As white people, we are used to representations of ourselves crowding the covers of magazines, crowning the posters of newly released films. The good guys are white, we have learned, after eons of our faces being plastered under cowboy hats and in impeccable Bond suits. White men are Superman, we have learned. White men are Ethan Hunt and Neo and white men are hobbits. Bad men, we have learned, are black. They’re gang bangers and thugs and talk loud and sometimes deliver funny lines where we laugh at their Otherness. Black men aren’t heroes, we learn. Our imagination and subconscious are so saturated with white supremacist notions of goodness, beauty, and heroism, that when confronted head-on with an image of a black man who is brilliant and kind and normal and who saves the day, we transform into robotic versions of ourselves: Does… not… compute. Hero… must be… white. It’s this line of thinking that turned Disney’s Princess Tiana into an animal for 95 percent of the movie. The collective white imagination had difficulty imagining a black girl as a princess… and so she became a frog.
First they freaked out when Rue was black; this time it’s Beetee.
The next day on the bus, I overheard a young woman and her friends — who had just come from the film, apparently — exchanging their thoughts about what they had just seen, and the young woman said, “I thought it was awesome. Well, except for Beetee. Why the f*ck did they make him black? Beetee wasn’t black.”…. After hearing this young woman’s comment, I jumped on Twitter and searched mentions of Beetee’s name. I came across the usual racist vitriol, but there was the occasional tweet that looked like this:
Like, it’s not the fact that he’s black, IT’S THE FACT THAT HE ISN’T BEETEE.— kitchen sink (@walkinginnuendo) September 7, 2012
I saw more of the same in comment sections on various articles around the web. Never read the comment sections, guys. Really. And it has led me to believe that the problem isn’t that Hunger Games purists who believe that Beetee looked a certain way were disappointed that the film strayed from that representation, it’s that white audiences in America are afflicted with a certain limitation of the imagination when it comes to the representation of characters they are fond of.
I am so angry because people who don’t understand how white washing is a thing and happens so often and yes that character is NOT white, sorry that you keep defaulting characters to being white.
lol at your ‘diverse casting’ where every single poc winds up dead
Honestly, I think I still do it on initial reads a fair amount — I can’t pretend I won’t. I assumed that Daneca in The Curse Workers was white, for example, and I’m pretty sure now that she is not meant to be white at all.
It’s hard to give any sort of advice about it IMO because I think a lot of writers either defer to stereotypes to “hint” that characters are of a certain race or ethnicity without saying it outright, and that is a whole kettle of ugly fish unto itself, because USING those stereotyped “hints” buys into those stereotypes and reinforces them more, which is also problematic.
For the THG characters, and the characters in a lot of dystopian books currently, the ways that the futuristic cultures around them operate can be one way to figure them out — but again, that can also be problematic, because the only reason Katniss’ portrayal isn’t appropriative IS with the assumption that she is a WoC, but then instead of appropriative, it’s fairly stereotypical of “Native American” tropes.
I guess one of the other things is just to think logically about stuff, like — if Frank Zhang is described as a Chinese-Canadian teenager, probably Cory Monteith wasn’t the best fancast for him, being a white guy in his 30s. (Not that Cory wasn’t a lovely person. He just was not Chinese. Or a teenager.) Or that if Carter and Sadie Kane are siblings and biracial, they are /both biracial, not just Carter, duh/. Or that Anubis is literally an Egyptian god; he isn’t going to be a white guy! Cassel’s mother’s maiden name was Singh; etc.
The other thing is just to, when you can, consciously challenge yourself to see characters who are not specifically stated to be white as not white. There aren’t traits that mean a character MUST be white (except being literally labeled as white, like Peeta Mellark, etc). Finnick has green eyes; he is not white. Etienne St. Clair has brown curly hair and brown eyes — he could easily be a PoC. Akiva is the most beautiful male specimen in all of existence, obviously he’s Zayn Malik.
