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