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Race and Ethnicity in the Movies


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#391

Limbonaut

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Posted May 3, 2012 @ 10:18 AM

Speaking of potential whitewashing, how much do we know about Bane in the upcoming Batman movie? I'm not really concerned with Tom Hardy looks-wise, but he is supposed to be Hispanic, from a South American country. Is he doing a Spanish accent?


Well, now that I can understand him, Bane sounds so.....urbane. He's so posh British sounding, he should be wearing a monocle!

Bane in the comics, from his mask was clearly a based on a Mexican wrestler and since they're going on a very different direction for him I don't mind them dropping that.

Edited by Limbonaut, May 3, 2012 @ 10:23 AM.

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#392

Trini Girl

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Posted May 3, 2012 @ 7:04 PM

He's so posh British sounding,

Argh; I was afraid of this.
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#393

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Posted May 3, 2012 @ 9:37 PM

One thing that I found interesting about those Anderson articles is the conversation around Zoee, the 16-year-old from Singapore who had tweeted "WHY IS RUE BLACK SIGH". She had, apparently meant that Rue did not look like Prim, but that is not what she said. She would hardly be the only teenager who says something that is not quite what she means; I tried proofreading a 14-year-old's five paragraph essay on the nuclear arms race between the USA and the USSR during the Cold War and egads. In any case, she was extremely upset to be featured on Hunger Games Tweets.

The articles do not reveal whether Zoee is ethnically Chinese, Malay, Indian, or other. The person behind Hunger Games Tweets appears to assume that she is East Asian, at least, and asks how she would feel if Jamie Chung were cast as Johanna Mason and people complained about her being Asian. I actually had seen Kristen Bell's name bandied about on the internet before I read him mention her. Would someone like Zoee have the same reaction if Johanna was played by someone of Asian descent? If she is Chinese, then she would not be an ethnic minority, the way that I am. As someone living far away from the United States, she might have quite a different view of race in America than any of us do. Regardless, why not Jamie Chung or Julia Ling or Brenda Song or someone whom I have never even heard of.

Has anyone heard much about Beasts of the Southern Wild? I read a bit about it in the New York Times a few months ago, but I do not remember much about it. This looks like it could be very good, I think.
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#394

ribboninthesky1

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Posted May 3, 2012 @ 10:37 PM

Thanks, Ankai - I'd not heard about this one. It definitely looks good.
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#395

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Posted May 5, 2012 @ 8:11 PM

So more race-based complaints about the Hunger Games. This time discussing Jesse Williams as Finnick Odair.

I think some people just didn't imagine Finnick that way, I certainly imagined him with a different face. But some people won't be happy until their movies are entirely white.
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#396

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Posted May 5, 2012 @ 8:21 PM

Ha, I was just about to post that article :)

Obviously, beauty is subjective and fan casting will never satisfy everybody (and is often hilariously off the mark- Ian Somerhalder is another popular choice for Finnick), but it's amusing that a blonde, blue eyed Jennifer Lawrence is accepted with open arms for a racially ambiguous character with "olive" skin, gray eyes, and dark hair, but Williams, who is in fact tanned and green eyed, is met with such opposition. White is the default, indeed.

There's another important character yet to be cast in the Hunger Games sequel, Joanna, who's described simply as having brown hair and eyes, IIRC. I think limiting the auditions for Caucasians only as they did for Katniss is appropriate in this case because obviously most POC don't have brown...oh, wait...

Edited by sintin, May 5, 2012 @ 8:21 PM.

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#397

ribboninthesky1

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Posted May 5, 2012 @ 8:38 PM

This part of the quote from Jesse Williams made me crack up:

I didn't know what the heck a Finnick was when I was getting a lot of the questions about it.



I've no interest in The Hunger Games, the books or films, but particularly the latter, given the casting decision for Katniss. I do feel for those who generally enjoy both, though, and has to bear witness to some truly absurd bigotry in the 21st century. Racism and white supremacy - it ain't just for old fogeys! Good to know...I was worried with all of the post-racial talk when President Obama was elected.
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#398

Limbonaut

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Posted May 5, 2012 @ 10:24 PM

Obviously, beauty is subjective and fan casting will never satisfy everybody (and is often hilariously off the mark- Ian Somerhalder is another popular choice for Finnick), but it's amusing that a blonde, blue eyed Jennifer Lawrence is accepted with open arms for a racially ambiguous character with "olive" skin, gray eyes, and dark hair, but Williams, who is in fact tanned and green eyed, is met with such opposition. White is the default, indeed.



