'Hunger Games': Is Rue black? And should race matter when you're casting the movie?

Hunter-Games-Willow-ChloeImage Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images; Michael Kovac/Wire Record 20862974So far, most early Hunger Games casting predictions have focused on Katniss Everdeen (see the Great Kaya/Lyndsy Debate) and the boys who love her. But what about Rue? The youngest tribute (12 years old) in the 74th Hunger Games, Rue would be a difficult role for any pre-teen actress. Adding some complexity: the fact that Rue is clearly described as having “satiny brown skin” on page 98. Don’t worry if you didn’t know that Rue and her fellow District 11 tribute Thresh were black. I didn’t either after my first read. (Like most people, I raced through the book in about three seconds.) But now that it’s time to cast the movie, we should ask: How important is it that Rue be played by an African American actress?

You could argue that, in Panem, race matters much less than which district you’re from. It wouldn’t radically alter the structure of THG if Rue were played by, say, Chloe Moretz. But it feels like there should be some color in this movie, if only to avoid something like the color-bleached Last Airbender or the caucasiafied Earthsea. And there’s arguably a deeper level of meaning to Rue’s ethnicity: one commenter on Keith Staskiewicz’s recent post argued that District 11, where citizens work all day in the fields and live in fear of the Peacekeepers, explicitly references plantation life in antebellum South.

What do you think, Shelf Lifers? Would you be offended if they didn’t cast a black actress for Rue? Doesn’t bigscreen sci-fi/fantasy just need more non-white actors on principle? Do you agree with our choice of Willow Smith for the part, or have the fates decreed that Chloe Moretz absolutely must have a role in this franchise?

Comments (241 total) Add your comment
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  • trashytvlover

    Rue is black. Period. I will certainly not freak out if they cast an actress of another race, but why would they? Smith really does look exactly as I pictured Rue. If she can pull off the acting, I am all for it…Rue is a seriously intregal part though, and the acting chops have to come before appearances.

    • Bubbles

      I think the Willow smith girl should Play Rue becuase what type of readers would we be if we didn’t have an african american! But also Rue could end up being a Latino/Mexican Skinned color!! I’m Latino/Mexican skinned color and I can Act!! JKJK but I think they should get a Light brown skinned color person to play Rue!! NOT WHITE!!! Like that Chloe chick

      • hh

        dude thats crap if ur saying that just because there isnt a black person in the book its racist… well just the fact they chose the girl who works in agriculture to be the black person ! Rue shouldnt be black

    • Alana

      So can we cast a black actor as Peeta or Gale since it all doesn’t matter? Or maybe let’s have a Katniss with a shirt blonde crop. Oh wait, no. Everyone would freak out. Rue is described as having “dark brown skin.” Let’s cast her just as accurately as we would any of the other characters.

      • Name

        THANK YOU, ALANA! If Rue, whose description is explicitly laid out, can be played by any race, why not cast an Asian as Peeta or a black guy as Gale? Since it doesn’t matter, right? Why is it so easy to dismiss her obvious description and no one elses’? That’s wrong, and I’m ashamed of anyone who thinks that’s okay.

      • sandy

        Love your comment. You are so right on. Rue was black in the book and she should be played by a black actress. So few black actresses get to play in major films so this is an opportunity of a lifetime.

      • Kisha

        Brown Skinned = Brown Skinned…why must we vie away from what’s written in the book? I’m African American and my skin is brown. Most Hispanics in the US are tanned. I’ve never seen a BLACK SKINNED person in my life. I get the feeling that district 11 is a primarily African American district from reading the 2nd book. If u read the descriptions of the families of the fallen tributes the sound African American. In addition to this, Haymitches friend from district 11 is also described as dark skinned. Coincidence? I think not…GET OVER YOURSELVES PEOPLE!! The world is changing…smh.

      • laila

        thank you sooo much Alana. i just want it to be as accurate as possible, IF thats ok with all you racists chapter 7 page 98 bottom of the page charlie, you can see it if you squint though that racist film over your eyes that makes you think everyones white, jackass

    • Alana

      I meant my comment as a general one, not as a response to you in particular! Sorry!

    • charlie

      RUE IS NOT BLACK NEATER IS THRESH READ THE BOOK AGAIN!

      • Emma

        Maybe you should read the book again, it says she is dark skinned atih dark hair and brown eyes. Not to be racist or anything but what white person do you know that has a tan? Point proven.