It’s not an easy thing to unlearn. Like, I’m not going to lie to you, I definitely fuck up about it a lot and I have to work hard and reread things and catch myself before I fuck up about it in public. My old fancasts for things are a mess — even when I wasn’t assuming people were white, I was fancasting people as the wrong ethnicity all willy-nilly; it was gross. *I* was gross. But I’m trying to unlearn and relearn, and it’s a process. For everyone! :) It’s a good thing to be working on, even though it’s hard.
so suzanne collins demands buttercup the cat gets recast, but movie katniss is still white
I see a lot of people pointing out that Suzanne was involved in the casting, and I just want to ask these people how many productions or large projects they’ve been apart of with a team of people. If you ever have, you’ll know that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to follow through with your vision, when so many people are trying to do the same. If Suzanne’s vision of her book was a multicultural society, even if she made that clear to the people in production of the film, if the people involved in the casting thought that casting a diverse cast would cause them to lose money on the film, them THEY’RE NOT GOING TO DO IT. I highly doubt Suzanne was apart of the CASTING CALL, where only white actors were asked to try for the part of Katniss. Most likely, she was in on the casting, apart of it, but certainly not allowed to give the final word or provide approval- even if she was, I highly doubt she went through the entire process of EVERY SINGLE audition and call back. EVEN IF SHE WAS, I doubt she did more than nod at everything else the other people said, because SHE IS NOT IN THE MOVIE MAKING BUSINESS. She is a WRITER. Not a casting director. If I were in her position, I would have said and did what I believed made everyone comfortable. I would have kept my mouth shut when they brought in a bunch of white girls for the part of my VERY MUCHLY NOT WHITE character. In conclusion, I would like to point out that Suzanne Collins is white. If she was involved in the casting, even if she had final say on who should play who- it probably never even occurred to her that white people shouldn’t play as her NOT WHITE characters, because, for her, and MOST people, white is seen as the default race.
“People have no idea how often this happens. I have seen similar things happen to almost every writer I know who has written characters of color prominent enough so they could be on their covers.
Sometimes these writers get whitewashed covers they are forced to swallow… Sometimes the covers get changed, but if the books sell badly the covers (and the writers) are blamed, and the writer may not get another contract. People are being punished in this way, for writing characters of color, every day.“"
- young adult author Sarah Rees Brennan.
Check out Racebending.com’s full interview with young adult authors Sarah Rees Brennan and Holly Black. They talk about writing and advocating for diverse characters, non-whitewashed book covers, and more as allies in the industry. If you’ve ever wondered how publishing or book covers works, read on!
I add, naturally, that it is still a very important thing to do because… if you don’t do it—if you do write all-white all-straight no-diversity worlds—you are a worse writer and also someone participating in a great evil.
Holly Black and I were asked to do this interview, and we were honoured! I am by no means an expert on the subject, but this is something I feel we should all be talking about. And I hope I do not sound too silly, and I know Holly sounds smart because she usually does. ;) And I hope you find something interestin’ herein!
Go read Sarah being very smart!!
You know, usually when I get questions like this, I’m kind of mean to the person, but given the mountain of nonsense I’ve had to climb on tumblr today, this is actually a pretty good message. I like that, even though you, by your own admission, assumed Katniss was white as a result of the movie, you’re willing to both admit and investigate the possibility that you might be wrong. I respect that, seriously. It’s something there isn’t enough of on tumblr, and I’m really glad you’re seeking out other opinions and sources of information, and even if you don’t end up agreeing with me, I’m glad you’re willing to consider my points from a place of learning, rather than a place of argument. I apologize if my tone in this response seems angry or frustrated, but as you may have seen, I’ve had something of an angry, frustrating day, and this is a subject I’m particularly passionate about, but any frustration isn’t directed at you, it’s mostly directed at Lionsgate Films, some parts of the Hunger Games fandom, and society in general.
Katniss’ mother was white. Her father was Seam, an oppressed ethnic group that does not exist in our world. Olive skin means you have green and gold undertones in your skin, and is a feature that is can exist in any race. For example, in my head right now, I know a Puerto Rican woman who has olive skin, an Indian man who has olive skin, a Green man who has olive skin, a Filipino woman and a Filipino man who both have olive skin, an entire Moroccan family that has olive skin, a black man who has olive skin, several Colombian people who have olive skin, and that’s literally just the people I thought of off the top of my head.
The status of being white isn’t just decided by having white skin, nor by descending from Europeans. Lots of Asian people have white skin, but are not considered white, and lots of people of color have European ancestors. Whiteness is an umbrella term that covers people to whom society gives white privilege. What was “white” 100 years ago is not the same as what’s “white” today.
My grandfather, for example. He was Italian (specifically Sicilian) and in his youth, had olive skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He was born in 1919, died in 2005. When he was born, he wasn’t white. When he died, he was. He didn’t change, the umbrella of white privilege just expanded to include Italian people.
