Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Coffee Chat-Race and Hunger
I should be cleaning my mess of a dining room table, but I just had to take a few moments to continue discussing race. People’s true views always seem to come out at times when you just want to shake your head and say, “REALLY”. So, let’s talk about The Hunger Games.
Let me just say that I have not read the books nor seen the first movie (yet). I have a lot of friends that have been raving about the books and now that the frenzy seems to be growing, I will put them on my to-read list. This morning, I was perusing Facebook and someone linked this this article. Apparently, there is a lot of backlash over the casting of two black characters in the movie. One of these is Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz! I thought white people loved Lenny! It seems you are not so liked when you step off your stage and into the pages of someone’s favorite book.
I too have often been surprised at the casting of characters in a movie from a book that I have read. I am a very visual person so when I read a description of someone, I immediately have a picture of them in my head. A lot of times, Hollywood’s rendition and mine do not match. It takes a bit to get used to but I can honestly say I’ve never had an objection over color. Sometimes I object with the body style of the actor not matching the book’s description or even the actor’s personality, but never their skin color. In most cases (when you look at the kind of movie-from-book adaptations that are happening these days), color doesn’t even matter (Alabaster, sparkly skinned vampires aside). Alas, a mass of Hungry movie-goers do not agree with me.
Some have even gone so far as to say they weren’t upset about one of the characters being killed when they found out she was cast as a black woman. That hurt a bit. It hurt because its such a typical Hollywood thing to have the black actors cast as the expendable characters. It’s like watching the old Star Trek episodes. Based on the color of the uniform, you know who is going to get killed on an away mission. The same is true in many Hollywood movies. I’m always shocked when a black man or woman makes it to the end of the movie. I’m still surprised LL Cool J made it to the end of Deep Blue Sea. Once Samuel Jackson was killed in such grand fashion, I just knew LL was next. But, he made it. That is rare my friends. Very rare indeed.
And now I have to wonder if this backlash points at a bigger issue. Lately, books that I have read have had very loose descriptions when it comes to black characters. Even Suzanne Collins writes the Hunger Games characters as dark skinned rather than flat-out calling them black or African American. Do editors encourage writers to be loosy-goosy with black people. Will a book with no black characters or easily exchangeable characters be more likely to be optioned into film or tv?If you are a writer (published or not) or avid book-to-movie buff, I would like to know what you think. Do you shy away from black characters?