Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Sendhil Ramamurthy (Sort Of)

By Andrea Plaid

Adonis.

That is the only word that comes to my mind when I see Sendhil Ramamurthy.

Courtesy: accidentalsexiness.com

(And that’s only when my mind functions whenever I even glance at a mere photo of him. Usually my thoughts are, “ljgajsohglhoaygetonmybodythoyohljaglhgjlfal.” And just forget about it when I see him in motion…unless we’re talking about how the creative team behind Heroes completely degenerated his character, Mohinder Suresh. Then, my brain works enough to be pissed off about it.)

Of course, I can get into stats and facts about Ramamurthy, but that’s what the Tumblr is for. But I want to get back to this man’s beauty and, yes, casting him as Adonis. Bear with me…

When Hollywood casts ideals of male beauty–and, by extension, who we should be attracted to and fantasize about–we get a plethora of the latest Sexy White Fellas, like…

Ryan Gosling. Courtesy: dailymakeover.com

or

Chris Evans. Courtesy: yogadork.com

or for those with a taste for a more mature man

Jon Hamm. Courtesy: parade.com

or

George Clooney. Courtesy: hilaryshepard.com

or Clooney’s best dude and sometime co-star.

Brad Pitt. Courtesy: nadinejolie.com

In fact, Pitt’s early acting years are grounded in the blond-and-blue physical-ideal roles, from Thelma and Louise to Legends of the Fall to Interview with the Vampire. However, even he tired of–and tried to play against–these roles, if the bored look on his face throughout Troy is any indication.

Courtesy: skyrim.nexusmod.com

But Hollywood is simply the most recent echo chamber of whiteness-as-eternal-and-eternally-beautiful. When I was a nerdy schoolgirl, I swear that I checked out D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths from my Catholic elementary school library more than any other book. I loved that book and, to this day, I want it on my bookshelf, part childhood nostalgia and part coffee-table book. But I also need to be real about it–the authors imagined the gods to look like this:

Courtesy: nzr.mvnu.edu

Perhaps a reflection of the Greeks themselves, who come in various skin tones and hair colors except…the book’s illustrator drew almost all of the gods and goddesses as blond(e)-haired and blue-eyed. As a highly regarded children’s book in US society–that idealized these features as the physical epitome and, by extension, the moral complexity-as-goodness of whiteness–this book just adds to that notion deified whiteness in a nation where people flip out at the mere suggestion that another deity, Jesus Christ, could be skin-shades darker than Passion of the Christ‘s Jim Caviezel (though director Mel Gibson is said to have tried to make the actor look “more Middle Eastern”). As Nell Irvin Painter reminds us in her book, The History of White People:

Were there “white” people in antiquity? Certain some assume so, as though categories we use today could be read backwards over the millenia. People with light skin certainly existed well before our own times. But did anyone think they were “white” or that their character related to their color? No, for neither the idea of race nor the idea of “white” people had been invented, and people’s skin color did not carry useful meaning…[thus] we must sift through the intellectual history of Americans claim as Westerners, keeping in mind that long before science dictated the terms of human difference as “race,” long before racial scientists began to measure heads and concoct racial theory, ancient Greeks and Romans had their own means of describing the peoples of their world as they knew it more than two millenia ago.

Furthermore Painter states:

Ancient Greeks did not think in terms of race (later translators would put that word in their mouths); instead, Greeks thought of place. Africa meant Egypt and Libya. Asia meant Persia as far to the east as India. Europe meant Greece and neighboring lands as far west as Sicily.

But where and when exactly, then, did this whole white-beauty-ideal echo chamber–the chamber that can readily imagine and offer children’s book of and Brad Pitt as gorgeous Greek warriors yet can’t quite imagine this week’s Crush doing the same thing–arise? Painter explains:

Historians reckon Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68) to be the father of art history, a fitting tribute to his importance to the field. And while Winckelmann did not contribute directly to theories of race, he does play a large role in this story by passing along assumptions on the ideal form and color of human beauty that inspired much eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racial theorizing. The hard, pure, white aesthetic that Winckelmann popularized rested on the authority of the Renaissance, making the issue of whiteness versus color more than simply a question of taste.

