People who have seen at least one of the four The Hunger Games films, or have at least come across part of the intensive promotion of the franchise, is familiar with the fair-skinned Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss, however, is described as having “straight black hair, olive skin [and] grey eyes” in the books.
Casting for film adaptations does not always comply with the description of the characters of the book they are based on, but when it comes to changing characters’ race, especially when it comes to whitewashing, changing the character from a person of colour to a white person, it becomes problematic.
Before March 2011, when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss Everdeen, fans only had the books and their imagination to refer to when talking about the books, writing fan fiction, or creating fan art. Many fans had noted the short description of the story’s heroine, which came to show in the fans’ many creative outlets.
When looking at fan art from before Lawrence was cast, many artists depicted Katniss as having slightly darker skin than, for instance, her co-tribute Peeta Mellark.
Fan art after the casting Lawrence still sporadically shows Katniss as a woman of colour, though many of the artworks are clearly inspired by Lawrence.
While some fans have favoured Lawrence as their Mockingjay over the image presented in the books, woman-of-colour Katniss Everdeen has not been forgotten.
Many times whitewashing in the media is excused with variations of the sentence “the right person/most talented person got the part,” however, the casting call for Katniss Everdeen only called for caucasian actresses, which never gave actresses with olive skin, or actresses of any other race, a chance to audition. For further information on this debate, see this Medium article.
The creative fans producing fanart can be affected by casting, as seen above, though many hardcore fans will always refer to the description in the books as “their Katniss,” since these fans will often see the books as the source material for the story about “the Mockingjay”.
It can also be argued that the number of people seeing the films is bigger than the number of people reading the books, which gives the artist a larger audience if depicting film-Katniss over book-Katniss.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. London: Scholastic, 2009. Page 8. Print.
Gabi. “From Panem to Ferguson: How Oppression Narratives Lost Their Meaning in the 21st Century.” Medium. 29 Dec 2015. Web.
Warner, Kara. “Exclusive: Jennifer Lawrence Officially Cast in “Hunger Games.” MTV. 17 Mar 2011. Web.
Artists for individual fanart cited in the captions.