Katniss' sister Prim was blonde so I would assume the Everdeen's were white. I've also never heard anyone African American having "olive skin".

Edited by Limbonaut, May 5, 2012 @ 10:29 PM.

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#399

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Posted May 5, 2012 @ 10:54 PM

Plus, from what I remember, Lawrence's casting was decried loudly for precisely the fact that she was blonde and blue-eyed, and had most recently been seen in a bombshell red gown. Reports seemed to swing more in her favor after the first stills of her with dyed hair and in costume were released.
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#400

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 2:15 AM

Katniss' sister Prim was blonde so I would assume the Everdeen's were white. I've also never heard anyone African American having "olive skin".


I'm not interested on dystopias so I haven't read the books don't plan to neither watching the films either. Are all Everdeens described with "white features" as well? Not trying to start a fight just want to inform a bit about genetics, I have a sister that is white, and a blond niece, my father is dark chocolate and my mother is chocolate milk and I am olive skinned with almond shaped eyes. Mixing people is like playing skin color lotto, lots of strange combos. Prim could had been blonde and had an "olive" skinned sister if she had any mixing on her ancestry.
What year are the books set in? Most geneticists say that we are going to get a lot more mixed in the future due to people traveling a lot easier and faster.
I want to clarify that I have no dog in this fight and if a white writer wants to make a whole white cast of people on their books that is IMO her prerogative in the same vein most of the couples in my books are interracial, writers have the right to depict the world they personally experience, IMO. Just wanted to add that genetics do bring surprises more often than not.

Edited by lastdaughterfk, May 6, 2012 @ 2:16 AM.

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#401

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 2:28 AM

What year are the books set in? Most geneticists say that we are going to get a lot more mixed in the future due to people traveling a lot easier and faster.

Unknown. Several hundred, at least. The travel thing is almost impossible. People are penned up in their respective districts, doing the assigned jobs of those districts and having babies with people from those districts. However, there probably would have been a mix of ethnicities when those districts were originally sealed off.

if a white writer wants to make a whole white cast of people on their books that is IMO her prerogative

That's true. But that's not the case here. There is a mix of ethnicities in the books, but some people are complaining about that being true in the movies.
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#402

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 2:43 AM

There's another important character yet to be cast in the Hunger Games sequel, Joanna, who's described simply as having brown hair and eyes, IIRC. I think limiting the auditions for Caucasians only as they did for Katniss is appropriate in this case because obviously most POC don't have brown...oh, wait..


An aspiring black actress posted a fan video of herself as Johanna Mason. I gotta admit, I thought she was pretty good. Not that she should play Johanna, but it definitely was interesting reading how many people said they pictured Johanna as a white blonde girl. It was pretty interesting to imagine Johanna as a black woman- since they went with Cinna as a black guy, it's totally possible.

Edited by MethodActor05, May 6, 2012 @ 2:46 AM.

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#403

lastdaughterfk

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 2:53 AM

That's true. But that's not the case here. There is a mix of ethnicities in the books, but some people are complaining about that being true in the movies.



True but what is Mrs. Collins saying about the casting? Is she agreeing or she is "no comments" at this point?
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#404

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 7:55 AM

Katniss' sister Prim was blonde so I would assume the Everdeen's were white.

It's very possible for Katniss to have been mixed race. Who said the only options for the character are white or black? I imagined the character as biracial, and possibly based off the Mulungeon people of Appalachia.
There are several non-white people who have 'olive' skin, but they would never have been considered for the leading role in a huge franchise.

I've also never heard anyone African American having "olive skin".

I sincerely hope that is a joke.

Plus, from what I remember, Lawrence's casting was decried loudly for precisely the fact that she was blonde and blue-eyed, and had most recently been seen in a bombshell red gown. Reports seemed to swing more in her favor after the first stills of her with dyed hair and in costume were released

Oh, yes, there was that reaction, but there were just as many defenses of only allowing white actresses to audition for the role, and Suzanne Collins and Gary Ross acted like those concerns were merely about Lawrence's hair color, and completely dismissed the racial implications:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Some readers have expressed real frustration that white actors were cast in the roles of Katniss and Gale, who they felt were clearly described as biracial in the book. Do you understand or share any of that dismay Suzanne?

