Be consistent with your shit.
If you subscribe to the idea that Katniss is a woman of color then that means Gale is a man of color. And that means that the way this fandom at large deals with him is gross. He’s a man of color who’s fighting for the rights and freedom of his people, for fuck’s sake. To hear some people talk, you’d think he was the villain of the text.
If you don’t like him, then don’t like him, that’s fine. But being a person of color goes both ways. Maybe no one else in fandom cares about men of color who want the revolution to begin but I do.
Deal with it.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say (as a veteran of the tracked tag, if nothing else) that the way huge swathes of ‘The Hunger Games’ fandom talks about Gale Hawthorne is super problematic.
It’s a tough thing to do, to talk about any of the characters in the series and do it fairly when the narrative itself is rife with problems - both in terms of what it picks up on and what it leaves out. But I think fandom tends to ignore those problematic aspects which aren’t convenient to their reading of the text, at the expense of misunderstanding several of its key figures. If I was someone looking in from the outside, who had never picked up a single copy of the books, I would, from fandom’s response, infer that Gale was the villain of the piece (or at least the final act) - the volatile, bloody mirror to Peeta’s good. And when you think about that contextually, when you think about that in conjunction with the fact that if we accept Katniss to be a POC then Gale is too, it follows that the portrait that we get in the books of one of the sole male POC characters fighting for his homeland is one who is paranoid, militant, downright violent. Which isn’t just problematic, but offensive as well - to put such a one-dimensional face on the subjugated people of colour partaking in the revolution, as well as feeding into long-held stereotypes of what a person of colour fighting for their rights looks like.
The fly in the ointment being - despite the fact that Collins drops in the racial commentary without ever exploring it any further - that is simply not who Gale is in the text. Yes, Gale is uncompromising, yes, he resorts to violence but if he’s not one of the heroes of the series, he’s certainly not one of its villains either. And for fandom to dismiss him as such is a disservice to his character. For fandom to single out Gale for his possessiveness, claiming that such a character trait is in evidence in the ‘Gale is mine. I am his’ line - a line not spoken by Gale, but by Katniss - is not just a disservice to his character, but completely baffling. And for fandom to glorify Katniss’ racial heritage whilst erasing (via ignoring) Gale’s, is adding insult to injury. Sure, you have your favourites, you have the ship that you prefer - but that doesn’t mean you get to prioritise which character of colour’s experiences have more intrinsic value, that’s neither a sensitive nor a respectful reading of these books.
And Gale isn’t a poorly hewn together caricature of what a POC revolutionary might look like either, all overflowing anger and inflammatory action - Collins’ writing has its faults, but that’s still never a place it goes. His character is not just defined by a single act - by the violence of the bombs he creates or Prim’s death - his character is informed by what he spends his life experiencing and what he shapes that to mean. Yes, he is single-minded in his determination and he believes that the ends justifies the means (in contrast to Peeta who sees the ends as the means) and if you don’t think that’s the right way to run a revolution, well that’s your prerogative. But that doesn’t mean Gale’s anger is without justifiable cause, that we can blame him whole-heartedly for his actions without charting the multitude of steps it takes to get him there, and it certainly doesn’t mean that his characterisation is of a man of colour who revolves solely around his anger.
Gale is angry, I won’t deny it, but he’s romantic too - romantic in the sense of being an idealist, after all he falls in love with the girl who is yes, his childhood friend but also the symbol of the whole goddamn revolution. He is hopeful and he is penitent and he moves back to District 2 - to the very district he helps destroy, because he knows that sometimes the cost of a revolution can be the soft spots inside you but you don’t need to carry that cost, that weight, for the rest of your life. He’s a complex character, he’s multifaceted and contradictory and I think his race charges his narrative as much as Katniss does hers. To ignore that part of him (whilst exulting that part of Katniss) is blatantly unfair and to flatten him into a stereotype that he’s not, is as offensive as it is nonsensical.
