Remember When Racists Harassed Amandla Stenberg About “The Hunger Games”? That Backfired Big Time.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Stenberg mirrored on how she harnessed buzz round racist backlash and used it for good.

Posted on July 26, 2018, at eight:02 p.m. ET

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Amandla Stenberg’s most up-to-date undertaking appears like a full circle second. In 2012, Stenberg broke out by way of her supporting position because the ill-fated Rue in The Hunger Games. Now, in 2018, she’s enjoying the starring position of Ruby in The Darkest Minds, one other main sci-fi movie anchored in an all-too-real political allegory and set in a dystopia the place teenagers tackle an oppressive society. As Stenberg advised BuzzFeed News, she didn’t consciously select the movie for its Hunger Games parallels, however was interested in it due to the way in which the film portrays children who, due to circumstance, study “how to utilize their power and organize against a regime that they don’t believe in.” The position additionally supplied Stenberg the chance to play the central character in a significant sci-fi movie, an area that has traditionally not been welcoming to black women leads.

“It does really feel actually particular to have begun my profession with [The Hunger Games] and to be in a spot now the place I may be forged within the lead on this form of factor,” Stenberg stated. “I don’t know that that would have been possible at the time in the same way,” she continued, noting that it’s solely lately that Hollywood and audiences alike have begun to see the results of huge pushes for onscreen variety.


Stenberg as Rue in The Hunger Games.

When Stenberg first grew to become a public determine it was by way of the twin affect of The Hunger Games’ mainstream publicity and the baldly racist reactions that exploded round her presence within the movie. When Hunger Games hit theaters, hordes of individuals took to social media to protest the truth that Rue’s character is black — regardless of that being how she was written in the books.

Looking again on the racist backlash now, Stenberg stated that the response introduced up one thing she was already conscious of by then — “that there was resistance to having black girls in films, and that black women are dehumanized and their lives are seen as less valuable than white lives.” She remembers that one of many essential complaints was that Rue’s death became less sad to some viewers after they noticed her as a black lady. “While it was hurtful when I was 12, it wasn’t shocking,” Stenberg stated. Even at that time in her profession, she was already having bother discovering roles for a younger black actor that weren’t degrading. “The irony of the whole situation was that Rue was one of the only characters I could find in the content I loved that was literally written as black,” she stated. The response was additionally a crash course in the way to take what individuals say on the web with a grain of salt — a mandatory ability for somebody who’s chosen to dwell their lives as publicly and vocally as Stenberg has.

In the years since her time as Rue, Stenberg has develop into identified partly for being an advocate for marginalized communities, she herself sitting on the intersection of blackness and queerness. Though the most important harassment that occurred early in her profession doesn’t get all of the credit score for her outspokenness, Stenberg stated that the waves it made within the media did have a long-term impact on her life. “I realized that I had a platform that could be impactful if I harnessed it,” she stated.

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Stenberg as Ruby in The Darkest Minds.

And harness it she has. Stenberg has written about youth activism and has been vocal about police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and sexism. She walked away from a role in Black Panther as a result of she felt it ought to go to a darker-skinned actor. Last yr’s Everything, Everything was directed by a black girl, Stella Meghie, and centered on a younger black girl performed by Stenberg. In October, Stenberg will star in The Hate U Give, an adaptation of Angie Thomas’s novel that follows a younger girl who witnesses the police homicide of her childhood finest buddy. Her character turns into embroiled in group tensions round race and concerned within the Black Lives Matter motion. Stenberg has additionally been open about her gender identification — she identifies as nonbinary (a consultant for Stenberg confirmed to BuzzFeed News she makes use of she/her pronouns) — and lately came out publicly as gay.

Looking again at the place she began, Stenberg stated she does suppose issues have modified for the higher within the business. “Now is one of the first times we’re getting really good black roles for black women that are leading roles, and projects where black women are at the helm and black people are at the helm,” she stated. “I think that’s really exhilarating, and I feel lucky to come of age at a time when that’s really happening.” That improve in alternatives comes from many sources inside Hollywood, together with studios, writers, administrators, and producers of various backgrounds bursting by way of glass ceilings. But it additionally comes from individuals — out and in of Hollywood — utilizing their voices and demanding that representation, which Stenberg has been doing for so long as she’s had her platform.

“At the top of the day it just about has nothing to do with you.”

Even with the upswing in visibility, Stenberg acknowledges that there’s nonetheless work to do, particularly as individuals like Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran and Stranger Things actor Millie Bobby Brown have been pressured off of instagram on account of more moderen deluges of on-line harassment. Stenberg’s recommendation to them is to dwell within the data that the harassment just isn’t their fault. “People can make their assumptions and have their judgments and their prejudices, but at the end of the day it pretty much has nothing to do with you,” she stated. “It has to do with their own internalized biases, and oftentimes their own internalized self-hatred — because if you are discriminating against people, you are harming yourself at the end of the day.”

It’s recommendation Stenberg herself has actually taken to coronary heart. The racist harassment she confronted for precisely portraying a black character didn’t shut her up — it solely made her voice echo additional. And the place she was a supporting character then, now she is within the starring position. From Everything, Everything to The Darkest Minds, and shortly in The Hate U Give, Stenberg is entrance and heart, selecting initiatives that remember her blackness and ensuring that everyone is aware of how proud she is of it. She stated that even within the face of harassment — whether or not it’s fueled by racism, sexism, anti-gay sentiment, fan entitlement, or all the above — the most effective factor you are able to do is “allow yourself to continue to do you and realize that that is enough.”

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