Friday, March 18, 2011

Hunger Games fans aren't crazy: Or my arguments for why Katniss' ethnicity IS important!

So unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days then you probably already know that Lionsgate finally announced that Jennifer Lawrence is going to be playing Katniss in The Hunger Games movie.

Almost immediately the fandom erupted. Some people had positive reactions but most of the reactions were negative. I know that a ton of my reading buddies were disappointed by the casting decision. One of the main complaints from fans is that Jennifer Lawrence isn't ethnic enough to portray Katniss. And here's where things get messy. I've read a ton of news articles and also read a lot of tweets or posts saying things like "She's a great actress suck it up" or "Her ethnicity doesn't matter get over it!" And while I have to agree with some of the things people are saying, I also have to disagree with a lot of it and I would like to say why. Now before I say anything else I just want to let people know that I'm actually okay with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. I think she is a phenomenal actress and that she will portray the role wonderfully. If Suzanne Collins says she's perfect for Katniss who am I to disagree right? So with that being said I would just like to give my thoughts on this whole ethnicity issue.

I'm gonna be perfectly honest here and say that if you're arguing against this ethnicity thing with hair dye and self tanner you have TOTALLY missed the point. The point isn't that we think that Jennifer Lawrence can't change how she looks for the part. We know that. We understand that. The point is that you casted a fair skinned blonde to play a possibly ethnically biracial character in the first place. How would everyone feel if they ended up casting a white girl to play Rue and then people said "Hey its okay! They can always use full body makeup to make her look black!" We would all say "OH MY GOSH THATS RACIST!!!" Am I right? So why is it that its NOT okay to cast a white person to play a supposed black character, but it IS okay to cast a white person to play a supposed biracial character? Why the distinction?

Argument 2: Katniss' ETHNICITY doesn't matter! Her CHARACTER does!
Okay so Katniss' looks aren't her defining feature but they're still an important part of her character. Author Ally Carter on Twitter said that us fans are confusing characteristics with character. But aren't characteristics part of what make a character? I mean come on what would Edward Cullen be without his sparkling pale skin??? XD Or the Weasley's without their red hair? And not only that but how many times in The Hunger Games does Suzanne Collins talk about the distinction between the "Seam Look" and the "Town Look"? A lot. Countless times. I think its one of the greatest showings of Katniss' character that even though anyone who looked at her would know that she was from the poorest part of the poorest district, she was still able to incite a revolution. Kind of symbolic don't you think?

Personally I loved that Katniss was ethnic. There aren't too many biracial heroines in literature (Katniss is the only one I can think of) and being biracial myself it was just great to read a book that had lots of racial diversity. Now I know that Katniss wasn't necessarily biracial. Lots of people say that she could have been Italian, or Greek, or any number of other ethnicities with similar features. But the point is this: she could have been biracial. Just because her ethnicity is ambiguous doesn't mean that her character should be automatically defaulted to be European. And another thing to remember is that The Hunger Games is set in the future. Look at how mixed our culture is now and just think about how much more mixed it will be 100 years from now. I think it's pretty safe to assume that Katniss probably wouldn't be 100% European.

That being said I still support Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss even if she isn't ethnic. I just hope they will cast ethnic actors to play other characters like Rue and possibly Gale. (At this point I'm guessing they won't go ethnic for Gale just because then he wouldn't look like Katniss' cousin :/)

This post was not at all meant to bash anybodies ideas or feelings. I merely wanted to say that we Hunger Games fans aren't crazy and that the people who are saying they wish Katniss was ethnic are just as valid as the people who are saying that Katnisses ethnicity doesn't matter.

In closing I would just like to show you this awesome fan art that Katie over at Sophistikatied Reviews made of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss! You can see her post about it here.

Pretty awesome ehhh? And is it just me or does she look kind of like Kelly Clarkson in this picture? Haha.

So how do you guys feel about Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss? Do you think she's gonna be amazing? Did you have another favorite (personally I wanted Hailee Steinfeld.....) that you wish had gotten the part instead? Do you think Katniss' ethnicity is an important component of the story? Sound off in the comments! I would love to know what you guys think.

Julia :)



  2. 'Olive skin' doesn't make someone biracial. It never said anything about Katniss being biracial in the books...unless I missed it.

  3. And her mom and sister were both fair skinned and she had the same dad as Prim so... she was a white character. Probably tanned from always being outside.

    I do agree with the point that it's a double standard to give white actors/actresses the black roles but not the other way round.

  4. I agree with the Anonymous poster. It's been a while since I read the first book, but I don't remember anything about Katniss being biracial. Is there a specific passage you can cite that says this?

    Having said that, I was also disappointed with the news. I honestly can't picture Lawrence as Katniss, but at the same time, I'm sure she'll do a phenomenal job.

  5. Agreed. I pictured Katniss as a multiracial character. Also, I pictured her as quite skinny... and this girl is very curvacious, not how I would picture someone who comes from the Seam. But other than that, I suppose I'll get over it and accept her eventually. I mean, I was never going to be completely satisfied with the casting. I'll just have to accept that movie Katniss is going to look different from book Katniss. The important thing is that she gets Katniss' personality right!

  6. Great post! I've not read Hunger Games, but from what I understand, race is an important factor to the series. I find it frustrating that Lionsgate decided to white wash the character (I am assuming Katniss is biracial or multiracial from the recent hubbub about Lawrence being cast).

