Stranger than fiction: Wentworth Miller’s real-life “Human Stain” experience

by guest contributor Christopher Chambers, originally published at Nat Turner’s Revenge

One of the more ignorant late-night DJs on a local DC hip hop station said something like: “Who is that dude from the Mariah Carey video [Grammy-winning "We Belong Together"]? He’s on Prison Break? They say he went to Princeton but no brothas go to Princeton…”

Prison Break is one of the hottest dramas on network television, and is one of only a handful non-juvenile Fox shows (best is House, which also has a Princeton connection, being set in the town and using the Frist Student Center as “Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital”). In 2003, “Prison Break” ‘s star, former Tigertone and Daily Princetonian cartoonist Wentworth Miller III, ’95, was cast as “young Coleman Silk” in The Human Stain, based on the bestselling novel by Phillip Roth. Little did anyone know that he was more fit for the role than on the strength of his audition.

He had an intense personal connection to this light-skinned black character, played as a 70 year old by Anthony Hopkins (the cast included Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise). Not only did Miller possess a similar racial background, but he also caused a controversial incident during his time at Princeton, when he was mistakenly believed to have written a derogatory remark about African-Americans, similar to the situation with his character in the movie. The movie is set in 1997 (around Clinton-Lewinsky affair and the pinnacle of the “politically correct-sexual politics” milieu). In the film Prof. Coleman Silk, lecturing on The Iliad, remarks about two students who have habitually skipped his 9a.m. Lit class: “Are they real, or are they spooks?” The two students, it turns out, are black. Silk had been passing for white since he was a teenager in the 1940s, following the death of his father, a Pullman porter. Student groups and a petty department head demand Silk’s head. (FYI, the love scenes between Kidman and Hopkins are a little weird, so say the least. Nicole looked good post Tom).

In 1994, Wentworth Miller drew a cartoon for the Prince featuring Cornel West, who was then a Princeton professor but had announced his hiring-away by Harvard (and of course he comes back with Kwame Appiah in tow thanks to then Crimson President/Dickhead-in-charge Larry Summers). The cartoon depicted “Muffy,” a prep-school-bred white Harvard student, imagining her first class with West, who is saying, “Today’s lecture is entitled, Rhythm–Why None of You Have It, and How You Can Get It.” It also described West as “newly purchased,” which is an innocent and oft-used academic term akin to free agency in sports. Of course, “newly purchased” was taken as a reference to slavery. Wenty, you should have known better… Continue reading

Charles Barkley, Gnarls Barkley. Potato, Potahto.

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Funny item from yesterday’s Page Six:

Models are not known for their brain power, but one catwalker showed amazing dim-wittedness at Tenjune the other night. Former NBA star Charles Barkley was relaxing at a table when a blond model approached him “seductively while the song ‘Crazy’ was playing,” our spy giggled. The model “whispered in his ear, ‘Get up and dance, baby – this is your song.’ ” The ditz thought he was Gnarls Barkley, a band comprised of two people – Danger Mouse and Cee-lo. Charles was not impressed.

links for 2006-12-07

Only anti-semites think Padma on Top Chef dresses too skimpily

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

top chef bravoWe can file this one in our “racial satire gone wrong” folder. (Hat tip to The Grinder.)

Andy Cohen, a VP at cable channel Bravo, recently wrote this on his blog, in response to viewer criticisms of Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s skimpy wardrobe:

By the way, I for one am getting a little tired of the griping about Padma’s clothes being inappropriate for the kitchen. We’ve got one of the few models who has written a cookbook and can speak with authority about food, so why not make the best of both situations!? Being Jewish, I was raised to believe that models who know about food should look as white-hot as possible while tasting and discussing food. Thus, I am hereby putting it out there that anyone who thinks Padma looks inappropriate just might be cloaking some form of anti-semitism in their comments and might want to look within instead of at Padma.

Say what?