At the heart of this work were beautiful boys, themselves central to making ancient Greeks into timeless, universal paragons of beauty…[t]he fetishization of ancient Greek beauty is not Winckelmann’s invention. But as the icon of cultural criticism, he quite easily deepened it. For instance, Winckelmann declared the Apollo Belvedere, already the most famous statue in Europe, the embodiment of perfect human beauty.

But hold on…Painter says this (emphasis mine):

[Winckelmann] admits that various peoples display different body types, thus causing tastes to vary. Clearly, human beings find people like themselves beautiful. Even so, trapped in his German-Italian aesthetic, he pronounces Chinese eyes “an offense against beauty” and Kalmucks’ flat noses “an irregularity” equal to deformity. In the final analysis, however, relativity loses out as he adopts the Kantian notion of a single ideal figure for all humanity–”the Greek profile is the first character of great beauty in the formation of the visage.” White skin, he adds, makes bodily appearance more beautiful. Throughout the Western world, these rules soon became as carved in stone as the statues that inspired them.”

I’m not saying all of this to say that we should, then, restructure our thinking so that we don’t categorically find white people–in this case, white guys–attractive. (Let Jon Hamm knock on my door, hear?) Because–truth be told–sexual/romantic attraction in real life is wildly complicated, because of and in spite of race and/or ethnicity. (That’s the safe-hedge nuance behind the racist “that person is pretty for a PoC” comment. It’s also why, even with all sorts of media pushing the latest White Male Hottie–or that White men are The Marriage Solution–a majority of people of color fan up/date/mate/partner with people within their own races and/or ethnicities, even with the rise of interracial marriage and seeing other races and ethnicities visually represented in media.) What I am saying is dig the history of who is cast as ideally beautiful that is still in operation today…which is probably why not too many people in Hollywood would offer this week’s Crush the role of the mythical Adonis. Though I think, physically, he’s totally qualified to do it.

Courtesy: justjared.com

But, if not Adonis, what about the male lead in a movie adaptation of the Red Shoe Diaries of the Bible, Song of Solomon? Yes, the Male Lover is described as “white and ruddy…his countenance as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.” But, he’s also described like this:

His head is as the most fine gold;

his locks are bushy and black as a raven…

his hands are as gold rings set with the beryl…

his legs are as pillars of marble, set on sockets of fine gold…

his mouth is most sweet…yea, he is altogether lovely.

And, yea, Sendhil most definitely qualifies for that, too.

  • Anonymous

    During the first season of Heroes, I would constantly yell out, “SAVE MOHINDER, SAVE EVERY WOMAN’S DREAM!”

  • http://twitter.com/lfresh lfresh

    I’m late, i’m late for a very important date um post. Yes (lord yes) that is a handsome man

  • kim

    Helllllooo Sendhil……and Good Morning Racialicious (Emphasis on Licious)

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    One thing that has always peeved me about Greek mythos brought to life via book illustration and the silver screen is how they make the Princess of Ethiopia, Andromeda who is rescued from the monster Cetus (Kraken) by Perseus, very white and very blonde, and EVERYONE just accepts that bit of jank.
     

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    One thing that has always peeved me about Greek mythos brought to life via book illustration and the silver screen is how they make the Princess of Ethiopia, Andromeda who is rescued from the monster Cetus (Kraken) by Perseus, very white and very blonde, and EVERYONE just accepts that bit of jank.
     

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    Sendhil is so very VERY! I was mad for him in Heroes, I had to stop watching after season two because the show got mega stupid and not even the yummy that was Sendhil could make up for that mess.
    But at least he is still in Covert Affairs and I get to gaze at him. : )I find a variety of men attractive regardless of their melanin count, that is what is so fabu about it all!

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    Sendhil is so very VERY! I was mad for him in Heroes, I had to stop watching after season two because the show got mega stupid and not even the yummy that was Sendhil could make up for that mess.
    But at least he is still in Covert Affairs and I get to gaze at him. : )I find a variety of men attractive regardless of their melanin count, that is what is so fabu about it all!

  • Untitleme61

    Wowowowow…thank you for the introduction to that incredibly gorgeous Sendhil Ramamurthy!! Idris Elba definitely has some competition in my dreams!!

  • TREX

    I had envisioned him as the lead in The Time Traveler’s Wife when I read that book.  I think he would have been better than Eric Bana.

