Mimetalker's Blog

a mime is a terrible thing to waste.


Illinois, USA
January 26
On this blog: All words (other than identified quotations) © Sharon Nesbit-Davis, All rights reserved. *********************************** ********************************** You can find me on Facebook: Sharon Nesbit-Daivs, or "The Mime Writes" Logo Design by Dianaani ********************************** I work as the Education & Community Engagement Director of a Regional Arts Council which means I beg "the deciders" to fund and support the arts for everyone, not just the rich. *********************************** I am also a mime. For those that hate mimes, I understand. But you'll never find me annoying people on the street, unless I'm living there. I'm a "concert mime" ...which means you have to buy a ticket. I haven't done much mime lately...I'd rather be writing. *********************************** I've been married to my one and only since 1976. Still happy. Still in love. Two kids, eight grandkids. In college I became a Baha'i (a world religion whose main theme is unity). It keeps me relatively sane in a world gone mad.


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 3, 2012 9:21AM

Hunger Games, Racism, Broken Hearts

Rate: 41 Flag

My grandson did a marathon reading of the first Hunger Games book before the movie came out. He has never done that. He prefers action...martial arts, gymnastics, hip-hop dance, football and acting. He's currently rehearsing a children’s production of Sleeping Beauty. He wanted to be the Prince, but was cast as a goon. He’ll flip across the stage ninja-like in a fight scene.


He loved the movie but said the book was better and is now reading the next one. Without having read a single word, I love the author. He told me there are black people in the book and they are good.  You win the Game by being the last one alive. There is a young black man who is strong and tough, but helps people rather than killing them. He doesn't win.  My grandson has a crush on the twelve year old girl, Rue, and cried when she died. The actress playing her, looks like she could be his sister.  


He and a friend looked up Hunger Games on Youtube and discovered some people were upset that the good people in the movie were black, especially Rue. They must have skipped over author Suzanne Collins' description: “She has dark brown skin and eyes.” Maybe they thought she went tanning.


They shared their thoughts on Twitter, it went viral and found its way to Youtube. The Twitter accounts have now been deleted or set to private, so the good news is, they were not well received.


These are a few of the tweets my grandson read:


“Why does Rue have to be black? Not gonna lie, kinda ruined the movie.”


“Why did the producer make all the good characters black?” 

“call me a racist but when I found out Rue was black, her death wasn’t as sad.”


My grandson was hurt and angry. "I hate white people." My daughter told him most white people aren’t like this, and besides his grandmother is white. He thought maybe I wasn’t all white, but my daughter assured him I was.   


She reminded him of a story they read that morning at Baha’i School about a man who hated Baha'is because he believed the horrible rumors that had been spread about the religion. The man fell on hard times and his only son became very ill.  A Baha’i who lived in the neighborhood brought food for the family, medicine for his child and continued to help until the boy was well and the man found another job. The man apologized for the cruel things he had said and done. My daughter explained it is the same way with some white people. They don’t have black friends and don’t understand. “Instead of hating them, show them who you are.”


My grandson told me about the tweets. "Did you know people hated it because the good guys are black?"


"Yes, but only a few."


"There were over a 100."  I told him millions saw the movie and out of millions 100 is not that many. He looked unconvinced so I tried a concrete example. "Over a million people live in Chicago. A hundred is about half of the audience when you do a play."


He nodded. "That's a lot."


And it is. Especially for the boy who wants a part in the next movie. 








Nasir sparring trophy 

My grandson won 1st Place in Sparring at a Martial Arts Tournament last month. It's a part of his personal training program to become a movie actor. 



"Rue" from the Hunger Games played by Amandla Stenberg 



Photo Credit:

Grandson: his mother, Bahiyyih El-Shabazz,

Rue: Google Images

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How sad.

Also sad was a CNN bit last night about young kids and race. (On which, however, the black kids in tests/observations/interviews were more helpful, cooperative and positive than the really snotty [or snottily influenced by parents] white kids...tho there was some hint that it was because they, like, had to be in this world...)

What I've read about HG sounds like something I wouldn't want to read and am surprised such a dystopian book has taken off the way it has. However, if it and the movie portray likeable and helpful etc. black characters, that's a Good Thing!
Rue and Thresh are beacons of hope in The Hunger Games. Something the forces at work in the Capitol hate. The facists who create the Games are out to crush hope in order to control.

