Amandla Stenberg stars as 'Rue' in THE HUNGER GAMES. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Is America showing its true colors on the issue of skin color? I think it is. Recently a much anticipated blockbuster movie, “The Hunger Games”, written by Suzanne Collins and directed by Gary Ross, has been coming under scrutiny from die-hard “fans”. A significant number of these “fans” have been very upset with the casting choices of some of the series’ most important roles. The characters, Cinna, Thresh, and Rue all have something in common, they are played by black actors, and that is causing an uproar.
If these were real “fans” they would know that the characters Thresh and Rue are actually black or minority characters according to the novel. The book clearly states in the book on page 45, the description of Rue:
“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…”
Later there is a description of 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.”
The funny thing about these “fans” is their pure lack of basic reading comprehension, because the author clearly states that these two characters have “dark” skin. To be fair, dark skin could mean any minority, really— Asian, Latin, Indian, or Black—but the author Suzanne Collins did an interview in April 2011 with Entertainment Weekly stating, “They’re African American.” This was about the characters Thresh and Rue.
Not only are the characters described in the novel, but also the author states herself that the characters are African American. What’s even more ironic is that the book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where there has been “a lot of ethnic mixing.” This is interesting, considering one theme of the book is how people beneath the government are all in the same position whether they are the same color or if they are a variety of different colors. But instead of taking in the strong multi- and post- racial themes of the book the “fans” are spreading hate all over Twitter:
“Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the blonde innocent girl you picture”—Aiana Paui, via Twitter.
“I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned that a Black girl was playing Rue.”—John Knox IV, via Twitter.
And the most blatantly racist “Sense when has Rue been a n—–.” —Cliff Kigar, via Twitter.
What is truly unnerving is the fact that for once a director finally cast the characters the way they were portrayed and described in the novel, and people have the nerve to bitch about it. Additionally, the minority actors have roles that are not as demeaning as traditional “black” roles. They are not stereotypes or caricatures of black people, which is a refreshing change from what Hollywood usually throws at us. Most of the time, unless the actor is Will Smith, Denzel Washington, or Halle Berry, they end up being a racist stereotype of how black people really “are.” Unfortunately, minorities whether, Asian, Latin, Indian or African, are portrayed as stereotypes. As the media continue to perpetuate these ideas, it is very hard for people to truly let go of their prejudices. I wholeheartedly believe that if the media and Hollywood let go of their racial biases, then so will America.
Although this is very upsetting, it is very impressive to see the different actors and actresses from “The Hunger Games” speaking out against the racism and backlash and supporting how great of a film and novel The Hunger Games is. It is truly disappointing and disturbing to realize that racism to this extent still exists, especially since it is 2012.
As the full-fledged Occupy movement disseminates its seeds from Wall Street to every major city in the country the founding spirit of a democratic America seems lost in the volatile class war. The Tea Party called on us to “ take back America.” But whose America is it? Have we lost sight of what the Real America looks like?
The America we know doesn’t only exist in grand political gestures and promises. It’s a time for artists to take on the role of voicing our hopes and concerns. Through these short stories, we can have a glimpse of the real “Americanness” revealed in small moments of joy, of celebration, of despair, and of revelation.
“FREE CONDOMS!” Shouts Jerome. “FREE LUBE, FREE DENTAL DAMS, FREE FEMALE CONDOMS!” He continues as a flock of young people empties his hands of the contraceptives. Most people are hesitant to take free condoms and lube from a strange teenager on North State Street, but those who do aren’t just helping themselves, but a whole movement.
The movement came to a bit of a halt, as a man claiming to be a police officer threatened to get a group of about eight of us thrown in jail, for not having a permit to give out free condoms on the street.
