Catching Fire and the Limits of White Imagination

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After watching Hunger Games: Catching Fire this weekend, I was pleased to see that Beetee, the brilliant inventor and electric genius from District 3, was played by none other than Jeffrey Wright. I was also pleased that I didn’t hear any muttering in the theater about the fact that Beetee was black. We all remember the disgusting racist backlash when the first installment of the film cast Amandla Stenberg, a young black actress, as Rue (despite the fact that Rue was indeed black in the book). But my pleasure didn’t last long. The next day on the bus, I overheard a young woman and her friends—who had just come from the film, apparently—exchanging their thoughts about what they had just seen, and the young woman said, “I thought it was awesome. Well, except for Beetee. Why the f*ck did they make him black? Beetee wasn’t black.”

Folks. Let me tell you something. You might want to sit down, because this could be a shocker for you. Here it is. Are you ready?

The Hunger Games is not real. (gasp) I know. Stunning. This dystopian world in which children are sent into an arena to fight to the death is, in fact, fictional, imaginary, fantastical. And you know what that means. That means that the appearances of the characters therein are also not real. That is, they are subject to the imagination of the reader. Katniss is described as “olive-skinned,” which can be interpreted semi-loosely, but Beetee? He was merely described as having “ashen skin” and black hair. Lots to play with there. Right? It’s a book. He looks different to all of us in our heads.

But that’s not what this is really about, is it? After hearing this young woman’s comment, I jumped on Twitter and searched mentions of Beetee’s name. I came across the usual racist vitriol, but there was the occasional tweet that looked like this:

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I saw more of the same in comment sections on various articles around the web—Never read the comment sections, guys. Really.—and it has led me to believe that the problem isn’t that Hunger Games purists who believe that Beetee looked a certain way were disappointed that the film strayed from that representation, it’s that white audiences in America are afflicted with a certain limitation of the imagination when it comes to the representation of characters they are fond of. Something that struck me as very interesting was the following tweet:

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It is difficult to imagine benevolent geniuses as black, it seems, but quite easy to imagine villains as black. This is telling, isn’t it? Telling that the white imagination, when provided in a book with descriptions of a “good guy”—intelligent, valuable, kind, even gentle—imagines that character as white (like themselves) but when provided with descriptions of a villain, a killer, a dangerous maniac…imagines that character as a black man. Morgan Freeman. Who has overwhelmingly portrayed “good” characters in his career as an actor. He even played God once, if memory serves. What is it, then, that causes the white imagination to provide his face as a stand-in for what they imagine as a ruthless child killer in a fictional world?

His blackness. And only that.

As white people, we are used to representations of ourselves crowding the covers of magazines, crowning the posters of newly released films. The good guys are white, we have learned, after eons of our faces being plastered under cowboy hats and in impeccable Bond suits. White men are Superman, we have learned. White men are Ethan Hunt and Neo and white men are hobbits. Bad men, we have learned, are black. They’re gang bangers and thugs and talk loud and sometimes deliver funny lines where we laugh at their Otherness. Black men aren’t heroes, we learn. Our imagination and subconscious are so saturated with white supremacist notions of goodness, beauty, and heroism, that when confronted head-on with an image of a black man who is brilliant and kind and normal and who saves the day, we transform into robotic versions of ourselves: Does…not…compute. Hero…must be…white. It’s this line of thinking that turned Disney’s Princess Tiana into an animal for 95% of the movie. The collective white imagination had difficulty imagining a black girl as a princess…and so she became a frog.

This isn’t about staying true to the book. Suzanne Collins was vague (I believe purposefully so) with the descriptions of her characters, so when we say “I didn’t picture Rue as black,” or “No, Beetee was white,” it is not the text that is leading us. We’re following a different illogical path of logic, one in which everything we believe about ourselves as white heroes and heroines is being contradicted. The notions taught by patriarchy and white supremacy do not only effect our day-to-day encounters in reality; they shape our imaginations and our expectations, our intangible realities.

But unlike the tributes who enter the arena in The Hunger Games, we have a choice. We can choose. We can choose to step aside on what we’ve been taught is our pedestal of greatness and acknowledge that there is room for more. We can choose to transform our ideas of heroes and who can be good, and kind, and brave. The alternative is bleak. If even our imaginations are irrevocably bound to what patriarchal and white supremacist doctrines prescribe, then we’re in trouble. The moment we kill the thing in us that imagines change and difference and growth is the moment we kill any hope of a better world. The world in The Hunger Games may not be “better,” but how much worse is it really when it can imagine a genius hero who is black…and we can’t?