Please tell him not all white people think like those Twitter people.
Your posts bring the evil of racism home. Hold those grandkids close, and hurray for Hunger Games.
Hunger Games hates the entire human race, even as it poses itself as a proponent. Just despicable. I suppose it's a way to people thinking they give a shit without really giving a shit. That certainly should be popular!
I haven't seen the movie and I'm pretty sure I don't want to. Not even the Rifftrax people could joke their way through this stuff. I have heard the audio books of the novels, and they bother me greatly.

It isn't simply that the books were largely "swiped" from the Japanese fascist kid-killing saga Battle Royale, which of course the author denies ever having read. It isn't simply that the fascist dictatorship of Panem is history-free and development-free; no one bothered explaining how our world became that world, it just is. What bothers me is the feeling of hopelessness, that this oppression never ends, and that it is so close to the real hopelessness I see on the streetcorners and parks of America. And that this is seen as the perfect tonic to give children.

I don't believe in censorship. I do believe in seeing what popular culture tells about the people that read it, to give you fair warning. And seeing books like this, and knowing young people and corporations highly approve of this entertainment, gives good cause for stocking up the basement with canned food and plenty of ammo, and never trusting anyone else in the world.
I haven't seen the movie or read the book. But I read an article about these tweets. Sadly there are a lot of really stupid people in the world. Some of them are so stupid they don't even know they're stupid, so they don't have the good sense to keep their mouths shut. They're nothing but endless sources of pain and embarrassment to everyone but themselves, because they're too stupid to be embarrassed.

For neutron, in case he reads this again, the article I read said that in the book is mentioned storms, drought, sea level rise, and other climate related troubles that caused the food scarcity. This was apparently left out of the movie, and wasn't a prominent feature of the book; a mere mention.

But I suppose people critical of these books might be equally critical of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World. These are books I have read, and there is something to learn from visualizing worlds like that, lessons that might help us appreciate what we have and think harder about how to hang on to it. The existence of stories about such imaginary worlds don't constitute predictions, plans, or desires, but warnings rather.

I certainly know that we don't want a Mad Max world where a bunch of people stock up on ammo and canned food and hide in their basement.
I read the books first, then just saw the movie. I also cried when Rue died because it is the saddest part of the whole book and movie. I was really impressed when I found out that Lenny Kravitz was playing Cinna, and that overall they did an okay job with an integrated cast (considering this isn't a movie about race relations). I feel for your grandson, I just hope that he can see things are so much better than they were when I was his age. Not great, but a lot better. I can't wait for the second movie. The third book is supposed to be pretty depressing. :(
I hadn't heard about the racist comments online until I read your post. This is truly disheartening, irrefutable proof that racism is alive and well in America.

Your grandson looks very much like my son. Please tell him that not all white people are ignorant and illiterate.
I remember when I began to realize there were racists and bigots in the world and how afraid that made me feel when I was little. It took me a long time to learn to cope with it, and I'm sure your grandson will do much to make a positive impact.
Perhaps I stand alone, but I take this as a hopeful sign. The value of freedom of speech and expression is that it allows the poison out. Given the millions of people who saw the film that a mere 100 chose to speak with vitriol about one of the books most endearing characters and pivotal relationship demonstrates that those who would judge merely on skin color are a dwindling minority.

It's unfortunate that your grandson was exposed to ugliness, but unfortunately there is ugliness in the world and sooner or later he'd experience it, if he hasn't already. Be grateful this isn't the 50's or 60's where racial intolerance was much more accepted, the count would be far greater than 100.

Those who judge on skin color are no better than the tweeters regardless whether they're self hating. When you run a meta program that assumes racism, you'll find it.

Real life, like the games, has ugliness. Cato and his crowd were hateful and destructive. Katniss, Peeta, Thresh and Rue were not. Perhaps if you can help your grandson understand that the world holds Cato's as well as Rue's he'll have an easier time of knowing which he's encountered.
People need to lose the tribal mentality. We're all one people - dwellers of Planet Earth. I loved this piece, Mime.
It's such a joy to read you again.