(Fun fact: my grandfather grew up in one of the coal mining towns District 12 was based on, where Italian and Greek immigrants, who were not considered white at the time, were the miners and the wealthier German and Anglo residents were the merchants)
"Seam" is an ethnic minority group, sharing many physical attributes (hair, eye, and skin color), culture, and is discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity. The seam people are forced to work the more difficult, lower-paying jobs, have higher frequency of poverty and starvation, and are more often tributes in the games, because their poverty forces them to take out tesserae. There’s also significant prejudice and hate thrown their way on the basis of their ethnicity. Just look at the way Peeta’s mother talks about "seam kids." Go back and replace "seam" with "hood" and it becomes immediately clear that what she’s saying is incredibly racist. Katniss even describes the way people in the seam look, then contrasts it against the white merchants, and comments on the fact that people seem to like Prim better (even though Katniss shares all of Prim’s good character traits, thanks to V Arrow for bringing that part to my attention).
So based on the structure of Panem society, the fact that Katniss is a member of a discriminated-against ethnic group means she’s not white, no matter where her distant ancestors hail from. Whatever race Katniss would be in our world, in her world, she is a woman of color.
So when you’re showing a cinematic version of Katniss, for example, if you cast someone who’s white in our world, then the fact that she’s a woman of color in her world doesn’t read with the audience because we don’t live in Panem, and “white” to us isn’t necessarily the same as “white” to Panem. So when you’re casting Katniss, you should cast an actress who’s a woman of color in our world, because if you cast a white woman, then the fact that she’s a woman of color in her world is completely lost on audiences who live on modern earth and not in Panem.
And you’re right, Katniss is multiracial, as is Prim (unless you subscribe to V’s comprehensive Prim theory, which I personally do not, but I respect how solid it is). However, Katniss described Seeder as having a lot of features in common with herself, going as far as to say the only thing about Seeder that she didn’t share with people from the Seam is her eye color. You may remember that after so many Hunger Games fans went off on racist rants because Rue was cast as black, Suzanne Collins had to come out and confirm that the District 11 tributes in the series were black. In fact, it’s one of the few whitewashing opportunities that the Hunger Games film franchise opted not to take. This is the woman who plays Seeder in Catching Fire:
(Incidentally, Maria Howell, the actress pictured
So that’s the thing, Katniss is supposed to be a multiracial woman who has the same skin tone as a black woman. Even if, by today’s standards, she is Mediterranean, the character has brown skin, and the actress who plays her should share that feature, especially given Hollywood’s tendency to prefer people with light skin over people with dark skin.
And to go back to your original point, that she would be an olive-skinned, black haired woman who is possibly Mediterranean (Spanish, Greek, Italian, Turkish, Moroccan et cetera), the big issue is that Jen Lawrence is not that person. Katniss, the black-haired, brown-skinned, olive-toned woman who explicitly describes her ethnicity in contrast to white people, was played by a pale, white, blonde woman with no olive tones in her skin, and the other two major characters of color were also cast as pale, white, blonde people with no olive tones in their skin. They remembered to cast Seeder (who, I can’t stress this hard enough, has the same skin color as Katniss) as black, but exclusively auditioned white actors for Katniss, Gale, and Haymitch and ended up casting people who ultimately needed to be cosmetically modified with dyes and bronzers so they could come close to resembling their characters. The difference is, of course, that Seeder has very little screentime and doesn’t live very long, whereas Katniss, Gale, and Haymitch are central characters who are on screen a lot, and Hollywood isn’t even a little bit ashamed of their belief that movies don’t sell unless they star white people.
So that’s kind of the crux of it. Katniss, in the books, is olive-skinned with dark black hair, has the same skin tone as a black character (who resembles another black character, whose skin is “satiny brown”), and spends a while describing the community dynamics, power imbalance, and discrimination she faces as a Seam woman in contrast to her white neighbors, white mother, and white-passing sister. Katniss, in the movies, is a pale white woman with medium-brown hair, who is significantly lighter-skinned than all the minor characters of color whose skin is described as looking like hers, and who never mentions her ethnicity, never describes the power imbalance between the people of the Seam and the white merchants, never seems to encounter any sort of prejudice because she’s from the seam, nothing like that. In fact, a great deal of what makes Katniss Katniss disappears if she’s white, because so much of what she does is based on her culture, on the experience of her being mixed-race, on the fact that she grew up thinking Seam features were unattractive and Prim was prettier than her because she looks white, on the fact that all the living District 12 victors are from the same part of town as her, on the fact that the people with olive skin and dark hair are forced to live in a worse part of town and perform harder jobs that pay less while the people with light skin and hair get to live in a better part of town and do less dangerous work that pays better. It’s really important that Katniss is a woman of color in her world, especially since it’s made abundantly clear that racism is still a pretty pervasive thing in Panem, and a thing that Katniss experiences her fair share of, even from “good” characters like Effie.
