Commentary: Hunger Games Cast Stirs Up Unnecessary Racism on Twitter

Earning a whopping $155 million at the box office for its opening weekend, the highly anticipated Hunger Games now takes third place in the record of highest-earned movies of all time.  Some fans’ appetite for the movie, however, seemed to have been turned off by a seemingly small detail: one of the characters, Rue, is a black girl.

In a blog posted Monday to Jezebel.com, a blog site aimed at women’s entertainment and lifestyle, blogger Dodai Stewart noted a number of Twitter users expressing their disapproval of 13-year-old actress Amandla Stenberg being casted as Rue, a young girl that the main character Katniss Everdeen takes a strong liking to.

According to the blog, a Tumblr site entitled Hunger Games Tweets shows a variety of tweets from users making racially derogatory statements about the young actress’ character like: 

@johnnyknoxIV: I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue.

@jashperparas: kk (sic) call me racist but when I found out rue was black (sic) her death wasn’t as sad #ihatemyself.”

Other Twitter posts even called Stenberg a black b**** and the N-word.

These posts left me disgusted.

As a first time explorer of the popular story, I saw the movie on opening night and was pleasantly surprised.  Although the plot is morbid and, in a way, bothersome that children are killing children and people are watching with excitement, the story was unfolded with just enough action and emotion to keep me satisfied.  

Little Rue was a character that I, and those who I went to the movies with, thought was undeniably likable.  The shy and helpful girl was a key component in understanding the tragedy and turmoil that each of the “tributes” in the film faced in the competition.  Although short-lived, Stenberg captured my attention and sympathy with her soft-spoken voice and innocent face.

She obviously didn’t have the same impression on others.  

Although it remains confusing as to why some moviegoers were confused by Stenberg’s casting– the book describes on page 45 Rue having “dark brown skin and eyes”– to make rude remarks about a young character, an innocent character at that, played by a child is disgraceful.

In a time where we hope for racism to be a thing of the past, it is still very much in the present. 

While some incidences of racism are real-life tragedies– like that of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black teen who was recently gunned down by a Hispanic neighborhood watch vigilante in Florida– these horrible and seemingly old-school views of African Americans in the U.S. can even be seen in reactions to pop culture, as with these Twitter responses.

It’s one thing to be confused about a character’s portrayal from book to movie.  Often times, we imagine someone completely different than certain actors that are chosen for parts.   

As a huge Harry Potter fan, I never imagined Mrs. Dudley to be the larger brunette woman that was casted for the part.  But was I backlashing against brunettes, saying it was poposterous for Mrs. Dudley to being brown-haired?  Of course not.  There is no reason that would justify the racial and cruel backlash that the character Rue got for being black besides one: racism.

After tweeting the image posted on the Jezebel blog, my Twitter followers expressed their disapproval of the racist Rue tweets, as well:

@DStockDdot: that’s terrible. Smh [shaking my head] at those ppl.

@Lo_N_Behold: wow!!!

Although the author of the Hunger Games Tweets Tumblr page has since tweeted and said that the number of tweets complaining about Rue and another character Thresh have gone down and some of the racist-remark Twitter users have deleted their accounts, some are still left offended.  One fan wrote on the Tumblr:

geminisykii: Awesome tumblr, but I can’t follow you due to the overwhelming racism and stupidity I keep seeing.  As a black male, with all the events that have been happening lately, my level of depression is at an all time high […]

The disappointment of Rue for some moviegoers simply represents a disappointing factor of racism still standing strong in our country.

What these moviegoers need to be hungry for is a reality check.