I hate white people too often, myself. This racism thing was supposed to get better as the human being matured, wasn't it? Right now it's going downhill, or so I seem to believe, ex-pat that I am, reading about certain situations in Florida and these unprecedented comments you share about Hunger Games.

It's true that 100 out of several million is a small percentage, but it's these 100 people that get all the publicity, alas.

I wish there was an easy way for your grandson to grow up without the bigotry from people who, as you told him, don't know any black people and thus can only repeat stereotypes.

So sad.
He's adorable and so is Rue. I'm sad, too, that she had to die. And your grandson is wise, too, like g'ma.
I just heard about this ridiculous "controversy" the other day when I was subbing for a middle school class. It was my students who convinced me to read the book when I was hesitant because it seemed to be for teens. I finally did read it and did the Marathon like your Grandson, only I read all three in about a week. Of course he is right. The book was much better, but that's to be expected. The trick for me is to go in knowing it will be an inferior product and try to make the most of what the screen version has to offer. As grandson keeps reading and watching book to screen adaptations over his lifetime, he will come to know this reality all too well.

When I saw "Rue" she seemed perfectly natural for the part. In the novel I read her as black, or some variation thereof. The worst thing about those tweets is that they presumably came from young people. I would expect as much from people of my generation, but wow. I'm surprised it was kids...heartbreaking.

Gorgeous kid by the way! My daughter is a martial artist too.
Heartbreaking. I hadn't heard this stuff. I feel so bad for your beautiful (inside and out) grandson that he's had to learn about this. But how proud of your daughter are you?
Myriad-thank you. I didn't see the CNN piece, but from my experience I can believe it.
linnin-thanks, I will share that.
jlasthre-i'm holding them as tight as they'll let me.
Harry-you always have something interesting to say
Neutron-since i haven't read the books, i can't answer, but i like what Jeff j said.
Jeff j-i like what you said.
Oryoki Bowl-i do want to read them now. I don't mind depressing books...not sure about my grandson. His mom is reading them first...i bow to her judgement.
survivant-thank you. I'll pass the message on. You must have a beautiful son.
Razzle Dazzle-it is hard but a reality and the great thing is he is so open about expressing his thoughts and feelings so we can respond and talk about it.

Your grandson is a cutie. I love his hair. I have every intention of seeing the movie. I didn't even know there were books, but then again I have no exposure to the tween crowd and stay away from less than hefty tomes when I shop for books. I am a snob in that regard. And with you and your daughter in his life, your grandson is going to be okay.
Please tell your grandson that this 62 yo white woman cried when Rue died, in the book and the movie and I held my hands to my heart when Thresh refused to kill Katniss...It was great.
I did not want to like the book....but I did.
Haven't seen the movie yet, but I can relate to your experience with your handsome grandson. Just hold them close.
And another way to look at it is that the author/film maker created 24 characters. 4 were the good ones. 2 black and 2 white. The other 20 were particularly nasty or pretty much ignored (at least in the movie). Therefore all bad guys were white. Hmmm.
Bob-you don’t stand alone. Having been born in the 50’s and married in the 70’s at a time inter-racial marriage was barely legal in all 50 states, I know things are much better now. But it still breaks my heart to see the impact of racism on my family.
Sarah-lovely comment. It has been scientifically proven we are one race. We need to recognize it in our hearts.
Alfred-oh, thank you. So lovely to be read by you.
CM-aw shucks. ;)
BBabe-that these tweets came from young people (most likely) is the saddest thing. I love that your daughter does martial arts. My grandson competes against girls in tournaments and while, of course I want him to win, but I love how feisty the girls are and one beat him is grappling and I kind of loved that. ssshhh.
Firechick-yes, my daughter is amazing. I couldn’t be more proud. An African proverb: “Happy is the man (woman) who is happy with his (her) children.”
Phyllis45brighteyes-thank you Phyllis. His hair is luscious. My daughter has four kids with hair like his, plus her own. Fortunately my grandson(s) also have a wonderful dad and grandfather as role models.
Lib. S. Dem. (LSD?) Thanks. I will tell him. I’m thinking I will read this book.
Fay-thank you Fay, I will.
joesph-yes, that is another way of looking at it. And there's been more than a few movies over the years where all the bad guys were black.
Jeff J., the attitude of despair and failure the books present reflect something really dark and dangerous in the minds of the Americans who have flocked to it. It's as chilling as the people reading the Left Behind Dominionist propaganda books, except for a different reason. Left Behind gives the forces of fascism an excuse for organizing (it's God's plan against Satan) and The Hunger Games says there's no point in trying to fight that fascism.

