The Reaping is Color Blind
Likely, you’ve noticed that the books that get the most press attention are the ones that tend to be targeted by book challengers. So color me shocked when The Hunger Games landed itself on ALA’s Most Banned and Challenged Books list for 2011, coming in at a very respectable number three.
It’s not the first time Hunger Games has found itself on the list. Nor will it probably be the last, particularly with at least two more movies due to come out over the next couple of years. The whole trilogy has now been honored with the number three spot, joining the ranks of other full series who have held a single spot together in the top ten–Harry Potter, the Twilight series, and the His Dark Materials trilogy, to name a few.
That’s a pretty impressive club of full series that are targeted by angry parents who have probably never actually read the books in their entirety (not that I’m bitter or anything).
Getting on the list is just one thing. Landing one of those coveted top ten spots each year just means that a lot of people made “a formal, written complaint” with a library or school, demanding that the book in question be removed in some way. That’s just statistics. That’s just the ALA keeping track of the numbers. What’s really fun and aggravating is reading the reasons why these books were challenged.
In 2010, when just the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy held the number five spot all by its lonesome, the reasons given included violence, unsuitable to the age group, and the particularly weird reason of “sexually explicit”, which makes absolutely no sense to me (spoiler alert: Peeta and Katniss kiss. Someone get the censors! Quick!).
This year, the reasons reported, while looking at the trilogy as a whole, are far more…disturbing. And strange.
- Violence (please contain your surprise)
- Offensive language
- Anti-family (yes, because Katniss risking her life to save her little sister means that…no, I can’t even try to make sense of that one)
Skipping over the complete weirdness that is the whole “satanic” claim (I would love to know where THAT came from), and ignoring the anti-family nonsense, I was absolutely shocked that anti-ethnic was a reason on the list.
I would presume that this has something to do with Rue. I can’t think of anything else that would stir up that reasoning. And in light of the controversial reactions some Hunger Games fans have had toward Rue’s casting in the movies, solely due to Amandla Stenberg’s race, this disturbs me quite a bit. What kind of society do we live in when race is the first thing people look at?
The fact that Rue has dark skin shouldn’t be such a focus to either side of the aisle. The blatantly racist fans on Twitter shouldn’t be celebrating what happens to her, just because of her skin color, and the other side shouldn’t be calling it anti-ethnic, just because of her skin color. You open this story, you know that 23 of these children aren’t going to be having a happily ever after at the end. It’s pretty obvious by just the description of the Games–24 Tributes fighting to the death until only one is left standing. That’s no secret.
In fact, I’m impressed with Suzanne Collins. She obviously made an effort to include everyone. By her specifically mentioning that District 1 is rich and well-trained, that District 12 citizens are in near poverty and their Tributes rarely win, and that, yes, both Rue and Thresh have a darker skin color, she’s saying, “look, no one is excluded from the Games.” It’s a luck (or un-luck) of the draw. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, black or white, tall or short, twelve years old or eighteen…if your name gets drawn in the Reaping, you’re going to the Games. At no point does she say that Prim was chosen specifically because she was twelve years old, or that Foxface was chosen just because of her red hair, or that Thresh and Rue were chosen because of their dark skin. The Reaping is about the least discriminatory, least anti-ethnic thing that these children could possibly face.
So why can’t we be just as color blind about the whole thing?