COLLINS: They were not particularly intended to be biracial. It is a time period where hundreds of years have passed from now. There’s been a lot of ethnic mixing. But I think I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin. You know, we have hair and makeup.


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#405

ribboninthesky1

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 8:18 AM

It's very possible for Katniss to have been mixed race. Who said the only options for the character are white or black? I imagined the character as biracial

So did I, based on the descriptions read online - and biracial certainly doesn't have to mean black/white.

Also, I know nothing about the description of the sister, but blonde = white is an assumption. There are blondes who aren't white (in the Anglo-Saxon way that is so often assumed).

Edited by ribboninthesky1, May 6, 2012 @ 8:20 AM.

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#406

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 9:42 AM

I don't support only auditioning Caucasians for the roles, because why limit your talent pool like that when the physical description is not race-specific, but "olive" is, at least in the cosmetics and skin care world, a skin undertone with nothing to do with race/ethnicity or skin color. You can be light-skinned and still have an olive undertone.
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#407

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 9:49 AM

I looked up olive skin on google images and it seems to run the gamut. I don't see why Jesse would not count as that.

An aspiring black actress posted a fan video of herself as Johanna Mason. I gotta admit, I thought she was pretty good. Not that she should play Johanna, but it definitely was interesting reading how many people said they pictured Johanna as a white blonde girl. It was pretty interesting to imagine Johanna as a black woman- since they went with Cinna as a black guy, it's totally possible.

Make her hair a little browner and why not? Even my hair turns brown when in the sun a lot and I never dyed it.

I want to clarify that I have no dog in this fight and if a white writer wants to make a whole white cast of people on their books that is IMO her prerogative in the same vein most of the couples in my books are interracial, writers have the right to depict the world they personally experience, IMO.

Spoiler alert: That's how The Turner Diaries ended.
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#408

tip and fall

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 11:50 AM

I looked up olive skin on google images and it seems to run the gamut. I don't see why Jesse would not count as that.

Point of clarification: Jesse Williams/Finnick is not said to have olive skin, IIRC. I think people are just talking about Katniss there.

Obviously, beauty is subjective and fan casting will never satisfy everybody (and is often hilariously off the mark- Ian Somerhalder is another popular choice for Finnick), but it's amusing that a blonde, blue eyed Jennifer Lawrence is accepted with open arms for a racially ambiguous character with "olive" skin, gray eyes, and dark hair, but Williams, who is in fact tanned and green eyed, is met with such opposition. White is the default, indeed.

Seriously. And I'm completely puzzled over the people who insist that Finnick either is blond or a redhead and has blue eyes. Bronze might have reddish undertones or blond "highlights" (depending on the exact shade) but it's still more essentially brown than anything else. And blue eyes? Wha?

True but what is Mrs. Collins saying about the casting? Is she agreeing or she is "no comments" at this point?

She has no issues with the casting, but considering that she ALSO doesn't say that Katniss was meant to be white, I take it as yet another white person being blinded by her privilege and not understanding what the issue truly was. As sintin's interview excerpt notes upthread, she and the director were making into an issue if hair dye and shit, when really a lot of us were just pissed that POC weren't even given a chance to audition. The fact that she's the writer doesn't mean her word is law when it comes to this sort of thing.

It's very possible for Katniss to have been mixed race. Who said the only options for the character are white or black? I imagined the character as biracial, and possibly based off the Mulungeon people of Appalachia.

Exactly. I don't recall anyone insisting that Katniss had to be black, just POC. Hell, one popular suggestion for Katniss was Malese Jow, who is Asian and white. Of course, she doesn't have olive skin either, but neither does Jennifer Lawrence.

Edited by tip and fall, May 6, 2012 @ 11:54 AM.

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#409

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 1:43 PM

She has no issues with the casting, but considering that she ALSO doesn't say that Katniss was meant to be white, I take it as yet another white person being blinded by her privilege and not understanding what the issue truly was. As sintin's interview excerpt notes upthread, she and the director were making into an issue if hair dye and shit, when really a lot of us were just pissed that POC weren't even given a chance to audition. The fact that she's the writer doesn't mean her word is law when it comes to this sort of thing.


Or you she could be following Stephen King's advice in his book On writing "If you get your book a movie deal, take the money and run!" she surely wouldn't criticize the movie's casting choices if she wanted them to be successful regardless of her personal view, at least not for now, YMMV.
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#410

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 2:02 PM

she surely wouldn't criticize the movie's casting choices if she wanted them to be successful regardless of her personal view, at least not for now, YMMV.