Both those examples of popular fiction scare me about real world people, because a lot of people in the real world buy them and buy into them. Something dark is appealing to the ten percent of Americans who still know how to read, and the movies are spreading that darkness to the other ninety percent. (Something dark also appealed to them when they enjoyed Joseph Wambaugh's fascist police tragedies in the 80's.)

And I disagree that the mentions of ecological disaster you describe are justification for the world of Panem. I don't believe that Suzanne Collins did a complete job on her backstory. If she had, what she described wouldn't look that threadbare, even if she didn't completely write it all out. 1984 described the world before Ingsoc, in a simple memory by 6079 Smith W of time with his mother. That wasn't elaborate detail, but it shows that Orwell thought of it.

Back to the article: Collins didn't describe the children in detail (again referring to my argument that she swiped a lot from Battle Royale) and therefore the shock of seeing the character of Rue played by a black girl is what prompted the racism.

By comparison, for example, Rowling gave sufficient details about the Harry Potter characters to avoid just those kind of surprises. Yes, none of the main characters are black, but Ron Weasley is a Ginger, who according to British lore are creatures without souls. (See Eric Cartman.) I don't believe Collins's non-mention of race was a deliberate avoidance of racial prejudice in her book; again, I don't think she thought the book through as completely as most authors are ordered to do.
I thought that the actress who played Rue was absolutely beautiful and clever and perfect for the part. (The little blonde Prim was the one I thought they cast wrong - she's not such a whiner in the book.) I look at the pictures and I see the resemblance between Rue and your grandson, but your grandson sure has a spark! I think he will go far. I can't wait to see him on the big screen. When idiots tweet nasty things about him when he is famous, I hope he remembers your daughter's wise words.
Jennifer-He does have a spark. When he's on stage, people (not just family) can't take their eyes off him. Thank you for your kind words.
neutron-Collins did describe Rue and Thresh as having dark brown skin. She described the main character as having olive skin and dark hair, though the actress cast was white and dyed her hair for the part. The people I talked with knew Rue was dark skinned. It wasn't a stretch for them to believe a dark skinned person could be sweet and innocent. What I am responding to is the reaction people had and the effect it had on someone I love.
I think your grandson is beautiful and perfect as God made him. The people who made those comments are ignorant and should be ashamed of themselves. I think if their anonymity were stripped from them, it would be a good thing to reveal them for the small, shriveled souls they are.
ccdarling-thank you. He is beautiful as God made him...and all of us. It would be good if we remembered that.
What I don't get is why anyone would be shocked to find Rue is black. These kids are not all related to each other, and even if they were, it's pretty darn likely that there would be skin colour variation amongst such a large population. People are different colours. Most people don't worry about that, as the concept of race is fading along with the flat earth. It's not fading fast enough, but if we all keep working on it, it will go. Please tell your grandson I saw that movie in a huge, filled moviehouse, and the weeping and dismay around us at Rue's death, and the applause for Thresh were audible. What colour was the audience? It had all of us in it, every colour we come in.
My first thought after reading the whole thing was "awww, aren't they both cute!" I don't understand the benefit of teaching hate, every one of us is different, different doesn't mean unequal it means not identical.

I know the hurt, I remember my daughter coming home crying because she'd been called a beaner and a taco at school. I'm sorry for your grandson, I'm glad he's well loved. God he really is adorable. Sometimes I read or hear things and wonder if I'm not the wrong species. I wish I was a pet and then my kids would be loved no matter what color they were.
“Why does Rue have to be black? Not gonna lie, kinda ruined the movie.”

“Why did the producer make all the good characters black?”

“call me a racist but when I found out Rue was black, her death wasn’t as sad.”

Say WHAT?????! Okay, I WILL call that last person a racist. I'll call the first two racist, also! I'll bet plenty of African Americans have wondered why all "good characters are white" in most movies ever made in this country for decades. They really grudge one of the few instances when the tables are turned? And Rue's being black means her death "ruined the movie" and "isn't as sad?"

