Katniss Everdeen Is Not a “Character of Color”

Published November 15, 2011 by Teresa

The new trailer for the film adaptation of The Hunger Games has come out, and I’ve already watched it about five or six times in a row. I am SO excited for this film!

Now, the issue of Jennifer Lawrence being cast as Katniss Everdeen sparked controversy before the project even started filming. Katniss is described as having “olive” skin. And so, naturally, “olive” translates to “woman of color.” I mean, it’s obvious, right?

Since when?

I am a “woman of color”. I am Puerto Rican, and have an olive complexion. My parents are both from Puerto Rico and are descended from both the Taino natives on PR, Spaniards, and possibly Italians, as the last name “Jusino” has Italian origins. Or Spanish. Depends who you ask, actually. Yet I don’t claim Katniss Everdeen as a character of color, nor do I think she is one.

I’ve read some interesting criticism to the contrary. You can read some HERE and HERE.

However:

1) “Character of Color” is a ridiculous label to begin with.

What the hell does that even mean? People are getting up in arms about the casting of Katniss Everdeen based solely on the fact that she’s kinda sorta brownish. How sad is that? We don’t even know what kind of brown she is, yet she’s supposed to be a beacon of hope for anyone who is…um…any color. Do Asians count as “of color” even if they’re not brown? And is Katniss supposed to represent them, too?

2) People have latched onto the idea that Katniss is “Melungeon” for no good reason.

The fictional nation of Panem is actually North America risen from the ashes of a global war. It is divided into 13 districts, and Katniss is from District 12, which is located where current-day Appalachian Mountains are. Because of her olive skin, many people assume that Katniss is Melungeon:

Melungeons are defined as having racially mixed ancestry; they do not exhibit characteristics that can be classified as of a single racial phenotype. Most modern-day descendants of Appalachian families traditionally regarded as Melungeon are generally European American in appearance, often, though not always, with dark hair and eyes, and a swarthy or olive complexion. Descriptions of Melungeons have varied widely over time; in the 19th and early 20th century, they were sometimes called “Portuguese,” “Native American,” or “light-skinned African American.” Other Melungeon individuals and families are accepted as white, particularly since the mid-20th century. – from Wikipedia

So even if she is Melungeon, she could still be “European American” in appearance. But the book doesn’t say she’s Melungeon. All we have to go on is “olive complexion.” Here’s some other info about the racial make-up of Appalachia:

An estimated 90%[31] of Appalachia’s earliest European settlers originated from the Anglo-Scottish border country— namely the English counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Durham, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and the Lowland Scottish counties of Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire, and Wigtownshire. Most of these were from families who had been resettled in the Ulster Plantation in northern Ireland in the 17th century,[32] but some came directly from the Anglo-Scottish border region.[33] In America, these people are often grouped under the single name “Scotch-Irish” or “Scots-Irish”. While various 20th-century writers tried to associate Appalachia with Scottish highlanders, Highland Scots were a relatively insignificant percentage of the region’s early European immigrants.[33]

Germans were a major pioneer group to migrate to Appalachia, settling mainly in the northern part of the region in western Pennsylvania, although some were part of the initial wave of migrants to the southern mountains.[11] In the 19th century, Welsh immigrants were brought into the region for their mining and metallurgical expertise, and by 1900 over 100,000 Welsh immigrants were living in western Pennsylvania alone.[34] Thousands of German-speaking Swiss migrated to Appalachia in the second half of the 19th century, and their descendants remain in places such as East Bernstadt, Kentucky, and Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee.[35] The coal mining and manufacturing boom in the late-19th and early-20th centuries brought large numbers of Italians and Eastern Europeans to Appalachia, although most of these families left the region when the Great Depression shattered the economy in the 1930s. African-Americans have been present in the region since the 18th century, and currently make up 8% of the ARC-designated region, mostly concentrated in urban areas and former mining and manufacturing towns.[36] Native Americans, the region’s original inhabitants, are only a small percentage of the region’s present population, their most notable concentration being the reservation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The Melungeons, a group of mixed African, European, and Native American ancestry, are scattered across northeastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia.

So, 90% of the settlers in this area were from Europe and even the Melungeons, the mixed race group in the region, usually look European, which makes sense considering that even with intermarriage, color would be bred out with every generation because people “of color” would still be so few in number in the area. Whereas Melungeons may have started out as much darker, in the 20th Century, as it says above, most pass for Caucasian. Now extrapolate that a couple of hundred years in the future when The Hunger Games takes place. It is highly likely that, despite her olive complexion, Katniss is still – for all intents and purposes – considered white.

3) “Of Color” is an experience. One that Katniss doesn’t have in the book.

To be “of color” is an experience, not just a matter of appearance. I have biracial friends who look Caucasian, and therefore don’t deal with matters of race day to day the way someone might who is darker. Hell, I’m Latina and there are Latinos/as in my family who are white and also don’t have to deal with matters of race or ethnicity day to day. This isn’t to say that their experience of race is non-existent – in fact, I was talking to one of my biracial friends the other day, and she was telling me how annoyed she gets when people don’t believe her when she says she’s half Black (her mother is Jamaican), because it’s only her Irish half that shows (she cosplays Snow White, if that tells you anything) – merely that it’s different, and usually not what’s meant or included when people discuss issues concerning people “of color.” If Barack Obama had been born with his mother’s skin instead of his father’s, would he still be considered our first Black President? I’m not so sure. I’m not saying that way of thinking is right. In fact, quite the opposite. Which is why I believe “of color” is a term so broad as to be useless, because race and ethnicity are complicated. “Of color” is a category that doesn’t really exist.

But getting back to Katniss – even if we could all agree on one definition for “of color,” Katniss doesn’t have an “of color” experience in the books. Hers are issues of class and status, not race, and they are shared by those who are lighter than she is. Peeta, who is described as blonde and clearly white, deals with the same issues she does, being from District 12. While the merchant class in District 12 does generally look like Peeta, and the blue-collar miner class looks like Katniss and Gale, it is never this that’s pointed out. She is not discriminated against, nor does she experience any difference in treatment within her district. And any negative attitudes she does experience are because of where she’s from and/or what her father did for a living (he was a miner). It was a big change for her mother to marry her father, not because he had an olive complexion, but because he was a miner. Her hardships are because of her poverty, not because of her color, and everyone in District 12 – despite their shade – is poor; some are less poor than others, but it is a generally poor district, and all the districts are poor when compared to The Capitol.

The fact that the wealthy people of the Capitol dye their skin all sorts of colors as a matter of fashion and status means that, in this world, color is not the thing that defines a person at all. What does define a person is how much money they have, and how fashionable they are.

The broader struggle in Panem has to do with distribution of wealth, not issues of race. It has more in common with the Occupy Wall Street movement than with the Civil Rights movement.

So, if Katniss doesn’t have the experience of a character “of color,” and her olive skin can just as easily be found on a person who is considered Caucasian, what is it, exactly, that people are trying to claim? To claim her as a character “of color” is to deny what being a person “of color” actually means. If it means anything.

A Caucasian guy as Peeta.

A Caucasian guy with an olive complexion as Gale.

4) There are different shades of white.

Several writers on the internet seem to think that because the casting notice for Katniss called for a Caucasian that biracial people were kept from auditioning. Now, I used to be an actor, and I went in for roles that called for Caucasians to varying degrees of success. Some casting directors recognized that someone with my features and coloring could be considered white depending on where they were from. Others held true to the standard pale=white/dark=minority dichotomy that limits so much of casting. Now, I wasn’t in the room when this film was being cast, but if I were an actress of the right age, and knew the book well enough to know that Katniss is described as having an olive complexion, nothing would’ve kept me out of that room. I would’ve insisted my agent submit me for it. And they probably would’ve seen me.

Now, the other side of that is – that there’s an assumption made by people criticizing the casting notice, that biracial people or people “of color” didn’t audition. I would love to ask those people something. Would you cast this actress as Katniss Everdeen? (I’m asking solely based on looks)

That’s Alexis Bledel. She’s got naturally dark hair, so you wouldn’t even have to dye it. She’s got blue eyes instead of grey…but I don’t think I’ve ever MET anyone with naturally grey eyes.  No, I wouldn’t cast her! She’s white! I hear you exclaim. Actually, she’s Latina. Her mother is Mexican and her father is Argentinian. She was born in Texas, but Spanish is her first language, and she didn’t learn English until she started school. But yes, she also is white. However, Latina is usually equated with “of color” so technically… Do you see how this can get confusing?

Now, for an actor with an olive complexion:

That’s Sasha Roiz. He’s of Russian-Jewish descent, born in Israel and raised in Canada. Yet he was cast to play Esai Morales’ brother on Caprica, and it was believable. Morales, like me, is Puerto Rican. Roiz is pretty much only a shade or two lighter than me, and we’d probably even out if he spent more time in the sun and I stayed out of it. Yet I don’t think anyone would call him anything other than Caucasian, despite his olive complexion.

“Olive” can be anything. So can “white.” So, “of color” means nothing. And as far as casting The Hunger Games, all we have to go on – other than the adjective “olive” – is the world and setting of the book. In that world – where the protagonist is from a future Appalachia in a society where money is everything – it is more likely than not that Katniss Everdeen is white.

