why do people always think Cinder is white because she slept for years in europe?
like wow i did not know that sleeping in a place suddenly changed your ethnicity
and that europe is all white without any different ethnicities
why do people always think Cinder is white because she slept for years in europe?
like wow i did not know that sleeping in a place suddenly changed your ethnicity
and that europe is all white without any different ethnicities
This is the transcript of a talk I gave earlier in the year as a guest speaker for the One Woman Project lecture. It is an expanded version of a piece I wrote late last year on racism and the Hunger Games. The One Woman Project is an amazing opportunity - if you live in Brisbane, I encourage you to join now for its second semester.
Disclaimer: I would just like to acknowledge that I am a woman who is white. If at any time what I’ve written reeks of ignorance due to my white privilege, please point it out to me. I’ll be happy to discuss it and figure out where I’ve gone wrong. It is worth noting that a few of my sources are written by people of colour, and ultimately I’m just hoping to give their words some more space as an ally.
To begin: you know something’s wrong when a white woman realises something is racist.
The Hunger Games series and film franchise have been blockbuster, to say the least. The protagonist Katniss Everdeen has been welcomed with open arms by feminist critics and bookworms alike for being quite the opposite of the equally popular modern heroine, Bella Swan from Twilight: a gutsy girl fighting to get out of an oligarchical, media-obsessed hell that is Suzanne Collins’ post-American world ‘Panem’. As the first novel The Hunger Games was announced to be turned into a film two years ago, the casting of Katniss was a hot topic among fans and Hollywood types. The bankability of the Hunger Games fandom (as assured by previous book-to-film franchises Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Twilight Saga) made the casting even more so.
So when Jennifer Lawrence, a white up-and-coming actress, was announced to play the fiercely protective Katniss, why did a number of fans not cheer? Lawrence is a formidable actress who had been recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress at the time of her casting. But formidability wasn’t - and still isn’t - the issue. It’s ethnicity.
Katniss Everdeen, along with characters who come from the ‘Seam’ section of her District, are described in the series as having dark skin colour, eyes and hair. Katniss, who resembles her deceased father, contrasts herself against her mother and sister, who favour the townspeople’s colouring as fair: blonde with blue eyes, just like Peeta Mellark.
Many readers like myself read Katniss, her friend Gale Hawthorne and fellow Seam people as having an ‘olive’ skin tone. Collins has stated that her story world is “…a multi-racial culture…I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin.”
I, like many others, presumed Katniss to look like someone who is biracial; of Native American or even Italian descent.
But apparently using a Native American actress to play Katniss wasn’t going to fly in the movie-making business. Reactions to ethnicity and race to the actors playing Rue and Thresh, both African American actors with dark skin, shows just how whitewashed some people’s brains are.
Some people will say that the backlash against actors who played Rue and Thresh shows that it was a good decision to have Katniss be white. This backlash was a storm of tweets sent by white, teenage fans of the books who never read these characters as black, even though they were described as such in the books. Maybe people wouldn’t have watched the movie, otherwise, if Katniss hadn’t been white. These stupid people are probably the white hipsters who claim “they don’t see colour”, or the annoying racist people who “don’t need those people in my favourite movies.”
You may wonder whether this criticism of race in a dystopian young adult adaptation is justified.Hunger Games passes the Bechdel test. Jennifer Lawrence is known for her refreshing stance on body image and expectations in Hollywood. Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins has said that the characters of Katniss and Gale “were not particularly intended to be biracial”, and that the casting of Lawrence and Hemsworth was due to the qualities they portrayed.
Katniss being portrayed by a Native American actress would not stop white people such as myself from empathising, understanding and loving her as a film character. While reading the series, Katniss’s skin colour, which is different to my white skin colour, didn’t stop me identifying with her. Like all readers, I empathised and saw myself in Katniss’ mannerisms and reactions to the chaos around her during the Games and the future rebellion. These are presumably the qualities that director Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins saw in Jennifer Lawrence. The question is: why didn’t they search for these qualities in a Native American actress? Would anyone like to have a guess?
This question might seem a little like affirmative action on the outset. But if the filmmakers wanted to show a true, progressive film adaptation of Katniss Everdeen, why wouldn’t they search for someone who would fit in a “multi-racial” world? Native American people and their skin colour come in all shades. Possibly, this isn’t even a question of whether an actresses’ skin was dark enough, or olive enough; it’s the fact that a person of colour, a person with a biracial background, was not sought to be cast. The casting call specifically asked for “Caucasian” actresses to audition. Here are some photos of actresses who auditioned for the part of Katniss:
From left to right: Emma Roberts, Hailee Steinfeld, Kaya Scodelario, Emily Browning, Chloe Moretz and Lyndsy Fonseca.
