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we saw wut u did thar, paramount
The Hunger Games casting 
26th-Feb-2011 01:30 am
angry, klonk
Hey all. I don't post here often, but I think this is relevant.

The Hunger Games is a popular young adult fiction series being adapted into a film by "Lionsgate Entertainment". The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is described as having grey eyes, olive skin, and dark hair. What's more, this seems to be a characteristics endemic to the place she lives, shared by her best friend and nearly everyone in her community, making it extremely likely it is a racial characteristic. In fact, it is a made a point of that Katniss's family is mixed, her father of darker complexion and her mother (being more affluent) is lighter, and her sister inherited her mother's looks. My friend on Tumblr put it best:

Katniss does come from a mixed family. It is never specified exactly what race, but both Katniss and Gale are described as olive-skinned with black hair and grey eyes (imaginary genetics maybe to get the eyes, I don’t know, not my field). I would generally expect Katniss’s actor to be of Mediterranean, Latin, Middle Eastern, or Asian descent. It was made a relatively significant plot point that Katniss’s mother came from a more affluent family, where-in nearly everyone at that income level was pale skinned with blue eyes and usually light-colored hair. Katniss’s mother and her sister Prim are supposed to be a contrast Katniss and the other people in the Seam because they are white gals with blonde hair. It makes them stand out as Katniss’s mother was not being born to that life. It was an important CONTRAST to the Capitol lifestyle that Katniss’s mother went with love rather that societal comfort and staying within her expected income bracket.


Whether Katniss is supposed to be mixed POC is debatable, but it seems very likely she is. She is definitely a role POC shouldn't be barred from playing, thanks to her description. The casting call for the Hunger Games came out recently. Did it ask for someone dark haired, or olive skinned? No. It did, however, specify Caucasian.
  • 15 to 20 years old
  • Caucasian
  • “underfed but strong”
  • “naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness”
At the very least, Katniss's role should be open ethnicity. Barring talented PoC women from the role is inexcusable.

I was wondering what we could do about this. I think sending letters to LionsGate would be a good start. I wonder what Susanne Collins (the author's) thoughts would be on this as well.

The information about the casting call is here.
Comments 
26th-Feb-2011 06:47 am (UTC) - What Racebending.com has done so far
Racebending.com has placed repeated calls to Lionsgate to speak to their diversity officers. I cannot understate how hard they blew me off the repeated times I called and emailed their operator. It was such a contrast to Disney and Marvel; those studios immediately put me through to the correct offices once I explained who I was and why I was calling.

In addition, Racebending.com has sent letters to Lionsgate President Alli Shearmur, who will be overseeing the production of The Hunger Games. Click here to read a letter that was sent on November 9th, 2010.

In the letter, we remind Lionsgate to consider actors of color for the role of Katniss encourage Lionsgate to “affirm its commitment to diversity” and “encourage the production of The Hunger Games to pursue a fair and open casting process.”

To date, all of our attempts to contact the production have received no response or follow up.
26th-Feb-2011 06:50 am (UTC) - Re: What Racebending.com has done so far
Our Position:

We believe the production of The Hunger Games should place their focus on Katniss’s physical characteristics, rather than reserving the role for “Caucasian” actors. Katniss’s olive skin and black hair are traits that could be possessed by someone of any race, including someone of mixed race.

We believe that as long as they fit the physical description, non-white actors should have the same opportunities to audition for the role of Katniss that white actors currently have.

Race and ethnicity as defined today are not clearly delineated in Suzanne Collins’s writing. This does not mean that the characters are ethnically or racially “neutral.” Certainly the actors who will be selected to play them will have a perceived ethnicity that has already influenced their chances of success in an entertainment industry that currently privileges white actors.

The characters from this futuristic fantasy world are not necessarily white. We do not think the casting of these characters should be only limited to white actors.

There are already several opportunities for white actors to play important characters in the story–such as Peeta, Prim, and Finnick, all of whom are described as blonde in the novels. Allowing more than just white actors to audition for other roles in The Hunger Games would open up opportunities to actors of color and flesh out the fictional world of Panem. It would also help the production avoid awkward cliches, such as the token black sidekick whose touching and untimely death serves the purpose of further advancing the white hero’s character development and narrative.

If all of the lead protagonists of The Hunger Games are cast with white actors, the production may unintentionally present an unrealistic and stereotypical vision of a future where the only people who make significant decisions and have interesting stories are white. People of color and people of mixed ethnicity should be present and play important roles in movie depictions of a future America.
26th-Feb-2011 06:55 am (UTC) - Re: What Racebending.com has done so far
If you have any questions or (especially) tips on The Hunger Games casting, please email me at mleeATracebending-dot-com.

LIKEWISE, if you are a fan of The Hunger Games, and are interested in volunteering for this particular issue, please let me know. We need hardcore fans of the series to brief Racebending.com staffers who are less familiar with the series. We needs folks to snip quotes from the books. We need people who are tracking the casting of the film already anyway to keep us up to date on the latest news. We would love to post guest articles from fans about how classism and racism intersect in the world of The Hunger Games. Thanks!
26th-Feb-2011 07:20 am (UTC) - Re: What Racebending.com has done so far
Thanks for the response! I wasn't aware of the letter, bad on me for not looking it up. I can post in my blog asking fans if they'd be willing to volunteer, and I'll do what I can to help.

