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The Hunger Games and the limits of white imagination

The Hunger Games and the limits of white imagination

Olivia Cole writes in Huffington Post on the negative reaction to the brilliant and kind character of Beetee, portrayed by African American actor Jeffrey Wright:

…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.

Cole dives into the psyche of those whose imaginations insist on “good guys” that are white and “bad guys” who are black, suggesting that the notions taught by patriarchy and white supremacy have made this common.

We can choose to transform our ideas of heroes and who can be good, and kind, and brave. The alternative is bleak. If even our imaginations are irrevocably bound to what patriarchal and white supremacist doctrines prescribe, then we’re in trouble. The moment we kill the thing in us that imagines change and difference and growth is the moment we kill any hope of a better world. The world inThe Hunger Games may not be “better,” but how much worse is it really when it can imagine a genius hero who is black… and we can’t?


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I have not read the book, nor do I intend to see the movie. But I do have to say that “ashen skin” is not a description that would make me visualize a character as black. A quick check of Google images for “ashen skin” brings up a slew of pasty, pale Goth types (with the notable exception of Jeffrey Wright). A check of Collins English Dictionary tells us that “Someone who is ashen looks very pale, especially because they are ill, shocked, or frightened. ” So I think we can let the book’s fans off the hook for not thinking that the character in the movie accurately reflects the description of the character given in the book.

Bill Dilworth


After the first (HG) movie, BuzzFeed posted a collection of ignorant, racist tweets along the lines of “I was looking for cute little Rue, and instead there was a BLACK girl!” [FYI, the book *stated* Rue was black]

Cliche’ but true: haters gonna hate.

JC Fisher

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