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55 thoughts on “Catching Fire and the Limits of White Imagination

  1. kimyatta says:

    My favorite part – “The Hunger Games is not real. (gasp) I know. Stunning. This dystopian world in which children are sent into an arena to fight to the death is, in fact, fictional, imaginary, fantastical.” People get so bent out of shape about nothing sometimes. It’s fiction folks! Did folks get upset that in the Vampire Diaries series, Elena is a blonde but in the TV series she has dark hair? One of the reasons the book is ALWAYS better to me is that the movie in my head from reading the book is so much better because it’s how I imagined it…ah well…tis the world we live in…buncha people with misplaced worries…

  2. As always,meaningful post! As a minority I don’t have the luxury of seeing many heroes that aren’t white so when I see a Poc as a hero, I lose my mind!

    It’s really hurtful when people claim not to be racist/prejudice, but when you show them characters that are awesome and brilliant (but just happen to be a little darker) they get so defensive that the character isn’t what they imagined. 😔 I for one have even stopped buying fantasy books that don’t feature some kind of diversity, because fantasy happens to be my favorite genre and as a kid I had such a hard time seeing myself as the protagonist. Not because the character was white, but because deep down I knew I could never be “her” or “him” because I’m not white.

    I did read the hunger games and enjoyed all the books, as far as Beetee goes, the haters just have to stay mad!✌️

  3. I remember the uproar about Rue and about Cinna, and I remember thinking that people clearly didn’t read the books closely enough if they were upset about Rue’s race, and I even thought that Lenny Kravitz was just perfect for Cinna. I like your perspective on this issue. :)

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thank you for reading and for your thoughts!

    • i haven’t seen the movies, but i have seen pics of the actors made up as the characters and i thought rue was EXACTLY perfect, and cinna, too. unfortunately, i don’t actually remember beetee, but i’m inclined to think he was also described as either black or mixed-race. as a white, middle-aged woman, i’m completely not upset by the casting decisions of these movies. i also don’t have a problem with idris elba as heimdall, for the record, even though it’s not really germane.

  4. Akilah says:

    I can’t even believe I’m typing this, but it’s possible the President Snow person thought Morgan Freeman because he’s played presidents/figures of authority before, which is a different kind of limit of white imagination, so.

    I do agree that the norm is white = good, though, and that may have informed the person’s response as well.

    • oliviaacole says:

      It’s possible, Akilah, you’re right.

    • funny, i would never have pictured morgan freeman as snow, but donald sutherland is IDEAL. maybe the name snow makes me think white, but i don’t automatically think black is bad, so i’m not sure. no, sutherland is perfect. he’s got that creepy, controlled vibe. freeman is just too nice for that. i mean, he narrated PENGUINS, for god’s sake!

  5. skjandrews says:

    Good work. This is really helpful as I have no time to actually go see this film anytime soon. Glad to have you on the beat. It is worth noting that, in the early modern moment before the Europeans invent race per se, this still reigns. Shakespeare’s Iago, from Othello, is called a Moor, and IIRC most of the references to his complexion are really just ways of talking about him being a villain. There is probably lots to explore there, but it was written before there was chattel slavery or even a serious colonial endeavor in Britain, other than on the isles themselves.

    So in some ways we have been waiting for about Four hundred years for a director to just randomly put a black person in a role without it being really necessary to the plot that they act like the stereotypical black person. This is reductive, but part of me is happy to hear that, with the opportunity to go either way on the race of a character, this director went with the black actor.

    It will take at least another generation or two, possibly much longer before the desperate, disempowered white working classes of the u.s. shed their racist imaginations. So while you are right to point out that we aren’t there yet, I would say twitter is probably the easiest place to look to find this kind of residual cultural belief. I say that as someone who daily faces the fact that, at a subconscious if not conscious level I will always be a recovering racist. Just like I will always be a recovering homophobe, male chauvinist, imperialist. Like any addiction, the privilege white, male, hetero, Americans are given in our culture is a hard habit to break, particularly when it has shaped the basic outlook into which I have been enculturated throughout my life. And that is with over a third of my life studying Cultural Studies. Imagine what the poor idiots on twitter have to overcome. I say that with some mixture of pity, disgust, and self awareness: with only a few tiny changes in my life decisions, with a different mother or father, with different jobs, in a slightly different part of the state of Texas, it is entirely possible I would be one of them.

