in saying that I am not downgrading the fun of the movie or the book.  As a reader, I am entitled to my own opinions and am able to enjoy the movie but hope for different outcomes:  I would love to see an African American play a lead role in something other than a superhero film. Remember, readers want to imagine a character who is like them and there are many multi-ethnic kids who are reading and going to the movies.  Can’t we give them something to relate to?

Nonetheless, I can and will see the movie again. Never mind that no one from my district (5, Power) finishes.  I can’t wait to finish book 3!

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

18 replies on “#Hunger Games and Ethnicity (SPOILERS)”

Interesting thoughts! I did think about district 11, and specifically Rue and Thresh being Black, but the way the districts were divided, I could see races ending up somewhat segregated in that situation.

I was suprised that Cinna was African American. I don’t know if he was in the book, but I liked that they cast someone who was in a “powerful” role that way.

yes yes I respect all your thoughts; and possibly maybe they don’t have special meaning, but what if they did/do? I’d like to think that within the districts would be interracial relationships given the close quarters. i would not be doing my job if i did not offer the question of race, though, because to me, everything comes down to that, hence the purpose of my blog.

i’m sorry my blog is not mobile friendly; i was not aware (putting on to do list)!

Talked to Pumpkin about who Cinna was and she couldn’t believe it, esp when I told her how old he probably was. I imagine Cinna to be more like Sting or that guy from that Runway show; but this one was great too!

If you think about it there is no way the districts won’t be filledwit people who look similar. Theyonl mastermarryy & havechildre within theirdistric. Theydon’ mingle. Evena group of mixed races will turn to looking primarily like the majority afteryear of a smaller group to choose from.

I never saw the black characters as Bad someone we wanted to die because they were the characters I loved most outside of Katniss & Peeta. Think of the people who admit to crying when Rue died. Or the ones who didn’t want Thresh to be someone they had to kill after seeing him spare Katniss for Rue’s memory. They were set up as people we loved & hated to see die. So to me there was no unequal racial issues just because the author saw Katniss as a white girl. It’s like saying there would have been a problem if she had seen her as black & Rue as white. To me, it’s imposing meaning on details that don’t Have special meaning.

(sorry if that has typos or looks strange, yoursite isn’t very mobile friendly & I had a few issues.)

I would guess that it wasn’t intentional. That being said, when I finally see it, I’ll have to check this out.

I’ve seen all of the hype around the series, but with college and all, I haven’t had time to check them out. I expect that I will one day though. This is an interesting way to view it. I’ll be sure to keep it in mind when I get to viewing/reading it.

I haven’t read the books yet, but my daughter wants to see the movie. I’ll be sure to be on the look out for what you’ve said.

I envisioned District 11 as a “black” district in the book. It just read that way. And I think I recall thinking that Thresh was black, but not Rue. I assumed that the riot was started by her father, but my husband (who isn’t black) looked at it differently. He looked at it as a racial inspired thing and he came home saying,”WHY?! WHY did the riot starter have to be black?!” I guess I just looked at it from the parental aspect since I know I’d probably start a riot if that was my baby too! I enjoyed them movie and I’m rarely upset over the fact that characters in the books don’t translate well on screen; that’s the beauty of reading, you get to use your OWN imagination to create the characters. What I enjoy is having them grow on me with their character portrayal. Like Peeta! I too thought he would look the way you described (probably because of the name, I don’t know), but I fell in love with him during the course of the movie. I thought that actor did a great job bring his character and his love for Catniss alive! Great review though!

Oh yeah the riots! Pumpkin also thought that the riot starter was Rue’s father, but I don’t, only because the book doesn’t specifically address it. But it makes sense. I’m sure if MY sweet little baby was killed senselessly there would be nothing left to live for and I’d prolly do the same thing.

I appreciate everyone’s comments. This is the kind of discussion I live for!

I’m one of those girls that likes reading a book and leaving it to my mind to create the images. I don’t see the movies after I have read the book, it seems to ruin it for me.

When I saw the look on the guy’s face who started the riot, I thought “That’s Rue’s father.” That was a father’s reaction.

As for the racial issues, I think the movie was actually close to the book. In the book, Cinna, Rue, and Thresh are all dark skinned or black. I don’t think the book/movie is intended to have racial overtones. That said, I have noticed that minority groups and/or Christians in cinema are usually treated one of three ways in far too many films — either they are violent, crazy, or are killed off. All three are dehumanizing and reveal an underlying bias.

Hi Pam-
I stop in at your blog about once a week but I don’t think that I have ever left you a comment. I just wanted to quickly say something about this post….

Quoting you:
“But then the movie continued and I became deeply disturbed. Our sweet little Rue was Black. Could she have been any cuter? I knew what happened to her and I was already hurting. The other tribute from her District: Thresh? Also Black. What’s up with that? My senses perked up and I don’t know whether intentional or not, I saw that many from Rue’s district were Black. To be sure, there were Whites but it struck me as odd. Rue’s District 11 is agriculture, a fancy name for farming: reminded me of plantations and slavery. And then the riots. oy.”

My 3 teens read all series way before I did. I actually read Hunger Games a few months before the movie came out. I love to read the book before the movie release. I thought that they did a decent job on portraying what was in the book. Of course, they never get the screen play just right and I wish,for once, that an author wouldn’t sell out and actually have them write a screen play to stay true to the characters and story line of the book. ANYHOW…

I mentioned the above quote to my 17 year old and she said that in the book District 11 did have dark skin but she pictured it more to be of an Italian variation. She said that she wasn’t surprised that the district had dark skin because they work agriculture- which is outdoors which you would want them to be darker skin or expect that from working outside vs. the mining ….of course they will be pale from being indoors all the time.

She also said, all the districts were slaves. District 11 isn’t being singled out as a black plantation slave political ploy from the author or the screen play. The Districts were formed by occupation. So 12 was a mining region, 11, agriculture.

Anyhow just wanted to jump in and say that.

Have a great week and happy reading.

susie

Susie thanks for your comments. I, too, envisioned the characters from District 11 to be more Italian looking too. I appreciate your comments and your point of view. I also agree that the screen play is never perfect but did a good job keeping the feel of the movie!

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