The first installment of the highly anticipated The Hunger Games trilogy finally made its way to the silver screen, earning an historic $155 million its opening weekend. While fans cheered on Katniss Everdreen—the strong and self-sufficient blue-eyed, blond hair Anglo heroine fighting for her survival, others were disturbed by the casting of Rue, a 13-year-old-girl also competing in the futuristic gladiator-type games. Their distress wasn't because the adorable Amandla Stenberg's acting was subpar—it was because of the color of her skin.
Rue, along with two other favorite characters Cinna and Thresh, were cast as African Americans. Although author of the bestseller Suzanne Collins specifically introduces Rue as having "dark brown skin and eyes," so-called fans took to Twitter to criticize the moviemakers. One fan wrote, "Cinna and Rue weren't suppose[d] to be black. Why did the producer make are all the good characters black?" Another said, "I just pictured darker skin, didn’t really take it all the way to black." Clearly The Hunger Games readers had their own imagery of what "dark brown skin" meant (perhaps they were thinking George Hamilton or Snooki kind-of-dark?) Whatever the case, the comments progressively got more vicious.
Some even went as far to say that Rue being cast as an African American ruined the entire movie. One even said that her skin color depreciated a certain "tragedy." Some of the tweets are so explicit — we won't write them here — although most of the tweets are captured on Jezebel—one of the site that originally wrote about the Twitter trending topic.
After gaining national attention, most of the Twitter accounts taking racial stabs at Stenberg are now privatized or deleted.
Although Stenberg took the racial comments with grace stating to US Weekly, "It was an amazing experience; I am proud of the film and my performance," the young Stenberg unfortunately now has a glimpse of the additional obstacles she may face in her career—something that many actresses of color are already aware of.
Viola Davis, 2012 Academy Award nominee for her role in The Help, recently came forth about the struggle it is being an African American woman in the movie industry, "I'm a 46-year-old black woman who really doesn’t look like Halle Berry, and Halle Berry is having a hard time," Davis told US Weekly.
She addressed the fact that African American women are rarely offered lead roles unless it's a representation of stereotypical black life (in her case a maid); cast as a subject of desire; or if the movie is considered to be a "black movie"—meaning 95% of the cast is African American and targets an African American audience. Even the television industry is lacking in African American lead actresses. Jada Pinkett Smith accomplished a tremendous feat landing the lead role in the now cancelled Hawthorne and now Kerry Washington is appearing as the lead role in the new ABC drama Scandal starting next week.
Hopefully Hollywood and non-black audiences will be more accepting of more African American lead actresses in the near future.
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031ATgmail.com