    Still, yours is a fantastic analysis of this phenomenon. The point about imagining a villain as black is most insightful. I hope you keep getting picked up by bigger media outlets. You are doing great work as a true public intellectual. Keep up the good work.

    Best, Sean

    >

    • oliviaacole says:

      “Like any addiction, the privilege white, male, hetero, Americans are given in our culture is a hard habit to break, particularly when it has shaped the basic outlook into which I have been enculturated throughout my life.”

      Thank you, as always, for your excellent insights, professor. I am both humbled and grateful.

  6. Alison Loris says:

    Great column, Olivia. Lots of complaints always about the characters in movies not being as readers imagined them in the book, but to base those complaints solely on race identifies the complainer as racist.

    On another note: I love most of the works of the late Octavia Butler. I still remember the moment I realized she was black: only a person of color, I thought, could write so tellingly about dynamics of power and powerlessness in a love relationship, the conflicts set up by loving and respecting a partner across racial lines when the whole surrounding society only respected one half of the partnership. Sometimes her work got sloppy – outside pressure combined with ill-health, I suspect — but it was always unusual, genuine and fearless, Her untimely death was a great loss to us all.

  7. Morgan says:

    Hi Olivia, thanks to the work of individuals like you who call attention to the white world of mainstream media and pop culture, I’ve become hyperaware of how prevalant all-white casts are in films. Thank you for that gift to see this. To be honest, I’ve become all-too startled in recent years by just how whitewashed dystopian/fantasy stories are.

    Anything from “Game of Thrones,” to “Harry Potter” to the majority of disney princess movies–I’m just amazed (and saddened) that there seems to be only one race acceptable when depicting a world different than our own. It seems though that if we’re still living in a world where people are surprised that a woman can headline a blockbuster movie, we still have a ways to go with all of this. Too bad.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Completely agree, Morgan. What is the point of fantasy, sci fi and dystopian if those realms look exactly like this one? I am consistently disappointed by mainstream media.

  8. casualkay says:

    Couldn’t agree with Morgan more. Your posts contribute to my unlearning process about gender/race identity and my rejection of what’s portrayed in pop culture and media. Always a pleasure to read. Thank you.

  9. Christina Burton says:

    Drop some knowledge, you say? No need. You already dropped it. Thanks for posting. GREAT read. I’ve got new understanding of the “white privilege” mentality.

  10. I love and appreciate your writing Olivia. You are to me the female version of Tim Wise who speaks passionately and eloquently about race.

    What a different world this would be if everyone had to wear what I call the “notable mantle of melanin” for a year or two of their lives. If everyone had to walk in the shoes of anyone that they consider “other”.

    God bless you in what I perceive to be your quest for peace, harmony and humanity.

    I have just recently discovered you, but I have and will continue to share your writings on twitter and facebook.

    Interestingly, race is not the only thing we discriminate against. It may be gender, weight, socioeconomics, disabilities, deformity, intelligence quotient, disease, religion, politics, hair color or texture, etc,etc,etc,. Anything by which we can elevate ourselves above others in our own minds and perhaps go so far as to directly or indirectly oppress others.

    This is why I hold dear the statement by Dr Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. If I accept a form of discrimination just because it does not affect me today am I, by default, giving credence to a form that may affect me in the future. As technology advances, in the very near future people may experience un-checked discrimination because of their dna, chromosomes or genetics. The whiteness of ones skin will no longer be the standard of supposed superiority.

    I wrote a very short poem many years ago it simply say’s;

    When it begins
    When does it end
    The hatred of a man
    For the color of his skin…..
    It doesn’t

    Blessings, Z Hunt
    SeeTim Wise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV-EDWzJuzk

  11. I hope you understand how clear a clarion call your words can be, Olivia. As always it is an enlightening experience to read your blog. Your voice is made all the more poignant by the fact that you are not yourself a person of color.

