The Internet can bring out the very best in people and, alternatively, the absolute, most disheartening worst. (Just ask Jason Russell, the head of the Kony 2012 movement, who pulled off the rare double whammy of showing both to the world in the span of a week.)
For anyone that saw The Hunger Games over the weekend (and the odds are ever in your favor that you probably did based on those massive box office returns) social media likely played a big role in the experience. The highly anticipated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Dystopian saga had excited fans checking in on Foursquare and bragging about their spot in line at the theater on Facebook. The Hunger Games was, unsurprisingly, a trend on Twitter throughout its opening weekend.
Unfortunately, in the midst of all those harmless “Katniss Rules!” or “Team Peeta” tweets, a disturbing trend caught fire: Overtly racist diatribes regarding the casting of African American actors for the roles of Rue, Cinna, and Thresh. (Played by Amandla Stenberg, Lenny Kravtiz, and Dayo Okeniyi, respectfully.) A fan Tumblr called “Hunger Games Tweets,” which was created to expose HG “fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don’t know a damn thing about the books,” posted a series of unsettling tweets regarding the race of the beloved characters.
Despite the fact that in her book Collins’ described Rue, the sweet, innocent District 11 tribute as having “dark brown skin” (Thresh also had the “same dark skin”) tweets like, “why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie,” “for the record, im still pissed that rue is black”, and “rue is too black for what I pictured” were discovered. (Even more disturbingly, as Jezebel.com unearthed, some Twitter users went as far as calling Stenberg a “black b—h” and “n—-r.)
While many of the accounts have reportedly been deleted or made private since the shocking remarks (“call me racist but when i found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad”) have been brought to the public’s awareness, the outrage and backlash regarding the rants has not disappeared. (Some horrified tweeters combated the nasty sentiment from certain moviegoers with a sense of humor, like one Twitter user who cracked “I hear Donald Trump is trying to prove that Rue wasn’t even BORN in Panem.”)
Of course, this isn’t the first time a series of shocking tweets have caught the attention, and outrage, of the web. BuzzFeed.com rightly pointed out that “we have a really big problem here, society” when they shared disturbing tweets from young women who proudly boasted things like “I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyy day” after his performance at the 2012 Grammys.
But, will exposing these sort of un-PC tweets actually make much of a difference? One can only assume that these tweeters have the shared knowledge that unless they make their Twitter private, they are sharing these musings with the entire world. So, will it make people think twice about what they put out in the universe? Or will we simply have to live with the understanding that with the wonderful right of free speech, sometimes we will simply have to see and hear things we don’t always like? Does this cast a cloud over The Hunger Games or will the true spirit of its most devoted fans prevail? Let the debates begin.
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