Also, just to briefly add —
I’d also further argue that this fandom is left with a choice. Interpretations of texts are about choices, and should we agree that Katniss is a woman of color (which not everyone in this fandom does, but I do) and that, therefore, Gale is a man of color, we are left with options. We can choose to recognize that in the moments that Collins deplores Gale’s revolutionary positioning and in the moments that she posits political revolutionary violence as just as oppressive as state-sponsored violence, she is establishing an incredibly problematic racial and political rhetoric and note the problematics of the text as such, or we can choose to buy into that line of thinking and condemn Gale for it as well. Extratextually, Gale’s actions are all completely within the scope of any ethics of war you want to look at bar outright pacifism; it’s only intratextually that he’s condemned for it, and this fandom needs to examine why that is and what that means for this series. And we have a responsibility to examine the problematics of all that and recognize that even if Collins is willing to take a disparaging position toward a man of color for revolutionary violence with the goal of liberation from state-sponsored and endemic oppression, we as readers do not have to do the same.
I do think that Collins is unsure of her political rhetoric in most of Mockingjay. At times she invokes the need for revolution and at other times she condemns it, ultimately suggesting that the rebels may be just as bad if not worse than the ruling regime which is often the case in real life but given the paradigms of this series is, frankly, mortifying. But no matter how she ultimately comes down on that issue — which she doesn’t, really, because Mockingjay has no space for resolution of any kind — for fandom to flatten Gale down to a one-dimensional villain who manipulates Katniss (which is not in any way textual) and who uses violence to attain his goals (which is textual) within the constructs of a racialized narrative is a problematic of the fandom itself. His violence is political. It does not happen in a vacuum, and it is not hapless. To say ‘oh, Gale is violent’ without looking at what kind of violence he performs or why he does it is overwhelmingly limited thinking.
Another white actor chosen to play a character that is not white.
And a light-skinned woman of color being cast as a character who was described as dark-skinned.
And another author who’s okay with it because they feel like the actors fit the character so well.
Again I ask, why do white authors make their characters into people of color when they don’t care about them being whitewashed? Is it because they want them to be exotic? Is it because because they want them to be ~*different*~? and ~*special*~?
Because I doubt that they use they actually realize that white shouldn’t be the neutral color for all characters.
And being that more than often people seem to be okay with the whitewashing of these characters, that excuse against race-bending, the “we should respect the writers property and keep them the race they were written (white)!!” doesn’t really hold weight anymore, at least to me it doesn’t
I’ve pinpointed my biggest problem with the movie.
In the books, a lot of things are portrayed as “wrong.” The treatment of tributes as sex objects. Career tributes planning to torture Katniss. Racism and classism in District 12. The Capitol’s overconsumption of resources.
But one of the only things that was clearly condemned by the movie was the Games themselves.
Using deathly combat as entertainment is also one of the only things the modern first world does not currently do.
Do you see what I’m saying?
I sent this as a not but what she’s saying is so right that I have to reblog.
You said it exactly right. The book was so hard hitting because some of it was so similar that Panem seemed like a possible outcome for the US years from now. The movie made Panem unrecognizable.
w h y
in the world would Gale have a Capital portrait
because not only does the Capital not give a shit about him
I’m pretty sure HE WOULDN’T WANT TO GET A PORTRAIT DONE BY THE CAPITAL BECAUSE
HE HATES THEM
Timely reminder that Jennifer Lawrence catapulted to fame on the backs of Brown girls who could’ve played Katniss because LOL it’s just a tan and some bronzer
friendly reminder that she also catapulted to fame on the backs of people with mental illnesses and disorders in some wack ass sensationalised joke of a movie that is directed by by a transmisogynistic abuser
If ‘The Hunger Games’ was accurately cast, with POC filling the lead roles, the metaphor of struggle and violence and the ugliness of oppression would be decidedly too powerful, too real, too close to the home of racism and classism in the United States today. The viciousness and brutality facing THG characters is but the reality of many, many kids of color across the United States as well as globally who’re struggling to breathe under the boot-heel of Western imperialism and white supremacy. These are the kids whose reality we’re taught to ignore, the kids whom media degrades as innately violent and thuggish, and therefore unworthy of help or attention.
If THG starred kids who look like the ones we’re only too happy to ignore, the metaphor of the Games would carry meaning and weight and gritty truth. As it stands, by whitewashing the cast, TPTB have effectively neutralized the powerful message embedded in the text, and turned it into yet another white-kids-are-heroes-watch-them-save-the-world franchise.