    I agree with everything you say in this post. Tanning a white girl and calling her biracial-- how is that any different from those racist "black face" characters of the past?
    And I do believe that physical characteristics have an impact on one's character. Plain and simple, white people do not feel the prejudices that people of color do, and I have to assume that has an impact on someone. The people who say these characteristics aren't important aren't able to look past their privilege. It's so frustrating!

  7. @Anonymous and Beth S: It is true that the book never states that Katniss is biracial however how many white people do you know that have naturally black hair and tan skin? I know none. And Katniss isn't the only Seam person who is described as having tan skin. Everyone from the Seam had skin that color. And a lot of them spent their time in the mines and not out in the woods like Katniss so one can assume that she doesn't "just have a tan." Some fans have come to the conclusion that Katniss could be biracial because her mom was blonde and fair skinned and her dad had more ethnic features like the black hair and tan skin. I know that lots of biracial families can have one child with darker features and another who looks completely white. It all depends on the genes and all that. I'm not saying that she is for certain biracial but I also don't think that she is for certain white. Thats why I said "a supposed biracial character" in my post just like I said that Rue is a "supposed black character." Its never said outright that Rue is black but that doesn't mean that she isn't right? :)

  8. I don't think that her appearance is as a big deal as people are making it out to be. After all, hollywood made a short man look like a giant named hagrid. They can do a lot with hair color, makeup and computers. (they also removed Angelina Jolee's blood shot eye color from gone in 60 seconds.)

    I rmember Katniss having dark hair and olive skin, lots of white people I know do have that combiation. She also had grey eyes and Jennifer does have that. (besides, I don't think she is a natural blonde so she will pull off dark hair) While reading the book assumed that one reason she had darker skin was because she spent so much time outside hunting.

    The difficult thing about putting an amazing book on film is that we as readers have an image of what we imagine the book to be like. I believe that readers insert themselves into the lead roll and sometimes the main character looks a little like ourselves, because we feel and live the story right along with the lead character. We identify with her and for that reason an onscreen katniss will never look like it does in my head. (Nor will the seam, the capitol and many other aspects of the book)

    This movie has a huge budget and the backing/participation of suazaane collins. I am excited to see how it turns out - and hopefully we will all love it.

    The biggest factor in the success of the movie is if Jennifer can act. That she can do. She is oscar nomiated. I think she will have a more difficult time learning to shoot a bow and arrow. It is a difficult skill to learn, one that she will have to pull off because the bow is part of Katniss, the girl on fire.

    (great post by the way, its always exciting to see when you strike a chord with your followers)

  9. The books never mentioned that Katniss is biracial so making an issue out of it is beyond the line of being reasonable. Jennifer being "curvacious" instead of "underfed" isn't a big deal. Have you seen Christian Bale in the Boxer? Making an issue out of Katniss' character is doing a disservice to her character as a whole.

    I'm Asian, too. I also do think that we are sort of under-represented in popular fiction. But I'd rather be represented in fiction as a person who believes in some things and fucked up on some things than be represented by my race, gender, etc.,

    I do not care how the actress that will play the role look like. I just want them to cast someone who can act. Jennifer Lawrence can act.

    Let's just believe that they are doing everything right until we saw the product. Having issues with small details will just make us passive about the film then eventually hate it. I think it's much more safer if we put our own standards of how the movie should be aside and just wait for the film.

  10. Katniss was biracial? When did it say that?

    There are many Europeans who have black hair and olive skin. Ever heard of the Mediterranean look? Here are a list of countries where you could find Caucasians with black hair/olive skin: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Kosovo, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania...the list could go on. Since you said you have never seen a 'white' person with that color scheme, I thought you should know, there is a whole world of 'dark whites' out there. (I know, I'm one of them!)

    That being said, as good as I though JL's acting was, I wished they had chosen someone darker. I could not get into her as Katniss because the Katniss I pictured did not look so fair. Same goes with Gale....and I'm nervous about his acting ability as well.

  11. This was from a while ago but I went to see the hunger games and Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal as Katniss. I cannot imagine another actress playing the role the way she did. Personally, I don't care that she's caucasian as long as she's a great actress, not that seeing an ethnic actress wouldn't have been nice. I'm Chinese so..yeah. Personally though, I think Jennifer Lawrence looks a little half asian half white to me, especially with the darker hair and no makeup.I seem to be the only one that thinks this though, but I mean her eyes aren't as deep set as most caucasians, and her face is very round, which is an asian characteristic.

  12. ^^Anonymous, you are right about JL's facial features, even in real life she's looks that way. She's definitely got some of genes down the line...BUT...unfortunately 'ignorance' would disagree with you.

  13. No one says this anywhere, but I think Jennifer Lawrence has some Finnish or Scandinavian in her. Maybe her typical English, Irish, etc. roots include some Scandinavian in there. Finns and Scandinavians often have her look - stereotypical Asian-looking, with smallish eyes and a round face. I've heard other people say that Lawrence looks Asian.

    Renee Zellweger is part Finnish, and she looks kind of Asian (before plastic surgery). Matt Damon is part Finnish, too, and you can see the "Asian" look in his eyes.
    The pseudo-Asian look popped up strongly in Bjork, who's Icelandic.

    Anyway, I haven't read the Hunger Games, but I don't think she's supposed to be multiracial. Dark hair, olive skin, and grey eyes sounds fully or predominantly white to me. Even white with Western European roots can have that combination. The author came up with that because it sounds like such an interesting combination, perfect for a heroine in a novel.


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