Possibly. I've tossed that idea around myself a bit; I don't know which one is more likely. Either way, I lost a lot of respect for her. She's either completely ignorant as to what the issues are, or she knows what the issues are and just doesn't care as long as she gets that dough.

If she really didn't like the casting, then she could have kept her mouth shut the way the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender did. I wasn't expecting her to criticize the casting, but I could have done without her praising the casting and dismissing people's concerns.
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#411

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 6:31 PM

It could also be that Collins really enjoyed and approved of the performances of the chosen actors, which might make other concerns seem academic or irrelevant. By the time she was directly asked to address the issue, I think the movie was already in production, and Jennifer Lawrence's work in particular was being praised. By that point, the hypothetical question of casting someone else in place of an actress who was delivering might just be seen as a distraction.
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#412

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 7:52 PM

Some excerpts from the Entertainment Weekly interview from over about 13 months ago.

Each bit of casting news has been met with a real roar from the fans. How are you both handling that? Did you expect such outrage?

SC: Any time you read a book and get attached to the characters, to me it’s always a shock when it goes from page to screen and it’s not exactly what was in my head or what I was imagining it should be. So there’s always that period of adjustment. But I think we feel so solid about our casting choices, and so thrilled that we’ve gotten these three young people in those roles, that nothing can really eclipse it...And you know people may get thrown, say, by the color of an actor’s hair or maybe something physical, but I tell you: If Josh had been bright purple and had had six foot wings and gave that audition, I’d have been like “Cast him! We can work around the wings.”

Some readers have expressed real frustration that white actors were cast in the roles of Katniss and Gale, who they felt were clearly described as biracial in the book. Do you understand or share any of that dismay Suzanne?

SC: They were not particularly intended to be biracial. It is a time period where hundreds of years have passed from now. There’s been a lot of ethnic mixing. But I think I describe them as having dark hair, grey eyes, and sort of olive skin. You know, we have hair and makeup. But then there are some characters in the book who are more specifically described.

GR: Thresh and Rue.

SC: They’re African-American.

So that was 13 months ago. News of Amandla getting cast broke not long after. Has Suzanne Collins publicly said anything about her compared to what she said about "these three young people" at anytime? Jennifer Lawrence, one of those "three young people", was 20 when cast. Amandla herself is not yet 14-years-old and was not even halfway towards 13 when news of her getting cast went public, around the same age as many of those tweeters who passed judgment on her. Sure, she is not the star of the movie, so she might not deserve as much mentions from Suzanne Collins as Jennifer did. Still, Amandla was a kid then and is still a kid; even if she can take care of herself, a little more than a little support from the author might help to settle the matter.
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#413

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 8:06 PM

If she really didn't like the casting, then she could have kept her mouth shut the way the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender did. I wasn't expecting her to criticize the casting, but I could have done without her praising the casting and dismissing people's concerns.


True but not everybody knows how to handle this things and The Last Airbender movie did failed.
I wouldn't be surprised if they actually asked her to publicly support the casting choices just to avoid the movie to fail. Fans are a lot more likely to follow the author's lead and there was a lot of money invested already on publicity at that point. Again I'm trying to be open to more possibilities than just "she is a damn racist" in her personal life. There is a lot of assumptions on public figures specially in this time and day and I rather give the benefit of the doubt till concrete proof that she is indeed just "another privileged middle class white woman" arise, YMMV.

Edited by lastdaughterfk, May 6, 2012 @ 8:09 PM.

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#414

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 8:26 PM

I think it's a bit different when The Last Airbender did have a specific race that was changed, whereas Katniss Everdeen really did not. "Dark hair, olive skin, grey eyes" doesn't say anything about race. I don't know if Suzanne Collins for some reason didn't want to definitively say that in her mind, Katniss always looked Caucasian (or did not look Caucasian), or if she really didn't originally visualize her heroine any more specifically at all. Not all authors do have a specific face in mind when they create their characters. Also, by the time Collins publicly responded, Katniss was obviously already cast, and Collins had been working on the movie set. It would have been a huge disrespect toward a colleague for Collins to say that she wished the casting had been different.
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#415

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 8:58 PM

It would have been a huge disrespect toward a colleague for Collins to say that she wished the casting had been different.