I know how frustrating it is to not see yourself represented in literature, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to latch on to anything even remotely close just because that’s all there is. I love Katniss Everdeen. I think she’s one of the best female characters to come along in a long time. She’s a role model to me, and I’m thirty-two years old! She’s an extremely positive asset not just to YA literature, but to literature in general. It is because she is a young woman who doesn’t let her relationships with boys derail her focus from what’s important. It’s because she is willing to stand up in the face of injustice. It’s because she is flawed, and nuanced, which is so often not the case with female characters in fiction. It is because she cares about others more than she cares about herself. It is not because she is a character “of color.”

While I was rooting for Hailee Steinfeld to win the role, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jennifer Lawrence in the film. From the looks of the trailer above, I think she’s gonna do a hell of a job as Katniss.

And by the way, Lawrence is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, which isn’t a part of the Appalachian Region, but it’s close. :)

52 comments on “Katniss Everdeen Is Not a “Character of Color”

  • There are a lot of Italians in W. VA…

    I really didn’t think of Katniss as being from Appalachia, if only because both PA and W. VA are coal-mining states, and both have mountains.

    But I guess regional loyalties will out.

    • I’m not really clear on what you mean, as PA, W. VA, and Eastern Tennessee are all part of the Appalachian Region:

      And also, District 12 being The Artist Formerly Known as Appalachia is described in the book, and has been mentioned by Suzanne Collins, so that’s a definite thing.

      But you’re right, there are lots of Italians in W. VA, and in other parts of Appalachia, which is why Katniss being “olive” can mean anything.

      • Teresa, I’ll admit to not having checked the links in your post. I was thrown by the whole “Melungeon” thing, since that definitely is a south of the Mason-Dixon line deal.

        (Though there are a fair number of 19th and early 20th c. references to the so-called “black Dutch” in PA – am assuming that they were Roma, since what little I have read refers to them being “travelers” and doing itinerant work, like mending pots and such… maybe they were Roma from Germany and German-speaking areas that were part of the Austor-Hungarian empire???)

        But I guess my main point is that I imagined Katniss and her family living in the coal-mining parts of NE PA, not further south. ;) (And I never picked up on the “olive complexion” thing – I guess the dire poverty was more of a focus. Everyone looks too clean and well-dressed in the movie trailer…)

      • Heh. Well, I think they look nice and plain, and I think that’s because the majority of the trailer is from the reaping, for which the citizens are forced to put on their best clothes and look presentable. Then, the trailer goes straight to the Capitol, where EVERYONE looks good. I’m sure – at least I hope – the poverty will come through in the scenes set in District 12 that are not the reaping.

      • also, I really wasn’t clear about what I meant re. “Appalachia.” I have always heard the term applied to W. VA , western MD, western and southwestern VA and the surrounding area (in other words, south of PA), not to PA itself.

        I think the whole north-south divide on this probably dates back to the Civil War, since there’s not a whole lot of difference (imo) between the mountainous region south of Pittsburgh that are in PA and the same in W Va and MD. Culturally, there are a lot of similarities. Moving NE from there (as if drawing a diagonal line from the SW corner of PA to the NE), things change a lot, though, in terms of the number of people of German descent + distinct Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities. (Up around Penn State.)

        And NE PA is very distinct, too, in terms of culture – closer to Pittsburgh in some respects, due to the number of Poles and other European immigrants who came in the late 19th-early 20th c. (The opening scenes in the movie “The Deer Hunter” – the wedding part – capture a lot about P’burgh culture, and, to some extent, NE PA as well.)

      • About the trailer: true, but I get the feeling that there’s a lot of “Hollywood-ization” going on (new, sparkling clean clothes, etc.).

        otoh, I’m looking forward to the movie!

  • We’ve had many a conversation on this before, so you know how I feel about ethnic assumptions based on looks. It’s natural for people to assume, even if they assume incorrectly. So I don’t get offended by it, just annoyed. Like you said in the last part of this post though, the most important thing about Katniss is not her olive complexion, but her complexity of character. She is a wonderful, strong female role model for girls and women alike. That’s why fans of the book love her. That’s why we love the books. You will find whatever you want to find in her olive complexion, but the color of her skin doesn’t make her any better or worse of a person. It’s her actions and intentions that make her such a remarkable character and have made the books so popular.

  • Your post is interesting, but it doesn’t really relate to the text of the book. I mostly want to address your “of color” is an experience aspect, which I found interesting. Here goes..

    But first: you base your analysis on “complexion”, when Katniss has olive *skin*, not a complexion. There is a difference. For example, Rue is “dark”, but we know that means “dark skin” and not a “dark complexion” (connotation being: “dark complexion for a white person”).

    Also, you say that her issues are of class/status, and not in any way related to color. However, Collins makes it clear that there is a color-divide that generally matches the color line even within District 12. The merchant class (Peeta, and Katniss’ mom) have blonde hair, blue eyes and presumably white skin (though it is not specified), and the poorer people who work in the mines (Gale, Katniss, the Seam people) have olive skin and black hair. When class is divided along such clear racial lines, then it is disingenious to suggest struggles are solely based on one oppression/categorization and not the other. There are intersections, of course, of these identities and Collins deliberately includes that division in her book. So, if we accept that “of color” is an experience and not a straight category, Katniss still has that experience as a biracial woman if she is “of color”.

    An extension of this is the harsh treatment of the people in Rue’s and Thresh’s district that even Katniss finds extreme (the peacekeepers there). The fact that more violent treatment, or more poverty is associated with characters with color markers (or, in other words, class is divided on color lines generally speaking) shows that color/race is still somewhat part of the world.

    With that said, I don’t think racism etc is as blown out there as it is in our world, BUT to say that we are all “colorblind” in the world (and as readers) means we are either lazy writers or lazy readers.

    You also say color is meaningless in this world because people dye themselves different colors. I think the fact that people can dye their skin various colors is a marker of class as well (just like people who can lay in the sun and tan, or go on vacation and tan, or go to tanning salons.. compared to people who are too busy/poor/etc to do the same. full disclosure: I say this as someone who tans). If you can dye yourself green, you obviously have money/time/ability to do so. It’s the same as when they are throwing up food at parties – just a marker of class, not to say that “everyone has food issues”.

    Your comment that there are shades of white is also disingenious to me. As you made clear in your own example of your friend who has a Jamaican mother, “of color” also has various shades. Yet, no one is arguing that characters whose skin color is not explicitly described can be “of color”. It seems like we only argue about ambiguities when it can lean towards white. I would love to see a paper arguing that Peeta and Prim are of color with blonde hair (yes, they exist) rather than juts accepting they are white when it is not specified. So, people come in various shades. What’s your point?

    Lastly, your argument seems to boil down to this: “There are doubts about Katniss’ ethnicity. There is no clear proof she is of color. There is no clear proof she is white HOWEVER there are lots of white people who COULD fit her description. This is not proof. Even though both presumptions lack evidence, it still OBVIOUSLY means she MUST be white because to be a person of color there has to be WAY more evidence than there has to be for her to be white. Because white is the default race.” If you relate your assumptions to the book itself, I would love to read it. I understand Katniss CAN be white based on looks alone; but what about the context of Collin’s world (class included), how Collins writes her books, Collin’s inspirations, how Collins describes other characters.. Really, you’ve done very little examination of the actual text but you seem like a good writer so when/if you do a follow up post, I’d like to read it. I think Katniss is of color, but I am open (and very interested) in reading arguments that are more than “white ppl can have olive complexions too”.

  • Actually, please ignore my last two paragraphs. Your argument is more than what I reduced it to.

    I think you are saying, at the heart of it, that people of different ethnicities come in different colors. I don’t think this leads to a conclusion that Katniss IS white, just that she *may be* white (or played by a white actress). However, without more argument than that related to the text, I remain unconvinced. As I said before, I’d love to see what you have to say with reference to the text; and I stand by what I said about color/class divides (that, under your logic of “of color” is an experience, seems to give Katniss some of that experience in the book in that she/her family/her society in the District feels the after effects of racism insofar as it influenced color-based class divides).

    Lastly, I agree with you agree that “of color” is a social construct in a way that ethnicity is not. However, race is also a social construct that has no inherent meaning. So, it seems a bit odd to say “none of this really means anything and is so hard to categorize therefore it’s silly to argue about” while simultaneously acknowledging that race/racism/colorism affect people in real ways (even though they are social constructs). I hope that last bit made sense.

    Again, sorry for the last two paragraphs in the above comment. Look forward to your reply.

    • Thank you so much for commenting! Yay! New commenters! :)

      Now, you say that I haven’t referred to the text, and yet you mention every point where I referred to the text and disagreed with me. So, it’s not that I wasn’t referring to the text, but that you disagree with my interpretation in every case, which is fine. :) But you’ve pretty much pointed out just about everything that I pointed out that’s in the book and disagreed with it so, short of direct quotes, I don’t know how much more “of the text” you want my discussion to be. Sadly, I’ve recently moved from NYC to L.A. and had to leave some of my books behind for pick-up at a later date, my copy of the Hunger Games trilogy included, so I wasn’t able to pull quotes as I might have liked. Tried looking up quotes on the internet, but none of the ones I found were useful/reliable. Ah, well.

      However, something that I did bring up from the text that you didn’t touch upon and was important to my argument was the fact that District 12 is a future version of the Appalachian region. My largest point had to do with the ethnic/racial make-up of that region, which is overwhelmingly European to the extent that even the biracial category of Melungeon, which is a debated separate category to begin with, might have started out darker, but has since been bred out to the point that most Melungeons today are European in appearance. If you extrapolate that over a hundred years into the future, when this book is set, it becomes even less likely that Katniss would be considered “of color” in this area. I wasn’t just “defaulting” to white. I was trying to think about it in terms of the actual racial make-up of the setting.