And to contrast, here are some Native American and biracial actresses who were (and still are) wanted by fans to play Katniss.
From left to right: Hafsia Herzi, Malese Jow, Julia Jones, Mandeep Dhillon and Q’orianka Kilcher.
Note their diversity in skin colour. I should note that Julia Jones is of Choctaw, Chickasaw descent as well as African American descent, as well as Malese Jow, who is part Cherokee. Q’orianka is descended from a group of Peruvian Indigenous peoples. All of the auditioned actresses are of British or Western European descent, except for Hailee Steinfield, who is of Filipino, Jewish and African American descent.
This film franchise lost a wonderful chance to show the diversity of the American nation and to have their nation’s first people recognised as one who could produce an actress worthy of playing the inspiring Katniss Everdeen. There would have been media attention (some of it racist and ignorant, yes) that the producers could have totally capitalised on to make a point that people of colour in Hollywood are just as good as the white blonde girl who’ll never hear the words, “oh, you’re too [insert race] for the part.”
Further, the filmmakers could have had their Katniss who ‘presented’ as white at face value while staying true to the multiracial world and non-white description of Collins’ protagonist if they truly were so intent on having a ‘white’ person to carry this movie. It could have been a chance to have a biracial actress show the world that a person of colour doesn’t always look like a person from our history textbooks.
This type of diverse, inclusive, ground-breaking casting could have given a biracial actress a chance to give voice to the dismissal and erasure of cultural identity in the media in the bloody battle to be as white as President Snow. Katniss Everdeen as a new-age American heroine descended from the country’s first people surely would have marked a change for how women of colour, and in particular Native American women, are portrayed in film.
Scholar M. E. Marubbio cites that there are two prevailing stereotypes of Native American women in film: a squaw whose sexuality results in children for which she cannot provide, and a sexualised maiden who, like the first people of the United States, must be conquered and beaten and killed. Having a self-sacrificing young woman who fights for her family, her friends and her people and for whom sexual acts is not a high priority or apparent need would surely be breaking the mold.
Rightly, people of colour and white allies have spoken out about whitewashing Katniss Everdeen. If you type in “katniss recast” or “dream cast” into google, tens of sites and tumblrs pop up with fans who have found their dream Katniss in a biracial actress. If you go to art website deviantart, images of a non-white Katniss are some of the most beautiful and popular.
Imagine being a woman of colour. Imagine that you have to trawl through lists of your friends favourite films, only to find that women who look like you or sound like you or are from where you live are in less than 1/4 of films. Women of colour in films are dismissed. Silenced. Erased. Whitewashed for easier consumption. Watching TV has been shown to actually lower self-esteem of girls of colour because they can’t find a familiar face on the screen.
V. Arrow, a Hunger Games fandom author who I interviewed on the topic of whitewashing last year, sums up the consequences of continuing the trend of white heroines perfectly. “The pinpoint sameness of actresses and the way their characters are marketed sets up and consistently perpetuates the cultural narrative that only this one type of woman is valid, lovable, and heroic. That to have been born one type of person is the only way to create change or be the leader of your own story or the leader of anyone, anything. Making Katniss white plays into — essentially — the Capitol’s aim with The Hunger Games: showing that only the Capitol itself, and those who fit into its ideal, can win.”
To conclude: The Hunger Games is a story that, in the end, doesn’t shy away from the horrors and reality of war, politics, and trauma and the way people are used by governments and the people they trust as a means to an entertainment-fueled ends. It is a story which I perceive to be, at the heart, to be about a young woman’s struggle to keep herself and her family alive amidst a world full of people who will turn a blind eye to her suffering for a look at a shiny new hairdo.
Frankly, it is sad that a story with so much truth in it has been whitewashed and bleached clear of any stains of reality. We can only hope through voicing these opinions until someone listens that in future film adaptations, filmmakers will learn that you don’t need a dress that catches on fire to wow your sponsors and executive producers. A woman is not reaped from a lottery or casted in a movie and keeps her racial identity and its consequences sealed in a vacuum. The tributes we put up on our stage represent districts of women who deserve their stories to be heard. Thank you.
by Emma Di Bernardo
***Extra - handout given on the night****
A Whitewashed Media
- In 2011, only 11% of protagonists in films were female.
