The film version of The Hunger Games has been a huge success so far, scoring a $155m opening weekend that puts it third in the all-time openers list. But one aspect of this success that has been a little unexpected is the reaction to the casting of a number of black actors in key roles. For some people on Twitter and Facebook, this has come as something of a shock.
Characters such as Rue and Thresh are clearly described as having dark skin in the books. But for many readers, seeing black actors in the roles has been a surprise, and some have even gone so far as to claim that this has “ruined” the film for them. In a few amusing cases, ‘fans’ of the books have criticised the film’s producers for ‘changing’ the characters.
This all highlights the way that readers tend to create a strong mental image of important book characters, and can then be surprised if a subsequent film or TV version makes radical changes. In the case of The Hunger Games, the changes aren’t changes at all, but they’re still perceived as such and are therefore an interruption for many readers / viewers. Some authors spent many lines describing a character’s physical appearance, while others skate over this aspect of their stories. As The Hunger Games shows, this can cause problems later on down the line.