      Lastly, I agree with you agree that “of color” is a social construct in a way that ethnicity is not. However, race is also a social construct that has no inherent meaning. So, it seems a bit odd to say “none of this really means anything and is so hard to categorize therefore it’s silly to argue about” while simultaneously acknowledging that race/racism/colorism affect people in real ways (even though they are social constructs).

      Lastly, the point of my post overall wasn’t to say that race and ethnicity are “silly to argue about” at ALL. My post was specifically about claiming Katniss Everdeen. I’m actually going to be writing a follow up post about how I feel about claiming characters who aren’t definitively minorities, because it’s come up for me with regard to the Hunger Games, as well as the recent resurgence of retelling fairy tales, and going back to the “controversy” over Donald Glover possibly playing Spider-Man, but my basic feeling is this: I think it’s sad that minorities are so unrepresented in popular storytelling that we fight over characters that could even slightly be considered one of us, because that’s all we have. You’re right – Katniss could be considered “of color” if we look at the text deeply enough. If we read things into the story. If we pick the text apart with a fine-toothed comb. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to do that. And the very fact that people have to try so hard to make her a character of color lead me to believe she isn’t one. If she were, we wouldn’t have to look for it. It would be obvious in the story and in her experience in a way it just wasn’t to me. The fact that Suzanne Collins herself was very definite about Rue and Thresh being played by Black actors, because it was clear in her head that they were Black, but didn’t hold her main character to the same standard leads me to believe that she wasn’t trying to write Katniss’ story as the experience of a biracial character. “Olive skin” to Collins did not mean minority. If it did, she certainly had the clout to insist that an actress be found who was more suitable.

      You mentioned that you wondered why it’s always assumed that someone with blonde hair and blue eyes is also white, when that isn’t always the case. I agree with you there, as I know several people who are blonde w/blue eyes and that have olive skin. However, it’s assumed because usually people who are blonde with blue eyes also have light skin. Yes, there are exceptions, but people don’t think in exceptions, they think in rules. We assume that Peeta is white (actually, we don’t assume that – that’s in the text, too. I do remember him being referred to as being “white as paper” or “white as a sheet” at one point during the games) because it’s generally true, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Exceptions have to be explicitly made known. It’s like people generally assuming that everyone is straight until they are told a person is gay. It’s not an insane assumption, as most people are straight. The problems have to do with the response to that. Someone says “actually, I’m gay.” Do you say, “Oh my God!” and run away, or think less of them, or treat them differently? Or do you just go, “Oh. OK” and that’s that. The wrong bit isn’t the assumption. The wrong bit is someone’s reaction to the assumption not being true.

      If Katniss were supposed to be considered a character “of color”, that should’ve been made more explicit, but it wasn’t, and now it feels as if we’re grasping at straws trying to make her something she’s not, rather than being upset that there are so few characters for us to claim and have as role models in the first place. I mean, the last name “Everdeen” even sounds Irish! And if that’s her father’s name, then he’d be of Irish descent, which wouldn’t make him “of color” either. Honestly, I was just happy that Katniss was such a nuanced female character, as there are so few of those. But again, my problem with claiming Katniss is that I feel like we’re fighting over the wrong things. It highlights the fact that this character who may or may not be “of color” (and what does that mean?), who is vaguely olive, is the only game in town. And that’s sad to me. That we fight so hard for this one character who may not even be a minority character, because there’s nothing else.

      • Thanks for your well thought out response! I am going to procrastinate from my paper to reply :)

        “You’re right – Katniss could be considered “of color” if we look at the text deeply enough. If we read things into the story. If we pick the text apart with a fine-toothed comb. The thing is, we shouldn’t have to do that. And the very fact that people have to try so hard to make her a character of color lead me to believe she isn’t one. If she were, we wouldn’t have to look for it. It would be obvious in the story and in her experience in a way it just wasn’t to me.”

        I disagree. I don’t think you need to look deeply at the text to see that Rue (whose coloring is referred to less than Katniss’ in the book) and Thresh (who is described in reference to Rue) are people of color. I think the only reason people demand more specificity than they do for Rue is because Katniss is the hero, and readers are less comfortable with a protagonist of color than with a sidekick.

        I don’t think Katniss is “vaguely olive” either. I think it is pointed out often enough throughout the series that it makes it more than a passing thought about her appearance. Regarding Peeta, he is described as that when he is near death, not when we initially meet him. I agree that I think Collins intended him to be white (because many writers do not explicitly point out that their white characters are white, only that their characters of color are of color), but the terms “white as a sheet” etc are used to describe a range of skin tones in relation to the normal/healthy look they usually have when sick. I’m not going to argue about Peeta or Prim (though I would LOVE if someone did to challenge the “white is default” notion), but I think the idea that “most blonde haired blue eyed people are white” kind of makes the “most olive skinned people are not white” argument stronger. Why is it ok to make that assumption (blonde = probably white), but not the reverse (olive skinned = probably of color)?

        When I mentioned the text, I meant it a totally pretentious English-major way (as that’s what I am, my apologies!). :) You do mention the setting, and that is the most convincing argument I’ve heard about why Katniss may be white (“most people in the area are white”). But I am not convinced by it for two reasons. First, it is not mentioned nearly as much as the emphasis on her skin color is, and I don’t find it odd that a protagonist would be “different” in some way from the minority. Secondly, it is a post-Apocalyptic world somewhere in the distant future. Why do we assume that demographics haven’t changed? Additionally, I think there are more arguments as strong as this saying she is of color.

        As for the last name, many people of color have British, Irish and Scottish last names, so it doesn’t surprise me that an American person of mixed descent in a book might as well. I don’t need to be hit over the head with someone’s “otherness” to accept that a character is nonwhite.

        “The fact that Suzanne Collins herself was very definite about Rue and Thresh being played by Black actors, because it was clear in her head that they were Black, but didn’t hold her main character to the same standard leads me to believe that she wasn’t trying to write Katniss’ story as the experience of a biracial character. “Olive skin” to C ollins did not mean minority. If it did, she certainly had the clout to insist that an actress be found who was more suitable.”

        I wish Collins would definitively say once and for all Katniss’ intended race (or if she intended it to be so ambiguous that we would argue about it lol). As I said above, I think it is easier to explicitly come out and say a smaller role was meant to be a POC than it is to declare the same about a main character (for many reasons, including marketing purposes). I actually interpret her silence to mean she wants it to be ambiguous to satisfy all readers and not alienate anyone; but that if Katniss was meant to be white, she would have come out and said “Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss!”.

        I also don’t think writers have the power people think they have. I am reminded of the Liar book cover controversy (I forget the author’s name), and Ursula K. Le Guin re: the whitewashing of her works.

        Lastly, I agree with you that there need to be more characters of color in leading roles and we should not necessarily be grasping at traditionally white or deliberately white characters. However, I fully support Guinevere’s casting on Merlin, would have actually watched Spiderman played by Glover, and thoroughly enjoyed the new Wuthering Heights with a black Heathcliff (who is likely of color, but it is never explicitly said). To deny that people of color now relate to these stories like they are “ours” is to kind of deny the force/power and effects of colonialism.

        Oh, and regarding “of color” – I think people use this term because it encompasses all people who are nonwhite who are visibly of color or relate to it. I don’t think it has to be so specific to be used in literary analysis. In the Heathcliff example, there are arguments he could be various ethnicities (Roma, black, Indian, Chinese, Arab, etc) based on contextual markings in the book. but, because Bronte does not come out and name one ethnicity, we refer to him as possibly being “of color” rather than possibly “black” or possibly “Indian” because there is more evidence to say he is nonwhite than to say he is definitely X ethnicity.

        For me, personally, I thought of Katniss at varying times as Hispanic, Arab and Asian. When I first read that she had “olive” skin, I waited for the other boot to drop – the moment where the author made it clear that she was actually, definitively white. She never did that, she just continued to point out differences with her coloring that, in my mind, cemented my image of her.

        I think the book reads much differently when she is white, just like Wuthering Heights is different with a black Heathcliff, just like Othello would be less interesting with a white Othello. In my overanalytical opinion :)

      • I was an English major myself back in the day, so believe me – I UNDERSTAND YOUR IMPULSES. :)

        When I said that she was “vaguely” olive, I didn’t mean that it’s vague that she’s olive, I meant that what her oliveness means is vague. She has “olive skin” – that is vague in that it can mean anything, and there’s never anything put forth in the book to make that less vague.

        Why is it ok to make that assumption (blonde = probably white), but not the reverse (olive skinned = probably of color)?

        I believe I already answered that question. It’s OK to make the first assumption, because there’s a greater probability that you’d be right. That said, I think you do have a point in that a point is usually made about someone’s “oliveness” when otherness is implied. That said, saying “olive” over and over isn’t enough to make that point for me. Nothing that causes Katniss’ “otherness” in the book is directly a result of race. Indirectly? Like what you say about classes being in part a result of delineations based on race? Maybe. But that isn’t explored enough for that to be a focal point for me. Katniss is very specifically “other” in this book because: she’s one of the few people brave enough to hunt and bring food back for others, her father is dead and people feel sorry for her, she volunteers to be a tribute making herself a celebrity and isolating her further, she’s not traditionally “girly” so she needs a “lot of work” when she gets to the Capitol… The only time her skin color comes up as far as making things difficult for her is the fact that she doesn’t look like her mother and Prim, but that only adds to the already-existing “otherness” that exists in her house since her mom went a little crazy and she was forced to care for both of them. In that sense, it wasn’t racial so much as a matter of family resemblance being yet another thing that kept her at a remove.