      • Tina

        Agreeing with Emma…. Duh… I’ll site page numbers for you if you’d like… Chapter 7, page 98, near the bottom, “She has bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skins and stands tilted up on her toes with her arms slightly extended to her sides, as if ready to take wing at the slightest sound.” She reminds Katniss of Prim in her manner and stature.

      • Hunger games fan12

        Yes. As I read the book, I pictured Rue as white, not black! But as long as Willow plays Rues’ role GREAT, then I am happy. But if she does not, then there’s a problem because Rue is a crucial part in this movie.

      • Alyssa

        Shut up you jackass rue is black! this is what wrong with some of you cracker… this is the year of 2011 and you all are still trying to take over the world! get over it!

      • Alyssa

        Yes she is! What is wrong with you… it is the year of 2011 and some of us white people still try to rule the world… so what is she black get over it! I love this book no matter what race the character happen to be!

      • sandy

        You are wrong wrong wrong and can’t read.

      • Bballer

        Wronngggg. Read the book again.

    • Hunger games fan12

      I honestly say that, when I read the book, I pictured Rue as someone like Chloe Moretz. Not willow

      • sandy

        Of course you did….racist much….it is so SICK that people read this book and feel the need to change people’s color based on their own PREJUDICE. Imagine if Katniss color was changed to black…you racists would freak out.

      • Jennifer

        Yea. I didn’t picture Rue as black either. I pictured her as a tan girl. And how does brown satiny skin, brown eyes, and dark hair automatically makes Rue black? I’m asian and I fit that same description perfectly. Reason I never pictured Rue as a black girl is because Katniss says she reminds her of Prim. No offense but I never look at a black child and think he/she looks like some asian girl/boy I know.. unless they are of the same race. That’s why I assume Rue is a mixed race of white or maybe Mexican. And… I wouldn’t mind if Rue is black, but I would not want Willow Smith to play her. I’d rather see a fresh face. Because I cannot imagine Rue as Willow. All I see is Willow.

      • tina

        i think that appearence and acting skills are very important for the movie and if the characters didnt look like they were spose to i would be really pissed bou that im white and i have no roblem wih black (though they are really more brown than black though) actors but whatever they chose hopefully it is a similar

      • Casey

        You all just continue to prove that you lack basic reading comprehension skills. Let me help you out.

        Brown Skinned- there is no white or Asian person alive with brown skinned unless they are mixed race. When I read Brown Skinned I automatically associated black people then some darker skinned Hispanics to the role.

        The book said that Rue reminded Katniss of prim in DEMEANOR and STATUE. That does not mean color dude. That means height, shape, and possibly a sense of what she is: innocent.

        And those are the reading comprehension skills that allowed me to pass the 3rd grade on my first try.

  • Apolloallyn

    to me this doesn’t matter, considering I didn’t even notice the distinction in the books. I will say it would be nice to see some racial diversity in the movie.

    • Fireflystare221

      I feel like a jerk for not noticing she was black in the book. I did speed through it though so that may be why. I have to say that I pictured her to look more like that Chloe girl than Willow Smith. Regardless, I think it would be good to have some diversity.

      • Bubbles

        I think the Willow smith girl should Play Rue becuase what type of readers would we be if we didn’t have an african american! But also Rue could end up being a Latino/Mexican Skinned color!!

      • katamb

        I read Book 1 on a plane while sleepy on Dramamine, so I’ll use that as my excuse. Race does not matter in this movie.

    • Calana

      I think that Rue should be a tanned girl, not black or white, and it does sound a bit rude saying white/black, agreed? Anyways, who ACTS better not just LOOKS better? Chloe looks good 2 me but Willow is fine too. Personally, maybe neither?

    • Hunger games fan12

      I ment to say ,no it does not matter the race of the actor in the beginning of my last comment, as long as she plays the role well I am fine

  • Silk Spectre

    I agree with the previous comments, though I pictured her as hispanic on my first read. It dosen’t matter to me, as long as the actress plays her with an air of tragedy.

    • jonathan

      For some reason, I thought she was of Indian descent. The name just wasn’t black or white, or hispanic.

  • allie

    When we start adding diversity just to add diversity…. geesh! Now, I will say that I didn’t notice how they described Rue in the book, but if she’s written to be dark-skinned and eyed, then um, yeah, cast a black girl. It wasn’t how I imagined her, but I rarely imagine characters to be black unless it specifically says they are (and I pay attention to that….) Whatever. It will be a good movie regardless.

    • matt

      i agree with ur not picturing a character as an african unless obviouslii portayyed as one. aha laugh mii ass off.. to be perfectlii honest withh u.when i read tha part inn tha first book when tha part about her dark skin, eyes, and hair and thought italian. i thnk itl be worth seeing, although. that being said, i cant agree wit your presumption re-guarding the movie.

