Hollywood preparing to whitewash The Hunger Games

Variety has reported Oscar-nominated actresses Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) are in contention for the lead role of Katniss in the adaptation of the bestselling series The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a Battle Royale for the younger generation. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where the government of Panem (formerly North America) runs an annual televised competition called, you guessed it, The Hunger Games. One boy and one girl are chosen via lottery from each of twelve districts and thrown into an arena where it’s kill or be killed. Director Gary Ross has signed on to helm the film for Lionsgate.

In perhaps the most sought after role for a young actress in Hollywood today, Movieline confirms the role of Katniss Everdeen calls for an actress who “must be between the ages of 15-20, be Caucasian, appear ‘underfed but strong,’ and be ‘naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness’.”

The problem with this? In the bestselling Young Adult novel, Katniss is olive skinned, dark haired and grey eyed – which none of the latest contenders are.

In the novel, race is not detailed but rather left open to the reader’s interpretation, which has in many ways allowed more readers to identify with her. When the publisher released marketing material showing their idea of Katniss, it highlighted how in recent times Young Adult books have experienced what has been called cover whitewashing – and now it seems, the Hollywood adaptation has followed suit. Sure Katniss can be Caucasian with brown hair but the real question is; why aren’t they open to casting Katniss as another ethnicity? Movieline remind us that that there is debate amongst the fan community as to whether Katniss is “Mediterranean, Latin, Asian, or mixed descent” – none of which is being sought after in the role.

Casting the ethnicity issue aside, of the three proposed actresses my vote would go to Hailee Steinfeld who demonstrated in True Grit that although she is young, she can portray strength beyond her years – exactly what Katniss Everdeen does. If Abigail Breslin were to land this role I think I would have no choice but to go on some sort of rampage through the streets. This is the most idiotic casting choice I’ve heard in a while, and if it didn’t scare me so much I might laugh at its absurdness. The last choice, Jennifer Lawrence, while an impressive young actress, sits on the cusp of the age group being sought for this role. Katniss is 16 when the story begins, and with Lawrence already 20 years old it just wouldn’t work if the film were to develop into a series.

EW suggest Chloe Moretz, Lyndsy Fonseca, Emma Roberts, Saoirse Ronan, Kaya Scodelario, Emily Browning and Shailene Woodley are also in the running.

The success of this adaptation rides on the casting of Katniss – and of course the two hunks she must choose between. Fans of the novels are passionate and opinionated and the wrong actress playing their Katniss could spell disaster for this film and the potential series. Films rarely cast an actor that spot on matches the book (Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and even possibly Kristen Stewart in Twilight are two examples of successes that come to mind).

Discuss: Should we be so concerned whether the Katniss on screen matches the one so many have come to love on the page? Will the colour of the actress’ skin detract from her portrayal of the heroine or is this talk of Hollywood whitewashing all nonsense?

4 Responses to “Hollywood preparing to whitewash The Hunger Games”

  1. >Are those questions fair and balanced, or are they kind of loaded towards the 'this talk of Hollywood whitewashing is all nonsense' side of things?

  2. >Firstly, since when has this blog been fair and balanced? ;-)Secondly, if anything, I think it's loaded to the contrary?

  3. >Well there's definitely no reason why a blog can't be loaded, and I think it's more interesting when it is so. Also, you're treating my question as a statement. Loaded to the contrary of what?

  4. >Sorry; that question mark was meant to be a full stop. I think Jess is implying that "this talk of Hollwood whitewashing" ISN'T nonsense, and should be discussed as a somewhat-disturbing move.

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