        To deny that people of color now relate to these stories like they are “ours” is to kind of deny the force/power and effects of colonialism.

        I think minorities can and should relate to these stories! But you don’t have to have a white character be played by a minority actor in order to do that. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have related to the stories – “seen ourselves in them” – in the first place. There’s a big difference to me between relating to a story, and hearing one’s own story. Just because you relate to the humanness in a story being told doesn’t mean its yours. I think every story aspires to be related to on a human level. I think The Hunger Games is a story that succeeds in that way. That doesn’t make it the story of a biracial girl.

        It’s funny, because you say that the book would read differently to you if the character were white, and that’s not my experience of the book at all! The book would read no differently to me if Suzanne Collins came out and said that Katniss were Hispanic/Asian/Arab, because the story she tells isn’t specific enough for ties to any one ethnicity to matter. This is a story of revolution – the kind of revolution that just about every country on this planet has faced in one way or another. It’s the story of a nation keeping its people down in the name of keeping an economic elite in power. We’re living that in this country right now with Occupy Wall Street. Granted, we’re not Panem – yet – but I think the most important part about this story is that that’s where we’re headed if we don’t do something. Even if Katniss were “of color” – which is debatable at the very least, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation – my question would be, “So?” I mean, I might have a vague sense of pride about it, sure. But that wouldn’t change what the novels mean to me. The novels already mean a great deal to me, and the reasons have nothing to do with what any of the characters look like.

        Actually that’s a lie. What I love about the descriptors is that Katniss isn’t “girly” and she doesn’t subscribe to the standard gender-related mores. I guess I relate to Katniss more as a woman, not as a “woman of color.” That’s an added layer I didn’t find here.

      • “Nothing that causes Katniss’ “otherness” in the book is directly a result of race.” Her race doesn’t have to be part of what “others” her for her to be racialized. Especially in a story world where people can be diverse without adopting our current society’s racial structures, I don’t think she needs to experience racism as we know it to be a person “of color” as we know it. I think it is enough the class/color divide is evidence enough. I don’t know why she would mention this, or a “Seam” look at all, if what she meant was as simple as complexion when she is writing in a post-Apocalyptic America (supposedly the melting pot!).

        “There’s a big difference to me between relating to a story, and hearing one’s own story.” I made those comments in relation to stories generally incorporating people of color when the characters are traditionally white (like, Guinevere). I don’t mean that with Katniss.

        You say this is a story about revolution, but I think what you’re really saying is this is a story about class. Not race. And that race is not a part of this story because major events do not turn on it. If that’s what you’re saying, your conclusion should not be “therefore, Katniss is white”. It is more like “therefore, it doesn’t matter if Katniss is white or of color.”

        “the kind of revolution that just about every country on this planet has faced in one way or another. ”

        I don’t think all revolutions are the same. Various countries and communities have experienced war and revolution very, very differently. America has not seen war on its own soil like many countries of the global south has. America has played a part in many wars, c’oups (Pinochet in Chile), and political scandals to affect foreign politics for their benefit. They have also instigated wars recently with little or no cause (including the war in Iraq and the Vietnam war which Collins was inspired by). It’s very, very generalizing to suggest that an American relates to war in the same way that a Somalian does in the same way a Cuban does in the same way a Vietnamese does. The only universal here is that war is bad/wrong. Other than that, if we’re talking about whose story Katniss’s is… and if we want to talk about what is true “most of the time” (regarding the blonde = white logic), it’s more so the story of the girl of color living in poverty under a dictatorship, than the story of a white girl (possibly living in poverty) in a capitalist society.

        I also think to generalize the story that much (revolution, class.. rather than war/war crimes, oppression, class, race, dictatorships, etc) is the same as saying Avatar is all about environmentalism and remaining wilfully blind to the obvious parallels with real-world indigenous struggles and histories. To say this is a story any girl can relate to is either to assume.. any girl is oppressed, starving, in poverty, living in a society that is class-divided on color lines (and she’s on the wrong side of the color line).. or it’s to say that this is about war in such general, broad fantastic terms that it doesn’t really mean much as literature.

        Here’s where we are going to disagree big time. I don’t think Collins is that great of a writer. I think she is a great story teller. What set this apart from other YA, for me, was the parallels she draws with our world, and one of those parallels is race (and the race/class divide, and the way Rue/Thresh are treated in their District, etc etc). So, if Katniss is white and those parallels are therefore nonexistent (or significantly less powerful), then the book just isn’t much more than a good story (but not what I’d call literature). Yes, I’m a book snob. :)

        As for relating to Katniss.. I don’t think Katniss is that great of a character. She is kind of cold and seems detached from most other characters except Prim (and by extension, Rue). I’m not saying that isn’t understandable given her life situation, but I don’t feel like she grew that much over the course of three books. Even by the third book, she wasn’t throwing herself into a cause she believed in – she was more of a tool, just the tool of a different administration for a different purpose (inspiration for the revolution, rather than fear/control of the current system). She had great moments (the berries, the arrow at the gamemakers, the end of the third book) for sure, and as my protag I wanted her to succeed, but no; I didn’t see myself in her. I think I’m more of a Peeta, myself. :) And I have no problem with Peeta being a white, blonde boy, so it’s not about seeing “me” in the story. It’s just about how her being of color changes the reading of the book, in my opinion.

        We will probably only disagree from here on out since you think it reads the same (and I don’t deny that there are stories where race doesn’t matter in the same way as I think it does here), and I don’t (and that’s why I care). I really do wish Collins would address this so I can decide if she is really a great story teller who made so many references/analogies to our world suitable to a young audience.. or if she is just writing a fun story and doesn’t realize herself all the parallels she could have drawn.

      • You say this is a story about revolution, but I think what you’re really saying is this is a story about class. Not race. And that race is not a part of this story because major events do not turn on it. If that’s what you’re saying, your conclusion should not be “therefore, Katniss is white”. It is more like “therefore, it doesn’t matter if Katniss is white or of color.”

        My point is none of those things, actually. :) Here are my three points distilled:

        1) Whether Katniss is a minority character is debatable at best. If people see that in her, or bring their own experiences to her to read her that way, that’s great. But it’s not a certainty.

        2) If it’s not certain, getting up in arms about her casting is a waste of energy. I’d be upset if she were clearly a minority character that was then cast with a White actress. But this is not, to me, a clear case of whitewashing.

        3) My personal priority as a media activist is to encourage the conscious creation of minority characters, as well as an increase in minority creators.

        However, I think I just stumbled upon a personal bias of mine. I think that a big reason why I don’t care about claiming Katniss as a character “of color” is because the author is White. :) That’s something I need to examine now. But I think that, since I’m a creator “of color,” I place more stock in “characters of color” created by artists/authors/filmmakers “of color.” They matter more to me. While I think it’s great if a White author decides to create a character “of color”, that ultimately means and matters less to me than having more creators “of color” telling stories. We shouldn’t be dependent on White creators to tell our stories for us, you know?

        As for relating to Katniss.. I don’t think Katniss is that great of a character. She is kind of cold and seems detached from most other characters except Prim (and by extension, Rue). I’m not saying that isn’t understandable given her life situation, but I don’t feel like she grew that much over the course of three books. Even by the third book, she wasn’t throwing herself into a cause she believed in – she was more of a tool, just the tool of a different administration for a different purpose (inspiration for the revolution, rather than fear/control of the current system). She had great moments (the berries, the arrow at the gamemakers, the end of the third book) for sure, and as my protag I wanted her to succeed, but no; I didn’t see myself in her.

        This, like, physically hurt me to read. :) I think that Katniss is a great female character because she’s detached and matter-of-fact. She’s a survivor in a very real sense, and I think that the stereotype would be to have a female character who a) gets overly caught up in the love triangle, or b) cries all the time, or c) is “really, really nurturing.” Why should a woman always have to be nurturing and warm? Katniss doesn’t have time for that. She’s the breadwinner of her family. That’s her concern. We always accept that kind of stoic showing of love from male characters – why is it so unacceptable from a woman? She’s also a teenage girl who is figuring herself out. I disagree with you on whether she grew over the course of the books. By book 3, she consciously accepts the role of Mockingjay. At first, you’re right, she isn’t political AT ALL. But over the course of the three books, she not only becomes political, but willingly becomes the face of the rebellion. And you’re right, she IS used twice. But she realizes this in the third book. That she’s not only been terrorized by President Snow, but that she’s being used by the head of the rebellion, and she decides that she’ll be neither’s pawn. I thought that was a huge idea to be explored in a YA book, and I thought Collins did it well. She didn’t make it easy, and there were no pat answers. Sometimes, people are killed and there’s no good reason. Sometimes even the cause betrays us. But in the end, Katniss does grow, because she regains her ability to trust and love, which would be difficult for a person of either gender in her position. She manages to come to love Peeta even after he’d been programmed to hate her, even after all she’d been through. She realizes that there’s more to loving someone than having things in common, the way she had with Gale. Love is about caring about someone else’s well-being before your own. At first, the only person she feels that way about is Prim. Over the course of the three books, she comes to feel for Rue, Peeta, and all of Panem that way. I’d say that’s a huge character journey.