Because the alternative is too much for privileged folks to handle.
“I was blonde, and Katniss is brunette. So many problems. There were a lot of things that we just brushed under the rug.” —
Yeah, like how Katniss is a woman of color?
And, don’t forget- Katniss wasn’t exactly brunette either (because that encompasses all types of brown hair) … she had (straight) black hair! She tells the reader in the first chapter. And black hair is found most among people of color… not to mention olive skin, which means yellowish-brown on the apple computer’s dictionary, is also found a lot among people of color. And Katniss’ skin color is the same as Seeder, who is an African-American woman. You don’t find many white people with that skin color. Funny how they can get Seeder right and not Katniss.
And just because Katniss’ mother was white does NOT mean that Katniss is, too. Her father has the same appearance as Katniss (see above if you don’t think that could be belonging to a person of color) and he was a poor Seam resident. He is a person of color. Therefore, Katniss is half white, and but she is also half a race not specified which, according to many descriptions and events in the book, not white.
If we went into more analysis, we can probably figure out what race exactly Katniss is.
I love Jennifer Lawrence, but, you don’t have to be picky to pick up on those descriptions. It annoys me that she thinks fans are just being picky. It’s important to notice how significant Katniss’ appearance is to fans who could finally relate to someone.
I can give you so many reasons why Katniss is a person of color, or at least can be a person of color. Same with anyone from the Seam, including Gale and Haymitch.
If anyone reading this doesn’t agree, feel free to tell me what you think proves me wrong. I’m MockingjayFly at DeviantART. I also have many pictures on my account with Katniss as she was described in the book, to those interested.
The deep-rooted racism of the Capitol brings Katniss’ popularity in the Seventy-fourth Games and the Quarter Quell into chilling question. How exactly did a Seam girl garner the favor of the racist Capitol? Cinna’s skillful styling and Caesar’s vote of camera-friendly camaraderie helped, but previous Seam tributes had the benefit of Ceasar and a styling team—even if they were neither as invested nor as talented as Cinna and Portia! What did Katniss have in her favor that no other Seam tributes had?
“Peeta has made me an object of love… And there I am, blushing and confused, made… desirable by Peeta’s confession … and by all accounts, unforgettable.” (THG 49) Peeta, fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed, merchant-class Peeta— is placed as a buffer between the Capitolites and Katniss; he is their “understood entity,” a fair-skinned, broad-shouldered, well-spoken tribute who speaks their language and essentially assures them that it’s alright to support Katniss, because he—with his “pure white” (THG 124) skin — does, too. He creates an empathetic construct between the Capitol and Katniss that serves as a mediator of “Otherness” that allows the Capitol to view Katniss as desirable enough to sponsor."
Whenever I go into the scores of thg fic on ao3 or ffn, there’s a dynamic between Katniss and Peeta that nearly always pops up. It regularly shows Katniss as working for Peeta’s sake, loathing her own self because of him, and committing herself to his happiness. It posits Peeta as morally superior to her because he does not have any demons. (The one demon he has was forced into him via torture. Yet Katniss and Haymitch have demons.)
And what makes this particularly disconcerting is that it’s good, well-written fic that exhibits this tone of their relationship. Why is that? Because this is the relationship between Katniss and Peeta that is found in the text.
Let’s consider that for a second. Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen were reaped alongside each other, did what was necessary in the arena, and endured the aftermath. Although their narratives are twins in terms of events, Peeta is morally better than Katniss. This is explicitly stated in Catching Fire.
“You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know,” says Haymitch.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say brusquely. “No question, he’s the superior one in this trio.”
Now, Katniss is by no means a reliable narrator and I understand that a parallel between her and Haymitch is being drawn here. But both Haymitch and Katniss believe that they are inferior to Peeta. Peeta Mellark, the son of a baker and a merchant who had enough to eat while Katniss starved. Peeta Mellark, who is white.
