After watching Catching Fire, I realized the Hunger Games movie franchise has a massive problem with race. Here are my observations solely from the second movie.
It is a little known secret with how disappointed I was when Katniss had been whitewashed. Jennifer Lawrence is a very talented actress, but Katniss comes from a world where everyone was some form of mixed. Catching Fire had the opportunity to show the diversity of the Districts. Johanna is described as having wide-set brown eyes and short brown hair. Finnick is extremely handsome: tall and muscular with tan skin, bronze-colored hair, and sea-green eyes. With these two particularly prominent supporting characters, Catching Fire could have easily introduced POC characters. The physical descriptions are open enough for any POC actor to fulfill, and yet, representation throughout the Districts is still all white. The casting was a disappointment, a clue that even in a book that was set in a post-racial world, movie producers did not trust POC actors could be in this franchise.
There is a scene in the movie introducing the other District Tributes in the training arena. The only POC prominently featured is Enoboria who just so happened to have filed her teeth into razor-sharp points. Sure, I should be happy that there was at least one person of color who was a victor (played by the beautiful Meta Golding). And I always love seeing bloodthirsty, strong females who aren’t afraid of killing – it’s rare to find that in popular culture. However, when Enoboria bared her hideous fangs at Katniss, it emphasized her Otherness. She wasn’t a dignified killing machine like the other tributes – she was a savage animal, wilder and crazier, filled with bloodlust.
There were literally zero live Asians in the movie. None in the Capitol or in the Districts. Am I seriously supposed to believe there aren’t any Asians whatsoever existing within the decimated United States? …Really?
The one thing that incensed me the most was the proud statement about the recasting of Buttercup, the cat. Yes, there was a press release about the cat that hisses. It was the one thing Suzanne Collins (author) and Nina Jacobson (producer) adamantly insisted on recasting to be a little more faithful to the series. Meanwhile, Collins can shy away from the question about Katniss’ race, a mixed girl, that would have given little POC girls a heroine who looked similar to them. Instead, let’s thank Collins and Jacobson for giving ugly, yellow cats more representation within Hollywood. The specific recasting of the cat is a slap in the face, like the one when J. Law said all she needed to do was tan and dye her hair to play a mixed character.