What pea-brain was unashamed of tweeting that to the whole of the internet? Some days, I really despair of this country.

But I'm with Linnn. Not all white people feel this way. Your grandson's feelings do him immense credit.
The 1st Amendment protects the right of citizens to be publicly stupid and openly ignorant. If he keeps reading and thinking he'll be OK.

Adorable child, so sad to hear this, I don't know what to even say except I hope he meets enough good white people to balance this out. Innocence lost.
So very sad. I don't know the book or movie either, but feel so annoyed that there are still those who are so deeply racist.

I strive to believe they are in the minority and unfortunately receive the publicity they shouldn't.

Very insightful and thought provoking post. Congrats on the EP.
I didn't read the books, or watch the movie based on the books, or see any of the Youtube videos about the movie, *or* read the tweets about the video about the movie of the book...

... but I am here reading this article!

I think I got the good end of the deal.
Bless you, friend, for this. r.

It's surprising to me that so many adult readers of the book were surprised to see Rue portrayed by a black actress. It literally never occurred to me when reading the book that Rue *wasn't* black. I can see it going over a child's head, perhaps. But as an adult, when reading about a dark-skinned character who comes from an agricultural district where they all sing while slaving away in the fields, it struck me as being about as subtle as if the author had written characters named Moishe and Irving who came from the "banking district." I mean, there's subtext and then there's...y'know...text. ;-)

A comparison between "Hunger Games" and 1984 is inapt, I think, for many reasons, the two most obvious being that a) "1984" was written for an adult audience; and b) "1984" takes as its explicit subject matter the nature of politics. "Hunger Games" is a YA novel that takes as its subject matter the nature of bloodlust, rebellion, and essential humanity (fitting topics for young teen readers, I think). I felt that the treatment of how Panem came to be was just enough: A series of ecological disasters created starvation and enormous social upheaval, and in that disordered vacuum a totalitarian government rose. Politics is the pretext for the story in "The Hunger Games"--not the story itself--and, in my opinion, additional bogging down of the narrative with exposition would have skewed in the wrong direction what is, essentially, an action/adventure story.

As far as the book's promoting helplessness in the face of fascism, it's only the first book in a trilogy. I haven't read the next two books yet (so this is speculation, not a spoiler), but presumably at some point there will be a rebellion in which Katniss will play a major role, and also presumably that rebellion will be successful. My guess is that it will turn out that Katniss::President Snow as Harry::Valdemort, or even as Luke Skywalker::Darth Vader. Am I the only one who finished the first book and was left with the distinct impression that President Snow ain't long for this world?
I have never read this book, but I have to say, if I read “She has dark brown skin and eyes”, I don't immediately assume she is black.
In this world, not only black people have dark brown skin and eyes.
I think that the only way I would know a character is black is if the author says the character is black.
If I were to read such a description, I would be left wondering if the character is from India, from North Africa, African American, Black Hispanic, Caribbean, Mulatto...Swiss with a dark tan?
But I'm talking just about that one line. Maybe the author goes on to further describe the characters?
Yes, it is a shame people are still racist today and that they would make such stupid comments, though I think we are much less than what we used to be not so long ago.
No, this is no consolation.
But the positive side of it is that here's a child that likes reading! I'm all for that!
Wow, having heard the audio book, I couldn't imagine Rue (and Thresh) not being black. I would have been disappointed if they had white kids playing those roles.
After hearing all the hype, and finding out that the movie was opening here the week I got back, I read the first "Hunger Games" book quickly, as your grandson did - and loved it. I was so surprised and downright puzzled to find out that people were making racist comments about it. For those who would argue that they're "purists" who are upset that a character in the film is a race they aren't in the book, as you point out, it seemed very clear that Rue (and at least a few other characters) are black, and many of the other characters aren't necessarily described by their race. I am horrified that anyone would be bothered by that - especially fans of a book that talks about the exploitation of an oppressed people. Thank you for explaining what's going on with this whole situation, and for sharing your daughter's excellent advice to your grandson.
The next generation is growing up in a better racial environment than I did back in the Jim Crow days. But we still have a long row to hoe. I hope movies and books like The Hunger Games can make that work a bit easier for the rest of us. There is obviously so much more to do.
So interesting to see the perspective of your grandson. I loved the movie and want to read the second book for sure. I didn't pick up on the racial play in the film at all and thought they portrayed many different ethnicities working together (killing equally), tho the "bad guy"if you will, is definitely waspy white and out for blood.