        I don’t think all revolutions are the same. Various countries and communities have experienced war and revolution very, very differently. America has not seen war on its own soil like many countries of the global south has. America has played a part in many wars, c’oups (Pinochet in Chile), and political scandals to affect foreign politics for their benefit. They have also instigated wars recently with little or no cause (including the war in Iraq and the Vietnam war which Collins was inspired by).

        I didn’t say all revolutions are the same. I said all countries have faced a revolution like this in one way or another. I don’t know if you remember a little sumpin’-sumpin’ called the American Revolution, but we did experience a war on our own soil like this. And yes, we did create a country on top of indigenous people. But I’m making a parallel between the economic reasons for the rebellion in Panem, and the economic reasons for the revolution in the US. Not all revolutions are the same, but I see the revolution in The Hunger Games as one of economics, not social issues, or even political ideas. And yes, they’re all interconnected. But my point is that the revolution in The Hunger Games is over distribution of wealth, not other social issues.

        I have to say, though, I love this discussion! :) You’re making me wish SO HARD that I could get my copies of the Hunger Games books from New York so I can read them all over again! I miss them!

      • 1) Whether Katniss is a minority character is debatable at best. If people see that in her, or bring their own experiences to her to read her that way, that’s great. But it’s not a certainty.

        Ok, but same with Katniss being a white character. So it’s not that Katniss is not a character of color; it’s just that she may be either or.

        2) If it’s not certain, getting up in arms about her casting is a waste of energy. I’d be upset if she were clearly a minority character that was then cast with a White actress. But this is not, to me, a clear case of whitewashing.

        I would also be more upset if she were clearly a minority character, or if they “browned” Jennifer Lawrence up for the role. Though casting a biracial actress would’ve made both camps marginally happy.. just saying!

        3) My personal priority as a media activist is to encourage the conscious creation of minority characters, as well as an increase in minority creators.

        I think that’s awesome. I’m currently working on my own YA starring characters that are decidedly of color. Yay for characters of color!

        “But I’m making a parallel between the economic reasons for the rebellion in Panem, and the economic reasons for the revolution in the US. Not all revolutions are the same, but I see the revolution in The Hunger Games as one of economics, not social issues, or even political ideas.”

        Ok, here is another thing we read totally differently! I definitely saw it as a war based on social issues with political undertones. I see the American Revolution as definitely economically driven (as opposed to, say, the Haitian revolution), but I don’t see what happened in THG that way. There were many social issues that formed turning points and that people allied around – not necessarily true with economic issues. The reason people grow to care for Katniss (and she becomes a symbol for the revolution) watching her in THG are not because she is standing up for economic rights, but because she seems to have some respect for basic human rights and dignities (like what she did for Rue, like when she cried for Peeta). She seems to not be fighting for increased economic freedoms directly, but for respect for human rights, life and dignity. Her concerns seem largely social. I can’t think of any moments where she makes a statement or action about the unfairness of the economic structure – remind me of she does? But I can think of many instances (in Rue’s District, seeing people in the Capitol throw up food) where she notices social unfairness (although they may have economic ties, I think what she latches on to are the social aspects).

        Regarding politics, I think THG does have a political message. Was it totally politically motivated? Probably not; but not any less than it was by economics. Snow does not end up winning. Neither does the other quasi dictator who wanted to take power after using other people for the revolution (I forget her name!). Instead, the person who rises to power is someone who fought alongside the rebels, and who was directly risking her life for the cause (I also forget her name!). That is a political message to me. More importantly, she earned her position because of a political ideology that the book seems to support (anti-dictatorships, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say explicit democracy? Maybe a kind of meritocracy?); and not because of a great economic plan.

        So, since I see it as a social/political revolution and not an economic one, I don’t think the American Revolution is as relevant as other instances of war and oppression in our recent history.

        “I think that Katniss is a great female character because she’s detached and matter-of-fact. She’s a survivor in a very real sense, and I think that the stereotype would be to have a female character who a) gets overly caught up in the love triangle, or b) cries all the time, or c) is “really, really nurturing.””

        Haha, I’m sorry that hurt you :) Here’s the thing. I like characters who are detached and matter-of-fact and I think Katniss is a huge improvement on Bella/Twilight (which I did not read). However, in the context of the book, I think there were other characters who grew more than she did. And (brace yourself) I think she sometimes went beyond detached to almost apathetic and lacking self awareness. However, these are minor quibbles. I’m not saying she was horrible and terrible role model and off with her head and let them eat cake! I’m saying, I didn’t relate to her personally. I can see why other people would.

      • I have a sneaking suspicion that “Everdeen” is a nod to Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd… it has very independent heroine, Bathsheba Everdene. In that context, it’s hard to know where the name came from – France, maybe?

        At any rate… I am not convinced that all the prosperous (or relatively prosperous) people in District 12 are “white” – but by the same token, I don’t think a re-read (by me, at least) focused on ethnicity or color is going to change my mental picture of Katniss (or any of the other characters, for that matter).

        Given that the story is set in the future, I would suspect that there has been a lot of “blurring” of ethnic/skin color lines anyway… and I would definitely be in favor of “colorblind” casting for pretty much all of the roles in this story. (Since it’s dystopian sci-fi tihat doesn’t seem to dwell that much on race, more on wealth vs. poverty.)

        This seems (imo) different than LeGuin’s Earthsea books, but one of the ingrained problems there is that a lot of the settings sound like they came out of European-based fantasy literature. Since there are no visual markers (illustrations showing clothing, art, architecture, etc.), it’s harder – I think – to “see” her characters in the same way that she does. (And the Taoist philosophy didn’t come through *at all* to me when I was a kid – it’s pervasive, but also an extremely subtle indicator that the setting and characters are sort of East Asian…)

        Anyhow… nice to have a good discussion here! (Am a geek girl, btw…)

    • and fwiw, I agree that Collins likely has little-zero control over casting decisions, etc. It seems as if signing away the screen rights to a book or play usually means giving up one’s ability to control how the story and its characters are represented.

      I would not be at all surprised to learn that the powers that be decided that a white female lead would be preferable to a character with darker skin, no matter what the hue. After all (and sadly), sales and merchandising come into play.

  • SD and e2thec:
    Since you both addressed this, I thought I’d reply to both of you on this point in a separate reply. :)

    There’s a BIG difference between Suzanne Collins and Ursula Le Guin w/regard to their clout. While both have written genre stories, Collins is a MUCH more mainstream author, and her books have a much broader appeal. It’s more likely that average person on the street has heard of The Hunger Games, whereas people who don’t read sci-fi would struggle with not only who Le Guin is, but even recognizing one of her titles. When I say that Suzanne Collins had the clout and power to have influence over the casting decision, it’s because she did. She’s a popular and powerful enough author that they let her be a part of the process in the first place. She’s also a former Hollywood writer (she wrote Clarissa Explains it All!), so she’s not just an author coming to Hollywood, she’s an insider. She’s bordering on JK Rowling kind of pull. They wouldn’t have made this movie without her input. And if it were important enough to her to have an actress “of color” in the role, they would’ve kept looking. After all, Jennifer Lawrence isn’t a household name – yet. This movie will probably make her one. She was nominated for an Oscar, but didn’t win one. So, it’s not like they chose her because her name would mean box office. Kristen Stewart’s name means box office. Lawrence is still “new” as far as getting top billing in a major film.

    So, that’s why I disagree with the idea that Collins might have been coerced into casting a White Katniss.

    • While she may have more pull than Le Guin based on her current popularity, whatever creative control she had would depend on the specific contract she signed with her rights. It really all comes down to that contract. As I said before, I really wish she’d just come out and say her intentions. But to be honest, I think she intends ambiguity to keep everyone happy.

      All I’ve heard her say is that she saw the auditions; I haven’t heard her say anything about the limitation on the auditions (only white actresses). She has only approved of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the context of only seeing white actresses. That is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong.

      She is definitely not JK Rowling. JK Rowling was very smart and lucky with her rights (especially in terms of e-books, wow!), and she has been read worldwide by young adults of both genders for years. Her movies were highly anticipated. I am the only person I know in my peer group who has read THG or knows who Suzanne Collins is (and I was an English major with many friends who have read Twilight even!). Also, my understanding is that she wrote for some episodes of Clarissa – not that she wrote or even created the entire series. I don’t know of any of her other works that have become movies, so I don’t know if she has as much pull as you think even if she may have more than Le Guin.

      I don’t think she was coerced per se, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had no actual legal creative control and if the studio (more interested in money and marketing) wanted a white (not even olive skinned!) lead (whether or not they specifically mentioned Lawrence). But, maybe I’m a pessimist.

    • I gotta go with SD on contracts, rights and all that. Almost nobody has creative control once the contracts are signed – part of the deal seems to be that if you want to see a film with the same title as your book, you more or less have to cede creative decisions to the Powers that Be in H’wood.

      However, SD – I don’t see Katniss as bing too detached (in a deliberate way, that is). she goes through so much trauma during the 1st book alone that the “distance” seems to be more about self-preservation (as well as a reaction to traumatic events). I was waiting through the course of all 3 books for K. to hit a point at which she clearly knows that she has PTSD. (Which would closely mirror real-world events and experiences that Collins claims as influences on this series.)

      Unfortunately (imo), I don’t think the 2nd and 3d books are nearly as good as the1st one… though again, I think that’s more about marketing and sales than it is about Collins’ abilities.

      That said, I have to go with SD on Collins being a good storyteller, but not what I’d call a scintillating prose stylist. (In fact, there were some real clunkers in all 3 books (imo).

