The Hunger Games: fiction that brings out racist, sexist reality

I haven’t read The Hunger Games or seen the movie yet, but I’m soaking up lots of sociological analyses and outraged reactions on teh Internets. A story about a fictional, horrendous society seems to be spurring reactions that highlight real-world heinousness.

First, I read that some people consider Jennifer Lawrence to be ‘too big’ to play Katniss Everdeen.

Too big.

Just right.

You're right, Christian Bale. That's kind of messed up.

I’ll repeat that I haven’t seen The Hunger Games. But the movie piqued my interest because I was impressed by Winter’s Bone and by Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in it. Not once did I think, oh, that apple-cheeked beauty is inappropriate; shouldn’t the daughter of a meth cook in the rural Ozarks be rail-thin with a paradoxically pregnant belly, ratty hair and missing teeth?

Should the star of a movie called The Hunger Games look hungry? Should a rail-thin, punk-rock, running-for-his-life, involuntary time traveler-librarian (as described in the book) be played by Eric Bana, aka The Incredible Hulk? Can you recall the last time someone commented on the appropriateness of a male actor’s body for a role, except to commend him for gaining a bunch of muscle (Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull) or losing a scary amount of it (Christian Bale in The Machinist)?

As L.V. Anderson points out,

If we held actors’ physical appearance to a standard of strict realism in all movies, most Hollywood actors would be uncastable in films set in present-day America. Movie critics suspend their disbelief all the time—and when they suddenly refuse to do so for a female actor whose body looks more like an average woman’s body rather than less, it’s hard to see that as anything but sexist.

Second, I read that several Twitter users outed their inner racists by complaining about the casting of two characters in The Hunger Games. At least some of those Twitter accounts have since been deleted, probably because they were being firebombed, and rightfully so.

I’m not clear on what people are referring to when they call ours a post-racial society. Have not the stories of Trayvon Martin and Jeremy Lin made it utterly clear that it is no such thing? We still see race and we still think in terms of it, consciously or unconsciously. Big black man = scary, dangerous. Tiny blonde white girl = innocent, pure. These stereotypes are so strong that some people’s minds actually whitewashed characters that the book clearly described as dark.

Actually, the only post-racial societies I can think of aren’t real. They’re science fiction. More on that later.