  • Sue Ellen Mischke

    It matters a LOT, especially as the division of the districts parallels current cultural divisions in the U.S. Katniss’ district is a poor, mining-based culture and the book states it used to be called “Appalachia.” If you paid attention to descriptions of Rue’s district, it is very much an agricultural, hot (read: Southern) area, and the people are treated in a way not unlike slavery. So, yes, she is black.

    • D

      Oh so what all black people should be slaves? All people from the South are black? Gurl you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

      • Olive

        Just leave her alone. She obviously didn’t mean to offend you. Don’t be so touchy. She’s simply stating her thoughts.

        Yes, Sue, I agree with you. But I don’t think they treat them like slaves, just the Head Peacekeeper of that District is more strict.

  • Jennifer

    Race doesn’t matter either way. Acting chops come first. And the biggest thing they should worry about looks-wise is making sure that Prim and Rue share some sort of resemblence. That is a big part of the relationship between Katniss and Rue.

    • mary q contrary

      Honestly, when I read the book, I never really pictured Rue looking a lot like Prim, just mannerisms, age, and maybe their relative size being similar.

      • Kim

        I don’t the book ever said that Rue and Prim shared any physical resemblance other than their age and size, so I dont think they need to look anything alike.

        However I do feel that Rue should be black.

      • CanaLyn

        EXACTLY. I think it was definitely a personality thing and their age.

        I read the book in about five minutes, so I definitely missed it, but I feel like, if a character is described a certain way, they should BE that certain way in the film version. So if Rue was written black, definitely cast her as black. (And maybe someone less well-known; all the other names being thrown around the ‘net are under the radar at best.)

    • Leo

      is Willow Smith the only young black actress out there? I think the role should go to a black or mixed race actress, WITH acting chops please. There are plenty out there. Willow is beautiful and the child of two great actors BUT she is not experienced herself. Better for her to take her time and not have to go through critics which can be so hurtful to a young girl.

      • Jess

        I agree. Willow Smith is very popular right now because she has a hit song and famous parents but that doesn’t mean she’d be a great actress. Why not consider Yara Shahidi or Jamia Simone Nash?

  • sauby

    I thought it was pretty obvious that Rue was black and I read the book in 4 hours. Her being black isn’t an issue. I don’t understand why they would change it for the movie.

  • Lisa

    Why on earth would race matter in Rue and Thrash? This is an absolutely fabulous series and the whole concept of the people living in the 12 Districts being basically slaves and deciding to rebel is a powerful message for the kids reading this series. I hope actors of all races are cast in the movie. What are the odds that only white people would have survived the end of civilization as we know it & those people forming this new society? Exactly.

    • Shawna

      Thats the same thing that Im saying. Its good to show that other races survived. What does it look like if there are only white ppl in the distant future.

  • sean

    donald for spiderman

  • mary q contrary

    I had the same reaction the first time I read the book: that Rue was from the South, and obviously African American. I probably spent way too much time trying to figure out where each district would be located in the U.S. (like 8 being in Georgia or Florida, and 12 probably in Virginia or somewhere close), but as a result, it kind of vividly painted my visuals as I read. And my Rue (one of my favorite characters, however short her appearance) was most certainly black. I would be really disappointed if her race were changed, because I think it would be disrespectful to the character, who was clearly described in a way many other characters (who could really be cast any which way) aren’t. Rue has an identity, and it should be kept intact.

    • Sue Ellen Mischke

      Me too, way way way too much time!

  • ks

    Cast it the way it is written?

    • Kim

      Agreed, Rue should be black and I think Willow Smith would be a good pick.

  • Cole

    I never even noticed…

  • K

    I think in casting a film it is more important to capture the essence of the character than what they look like, but I don’t see why you WOULDN’T go with the author’s description. Are there a shortage of young African American actors who can play this role?

    • K

      P.S. I don’t think Willow is right for the role…maybe its just me but I know too much about her background to buy her as a starving, tragic character.

      • Mari

        yes i agree. i dont mean to be mean but i dont think that willow smith has the right kind of talent for this role. and also chloe doesnt look the part. sooo i would choose either of them.

  • nodnarb

    Willow Smith should be cast simply for the bird-like hair in that pic! It’s perfect Rue.

    • Mari

      there is more to hair.

  • mary q contrary

    I think Willa Holland would make a terrific Katniss, Chloe Moretz could totally pass for her sister as Prim, and Willow Smith would make an awesome Rue.

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