      The only book that drove me around the bend was #3: it seemed rushed and underdeveloped. I would have loved a more leisurely pace, complete with character development. (And the whole “prep team” thing got on my nerves, but that’s another thing altogether.)

      As for Katniss’ ethnicity/skin color, for me personally it’s a non-issue, though I really can see why it would be an issue for many other readers. Maybe what we need is for those who feel passionately about this to work on writing their own work… because I don’t think it’s wise to try and beat the proverbial dead horse. (Also, I got the feeling that the world of the books is both like and very much *unlike* ours in many respects – so much os that it’s not really safe to assume that our own preferences and prejudices carry over to the world of the books… I think that saying “X is just like Y” doesn’t make sense in this case.)

  • I think the beauty of Katniss as a character is that her description is vague enough to allow every girl to see herself in the role of Katniss. It was a smart bit of writing as she’s the type of character young girls need so desperately to see. By describing her as “olive”, she becomes instantly “hey…she’s like me” to just about every girl who’s not purple with polka dots (apologies to all you purple-polka-dotted people out there). What’s awesome about her is that you could have had a black woman, an italian, a latina, or European play her and no one should really be surprised. Also, for centuries “dark” and “pale” skin tones have been used to describe not just racial lines, but also class lines. “Dark” skinned was also used to mean you worked outside (meaning physically) for a living and therefore were defiantely NOT wealthy and/or white-collar.

    In the world portrayed, I believe that race and class issues have blended until it really comes down to a world of “haves” and “have nots” that transcends race boundaries. Honestly, if you’re fighting for the very ability to survive…who the f*** cares what color your fellow survivors are?

    • In the world portrayed, I believe that race and class issues have blended until it really comes down to a world of “haves” and “have nots” that transcends race boundaries. Honestly, if you’re fighting for the very ability to survive…who the f*** cares what color your fellow survivors are?

      Yes! This is what I mean when I say that race isn’t a factor in Katniss’ existence, which is why claiming her as a “character of color” doesn’t make sense to me. Whether she’s a minority or not doesn’t matter to the story being told at all. At most, it would just be a nice added bonus. Still – nothing to be desperately clung to.

  • I think I am replying in the wrong place! But I just wanted to say, if you relate to Katniss as a woman for her living outside of gender norms, that’s awesome. I think for me, it is harder to distance my understanding of myself as a woman from my experiences as a woman of color. I’m both at once. I’m a wonderful kaleidescope of intersections and good luck to anyone who tries to untangle me :)

    • Ha! I’ve been following this very interesting discussion over good ol’ olive-skinned Katniss and then I saw this. First off, it’s funny (a bit ha ha, a bit interesting) because I am an olive-skinned woman and have heard many of these arguments around me and even directed to me regarding my ethnic makeup. I’m a blend of ethnicities and the part where I get my olive skin is actually the white side of my family, and the part of my white family that gave me my olive skin is from the Appalachias, and that part of the family migrated from Ireland and Italy. This explains why my dad is so white that he’s pink, but after he spends 10 minutes in the sun, his skin is suddenly olive…until he stays in the sun for 20 minutes and it turns red. :P (To be honest, as pale as he is naturally, he does tan easily and doesn’t actually burn often.)

      Sometimes my ethnicity, gender, and looks blend into “a wonderful kaleidoscope of intersections” (great phrase!) for better or for worse, but other times only one of those things that affects me for better or for worse. In the case of this discussion, I’ve agreed with the “Katniss is White” argument. A big part of that is probably based on my own experience because that’s the big difference that we each bring to the table when reading any book – our individual perspectives. I loved the argument that girls (and woman) can see themselves in Katniss, but also understand that you could see yourself in Peeta. I identified with many of the characters in different ways. We will all pick up on different things and identify with different things because our individual experiences have formed our individual perspectives. So of course the fact that you experience your gender and color together would affect your views on the story differently than my olive-skinned ambiguous experiences, and so on and so forth. That’s what I find most interesting about the human experience though. We all read the same words. The more general the discussion, the easier it is to agree, but the more specific we get, the more we will disagree.

    • That’s understandable, as you ARE both at once! :) I’ve always been good at compartmentalizing, I guess. But also, I think there are times when one aspect of ourselves becomes more important than the other.

      For example, I am a Puerto Rican woman who is a writer, a native New Yorker, and someone raised in a Christian tradition. All of those things are equally important to me, but I don’t necessarily examine everything with every single one of those lenses all at once all the time. Though I have to say, at this point in my life, the most important lens to me is the one where I’m a woman. :) Lately, I’ve become less tolerant of the fact that men always seem to come first. Women of all races are second class citizens in the world. The worst part is that a good portion of us seem to be totally OK with that. Example: the 15th Amendment that gives everyone regardless of their race the right to vote in the US was passed in 1870. The 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed in 1920. FIFTY YEARS LATER. :) To me, focusing on issues of race and ethnicity, while still – of course – important, has become less of a personal priority than focusing on issues of gender. Because issues of gender negatively affect a majority of the planet, and not enough is done about them.

      But again, that’s a personal choice. I believe that if everyone focused their heart and soul on the little corner of the world that matters most to them, we’d have the whole world covered and it’d be a better place. :)

      • I definitely care about feminist causes, and consider myself a feminist. However, mainstream feminism can be very exclusive to white women by failing to address issues that affect the specific intersection of “woman of color”.

        My best example of an intersectionality is being a brown Muslim woman who faces discrimination because of the combination of those identities, and not for any one alone (a brown nonmuslim man may not face islamophobia related to headscarves, a nonbrown nonmuslim woman may not face islamophobia related to headscarves, a nonbrown muslim man may not face islamophobia related to headscarves.. but the combination: suddenly, brown muslim women with headscarves can’t put their purses down on public buses!).

        Women all around the world do face oppression; but they are different oppressions. The oppression of a white woman is colored by her whiteness in the same way the oppressions of a black woman are colored by her experiences being black. Insofar as feminism only or primarily considers issues faced by white woman (read: not racism) as feminist issues, it is excluding a a lot of intersection identities. I feel the same way about antiracist causes excluding LGBTQ issues and vice versa. Solidarity – but with sincerity!

        Legally, women did get the right to vote after everyone else. But in practice, African Americans (women included) did not get to really exercise the right to vote until the 1960s due to all of the systemic discrimination/racism they faced. Also, many people of color did not even get independence or freedom/self determination until the ’60s (Caribbean & African countries) and still face forms of neocolonialism today.

        Anyway, I am all for diverse representations of diverse peoples all over the place. Maybe because I grew up in such a multiethnic culture with lots of interfaith and interracial families, etc (including my extended family); but that is the reality I see and know and love :)

    • SD, thanks muchly for the info. on your background – your position re. Katniss being a woman of color (plus many other things) make far more sense to me now… and I’ve gotta say that if i were darker-skinned than I am, I would more than likely want Katniss to be, too.

      Re. being detached + the breadwinner, K. reminds me more than a bit of the women in many of Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos. In so many cases, women and young kids were feeding their families back then. It was an incredibly harsh world and I think I’ve tended to filter many aspects of the books through what I’ve heard, read and learned about the Depression.

      • :) Your comment about Katniss’ PTSD is true. I think I attributed PTSD more to other characters (Peeta for sure), but I definitely see how she is affected by it, too throughout the books (and not just markedly at the end). That does explain a lot of her detachment.

        Like you are reminded of issues regarding the depression, I am reminded by issues that affected my family. My father was the primary breadwinner for his family (mother, father three out of six siblings, and three nephews/neices) from 18 throughout his 20s. Both of my parents were born poor in the third world (in a colony, that later got independence, that later elected a man through elections rigged by the US). My parents never went to war, though :) So, I have also probably “filtered” many aspects of the book through what I know about my family.

      • SD, I think we all tend to filter what we read through our own experiences – as you have, and as I have as well.

        And what you’re saying about your folks’ country of origin, your dad having been the sole support for his family in those years, etc. makes sense.

        *

        On Katniss’ detachment: do you all think that maybe some of this has to do with the fact that Collins is relying on her as 1st-person narrator? I think that some of the flaws I see in books 2 and 3 is dependent on that – I would have loved to get some other POVs on what was happening; the political stuff especially.

      • are dependent, not “is.” (My brain is working lots faster than my fingers…)

        SD – I do agree on feminism – especially 60s-70s feminism – as being primarily something that white middle/upper-class women were engaged in. Black women, Latinas, Asian women, African women, women from the ME – left out, almost by default. (Which gives me the creeps, thinking back…) It had a lot to do with economic status, education, etc. and I think there were (still are) many prejudiced ideas re. “strong black women” that ended up not allowing black women into the circle, though certainly, there were black women (and other women of color) speaking out on the issues of womens’ roles and rights. (Though they seldom got mainstream media coverage…)

        [/end threadjack]

  • Katniss may not be able to be “classified as Native American or Latina or mixed-race,” but she has been CLASSIFIED — and self-identifies — as racially, ethnically, and culturally Seam, and makes that a huge counterpoint to her view of Peeta, who she classifies as racially, ethnically, and culturally a Merchant. No, Panem does not seem to have the same racial markers (or ethnic, cultural, or religious markers) as we do. That DOES NOT MEAN that they don’t exist, and DOES NOT MEAN that they should be ignored when we ARE given their differences in the text. We don’t know HOW dark the Seam’s skin is. But we know that it is pointedly darker than the Merchants’ and that has made a significant, significant difference in how people are raised, married, treated, and receive job placement in D12.