- Less than 1/4 of films throughout history have had lead actresses who are women of colour.
- University of Southern California scholars found that 11.6% of characters in films and TVs from 2007-2010 were of African American descent and 7.0% were of Asian descent.
- 1.9% of characters were of Hispanic descent - despite over 20% of film tickets being purchased by Hispanic people.
- Hispanic women have been found to be the demographic most likely to be shown nude or in sexy attire.
- What stereotypes of Native American women have you seen in films - or have you seen any films cast with Native American women?
- Do you believe it is easier for white audiences to watch actors of colour in lead roles if the film has a historical setting? Some films as food for thought are Disney’s Pocahontas, 12 Years A Slave, The Colour Purple, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Help.
- Why do you think African American characters kept their ethnicity in The Hunger Games film adaptation but not other multi-ethnical characters?
- Discuss the pros and cons of a young adult film adaptation specifically using the phrase “biracial women” in its casting call.
Women of Colour in Film
Issues of Ethnicity in The Hunger Games Films
Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film By M. Elise Marubbio
Lupita was recently named the most beautiful by People’s Magazine, and some of their readers expressed their dissatisfaction with this decision in the comment section. One reader even commented that Lupita didn’t deserve this title because she’s 100% black(she finds women unattractive if they’re 100% black). These comments made me think of the brilliant post made by radicalrebellion:
White women (non-black women of color included in this as well) become offended and angry when a black woman (especially a dark skinned black woman like Lupita) is depicted as beautiful and worthy of appreciation because it jeopardizes their position as the epitome of beauty and womanhood. Black women are viewed as the antithesis of White beauty and womanhood, these white women are completely apathetic and silent when dark skinned Black women are portrayed as “ugly” and “unlovable” by the mainstream media because they benefit from this oppression. That’s why you never see white supermodels discussing racism and colorism in the fashion industry. However, these readers wouldn’t complain if it were light skinned black women like Halle Berry, Beyonce, or Rihanna (we all know why, hint: colorism). Anyway, congratulations to the ***flawless Lupita for being named the most beautiful!
This is a jar full of major characters
Actually it is a jar full of chocolate covered raisins on top of a dirty TV tray. But pretend the raisins are interesting and well rounded fictional characters with significant roles in their stories.
We’re sharing these raisins at a party for Western Storytelling, so we get out two bowls.
Then we start filling the bowls. And at first we only fill the one on the left.
This doesn’t last forever though. Eventually we do start putting raisins in the bowl on the right. But for every raisin we put in the bowl on the right, we just keep adding to the bowl on the left.
And the thing about these bowls is, they don’t ever reset. We don’t get to empty them and start over. While we might lose some raisins to lost records or the stories becoming unpopular, but we never get to just restart. So even when we start putting raisins in the bowl on the right, we’re still way behind from the bowl on the left.
And time goes on and the bowl on the left gets raisins much faster than the bowl on the right.
Until these are the bowls.
Now you get to move and distribute more raisins. You can add raisins or take away raisins entirely, or you can move them from one bowl to the other.
This is the bowl on the left. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?
You can’t tell for certain, can you? Adding or removing a raisin over here doesn’t seem to make much of a change to this bowl.
This is the bowl on the right. I might have changed the number of raisins from one picture to the next. Can you tell me, did I add or remove raisins? How many? Did I leave the number the same?
When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference.
This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.
The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss.
This is also something to take in consideration when creating new characters. When you create a white character you have already, by the context of the larger culture, created a character with at least one feature that is not going to make a difference to the narratives at large. But every time you create a new character of color, you are changing something in our world.
I mean, imagine your party guests arrive
Oh my god they are adorable!
And they see their bowls
But before you hand them out you look right into the little black girls’s eyes and take two of her seven raisins and put them in the little white girl’s bowl.
I think she’d be totally justified in crying or leaving and yelling at you. Because how could you do that to a little girl? You were already giving the white girl so much more, and her so little, why would you do that? How could you justify yourself?
But on the other hand if you took two raisins from the white girl’s bowl and moved them over to the black girl’s bowl and the white girl looked at her bowl still full to the brim and decided your moving those raisins was unfair and she stomped and cried and yelled, well then she is a spoiled and entitled brat.