    I am not yet able to see Catching Fire. My family and I are re-reading the book together before going to see the movie. However, I’m not surprised to hear of more controversy regarding these movies. They break so many walls down, why should race be spared? How can people be totally ok with state-enforced arena murder – and that involving children no less! – and then turn around and be angered by the race of the actors?!

    So it seems it’s ok to murder children, even white ones, as long as no people of color are on the screen? Or am I misreading this?

    I’m reminded of the original movie version of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” where Judas was played by the very capable Carl Anderson. People were shocked and horrified when they saw the actor was – gasp! – black! The joke, of course, is that Jesus himself would have been a person of some color himself. Sad thing is, it’s not a very funny joke, is it? The entire question of race is subjective, based on one’s experiences. Right now, white people are the dominant archetype, so much so that they have for centuries rewritten history, changing people of other colors and nationalities to conform to their white, Euro-centric image.

    I will never understand how the level of pigment in someone’s skin makes a damn difference in who they are.

    Do you have any hope we’ll ever be better than this? Some days my natural optimism wears thin…

  12. Awesome read! Was not expecting it—-written perfectly! Could not have said it better.

  13. Yanick Leflot says:

    BONSOIR To those who said a black man cannot be ” a white hero ” i can recommend Denzel Washington in ” Much ado about nothing” . All the characters are rich, WHITE italian and spanish people descrbed by William Shakespeare in the year 1598!! An actor is just ” an actor “!!! MERCI Madame!! Le 25 nov. 13 02:44, Olivia A. Cole a crit :

    > >

  14. godtisx says:

    I have nothing to add, since you’ve expressed yet another view I hold in full form. Just wanted to say again, I am glad this blog exists.

  15. Dear Mrs. Cole,

    I appreciate your blog, and thought your comments about Wright and _The Hunger Games_ was insightful.

    It made me think when I read the young girl’s comments about Morgan Freeman. I’d love to know more what young people today—black and white—think and feel about “race” as it relates to fictional characterizations. I feel I’m from another planet sometimes when I hear kids speak so confidently about “race” as if they know something about it that I do not. :)

    I initially thought that the young girl was responding to the simpler notion of having seen Freeman play a president in a film like _Deep Impact_; and I actually assumed you were making a point about how precedent determines if we can see a black character in a role assumed to be for whites. But your interpretation made me consider the impact of a child having negative racial feelings about people you don’t “usually” see in positions of authority.

    It brought up all the feelings about black icons who go unscathed largely because they are icons, not because they don’t have quirks which a black gaze might be able to see fairly easily (and thus instantly forgive). Naturally I think of those that do get vilified as well (OJ, Tiger Woods, etc) when they do wrong, and the strange kind of fall they take in the white imagination—not necessarily the black one.

    It’s an interesting topic you’ve turned me onto, so thanks.

    Yours,

    Kamili

  16. […] Catching Fire and the limits of white imagination […]

  17. Drew McC says:

    Thank you. Seriously, thank you…the world needs more individuals like you.

    Sincerely,
    A Black Director in Hollywood

  18. As a white novelist married to a black woman with four multiracial kids, I find this kind of column disheartening … not because it lays bare the ugly truths about racism in this country, but because it is, itself, racist. I mean, isn’t it pretty unreflective to miss the fact that phrases like “the white imagination” are a form of racial stereotyping? Denigrating “the white imagination” diparages every white author who writes thoughtfully about a diverse range of characters from diverse backgrounds, along with every white reader/viewer who makes the effort to seek out and support works of diversity. Do I wish there were more such authors? Of course I do. Do I wish there were more such audience members? Of course I do. Do I look back at some of my own work and think, hmmm, maybe I could have done a better job with the diversity of the cast in that one? In fact, I do. But that’s no excuse for making blanket statements about everyone of a particular race. Can we please, please move beyond saying “black people are…” and “white people are,,,”? It’s part of the problem, folks, and it’s a thoughtless slap at everyone who is out there trying.

    • Mr. Mallette:

      It’s odd to have this conversation because I think black people (some of us) often take it for granted that when we use the word “white” or “whiteness” we are not indicting an entire race. There are many white scholars out there who use the term “white gaze” or ” white imagination” and they are not speaking of themselves anymore.

      But just as you may be uncomfortable with using terms like black culture or blackness, we blacks are sometimes fairly comfortable with using terms like “whiteness” to define an ethos of aggression, self-interest, or dishonesty.