    Also, “Collins” is a common Melungeon surname, and SC — although she definitely looks quote-unquote “European” in appearance! — may well have Melungeon ancestry or knowledge of the Melungeon culture beyond most of her readers’.

    • This is a great comment, and you make an important distinction between the “real world” and the world of the book. It’s true that I’m putting the book in the context of the real world a bit too much. I wouldn’t ignore the differences in skin color, per se. However, the issues raised in the story are more focused on class than race. While it’s possible that the inhabitants of the Seam are there, in part, because of their race, this is something that we can only guess at. It’s not a priority of the book, which is why I don’t feel the need to claim her as a “character of color.” The story isn’t, to me, the story of a “character of color.” It’s the story of a poor character. And with “olive” being such a vague descriptor, and the focus of the story not being race, Jennifer Lawrence being cast in the role doesn’t particularly bother me. Would it have been nice to have the role played by a Latina, biracial Black, Native American, or Asian actress? Sure. But I’m not incensed about it, because the character’s race isn’t integral to the story. This isn’t a cut and dried case of “whitewashing.” It’s a detail that’s given little to no attention in the actual text, getting more mileage and analysis outside the book than within it.

      • Hmm… I re-read the books several weeks ago, and one thing that jumped up and hit me in the face was the constant reiteration of the merchants having blonde (or at least light brown) hair and very fair skin, while the Seam folks are as described above.

        Am not so sure it’s a non-issue anymore! ;) (For me, at least.)

        But… we don’t know how or why things fell out the way they did in the world of the book. However, I can see that Collins (any writer, really) might want to use details of their own background without giving that away – it would tend to make a story into a polemic, no?

        fwiw, I have been picturing Rue as South Asian – has much to do with her small stature and the description of her skin color. Given that there *are* a lot of South Asians in the Deep South these days, it makes sense that some would survive the catastrophe that destroyed much of the continent.

        What I cannot figure out is the actual geography of Panem – I mean, they get coal from a *very* small area, which doesn’t make sense if it’s being used by many poorer people throughout Panem. And why keep mining coal if cheaper and more efficient tech is actually available? (I think Collins might have written herself into a bit of a corner when she made these huge distinctions between the Capital and the rest of the country – not quite enough backstory development, maybe?)

  • You say you have never seen anyone with grey eyes naturally? Its actually quite common in people with descendants from Appalachia, particulary Eastern TN, Eastern KY. I invite you to take a look…Dark hair, Olive Skin, AND grey eyes

  • Why didn’t they audition for all olive skinned people with dark hair regardless of race? Although there are different definitions of olive skin (for example you called Liam Hemsworth olive skinned, to me he isn’t but he has a light golden tan, veeery light). Olive skin has its own undertones and shades and doesn’t tend to retain the red/pink undertones that light to tanned skin does.

    The problem was they didn’t even just ask for olive skinned white people, it was all whites welcome. As for the grey eyes, that’s what contacts are made for.

    From what I understand the author said that this takes place at time where there has been significant mixing between races (maybe more in different regions than in others). So I was expecting anything from an Adriana Lima (actual blue-grey eyes, lol)? Camille/a? Belle to an Eva Mendez. In layman’s terms a white person with a significant chunk of “POC” in the blood.

    I also think Jennifer Lawrence could have dyed her hair darker, and worn contacts and perhaps left the ‘brownface’ out, it does not look good. As a Latina I’m sure you can appreciate how skincolour and ethnic phenotype can differ in one family.

    • Collins did say that images of the invasion of Iraq helped inspire the idea for writing “The Hunger Games.” When I found that out, I thought that maybe Collins never intended Katniss to be Middle Eastern, but decided to give her some Middle Eastern features, hence the olive skin and straight black hair. I also thought it was interesting how her father was killed in a mine blast, just as many Iraqi citizens have also died in suicide bomb blasts, some only because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Did Collins secretly put that in there? Probably not, but I thought it was interesting. I always imagined Katniss to look like she was half-Arab, because of her mom’s lighter features.

  • People from porto rico are a mixture of african european,and some american indian. Take a loook at Jlo who is a perfect example. She should talk to jlo and stop fooling herself. This is a common tact to say you are porteguees or indian or itialian to explain your brown skin.

    • I’m Puerto Rican, and know very personally the mixture of races on the island. I’m not quite sure what point you’re making exactly. The point of my post is that “olive skin” can mean lots of things, including Caucasian. However, some people bring up the good point that “olive skin” isn’t usually brought up in literature unless it’s meant to indicate non-White. My argument is that Katniss’ experience in the book is not one of race/ethnicity but one of class, and so I don’t feel the need to claim her as a character of color. So…what exactly are you saying?

  • Thank you for your well thought out piece. I read the books after the first movie, and therefore paid not as much attention to the physical descriptions of characters in the book (for my brain already decide what the characters would look like in my head thanks to the film). But I came across and article today about the race of Katniss and was automatically trying to question what I missed, trying to be critical of the movie if they did change what the author envisioned.

    When reading olive, my instant thought is not “of color”. I am white, but my skin has olive tones. I have always considered olive to be the shades of the undertones in pigment in the skin, opposed to “of color”. This may be my personal history of my skin color being labeled as pale olive. (Try finding make-up for this skin tone… it really doesn’t exist). I am most definitely pale, but my skin has an undertone that can only be described as olive/green. That may sound weird… it is hard to explain. Just like my hair is light ash brown (ash is a green or blue base in the hair color world, opposed to a red brown or a flat brown). I am clearly olive especially compared to almost everyone else I know as “white” as me. My nephew, who is blonde hair blue eyed, would definitely be considered to have a different skin tone than me which would be something to comment on. In fact, it would be hard to tell we were related except he has my dad’s eyes almost exactly. My sister has the same skin tone as me (also with black hair and dark brown hair), but her son’s skin color clearly has red undertones opposed to the green ones.

    I devolve though. My point is, at least from my experience, olive has a connotation of just the undertone of the skin color itself, at least to me.

    As I said I am white, my heritage is mainly German/Irish. I do not have enough “blood” to claim my Native American heritage, barely though– my mom did. My mom, who was mainly German/Irish could have passed as hispanic (in fact when we lived in California people assumed that Spanish was her first language).

    I guess my whole point is that skin color alone is just one clue to someone’s ethnic background. It does not make someone who they are, nor does it automatically make someone into a “person of color” or someone that is “white” or anything else. Reading the whole trilogy, I could relate to Katniss and put myself in her shoes. I enjoyed reading a strong female character and in the end, is it not the content of the character that we should be debating, instead of which ethnic group could and should claim her? I think she has admirable character traits that any woman/girl should find a role model and hero in, and still recognize that even she has flaws… because she is human. Maybe olive, since so many main people claim olive to describe their skin color, means more than “of color”. Maybe it means, in the literary world, it makes it easier for more women to identify with her early on. So to the reader, skin color unifies the reader, instead of divides?

  • I am a Hispanic woman with olive skin and black hair. When I am reading the book I imagine Katniss looks like Jennifer Lopez or Salma Hayek. Katniss looks like her dad. She has olive skin with black hair. Prim looks blonde like her mother.

  • Do you know what a Melungeon is? It’s a slur not an ethnicity. The actress Jennifer Lawrence already played a descendant of a Melungeon in the movie Winter’s Bone. The movie was based on the murder of Ronnie Johnson 1989. Ronnie Johnson comes from “Melungeon” Collins. As far as skin display goes. Melungeon’s can be blonde and blue eyed. This is a photo of a Melungeon family their YDNA halo type is eb3 – Sub Saharan African halo type. Again Melungeon is a slur it made no difference what color they appeared to be.

    http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/m/i/n/Gary-L-Minor/PHOTO/0005photo.html

  • I’m coming in here very late to the “party” here but I’ve read the majority of the discussions. Just tossing in my two cents. I didn’t realize that an idea that Katniss might be Melungeon had also entered into other people’s minds, so my looking this term up actually brought me here.

    Personally, I grew up in the area that would be considered District 12. My family, on both sides, were coal miners, and from all over the state of WVa. Personally (and yes, I’ll admit to being white, with only minor Cherokee ancestry), I saw Katniss as being from the immigrant stock of miners that came into WVa in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. Originally, like my family’s background, miners came into the area from parts of the U.K. and Ireland. My own ancestors populated many areas and were from Scotland and Ireland (some later mixing with Cherokee). Many were blond/red headed. But as immigrants from Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe arrived, many of those mining jobs went to the immigrants (exploited for cheaper pay). My Mother recalls going to school with a large number of children from immigrant families, including Italy and Hungary, who’s fathers were also miners. So Peeta’s family being blond, and being “towns people” made sense to me; Western Europe immigrants being replaced by Southern or Eastern European immigrants.

    When I read that Katniss was “olive skinned,” and her Father was a miner, it only spoke to me on the level of how I’d grown up in the area and my historical and first-hand knowledge of the immigrants who’d come to WVa to become miners. Where I grew up (near Wheeling, WVa) there is a large Italian presence. Enough so that there is an Italian festival there every year.

