Tag Archives: actors

Robert Downey Jr. wears blackface to mock white actors who wear blackface?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Fatemeh and reader Nae tipped us off to this upcoming Ben Stiller comedy, in which Robert Downey Jr. appears in blackface.

But wait – his character is a white actor who dons blackface to play a role that was originally written for a black man. So… is this a way of skewering the Angelina Jolie’s of the world?

Here’s a piece from Entertainment Weekly:

If you don’t recognize that African-American actor standing between Jack Black and Ben Stiller, there’s a good reason: He’s white. In Tropic Thunder, an epic action comedy co-written and directed by Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a very serious Oscar-winning actor cast in the most expensive Vietnam War film ever. Problem is, Lazarus’s character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as black. So Lazarus decides to dye his skin and play Osiris, um, authentically. Funny? Sure. Dangerous? That’s an understatement. ”If it’s done right, it could be the type of role you called Peter Sellers to do 35 years ago,” Downey says. ”If you don’t do it right, we’re going to hell.”

…For starters, Hollywood satires have a rocky box office record. And then there’s that little issue of a white guy playing a black guy. Stiller says that he and Downey always stayed focused on the fact that they were skewering insufferable actors, not African-Americans. ”I was trying to push it as far as you can within reality,” Stiller explains. ”I had no idea how people would respond to it.” He recently screened a rough cut of the film and it scored high with African-Americans. He was relieved at the reaction. ”It seems people really embrace it,” he says.

Paramount is hoping so: The studio plans to debut the trailer online March 17, and Downey is all over it. (In one scene, he tries to bond with a real African-American castmate by quoting the theme song from The Jeffersons.) Downey, meanwhile, is confident he never crossed the line. ”At the end of the day, it’s always about how well you commit to the character,” he says. ”I dove in with both feet. If I didn’t feel it was morally sound, or that it would be easily misinterpreted that I’m just C. Thomas Howell in [Soul Man], I would’ve stayed home.”

Huh. Funny that Downey would invoke Peter Sellers.

Okay, the idea of mocking white actors who put on blackface in this day and age seems like a good one, if this whole movie is satirizing Hollywood. But dude, it’s a Ben Stiller movie. As much as I enjoy catching cable reruns of Zoolander (“one look??”), I can’t see this movie doing anything but bungling the race issue.

What do you all think?

Angelina Jolie to adopt from Chad

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Another one??? According to the New York Post, Angelina is about to adopt yet another child, this time from Chad. And this is just weeks after her latest adoption from Vietnam. I guess this is part of her “balancing out the races” philosophy:

“Angelina and Brad want to make sure Zahara doesn’t feel alienated as the only black face in their family,” a source told London’s News of the World. Jolie herself recently said, “Should you balance the races, so there’s another African person in the house for Zahara, after another Asian person in the house for Mad? We think so.”

Jolie reportedly has already picked out a 1-year-old girl from Oure Cassoni in Chad and has her lawyers working on the adoption paperwork. “She is hoping to have her daughter home by the summer,” a source told the British paper.

I guess she really will need that hands-free multiple child carrier (from Gallery of the Absurd, hat tip to Nina!):

On The Pursuit of Happyness

by guest contributor Mrs. J, originally published at Our Kind of Parenting

I was thrilled to find out that Will Smith’s new movie about an African American father who beat the system , found personal success and financial security for himself and his young son was number one at the box office it’s opening weekend (grossing 27 million). No, that’s not the Smart Guy on the movie poster with Will, it’s his baby boy Jaden, looking all grown as he makes his big screen debut with his daddy. As if this movie wasn’t enough of a tear jerker already.

Just the fact that a drama starring black characters that aren’t cooning it up or shooting eachother up could make it to number one is enough to have me bringing the Kleenex to the multiplex. I’m so tired of the maudlin Soul Food wannabees and the buffoonish Soul Plane regurgitations make me hurl. And then we’ve got the stereotypical gangsta violent flicks that played themselves out more than a decade ago. Everybody knows that’s not what black people are all about anyway (or at least I hope so…) Give me a “feel-good” movie starring some black people any day. And no, nothing by Cuba Gooding Jr. will ever count.

We couldn’t find a sitter on Saturday night, but were fortunate to catch the incredibly charismatic, real life inspiration for the film, Christopher Gardner, being interviewed on the Wall Street Journal Report. In addition to Gardner’s personal account of how he made it, I was struck by hearing his story about how he sold shares to a racist Texan who repeatedly called him nigger over the phone before buying options from him. And that his biggest problem is not being able to sleep at night because his “face hurts so much from smiling all day.”

To be perfectly honest, the first question to cross my mind was “Did this brother make it without selling out?” Kinda hard to know without seeing the film. But just on speculation, I’m not sure how much it matters – Gardner obviously had the last laugh. In a previous life, I knew many a college educated brother who were perfectly content to live off mommy and daddy because they “didn’t want to work for The Man.” Where are they now? Not exactly uplifting the race. Last time I checked they were still unemployed, living in their parents’ basements, spending entire days playing video games and smoking weed (sorry, but you know who you are).

Most black professionals, present company included at one point in time, have had to wear Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s proverbial mask at some point. It’s no secret that assimilating into corporate America isn’t easy when you’re black, whether you’re holding a JD-MBA or – in Christopher Gardner’s case – an eviction notice. I can’t help but wonder if complete and utter desperation, as in this particular case, makes sporting that bad boy just a little more bearable.

Whoop that waif: Black Snake Moan

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Update: Looks like they pulled the video, and I couldn’t find another trailer on YouTube. If anyone can find the trailer online, please post a link. Thanks!

We warned told you about Black Snake Moan back in May. It’s Craig Brewer’s follow-up to Hustle & Flow and it’s all about pushing our buttons when it comes to race and sex.

The trailer is out now (hat tip to Christopher) and it looks like Sam Jackson will be playing the time-honored role of The Magic Negro, saving waifish white Christina Ricci from her own sexual demons. Even if he has to chain her up in his kitchen:

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

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

Michael Richards: the graphic novel

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

LOL! ebogjohnson is at it again. The man who brought us the brilliant Should I use blackface on my blog? flowchart is back with a vengeance.

Click over to see all 9 storyboards of his interpretation of the Michael Richards incident. As you can see, he was inspired partly by Jenn’s racist fairy. :)

EBOG PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS: KOSMO KRAMER KAPERS! a JOHN RIDLEY and THE LEAGUE OF DISTINGUSHED FOREHEAD ANTI-RACIAL HYPOCRITES adventure!!!

kramer michael richards racist fairy