    • Gambieman

      i could see it too. him and Rachel Mcadams? interesting chemistry!

  • Lyonside

     To a certain extent but it was relative. You could have an upper class Roman citizen from Carthage, of likely African and North African heritage, and you could have a slave with blonde hair and blue eyes. And the blonde hair and blue eyes would not be seen as a universal signal of goodness or attractiveness. In fact during Roman times, the slaves were likely to BE of northern or central European stock being conquered Gauls or Franks and their descendents. There was more fluidity within the lower castes as well – your position was due to the level you were born AND your personal fortunes. You could buy your way out of slavery or be placed into slavery due to debt, and it wasn’t tied to your physical appearance.

  • Anonymous

    Good Lawd,  Sendhil is GORGEOUS!!  My mouth waters….. both of them!

    This long-standing propoganda that “white” skin equals beauty and high character is simply ridiculous to say the least and certainly doesn’t benefit any non-white individual/group. Nevertheless, I’m am somewhat ashamed by this, but maybe others have felt this way, so here it goes: Once I begin to travel domestically and internationally, my idea of  aesthetic beauty morphed from being “white” as ideal to being “white” as least ideal. In fact, I begin to feel my stomach churn when viewing beauty ads , movies, etc of pale women, with thin lips,  masculine jaw lines, and adolescent bodies because these women seemed sick, lifeless, and souless to me personally. I remember watching the movie “O, Brother Where Art Thou” and how I had to exit the theater due to nausea owing to the sight of the “sirens” emerging from the water singing their little tune. They seemed like they had risen from the dead to me, their white pale skin and stringy hair sent shock waves of disgust through me :( The richness and sheen of highly melaninated skin and dark hair to me is most beautiful. I want to touch life, not anything that reminds me of a corpse, and sadly, white skin initiates images of disease or death for me. =( I’m working on this problem. Wish me luck!

    • Anonymous

      You’re not the only one I’ve heard express those sentiments about white skin and white people as being unattractive to them on the mythical basis of their being the ideal beauties ergo moral rightness. Some folks stay in that camp throughout their lives. 

      I do think an interesting discussion would be exactly how whiteness is constantly visually framed to connote that it’s to be considered ideal, like backlighting blond(e) hair (think Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall) and using backgrounds and clothes to emphasize blue eyes (think Bradley Cooper in Limitless). It’s almost Media Literacy 101, but I find it fascinating to study.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I completely forgot how blonde and blue eyed the Greek pantheon is in D’Aulaires. 

    Not much I can add to the Crush of the Week except damn, what a smile.  

  • Anonymous

     Oh Lord, that smile! Could someone please cast him as Finnick O’Dair in the next Hunger Games movie? I know Finnick is supposed to have red hair, but a) that hasn’t stopped some of their other casting choices (Katniss) and b) that is the first actor I’ve seen who’s just the right age and level of sexiness for the role. And that smile! *swoon*

  • Mickey

    I’ve always found Sendhil to be extremely attractive. I saw him in the moviw “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” and he was really good in that film.

  • Anonymous

    At first I was like, “Isn’t he in Covert Affairs, or am I just racist?” but he is.  I am apparently the only person who likes that show.  

    • Anonymous

       He is!  But they don’t use him like they should.  He’s basically just a gorgeous warm body to prop up the white characters. 

    • TREX

      I only watched Covert Affairs for him.  They didn’t showcase him enough so I stopped watching.

  • Winn

    My idea of “ideally beautiful” is as likely to be John Cho or Sendhil Ramamurthy or Idris Elba as it is Ryan Gosling (Chris Evans is too bland, Chris Hemsworth maybe).  Actually, if he’s older and British, like Sean Bean, Clive Owen, or Colin Salmon, who would have been James Bond in a different world, so much the better.  The point is, as subjective and personal as attraction is, its also culturally bound, and has much to do with representation and how beauty is framed as well, and we can’t ignore that.  I was partially chiling in to say I too grew up repeatedly checking out the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths from the library, and their Book of Norse Myths probably even more frequently.  Along with the fairy and folk tale collections of Ruth Manning Sanders and Andrew Lang, they definitely helped form my concept of what I found attractive, and what beautiful supposed to look like.  I’ve been trying to wrestle with and unpack that shit for years.