Whenever Hollywood decides to adapt another famous book, game or television series into a movie franchise, the world gets two reactions: one of joy and one of agony. It’s the same song and dance over and over again. It happened with “Harry Potter,” though a great and memorable cast emerged, and it happened with “The Last Airbender,” which, frankly, no one ever wants to speak of.
Now the same thing is happening with “The Hunger Games.”
“The Hunger Games” is a popular trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, about a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen in a post-apocalyptic North America. Katniss volunteers to take the place of her little sister in a survival tournament known as The Hunger Games held in the Capitol every summer. Two “tributes” are selected at random from each of the 12 districts to be sent to the Capitol for this tournament, which is broadcasted on nationwide television. The first book in the trilogy follows Katniss through the tournament as she tries to stay alive, but soon becomes a real contender and must make weighty decisions during battle.
Back in March, director Gary Ross confirmed that Jennifer Lawrence would be playing the lead role of Katniss in the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling novel. He was amazed with her talent in “Winter’s Bone” and basically hand-picked her for the role, with Collins’s approval. A month later, on April 4, it was announced that Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth would be playing the male leads Peeta and Gale, respectively. Despite the fact that they are all four or five years older than the characters they will be playing, Ross and Collins are confident in this decision.
However, it’s not their age I’m concerned about, or even their acting ability. It’s their skin tones.
In the books, Katniss Everdeen is specifically described as having long, black hair, gray eyes, and olive skin. The first two traits can easily be replicated on any actress to portray the roll, but the last comes from your chromosomes, plain and simple. A fake tan will do no good to truly capture the picture of Katniss Everdeen. Furthermore, it’s also clearly stated in the books that Katniss looks just like every other citizen of the Seam—the lowest of the lower class filling up District 12. These people are all olive skinned with dark hair, and yet none of our main cast members fill these traits.
Is it just me, or does this slightly remind anyone of the “racebending” portrayed in the cast of “The Last Airbender?”
Of course, this time around they may be actors that can really act. I have no doubt in Lawrence’s ability to perform the roll of Katniss. However, given the fact that she was indeed hand-picked, it leaves one to wonder if any Mediterranean actress has a chance? It’s not even that the casting choice is racist—people with olive skin are Caucasian, too, something that fans are overlooking. Many have wondered why Ross didn’t cast a black woman into the part, but the answer is obvious. Katniss is not black, she is white, and she happens to be a different kind of white.
There are probably plenty of Mediterranean actresses that are more than capable of playing the part of Katniss in “The Hunger Games,” but they were all instantly overlooked for the sake of a big-named, standard white girl. As talented as Lawrence is, the casting choice is still iffy. The male casting doesn’t make up for it in the least, in fact, upon hearing this news, I got the two mixed—thinking Hemsworth would be playing Peeta, which could possibly work out. Peeta is from the merchant class of District 12, and is your average blond, white male, just like Hemsworth.
Still, it feels as if olive-skinned actors are being discriminated against by their own race. Directors want their leads to be cookie-cutter white men and women, instead of going just a little off the mark and portraying the character as what they really are. But what, really, does that accomplish for a film? It accomplished nothing for “The Last Airbender.” I have yet to see a film where a white-washed cast is justified in any way.
In the end, these actors don’t embody the true nature of the District 12 teenagers, but hopefully they can make up for it in their performance. Now we’ll just have to wait on the casting results for Haymitch. My top pick is Hugh Laurie, but there’s an entire realm of possibilities for this one.Contact Kelsey Norden.