Anyway, the point is, no matter what Katniss’ ancestry, her experience in Panem is not one of racial privilege, and there is no version of the physical description of the character where she looks like Jennifer Lawrence.
Thanks for listening! Hope you have a good night! If you want to read a better-constructed, clearer argument by someone who’s better at citing their sources, I can’t recommend The Panem Companion highly enough. It’s less than ten dollars and it explains how Panem works way better than I ever could.
Interpreting a character whose race, background and looks are not known and/or never stated (in books, for instance) as white is not whitewashing.
That’s true, but the fact that people immediately default to white in the absence of any of that information definitely says something.
#HEADCANON CHARACTERS HOWEVER YOU WANT SERIOUSLY #but you CANNOT tell me that automatically headcanoning a character whose racial background is unknown as white #has nothing to do with the culture of white supremacy and lack of representation of poc that you’ve been accustomed to #because your headcanons DO NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM #and you NEED to be aware of that #AND IF I SEE ANOTHER TEXT POST THAT SAYS ‘NOW I’M RELUCTANT TO HEADCANON A CHARACTER AS WHITE THANKS A LOT ~TUMBLR SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIORS~’ #I AM GOING TO FUCKING PUNCH YOU IN THE MOUTH #BECAUSE HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL ABOUT THE WAY LITERALLY EVERYONE IS RELUCTANT TO HEADCANON ANYBODY AS EAST ASIAN #FOR FUCK’S SAKE IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEADCANON SOMEONE AS WHITE THEN JUST DO IT #BUT STOP TRYING TO MAKE ~TUMBLR SOCIAL JUSTICE~ ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE MAD AT YOU ABOUT THE WAY YOU’RE DRAWING HIM #BECAUSE IN MATTERS REGARDING RACE ~TUMBLR SOCIAL JUSTICE~ IS NOT ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE #AND IT NEVER WILL BE ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE
- Angry Asian Man blogger Phil Yu on WB’s new film, White Devil.
Not to mention, Warner Bros recently whitewashed the upcoming film All You Need is Kill (main character Keiji Kiriya somehow morphed into a guy played by Tom Cruise) and put out two films with yellowface: Cloud Atlas and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Warner Bros is also still trying to make fetch happen with a whitewashed Akira, those wascally wabbits.
Yeah, that post is right. It is time to stop talking about Holly’s skin, because there is no room for discussion.
Holly’s skin is brown. That’s it. That’s the only correct answer. The books explicitly describe Holly’s skin as brown. The actress who plays her should have brown skin. That’s it. That’s the only correct answer.
This isn’t a debate. Holly’s skin is explicitly, indisputably brown. That’s all. There isn’t another valid side to this argument. If you’re arguing against that, then your argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on, because in the books she is explicitly stated to be brown-skinned.
If the actress playing Holly has brown skin, then great, there’s no need to talk about it because they got it right.
If they cast a white actress as Holly, though, then you had better strap the fuck in because we haven’t even begun to talk about Holly’s skin color.
“What I was most concerned about, when they were casting, was finding actors that could capture the internal world of the character, as opposed to exactly matching the description that I wrote. In that sense, I think it’s been really amazing. When I was watching them act, I was like, ‘Yes, this is it! This is the person! You did such a good job!’” - Veronica Roth
Mmmm, yes, the ever-popular “it just HAPPENED that all of the best actors and most soulful people were white!!!!!!! NOT ON PURPOSE!” defense. I’d be interested to see whether the casting sheets were even open to people “matching the descriptions that [Roth] wrote” for this movie, because… I doubt it.
You don’t end up with a 30-year-old white dude playing an 18-year-old black character on accident, OR because they were “best option” available. If a 30-year-old white dude is the best option for playing an 18-year-old black character, then something’s sincerely wrong with the characterization in the first place.
Gonna quickly throw in an epic quote I found on this article.
KJKJ: Gene Roddenberry, with balls of brass, got up on national tv and said, “hey people, if a geneticist took all the best DNA from planet Earth and put it together to make the best human the world has ever seen - he wouldn’t be a white guy.”
This is why I find the casting of a white actor in this role to be so repugnant. They are not whitewashing an Asian role, they are saying that the best genetic material that the entirety of this world and it’s diversity has to offer….still comes from a white guy.
Reblogging again for that
Gene Roddenberry was the shit and J.J. Abrams is just shit