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Tom Tangney

Racist Hunger Games fans blast black characters

rue hunger gamesMillions of fans flocked to theaters to see The Hunger Games over the weekend. Despite generally glowing reviews, some clearly racist devotees have taken to Twitter to express outrage over the casting of some key African American characters they thought were white.

At issue are the popular characters Rue, her fellow "Tribute" Thresh, and the designer Cinna.

A Tumbler site called Hunger Games Tweets dedicated to exposing "the Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don't know a damn thing about the book" has published a number of the more overtly racist postings:

"Why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie"

"Kk call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn't as sad #ihatemyself"

"why is Rue a little black girl? #sticktothebookDUDE"

There's just one small problem with these rants (along with the racism.) While the best-selling book doesn't call them black or African-American, there's no doubt that's exactly the way author Suzanne Collins wrote the characters (especially since she also co-wrote the screenplay for the film.)

On page 45, Katniss sees Rue for the first time:

"And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that she's very like Prim in size and demeanor."

And she later describes Thresh:

"The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He's one of the giants, probably six and half feet tall and built like an ox."

Seattle's Morning News co-host Tom Tangney admits when he read the book, he breezed through the descriptions and didn't think of the characters as African-American either.

"They always say racism comes from ignorance, this is a perfect example they're ignorant. Fans of the book are ignorant of that and declared race when race really isn't the issue."

While Tangney says for him it didn't detract from the film, it clearly mattered to many.

"I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a black girl was playing Rue." said another Twitter post.

While it's clear there's overt racism at play here, it also raises an interesting question about our own interpretations of books, especially those made into movies. Whether it's The Hunger Games or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Harry Potter, there's always passionate debate about casting choices and whether a character meets our own expectations.

Seattle's Morning News co-host Bill Radke challenges those upset with The Hunger Games casting to revisit it knowing the author's true intentions.

"If you felt like 'wow, I found myself not identifying with Rue like I thought I would when I read the book,' that's human and that's an honest reaction. So now watch it again and now you know who Rue is, now can you identify? Make a second post. Keep thinking about it," Radke says.

But there won't be second posts from many of the racist tweeters. They've shut down their accounts, likely due to overwhelming backlash to their comments.

-Josh Kerns/My Northwest

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About Tom Tangney
By day, you can hear Tom on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, and by night, he sits in the dark, making snide comments about what he sees on the silver screen.

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