      There was an ethos of aggression that was illustrated long ago on television when white people first saw themselves as villains beating, stomping and kicking innocent black people during civil rights protests. That kind of “whiteness” (unbridled aggression) many whites, probably much like yourself, DIDN’T identify with; I would even argue that it created a trauma that whites are still getting over to this day—similar to the trauma of seeing your dad hit your mother (see John L. Jackson’s Racial Paranoia). No one wants to take sides in that kind of thing; but there is a clear winner in that kind of conflict and a clear loser often enough. So who do I pattern my life after, if I happen to be a boy?

      If whites see that kind of violence, they might just ask themselves, am I that kind of “white?” Many said “no,” joined the protests, and for disavowing that kind of “whiteness”—got their heads kicked in. (I would never have risked my neck in that way so I say this to indict myself as not being that brave to completely disavow my entire race.)

      So I see a clear distinction, although granted not all blacks do, between the white imagination—which even I as a black person get deceived into believing in at times—and people who identify as white.

      The reason some whites are invested in getting rid of labels, like “white” and “black,” I should argue though, is because of the trauma associated with “white” aggression. Butblack people see “white” aggression in unfair conviction rates just as well as they did in church bombings. So there’s no need to get rid of labels when new ones like “urban” exist. We see, although sometimes dimly, the disparity in education of our youth as “white” aggression—even if and when we don’t see white people actually doing any of the “violence” associated with such disenfranchising of our “urban” youth.

      I don’t mean to sound smug because this has been something that has bugged me now for years. There’s been an investment in pretending that there is NO racial disparity anymore, so therefore racism only exists when blacks bring up “our” whiteness. But political correctness only erases the obvious characteristics of racism ( the n-words and the klan hoods and the beatings )—it does not diminish the disparity. Pretending that words like “whiteness” on their own are either innocuous or the product backwards black thinkers is being dishonest, especially when you can afford to think about whiteness only when it affects you—not when evidence of its unfairness constantly reasserts itself in our daily lives.

      I’m writing this to you, as the father of biracial children. Because you might be able to disavow a “whiteness” that might make the kids dislike their black skin; might make them feel at a disadvantage because one has lighter eyes than another; a broader nose than another. Sure they could feel this way about themselves despite “white supremacist” notions about acceptability; but it’s important to recognize what is “whiteness” as an entity that survives past bull connor.

      Again I don’t bring up your children casually, or to be smug. in fact you brought them up, I’m assuming, to illustrate how you want them to feel more normal in this world. I should hope that when issues of esteem come up you would be able to be more aware of how “whiteness” works for and against them in issues of bias, aggression, and assumptions about inferiority in their personal lives.

      I do appreciate your “falling on your sword” kind of exasperation about what you perceive to be “black racism.” I relate to that feeling on many levels. I’m trying to express to you my equal exasperation with incomplete understanding about what “whiteness” means in the American imagination.

      Hope that’s a little clearer. And I do apologize if I’ve overstepped in speaking so candidly about your children. I can only imagine a black man getting all kinds of irate about me telling him how to raise his kids; but this is the kind of thing I’d say to ANYBODY who would stand still long enuff to listen. :)

      By the way, I’m a black man if I haven’t been clear.

      Kamili

      • Hi, Kamili,

        I really appreciate your thoughtful response. At the start, I want to head off the notion that I was compaining about black racism; unless I misread things, Olivia Cole identifies herself as white, and I was complaining only about her willingness to perpetuate what I see as a linguistic mis-step in our discussions of race. It is one thing to talk about the latent racism that pervades our Eurocentric American culture. It is another thing entirely to talk about “the white imagination.” There is such a thing as a Eurocentric American culture. It’s an observable phenomenon with well-recorded historical origins. In contrast, there is not such a thing as a single “white imagination” — especially not one that can be said to uniformly exhibit the failures that Ms. Cole describes. One can also speak of a “white-dominated culture” without being inaccurate. The prevailing culture in our country is obviously dominated by and unfairly favorable to white people. But phrases like “the failure of white imagination” attach a pejorative to individual human beings on the basis of their skin color, which to me is just obviously the wrong thing to do in every case where it occurs.