Bottom line for me was that I am still taken back by how this movie is being marketed to 12-17 year olds! This is way to violent a movie where hatred and blood lust is the predominant theme and goal of the game. Smaller sub-plots of friendship and loyalty provide the balm of the scarier aspects of human nature. Rough for me to see this played out by such young characters.

As the books are far less violent and descriptive, I have been told by those who have read them, I would caution parents of younger aged kids, that the movie is far more explicitly violent in parts. I cringed at some parts and couldn't imagine my 12 year old daughter or son seeing this. But that's just me.
I like the way you explained that it was only a few people. I was so disheartened to hear that people were expressing negative feelings over Rue being black. First of all, as you point out, that is pretty much how she was described in the book. Secondly, I don't know this for a fact, but I assume the author collaborated with the casting of her characters, and she should know what race they are. And most importantly, why is it an issue in the first place? It only added to my general sense of needing time away from the human race for a bit at the time. Too much negative energy building up. I'm glad you wrote this!
Most of the tweets on Twitter are made by twits.
Kids - just look away from "neutron"...

Well, Pill Bug, you're on pills. Which is why you haven't noticed that there's a lot of bloodthirsty teens out there now. At least Harris and Klebold were trying to get back at the people who bullied them. Today's teens may claim that as their reason for murder, but they have no justification; they're just sadistic bastards. Keep taking your pills and reading your Louise Hay, okay?
Rue, was one of my daughter's favorite characters and the scenes were so touching the way she and Catness protected each other. We all cried when Rue died. The scene where Catness put Queen Anne's lace around Rue made her look like an angel. She was darling, and I'm sure if my daughter saw a picture of your grandson she'd have a crush on him too, he's adorable. I'm so sorry such bigotry still exists.

I've heard the book (audiobook) and seen the movie. The book was far more graphic in violence, the movie actually tamed it down a bit. For example, in the last major fight scene in the book, Cato was being torn to pieces for hours, moaning in pain before Catniss put him out of his misery. In the movie, it took no time.

In terms of being marketed to teens, of course it is. The book was written for teens. The theme of the book is not to glorify the violence, but to show the cruelty of the system, and to lead into the next books which are about a revolution against the corrupt evil government.
I read those comments too and felt awful, primarily because I've convinced myself that our problems will disappear as soon as people my age disappear...and then I learn group-think, bias and the unwillingness/inability to think through anything remain alive and well, along with feelings of entitlement and...well, don't get me started. Trust me, not all white kids are like this but we are moving SLOWLY.

PS: How I wish some smart schoolteacher would use the books to launch some discussions about a post-war, post-racial world where the separations are along political/economical lines. The kids could even learn that the new country's name comes from an old Latin word for bread. Could make for interesting class conversations about race, class, dead languages and living prejudices.
I enjoyed the first book (not 2 and 3), but I haven't yet seen the movie. When reading, I clearly understood that the characters were of varying skin tones. It is only a few that are hateful, but those are the ones that make the most impact because hurtful words wound more than helpful words heal.
I’m disgusted with racist cranks like Alan Grayson, who never saw a war against Muslims he didn’t support, with the guidance of the known Israeli spy operation AIPAC. Courage.

GRAYSON: I met with Howard Kohr, the head of AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], twice last week.

PJV: And what was the gist of the conversation?

GRAYSON: The gist of the conversation was that Iran is a tremendous threat to Israel and needs to be stopped. And I agree with that.

PJV: And what about what is going on in the Gaza Strip; was there any conversation about that?

GRAYSON: Yes, we talked about that. I think what AIPAC often tries to do is to educate Members of Congress who frankly follow this a lot less closely than I do. In my case, I read Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post online four or five times a week, so I am pretty familiar with the circumstances and why the war took place. As a famous Israeli once said, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Cheapest Auto Insurance In Florida