I knew I would be in for a treat when I met Jerome, after he first introduced himself to me on Facebook with less of an about me and more of an about condoms introduction. “I have about 500 male and female condoms that I’m bringing with me to Chicago…(not for my own personal use of course, but to give away to students who need them),” Now of course he also told my other roommate and I about his love for Kid Cudi, but the condoms were all that I got out of his message. So why is an 18 year-old SAIC student giving out 500 condoms every chance he gets? Simple, Jerome works with a multitude of non-profit organizations that promote safe sex and teen pregnancy prevention, the largest of which is Advocates for Youth.
I had to know why Jerome was so involved with these programs and as soon as he responded, “There’s a stipend of a $100 dollars a month, man, haha” I wanted in on it too. Of course my reason was more for the money, Jerome went on to say that, “I started out for the money, but then as I got more into the program I learned that the movement [for safe sex education] was really needed especially in the South, where some of the highest rates of teen pregnancies across America are present.”
After a lot of talk about condoms, some late night homework and some more safe sex discussion I convinced him to talk a midnight trek with me to Taco Bell. As we walked at a brisk pace to make get to our destination before they closed, I questioned on. I tried my best to refrain from more questions about condoms, so I asked him if he could describe his exuberant clothing style (without using exuberant), he replied, “Colorful, hipster and Urban Outfitters.” I quickly responded with, “Urban Outfitters and hipster is the same thing though,” only to receive a irritated, “Douche bag. They’re not the same. No.” I guess he knows better then me since he used to work at the Urban Outfitters in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
“There’s no way were getting there before they close,” a concerned and cold Jerome exclaimed to me as we approached a blocked off street. “We’ll just take a right, then a left, then another left and will be fine, don’t worry, Jerome.” I tried to get a little deeper with my questions trying to uncover the juicy stuff. I went with, “Jerome, can you tell me you’re coming out story?” with a bit of hesitation and a giggle he agreed. “So when I was still questioning my sexuality and didn’t really know any gay men, I started posting ads on craigslist.” I braced for the most ridiculous story and it was a good thing I did. “I would post those m4m personal ads, with just a simple about me, a picture of me and a picture of my penis.” This is when he really started to smile and laugh, once he collected himself he kept up and this came out (no pun intended), “I was going into my Junior year of high school when I was doing it, and cops constantly monitor those posts so no minors post and nothing bad happens. So the cop that stumbled upon my posts was a friend of my mom’s and he printed everything out, showed it to her and that’s how I came out to my mom and then everyone else.” I paused in amazement because that was the best coming out story I had ever heard, and then laughed a bit. We trekked forward.
I asked him what the best condom distribution experience he had was and he responded, “Every time a young couple takes them, because I know they’re going to be safe, and that’s exactly what our mission is.” He says, “The time that police officer or whatever he was told us to move, that was bullshit, it’s not illegal to hand out condoms in Chicago or even Illinois, it was just bullshit.” As we arrived at our destination I asked him if he would have done anything differently he replied, “I did what I had to do, facing a possible arrest and the possibility of losing my SAIC scholarship, I did what I had to do, but I wish I would’ve stayed.”
After a meal of Taco Bell for me and Popeyes for Jerome we headed back to the dorms. When we got to our room it was no less then five minutes that a group of guys knocked on the door and asked for condoms. The sign on our dorm for free condoms attracts a lot of late night attention. They came in and snagged a handful each. I asked them what they thought about Jerome’s distribution and they all had positive replies.
“Man, condoms are way to expensive, so this is awesome!”
“You gotta protect yourself!”
A Lil Wayne quote was blurted out too, “Safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex, cause you don’t want that late text, that I think I’m late text.”
Since it was already passed 1 a.m. I threw a few more questions at him, Jerome’s dream job is to be a advertising designer and he hopes the Visual Communications program here at SAIC will help him reach his goal. My final question was, “How is it being a gay black man in today’s society?” Jerome gave me a two part response: “It’s better being a gay black man now, we’ve made strides as a community to overcome HIV/AIDS epidemic, but it can get better, but I am a proud gay black man, but that’s not all that I am.”
Jerome is a man beyond the free condoms that he is known for; he is an artist, an avid Kid Cudi fan and an awesome roommate and friend.