    All that having been said, and the environment of my own upbringing aside, I was focused more on Katniss as a survivor and thoroughly recognized her as someone from that mining culture, not any particular race or color. Many people in mining areas of PA, WVa, VA, & Kentucky are fiercely independent. It’s kind of a legacy we grew up with and were taught. Given that much of WVa is still rural, being able to “stand on your own two feet” without assistance is something those people are very prideful of. So I related to Katniss’ independent, strong-willed & stoic nature as something I saw often while growing up (particularly from my father’s parents). In fact, when I took my parents to see the movie, my Father loved it. He recognized all that he saw of District 12 as being where and how he grew up.

    We all take away from the character what moves us the most, and what touches us the most. We naturally place our own feelings and ideas, based on what is most important to us, on the character. Whether she’s a PoC or not doesn’t mean anything to me. What touched me was the environment she grew up in because, that was, in many ways, the kind of people I had around me growing up.

    • Better late than never! :) And I’m glad to hear your two cents – especially since you’re from that region. And like you say, “We all take away from the character what moves us the most, and what touches us the most. We naturally place our own feelings and ideas, based on what is most important to us, on the character.” I can understand, because of that, why so many think of her as a PoC. At the same time, like you, other of her attributes were more center stage for me. I was much more excited that she was female at all, for starters.

  • I’m a fan of the hunger games, but I’m also Puerto Rican/Black, and pretty cynical sometimes, so I’ve been pondering this issue for a while since I came across Axiel’s post & katnissisoliveskinneddealwithit.tumblr.com a few months ago. I liked the first movie enough to watch it 3 times, but I LOATHE the casting calls for Katniss & Rue because the former excluded women of color & the latter excluded dark-skinned girls (colorism; dark can be cute, too!) So I’m glad I saw it on Netflix & the Web.
    I guess the real argument is whether the Seam characters should’ve been white at all.
    – Katniss brings up her complexion several times, and compares it to Seeder’s in Catching Fire. Seeder’s from 11, the “Black district”. Southern & Eastern Europeans aren’t the only ones who can have black hair and/or olive skin, and it shouldn’t be the case in a distantly futuristic North America. Our general population gets browner & more mixed every year.
    – Seam people like Gale & Katniss are more likely to die from starvation, malnutrition, and exposure. They’re poorer & more likely to be reaped (that last one may be due to a larger population, but IDK). Some Seam girls resort to prostitution to get money for food, and we don’t know what kind of people their clients are (but we know Cray was one of them)
    -Why didn’t Mrs. Everdeen stay in the town after she married? Why couldn’t Mr. Everdeen move in? Maybe sexism is still a thing, and of course classism is too. But same say it’s because she was kicked out of the family for marrying “down” AND marrying “out”. At the least, Merchants & Seam people aren’t the same ethnicity.
    The whiter you are in North America, compared to everyone else, the less racist crap you have to deal with, including institutional racism & many of its symptoms.

  • The rest of this is me arguing with myself xD Sorry it’s so long!
    – African Americans can come in many shades, including whatever olive skinned means. Out of the 4 Seeder could pass for whatever Katniss is.We don’t know how that affects Seeder’s life, so I’ll move on.

    – I’ve had a hard time finding a definition for “olive skinned” that isn’t Eurocentric because the term seems to have come from Europe in the first place. The clearest me definition I’ve seen was from Wiki. The “Katniss is Olive-Skinned” Tumblr notes that it should be like an olive’s actual skin, not just the oily sheen. But that can mean anything from the faint brown of an aging green olive to jet black. So that does exclude people like Jennifer Lawrence, but not Liam Hemsworth. It also doesn’t exclude dark skinned black people! That blog has said that Amandla Stenberg fits the bill, but interestingly, no one’s arguing that the whole Seam is Black…

    – “If Katniss isn’t white, what is she?” can be a legit question when you think about D11. In addition to her appearance, Rue faces hardships that are specific to Black people in the West. Katniss learns about D11 from talking to Rue in HG & visiting D11 in Catching Fire. In addition to sharing all the crap Seam people go through, D11 is constantly dealing with Police brutality & they work from sun up till sun down if they’re not in school. Peacekeepers are abundant & vigilant, watching the Eleveners’ every move. The death penalty for taking the crops THEY grew is enforced, whereas D12 got away with poaching until Catching Fire. IRL, cops are infamous for profiling & brutalizing Black people, but not all other PoC’s are strangers to that kind of villainy. If being Seam is anything like being Latino, Native, or even Middle Eastern, then police brutality & Big Brotherhood shouldn’t be this new thing to Katniss’ own life. It’s one thing for Katniss to say “Wow, they don’t have it any easier”, but she’s looking at it with terrified surprise, thinking that 11 has it much, much worse.Which group does Katniss’ life mirror? I believe in the term “PoC” because it shows solidarity & understanding of the things we have in common. But I don’t think you can write a proper racial narrative without starting at giving your character a race. We don’t all face our issues the same ways for the same reasons.

    -PoC can have colored eyes & light hair. Mixed siblings can have completely different complexions, like the actress Q’orianka Kilcher (she was a fancast favorite for Katniss) & her bleach blonde, blue-eyed brother Xihuaru. But even if I’d have never guessed Xihuaru was her brother, I could still see that he’s biracial. They have similar features.
    Collins says little to nothing about people’s facial features, so the Everdeen sisters could look absolutely nothing alike for all we know. It’s weird how Katniss may not share a single thing with Mrs. Everdeen & Prim may not share a single thing with Mr. Everdeen. Me, generally a black woman, but my skin’s light brown in contrast my mom’s dark brown & some of my facial features are clearly from my dad. Even if I don’t look like your “typical Latina”, I look like my dad as much my mom.

    I love Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was mostly written by two white guys who had plenty of constant input from Korean animators, experts in Mandarin Chinese, Sifu Kisu for the martial arts action, etc. Frequent input from actual PoC’s. My standards are high. Collins didn’t meet them when she & Gary Ross brushed off concerns about whitewashing by saying “It’s just hair dye & makeup”; even if Gale & Katniss were supposed to be white, that’s a wrong, privilege-blind thing to say. It’s also funny how the one parallel she could draw between D11 and real Black people was the one thing that the average white American can pull off the top of their heads. “Oh there was slavery once, and then there was the Civil Rights Movement.” Nothing about D11 as a whole offended me, per say. I just think it was safe for what she was supposedly trying to do.

    Thresh is written to be super tall, beefy, “scary”, speaks broken English. This was a bit better in the movie because Thresh didn’t “sound ghetto” (I don’t look down on AAVE/Ebonics but Hollywood & white society does, so I’m glad they didn’t portray him stereotypically), and Katniss didn’t seem to think that making Rue’s corpse look pretty was sticking it to the man (Emmitt Till had an open casket for a reason)- she just wanted her to die like a human, not an animal. See readingwithavengeance.tumblr.com reviews of HG & Catching Fire for more details.
    Chaff is also super tall, beefy, & he grabs & kisses Katniss without her permission, so he’s a creeper. If the CF movie shows Chaff kissing Katniss without her permission, I’m gonna be mad because it’s sleezy anyway but he’ll be roasted for doing it to a white woman. Yay -_-

    Collins may be white & rich, but if there’s any privilege she doesn’t have, it’s men’s. So believe it or not, I’ve learned that these books could’ve been more pro-woman, beyond putting a character in the spotlight that happened to be female. Not by being blatantly feministic, but by simply avoiding sexist implications in the narrative & statements on Katniss’ part. I don’t see how she can be race progressive when that’s still an issue here. readingwithavengeance.tumblr.com also talks about this.

    Everything you said about Appalachia. D12 mines coal. West Virginia produces the most coal out of any Appalachian state and it lies entirely within the region. Its population has been over 90% white for a while. It’s not as white in Charleston or other bigger cities, but D12 is tiny in terms of population AND size, and we never hear that the places looks like a ruins except for the Justice building.

    Everything you said about Melungeons. It’s up to them whether they’re white or not, and for all we know, they might not be privileged in a regional context because they’re not as white as it gets. If being white is a given where you live, you can be picked on for other reasons, like your specific ethnic, economics, or religious background. But if I looked like them, & my non-white ancestry was that distant, I could see having white or passing privilege in a national sense.

  • First of all, I do think it is a little bold to say outright that Katniss is “not a woman of colour”. Collins was clearly deliberately vague about Katniss’ race in the books to leave it open to interpretation. She gave an ambiguous description as to what Katniss looks like so that any reader of ANY race could see themselves represented in her. That was the entire point of her ambiguity and I can’t believe the amount people seem to miss that (no offense).

    Other than that, everything about this article I agree with. The Hunger Games is not a metaphor for race struggles or a racism themed novel. NO character explicitly has their race stated, not even characters we can safely assume are white (Peeta) or black (Rue). In my interpretation, I think Collins avoids the race angle in these books to show that this is a world where race isn’t important. Under grinding poverty and oppression, the people of the districts just come together as humans and forget their differences.
    I’m sure some people just love making a race scandal out of everything, racism does still exist yes but we are not living in the time of segregation and defacto discrimination anymore, not everything has to come down to race.

    As for Katniss, she could go either way. Many white people have dark hair and olive skin, it isn’t exclusive to non-whites. Yet also grey eyes aren’t exclusive to whites. Therefore I won’t correct anyone for interpreting Katniss as white, black, or any other race they want to interpret her as.

    Personally, I sit in the “Southern European Katniss” camp, perhaps with a Northern European mother who Primrose takes after looks-wise. Her English name means nothing, many non-British immigrants into America Anglicized their surnames. I’m of Southern European descent myself and I actually have those features described in the novel; olive skin, dark hair, grey-blue eyes. So naturally it just seemed a good fit to me.

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