The future looks pretty white.Posted: June 3, 2011
I probably shouldn’t be surprised, since I sometimes watch movies and tv shows, and since I frequently read things on the internet that talk about how frustrating and annoying it is that movies and tv shows star mostly white people, but for some reason, I expected something different from Hunger Games.
I came across a link to a search for the main cast of the Hunger Games movie. Most of the cast are people I haven’t heard of (either because they aren’t very famous or I haven’t been paying attention; probably a combination of the two) and I have no opinion on how well any of the cast will play the characters. But I’m annoyed that I clicked through twelve of the eighteen main actors before coming across someone who isn’t white.
Apparently Suzanne Collins is on board with at least the actor playing Katniss, so I guess she fits the idea that Collins has in her head of what that character should look like, but that actually doesn’t matter much to me. It bugs me a bit that Katniss describes herself as being sort of dark and is being played by a pretty fair blonde woman, but I think I could deal with that if there was a little more diversity in the cast. The main problem that I have is that this movie takes place in North America at some unspecified point in the future (probably not too far away but not too close either), and does not at all represent the diversity that is already very present in North America today. It might make some sense if most of the people in the Capitol were white, since the society is already oppressive and it isn’t much of a stretch to think they might discriminate along racial lines. But that’s not even the case. Cinna, Katniss’s stylist, is played by Lenny Kravitz.
Like I said, I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but seeing the Hunger Games cast be a group of mostly white people bugged me more than seeing other mostly white casts. I think there are two main reasons for this. The first is that depicting a futuristic North America as a mostly white country implies that white North Americans are the only North Americans that really belong here. Sure, we may live on an ethnically diverse continent right now, but in this dystopian future, it’s plausible that the Hunger Game tributes from all but one of the districts will be white. I’m not sure where all the people of colour will go, but I guess they’ll leave before the Capitol starts holding the Hunger Games, since they’ll have a pretty tough time leaving after.
The second reason it bugs me more than other mostly white casts has to do with the oppression that is such an important part of the story. It’s not that I can’t fathom white people ever being oppressed. I know that white women and white gay people and white trans people and white poor people and white people with disabilities and many other white people are oppressed all over the continent, often by other white people, for being women or gay or trans or poor or having a disability. However, making a story about oppression into a story about mostly white people who are oppressed seems to erase the many many many nonwhite people who are oppressed regularly for not being white. There’s something that doesn’t sit well with me about an oppression narrative being appropriated by a group that often benefits from the oppression of so many other people.
So, once again, this shouldn’t be surprise me, and it actually doesn’t, really. But, as I read through the Hunger Games series, I was hoping that, when the movies of these books were inevitably made, they would show a little more diversity than most Hollywood movies. And it’s always a little disappointing when your hopes don’t come true.