Turns out it was a lame attempt at satire, as Cohen explained a few days later:

Here’s the deal — I am a very sarcastic person with a sense of humor that is at times a little left of I don’t know what. People have been getting upset by a joke I made on the blog the other day making light of an issue — and it has raised the ire of some Top Chef fans. (See it here.) I was attempting to answer the issue while lampooning the intensely sensitive, PC world we live in today, like a very low-rent, blog version of Borat. It didn’t work and I am sorry.

Dude, leave the satire to comedy professionals, please. And in case you were wondering, Padma is not Jewish.

Guacamole: Corn syrup, check. Food coloring, check. Avocadoes? Don’t need ‘em.

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

avocados - something that Kraft Foods guacamole doesn't have a lot ofEwww… In case you needed convincing that freshly-made guacamole is the best way to go, here comes word that Kraft Foods guacamole, sold in supermarkets, is basically green glue:

No wonder store-bought guacamole tastes like glue: It is glue! Okay, not really, but it certainly isn’t real avocados, either. As Los Angeles resident Brenda Lifsey discovered, the green glop sold by Kraft Foods is primarily composed of staggering amounts of coconut and soybean oils, corn syrup, modified food starch, and food coloring, with a minuscule amount of avocado thrown in. She was so upset that she took Kraft’s ass to court on Wednesday, and her lawyer says other faux-guac purveyors will soon be targeted as well.

Gross! While we’re on the topic, does anyone have a good guacamole recipe they want to share? We’re food lovers here at Racialicious. :)

The minstrel show comes to your toy store

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Buffoonery alert! This is one toy I won’t be buying for anyone. Check out this video about a new line of dolls called Frogz:

I found the company’s web site and the sales copy is even more barf-enducing:

Frogz Hip Hop – Ride Wit Me
These S’up, Playaz?! Check out who’s in the hizzy!! This FROG has got the clothes, the moves, and the style to buss a move on ya! Press the button, and watch ‘em dance to the funky beat.

Hat tip to AllHipHop.com.

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and don’t see the video, please click on the post title.

links for 2006-12-06

Interview with ‘The Wire’s’ Sonja Sohn: Not ‘Your Typical Black Girl’

by guest contributor Wah-Ming Chang, originally published at Tripmaster Monkey

Like all the characters on the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire, Lieutenant Kima Greggs is a fascinating mix: an ass-kicking black lesbian cop in a department dominated by men. And as it turns out, the actress who plays her—Sonja Sohn—is just as complicated. A husky-voiced woman of African American and Korean parentage, Sohn (who’s straight, in case you’re wondering) got her start in the New York slam-poetry circuit (including the Def Poetry Jam) before moving on to the TV and movie game (check her out in Shaft). TMM’s Wah-Ming Chang recently caught up with Sohn to pick her brain about poetry, gay cops and why she’s not “your typical quote-unquote black girl.”

TMM: One of the things that really distinguishes you is your voice. It’s so sexy and husky. Most of us can sound that way only when we have colds, but your voice is just so sexy. Does it help you get roles?

SS: I think that everyone has a certain kind of energy that places them, and I think that my voice helps me in how people perceive me in the business. So, I guess you can say that it does.

How do you use it for effect in slam poetry? Does it help you in your acting and your performance in having that background?

I think every poet, no matter what type of voice they have, has to use their voice for different kinds of emphasis. I just think that’s a part of performance they should own. When it comes to acting, though, I don’t think it can be a conscious kind of thing, unless you’re just having a problem with projection, unless it’s a technical issue, like working with mikes and in theater. Other than that, it can’t be something that you’re conscious of, otherwise you’re just taken out of the character and out of the moment. Depending on the kind of poet that you are and your material, you use your voice as an instrument, whereas in acting, you use your whole body. But you definitely use your voice as a tool.

You work with the mike when you’re doing poetry, you do have to know your voice, and you have to know how it carries over the mike and how close you should be to it, and how to work with the mike. Because all you have at the end of the day onstage is your voice. If you are someone who uses your body, uses a lot of body language, you have that, too, but I was pretty much just a vocal person. I was very dramatic, which is pretty much how I think I segued into acting. My type of performance lends itself to the craft of acting. Continue reading

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World