What’s the difference between Crit Week and clutter? To be honest, not much. They both have c’s, r’s, and t’s. And they both occur simultaneously. Crit week hits, and random stuff—clothes, past papers, paint, project, empty coffee cups, strange items you’ve never seen in your life—all start growing from the floor up in a garden of colorful mess for finals season.
The residence halls are eerily quiet; there is no running in the hallways, no late night stumbling past the security guards, and even the common lavish dinner parties have been ditched in favor of pitiful instant noodles. There just isn’t enough time to eat, or sleep, or even remember what a social life feels like.
The 17th floor studios look like a scene from a nature documentary. On your left, we’ve got the painter, a quiet, humble species. Notice the concentrated look on its face as it carefully mixes colors. On your right, the fashion designer, an eccentric yet common species, has the seasonal heavy rings around its eyes that signify not mating season, but finals season. The drone of its sewing machine lulls it into sleep, but a quick sip of coffee (a staple in its diet) wakes it right back up. Suddenly, an unwelcome visitor appears: a sound student with loud screeching noises coming from its speakers. The painter and the fashion designer glare at it with menacing looks, and the sound student gets frightened, and quickly returns to its rightful place. The 17th floor studios are at peace once more.
Just a couple of more days until school is out, and everybody’s stressed out faces will instantaneously turn fresh, bright, smiling and ready-for-summer. Next, we can stress about what on earth we’re gonna do with summer, and how we can clean up this mess on the floor!
7:45 am, the snooze alarm rings for the 15th time and you finally drag yourself out of bed. Rise and shine, sunshine, it’s a new morning and you’ve got the most exciting art history class waiting for you at 9 am. Leave the comforts of the warm bed, trudge to the bathroom, brush your teeth and glance at the mirror.
You look like a grade-A morning-zombie, but no worries, it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a shower. And just as you get comfortable with the sprinkling water and shampoo in your hair, you hear the loudest, most awful, apocalyptic noise in the world. It’s fire alarm season!
Leaving cookies in the oven for too long or putting a fork in the microwave will most certainly turn on the fire alarms, and are definitely legitimate reasons to have the entire building hate you. It’s no fun walking down sixteen flights of stairs with soap in your hair and wearing next-to-nothing.
It takes about five minutes to get everyone out of the building and across the street, so the firemen can go up and investigate exactly why someone decided it would be a good idea to incinerate breakfast omelets.
The corporate day has already begun on State Street, which is full of people hustling and bustling, then briefly stopping to try to figure out why there are 500 kids in colorful pajamas on the sidewalk.
A tourist bus turns on Randolph, and the passengers take out their cameras: “Look, Margie, look at all those funny lookin’ kids in their bathrobes, what a strange bunch,” and thus, our washed out faces become part of their Chicago Trip photo album.
Ba dum tshhh, tringgggg. It’s early evening, and the drums and guitar start to echo and ring across the hallway of the fifteenth floor of State Street’s residence halls. There’s music in the air: songs about childhood, first loves, growing up, and traveling the world. Innocent and sweet lyrics, accompanied by the folksy sound of the electric guitar, a soft bass, a violin, and a simple snare and floor tom rhythm.
When Continental Breakfast has an upcoming gig, SAIC residents know they’ll be treated to hours of rehearsal sounds that escape from their not-particularly-sound-proof room. The bass trembles the entire building, shaking its core, and the violin can be heard like a ghost in the 17th floor studios.
“We get a lot of visits from unappreciative security,” the members of Continental Breakfast told me, “but the truth is, we can’t think of a single room in the dorms, or in the school, that can cater to the music we want to play.” Sure enough, an hour into the rehearsal, the 15th floor R.A. chimes in with a “hey guys, you’re too loud,” even though the guitar amp is only turned up to 1, and the drums are muted with blankets and towels. Business is closed for the night.
Continental Breakfast, performing in the dorms with Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts.