Rue is Black!!
This was the email I got from the baby’s godmother. If you don’t have a teen in your life you may not know about Rue and the Hunger Games, but trust, they’re big.
Hunger games is a young adult dystopian novel that’s like a fight to the death reality show with children. Rue is a pivotal character both in terms of the survival of Katniss, the main character, and the shaping of the revolution. She is described in the book as being brown. Of course, the descriptions of characters in the book did not stop casting directors from bringing in their own biases.
Suzanne Collins, the book’s author, wasn’t very specific about Katniss’ ethnicity. She has dark hair, gray eyes and olive skin. I read her as being kind of multi-racial, a little Asian and white and Black maybe? Collins has said race wasn’t a sticking point for her, but the casting call was for white women. Really? Really, casting people? That said, I was nervous about Rue. I did not want them to cast a cute little white girl.
Don’t get me wrong, little white girls are fine, but little black girls are also cute and they also like acting jobs. There are not enough representations of African-Americans on-screen period, let alone of children. It’s important for all children, but especially those who do not often see faces that look like theirs on the big screen. How long did it take Disney to create a Black princess? I’m tired of the images that too often dominate the media and reflect the white is good/Black is bad dichotomy.
So this is terrific news. Rue would be a great character for any young person to play. Rue saves Katniss and is a catalyst for the overall revolution for the story.
Seeing positive representations on-screen in more important now for kids and teens than ever. With Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa’s piece: “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” it’s as though it’s okay to make racism scientific. “I’m not racist, it’s just science that I don’t date Black women.” There are so many ways in which Black children, especially Black girls are told that they aren’t as good as or as pretty as other children. Why else would we feel the need to perm a seven year old’s hair? Or add extensions to a one year old? When I was little, I wanted long, flowing down my back hair like barbie. (Even the Black barbie has long, flowing down her back hair!) This little girl has braids! Maybe this will go a little further is helping everyone, including little Black girls, see that brown chicks have it going on.
Rue is a smart, capable, determined little hero. This is someone kids could emulate. Given that the book and movie are for teens, I am even more excited that Rue is played by a Black actress. Not for nothing, but adults are pretty set in their ways. Teens, while not post-racial, (I love the term post-racial. It’s like hope and naïveté all in one) are more open and malleable. It’s when movies are cast with people of color that those who feel that white is just “normal” and the default have their views challenged.
While I do not think seeing one movie with one Black character will bring us all together in a kum-bah-yah moment, I do think people in general need to see a variety of hues in the media as heroes. The more you see people of color as the good guys, the less you’ll clutch your purse when you see a Black guy in the elevator. Every little bit helps. Until then, congratulations to Amandla Sternberg on her new role!