And if you are adding new raisins, it seems more important to add them to the bowl on the right. I mean, even if we added the both bowls at the same speed from now on (and we don’t) it would still take a long time before the numbers got big enough to make the difference we’ve already established insignificant.
And that’s the difference between whitewashing POC characters and making previously white characters POC. And that’s why every time a character’s race is ambiguous and we make them white, we’ve lost an opportunity.
*goes off to eat her chocolate covered raisins, which are no longer metaphors just snacks*
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME @ THIS RACIST CASTING RIGHT NOW
Wright is planning to create a world that very international and multi-racial, effectively challenging audiences’ preconceived notions of Neverland and reimagining the environment.
Not that I agree with this casting, but let’s wait before pointing fingers.
The article that they also considered Lupita Nyonog’o for the role. Try not to jump to conclusions, yes?
A black woman was “considered”. She didn’t audition, no one gave her a call and somehow that’ a big statement? If you don’t realize that that was just tacked in there to calm the waters, you are incredibly naive. This is a clear cut example of white privilege.
Also minorities/people of color are not interchangeable. You can’t say yes a black woman is the perfect replacement for a native american woman. This is hollywood racism at its finest. Native Americans can’t get any roles unless it’s specifically about their people and now they can’t even get roles that are just caricatures of them and you want people to “not jump to conclusions”.
If you’re not upset about Katniss, Tonto, or Kahn being played by white people, but you are upset about Annie being played by a black girl, you’re probably racist.
And by probably I mean definitely.
I agree with everything you are saying but my point was more on the editing side of things not race in itself.
except it doesn’t work like that. what you do doesn’t exist in a vacuum. your editing experiment ended up having racist implications because you weren’t careful. editing & race have a long, unpleasant history together and that should have been one of the first things you thought of in your experiment. you need to offer up a proper apology for saying and doing something racist, regardless of your intent.
im not necessarily saying blue eyed zayn isnt racist, im just waiting for someone to make a concrete and plausible claim as to why it is racist
people like me have always felt like we’ve needed whiter skin and lighter eyes to feel valuable or to have stature. when someone like Zayn (a Desi, a poc) has his eyes photoshopped into being blue (which is a predominantly white characteristic), there are connotations of a blue eye color being prettier or preferable being solidified. By promoting these edits, you’re promoting the idea that white characteristics are more attractive than supposedly sub-standard brown characteristics. Some desi’s might have light eyes, but this stems from a recessive gene that is EXTREMELY rare. So, blue/gray/green/purple eyes are mainly associated with being white.
poc always have to justify why they aren’t white. we say that our skin is this color because it’s summer but it gets lighter in the winter i swear. we wear colored contact lenses even if they irritate our eyes because who in their right mind wants ‘shit-colored’ eyes? we dye our hair lighter because it’s more ‘beautiful’ than our dark hair. so when you photoshop zayn to have blue eyes you’re essentially saying that what he is isn’t enough. you’re reinforcing all the crap we hear daily and internalize. you’re saying ‘you’re right, being dark is ugly. you would look so much better if you were lighter. whiter.’ whether or not you mean it that way, that’s what every poc sees when you do this. it’s flat out racist and it needs to stop.
speaking of this post and how ppl. think it’s impossible for a biracial WoC to look different/darker than their biracial sibling—
this is (another) picture of Q’orianka Kilcher [half Peruvian Quechua-Huachipaeri, half White] w. her mother, Saskia [Swiss-German desc. American]:
…and this is Q’orianka Kilcher with her brother, Xihuaru Kilcher:
people reeeeeally all about centering Whiteness in any/every way possible
trying to use blondeness or the existence of mixed-race people as a way to justify whitewashing or erasing PoC entirely in media while refusing to acknowledge them irl
nice try, tho
There’s also something else I love about this movie. At the end when she realises he’s alive. They don’t kiss. Every other movie I’ve seen where there’s a boy and a girl and sci fi aliens or monsters, they fall in love. Even if they started out as friends. And in Pacific Rim. There’s still only this friendship or brother/sister relationship. I don’t understand why these feminists wouldn’t see this. (via songofages)
Something strange is going on. Animals are looking at you sideways. Things fall off desks when you walk by. You have a sudden hankering for red meat, and you wake up with muddy feet. Did you recently have a birthday? We bet all this funny business started right after that.
This is hilarious.
“Your world’s looking a little bit…whitewashed.And if you do know someone of color, they likely have skin that one might compare to a cafe au lait, mocha, or other beverage currently sold at Starbucks. “