If I can ask, what is the address for Ms. Shearmur and Lions Gate others can send letters to as well?
26th-Feb-2011 07:36 am (UTC) - Re: What Racebending.com has done so far
We didn't widely publicize the letter. At this point, we're trying to figure out what the best course of action would be. We are not entirely sure that letters would help given it would be hard for them to differentiate between our concerns and all of the fan submissions for the casting.
26th-Feb-2011 06:53 am (UTC)
Oh, FUCK no.

Just tell me where to send my angry letters.
26th-Feb-2011 07:05 am (UTC)
I wish I was surprised. :/
26th-Feb-2011 07:36 am (UTC)
I'm not very familiar with the franchise, but I'm down to call the studio out on erasure via letter for'sure.
26th-Feb-2011 08:50 am (UTC)
Oh HEEEEELL no.
I'll bet the excuse is "WE CAN'T FIND ANYONE WITH DARK HAIR AND GREY EYES WHO IS ALSO MIXED I MEAN COME ON GUYS". Which is stupid. If those specifics are characterized in the casting call, I'm sure they'll find SOMEONE. Or at LEAST a close second (someone with blue eyes maybe?)

Mmmmmm Lionsgate, don't make me have to climb up in yo' window and snatch yo' people up. ):
26th-Feb-2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
Eye-color isn't even an issue. No one cared when blue-eyed Daniel Radcliffe played green-eyed Harry Potter. And brown-eyed Orlando Bloom played blue-eyed Legolas easily with colored contacts.

So they don't even have to find someone with dark hair and grey eyes who is also mixed–they just need dark hair. If they use the "but we need grey eyes!" excuse for casting only white people, I will punch walls.
4th-Mar-2011 06:16 am (UTC)
OMGZ only white ppl should audition 4 katara n sokka becuz they hav blue eyes, which is why Nicola and Jackson have green eyez! AUTHENTICITY!
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26th-Feb-2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
Not only that, they're seriously asking the girls to appear UNDERFED. Never mind the fact that Katniss made a big deal in the books that she IS able to get the family enough to eat thanks to her hunting skills. She's definitely thin, and doesn't get anything extra to eat, but she's mostly desribed as "athletic and strong". Even if she was underfed, putting that in the casting description? Skeezy.

And yeah, for the record, Katniss is never described as pretty in the books. She probably looks all right, and she's suprised when her prep team for the games makes her beautiful in special events but...I like how they have to
"excuse" her tomboyishness with OH BUT SHE'S PRETTY and how she's pretty "despite" her tomboyishness- because tomboy cancels out pretty lol!
26th-Feb-2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I figured at much, I was just quoting my friend for the good points she made about the race/class dynamics in the books. :)
28th-Feb-2011 12:53 am (UTC)
Oh no. Gray eyes are not impossible.
I just vaguely reacall reading somewhere (at some point) that gray eyes was a genetic near impossibility in combination with Katniss's other features, and yet it was presented as the normal combo for people in the Seam. I'm not familiar with genetics not my field, so I don't know if that is true or not.
4th-Mar-2011 06:21 am (UTC)
From what I've read, gray eyes in real life are a blue kind of gray. Aang's eyes are black-gray, which I think is not possible in real life. As for the Hunger Games, I don't know what kind of gray eyes the character has. Is this a story set in a fictional world? If so, I'd imagine her eyes are black-gray, which was what I thought of when I read her character description. If black-gray eyes really aren't possible in real life then it makes sense to get white people because only they can have nonexistant eyes.
26th-Feb-2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
Um...

*Sighs*

Elrond, hook a girl up, will you? :)

http://www.jo.spacia.org/elrond/pics/elrond-carriewall01.gif

Right.

That said, I'll definitely go out looking for Italian actresses? (Katniss is Italian, right? I just got that from the "olive-skinned" description. :) /is shot)
26th-Feb-2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
isn't Hailee Steinfeld (of True Grit) supposedly in the running? I thought I'd read that she's part Filipino.
26th-Feb-2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
She is part Filipino and part black, and I would love if she played Katniss! I know she's interested in the role but I don't know who counts as "in the running." :/
26th-Feb-2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Another mixed-race actress who's interested in the role: Malese Jow. Who's my top choice, personally. I just feel like that "caucasian" specification is going to kick her out or something. x_x
27th-Feb-2011 01:19 am (UTC)
I was thinking she'd make a good Katniss (even though I'd never read the books).
27th-Feb-2011 04:02 am (UTC)
I've read them, and she'd be a fabulous Katniss. :D
4th-Mar-2011 06:26 am (UTC)
Wow, she's part Filipino and black? I thought that she was straight up white. She must be 1/64th black or another small fraction. I guess she can play Rosa Parks because she's part black. "But she's part black, and looks it!" Someone who is mostly nonwhite can't play a white person in a live action role even if they're a small part white. That makes sense!
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27th-Feb-2011 01:20 am (UTC)
:S
1st-Mar-2011 07:31 am (UTC)
I think it's a false alarm, they are going with a big name star.

http://screenrant.com/hailee-steinfeld-hunger-games-movie-sandy-103643/

Hailee Steinfeld-Jewish, Asian, African Americn
Kaya Scodelario-half Brazilian
Chloe Moretz -White
Lyndsy Fonseca-half Portuguese
4th-Mar-2011 06:42 am (UTC)
There's a discussion over at IMDB on Hailee Steinfeld's board.
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