Well, once again, I don't think anyone was expecting Collins to actually speak out against the casting because that would simply have been shooting herself in the foot. (Plus I imagine that a lot of studios have NDA-type clauses that prevent someone from talking shit.) But she could have either kept silent about the whole thing, OR at the very least she didn't have to dismiss people's concerns down to hair dye and makeup. The latter was incredibly insulting.

She and the director handled the entire situation very poorly. I'm just surprised they didn't say something like, "Oh, we cast based on ~talent!" to top it all off. Well, the director might have said something like that, but if he did then I don't recall. I was mostly paying attention to Collins' answers.

It could also be that Collins really enjoyed and approved of the performances of the chosen actors, which might make other concerns seem academic or irrelevant.

If that was the case, then Collins really was clueless and privileged. I hate it how this sort of practice is excused when the white actors end up being good. Jennifer Lawrence's talent doesn't negate how fucked up the casting call was. In any case, one can't say that she was truly the best person for the role, or that the role was cast based on talent, when POC were excluded from auditioning in the first place.

Edited by tip and fall, May 6, 2012 @ 9:06 PM.

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#416

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 9:18 PM

She was asked directly for her opinion. And if she likes Jennifer, Josh, Gale, and the other actors she's been working with, why shouldn't she say so? To give a non-commital or lukewarm answer about actors she has approved might be considered just as insulting and hurtful as bashing them. She dodged the issue about limiting the casting call to a specific race, and answered that the actors chosen were the best for the roles, that she loves their performances, that any physical differences (and there were a hefty amount of complaints and uproar that really did just focus on hair color and body type) could be tweaked by hair and makeup, and that Katniss and Gale in particular were not definitively intended to be biracial.

I wish she hadn't avoided the issue of the casting call itself, but I'm also unsure if she was ever specifically asked about that studio-mandated decision, and not just variations of "Fans are in an uproar. The actors cast don't look how they envisioned the characters, is Katniss supposed to be white or is she biracial? How do you respond?".

There could be many reasons behind why Collins approved of the ultimate casting, but honestly I see nothing wrong with what she has said. Only with what she's avoided.
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#417

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 9:35 PM

In any case, one can't say that she was truly the best person for the role, or that the role was cast based on talent, when POC were excluded from auditioning in the first place.

Agreed. I think that's probably where she really messed up - in terms of "feeling solid about our casting choices." I don't know if she's just towing the party line or really feels that way, but it does ignore a very exclusive casting process for Katniss. To ignore that IS a sign of privilege, whether she realizes it or not.
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#418

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Posted May 6, 2012 @ 9:40 PM

[She] answered that the actors chosen were the best for the roles,

First of all, I'm not sure whether she's actually said that. As far as I know, she's said that she likes Jennifer Lawrence, which is fine. That's not an issue at all. IF she really did say that the actors chosen were the best for their roles, that's part of the problem right there. Because that just lends itself to the "they were cast based on talent" rhetoric, which is bullshit. (My earlier comment about "casting based on talent" was meant more generally.)

She did seem to imply that about Josh - another thing, I fucking hate it when people bring up mythical purple people when talking about race, so that was another ugh moment - but that's less of an issue because Peeta's race wasn't as controversial/ambiguous.

I see nothing wrong with what she has said.

Where she particularly went wrong was dismissing everyone's concerns down to hair dye and makeup. Yes, there are some fans who were only pissed because the actors didn't look exactly like how the characters were described in the books. You'll get that with any fandom; I remember how much shit Daniel Radcliffe got for not having green eyes, or Emma Watson for being too pretty/not having bushy enough hair. But it was incredibly insulting to erase those of us who had legitimate concerns by acting as though all of the complaints could be solved by hair dye.

Only with what she's avoided.

That's part of the problem, too, though. The two go hand in hand, considering that the casting call is an essential part of *why* people were so angry about the whole thing. So for her to ignore it entirely makes her response fall into the "not good" category for me, period.

ETA:

I think that's probably where she really messed up - in terms of "feeling solid about our casting choices."

Oh, somehow I skipped over that, I think I was too busy rolling my eyes over her describing Josh as a purple person. LOL.

Edited by tip and fall, May 6, 2012 @ 9:54 PM.

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#419

Ankai

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Posted May 12, 2012 @ 6:20 PM

Only with what she's avoided.

Such as avoiding standing up for a girl who is barely a teenager.
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#420

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Posted May 23, 2012 @ 5:42 AM

Oh very well said indeed. Her silence ... says everything.
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