Katniss and Haymitch both have internalized the idea that Peeta is better than them after being told by the society they live in that merchants are better than people from the Seam, after experiencing a vicious class divide and being dehumanized for their race. Moreover, he is better than them by virtue of his morality. They believe this when it was Peeta who inveigled himself into the Career pack, who has the ability to manipulate a crowd to his advantage and is not unwilling to use it. And like them, he has suffered prior to the Games. It wasn’t starvation, but he was subject to abuse from the woman who was entrusted to protect him. And this leads me to ask the exasperated question, What makes Peeta better, really?
The answer is nothing. Nothing but the text’s self-woobification of him and how Collins places him as a nonviolent protester, a beacon of the right way to fight a revolution, in comparison to certain other characters who serve the purpose of demonization of violent revolution or protest. (I promised myself I wouldn’t mention Gale Hawthorne’s name in this post.)
Can you imagine how horrifying it is that people use this quote to promote their love for this ship? That indeed many, many Everlark shippers engage in their ship in a problematic way? Now, I’m not saying that shipping Katniss and Peeta is problematic. It’s not. I ship them myself. But refusing to recognize the text’s problematics and subscribing to them without acknowledging how harmful they are to Katniss, not even necessarily from a race and class point of view, but in propelling her to self-loathing because of her partner is essential. This isn’t Twilight, but The Hunger Games is a problematic text, and that’s unfortunately apparent in one of its most popular ships.
Also, okay. There’s an interesting thing about how skin color is described across racial lines. Like in The Hunger Games, if I recall correctly, Rue is described legitimately just as having dark skin. (Or was she described explicitly as being black? Idk, let me know. I don’t own the books.) In white terms, this could mean ANYTHING that’s not alabaster white. In nonwhite terms, this is more likely to mean someone on the darker end of the brown-skinned spectrum. The perspectives are different, so the end result means something different to different people. So then you have people who think Amandla Stenberg as Rue isn’t dark enough because she is legitimately not dark-skinned in the span of the entire skin tone spectrum; she’s relatively light-skinned. The same thing can be said for Katniss being described as olive-skinned; it’s interesting how many white people think that means an olive-skinned white person, completely erasing the people of color who are olive-skinned and apparently do not exist solely because white people can be olive-skinned too. It all comes from a narrow, individual perspective but because the white perspective is ultimately the only one we’re given (thus, them calling for white actresses to audition for Katniss), we’re just stuck with white people galore for every role ever and it’s ridiculous.
[begins reading hunger games]
[reaches page 5 before bodyrage]
God fucking dammit, this makes me hate white conservationists even more. These poaching and conservation laws kill thousands, millions of Black people on the African continent. Fucking protecting chimps and lions and shit but imprisoning PEOPLE. The same ppl who lived pretty ok with wildlife til yall’s white asses showed up.
People who have to cross borders secretly cuz they’re not free in their own land, gotta pass thru lion reserves at night when it’s most dangerous.
Thousands died (still die) tryna flee South Africa during apartheid just from lion attacks. Where did I read that shit… Probably something on tumblr.
Just horrible fucking human tragedy and genocide under the guise of “save the aminals!”
Fucking asshole shit white people ruining existence…
Don’t even get me started on how conservationists have disrupted and destroyed traditional hunting and subsistence practices of indigenous people all over the world…or how commercial whaling backlash and subsequent whaling quotas have affected Inuit and other tribes in North America. The ones that still have enough money to even have hunting be a viable option can’t do so without getting picketed and harassed by a bunch of white folk.
When reading the Hunger Games, the juxtaposition of abundant natural food sources combined with the electric fence and the control of all food distribution by the government as a mean of controlling the population is the entire point of the book.
It was rather noticeably missing from the movie, with the entire focus being on the violence. My and my partner actually walked out of the movie, we were so pissed off by the way it presented the story.
White actors/roles? Are in abundance.
POC actors/roles, especially lead ones? Are not.
Representation of white folks? Everywhere you open your eyes.
Representation of POCs? Squint and you can find a handful as auxillary characters to a majority white leads.
Why is it that even when roles should have the possibility of POC actors (The Hunger Games, Akira, The Last Airbender, 21…), people need to jump to the defense to explain why yet another role went to a white actor instead? Like they’re hurting for representation or work?