        There’s a great challenge, I think, in finding terminology that allows us to discuss widespread trends of identity, culture, and prejudice without reinforcing those trends or causing pushback from people who consciously think of themselves as diversity-supportive while subconsciously falling prey to presumptions and expectations that are hammered into us daily by what we see/hear in the news and entertainment media. I’m basically okay with using “white culture” as shorthand for “white-dominated culture.” Most people aren’t as semantically nit-picky as I am, and it would be a chore to forever be inserting the “-dominated” in there, even if it’s subtly more accurate. I’m even willing to accept phraseology like, “the failure of white cultural imagination” or “the failure of white culture’s imagination.” Both of those wordings make it clear that the target is a social phenomenon, not a racial attribute. In contrast, I think “the failure of white imagination” crosses a line into linguistic racism, whether the author is white or black.

        So to sum up, my investment is not in getting rid of the labels “black” and “white,” but in making sure they are never used in a derogatory or derisive way.

        (Well, almost never. I don’t try to correct my wife’s usage when she laughs at me for being the “pasty white guy” who needs more sunscreen than the rest of the family combined when we all go to the pool or beach.)

        As for your comments about my kids, I take no offense at all. Not only did I bring them up in the first place, but it’s my view that parents should always welcome reasonable and polite advice about child-rearing — it’s a crazy hard job, and the more perspectives one gets on it, the better.

        Happy Thanksgiving!

        Herb

      • Addendum: I don’t think I was clear enough in my initial response about how compelling and genuine I found your comment. It was very much the kind of calm and sincerely engaging explanation that I think we need more of if we’re going to generate a shared perspective and displace the current and unfortunate state of affairs. I would rate it much higher, in fact, than I would my own initial comment, which I confess contains an element of reflexive affront that undermines what I was trying to say.

      • Yes, seriously. I was offended … not because the author’s thesis was wrong, but because her language hyperbolized beyond her thesis in a way that included me in its giant, sweeping statements about the limited white imagination. Racist language is racist language, and “the white imagination” is equally racist whether one refers to the “limits of” white imagination or the “superior” white imagination. Despite my ethnically diverse family, I do not claim to be wholly immune to the phenomenon Ms. Cole is describing. But my susceptibility is not due to my whiteness … it’s due to the majoritarian nature of our society. If the article had been about the “limits of majoritarian imagination,” I would have had no objection. But the distinction matters. I can work at overcoming the mental baggage that comes with being in the majority. But I can’t do anything about the fact that I’m white. And because she chose the language she did, I found myself alienated from Ms. Cole’s column instead of applauding it.

      • (But on the plus side, I did get a very thoughtful conversation with Kamili out of the situation, so it wasn’t a total loss.)

  19. Keenen Ivory Wayans says it best…check this out: http://youtu.be/PVx92lbAWOU?t=3m55s

  20. theglove813 says:

    I think the usage of “white imagination” is completely absurd. As if all white people share the same collective conscious of imagination. I almost never imagine skin color when I read, unless clearly stated in text or I’m given context that leads me to believe a character is of a certain race.
    I still have yet to see the newest Hunger Games, but what matters to me is the correct portrayal of characters. And for me Rue was characterized perfectly in the first installment.
    All this to say that as a white person, as I know you are as well, I don’t share imaginative hinderances, and I think generalizing a collective imagination between white people is just as racists and ignorant as what you wrote about in your article.

  21. biancalanip says:

    Reblogged this on The Commonplace Book and commented:
    Here comes the kind of brilliance that keeps me up at night.

  22. Yasky says:

    This is awesome. This is the first spoiler I have thoroughly enjoyed reading. Can’t say much on Catching Fire since I have neither watched the movie nor read the book. But I am no stranger to the racism topic—matter of fact, it’s by sheer providence I found you because I was in a conversation with a friend on Facebook under the famous “Stomp out Racism” banner.

    Thanks for sharing. Thanks for your point of view. And thanks for the “Drop some knowledge” prompt for the comments—sorry I stole it d:

  23. Max Zdon says:

    Great post! This is my first time reading your blog, but I’ll be back.

    I think your comments on President Snow and black actors representing evil may miss the mark a bit in this case. Rather, Morgan Freeman might be associated with an extension of state authority, as black maleness has come to be associated with this in popular imaginary (think Jamie Foxx in The Kingdom and Whitehouse down). Of course, state authority and its limits are being widely questioned right now, so this may indeed be associated with something “evil” in an indirect fashion.

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