By Ilya Somin
CNN has recently posted two articles about fans who are angry that black actors have been cast in three important roles in The Hunger Games movie: Cinna, Rue, and Thresh (see here and here). On the merits of this dispute, I think it’s clear that the objecting fans are in the wrong. As CNN points out, Rue and Thresh are described as having “dark” skin in the original book by Suzanne Collins, on which movie is based. A person with “dark” skin isn’t necessarily black, but being black is certainly compatible with that description. Cinna’s race was never mentioned in the books at all. So the filmmakers were well within their rights to cast an actor of any race in the role (even assuming that they had some moral obligation not to contradict the book). FWIW, I thought that Lenny Kravitz did a very good job in the role. The actress playing Rue was less effective, but that may have been because the movie cut many of the character’s lines from the book.
At the same time, I can’t help but think that these articles are making a mountain out of a molehill. The Hunger Games book series has millions of fans. In such a large group, it is inevitable that there will be some people who have foolish views about the movie, including some with misguided racial objections to the casting.
Despite the fact that at least two of these three black actors were clearly evident in the movie’s trailer and their selection was otherwise publicized in advance, the Hunger Games movie had the highest first-weekend box office receipts of any non-sequel in history. And the film is still No. 1 at the box office. So I strongly suspect that those fans who objected to the casting on racial grounds were a small minority.
For my review of the movie, see here.