The Black Snob

Politics. Pop Culture. Pretentiousness.

Incognegro IV: Jennifer Beals

with 5 comments

While some love Halle Berry, I’ve always found her to be … err … a bit wanting in the dramatic acting department. From “Losing Isaiah” to her Oscar-winning effort in “Monster’s Ball” color me unimpressed. I still remember watching the TV miniseries “Alex Haley’s Queen” and bursting out in laughter during the scene where Berry bursts into the church screaming “EYESSSS NEEEGRA!!!!”

I mean, come now. They pushed Jasmine Guy aside for this?

Why, Halle? Does Hollywood not realize that there is a platoons worth of mulattos trotting around town looking for work? What’s a not-black-black actress to do in the Halle Berry token blacktress era? They just do what other black and not-black-black actresses do. Get their hustle on.

An indie here. A drama there. Some TV on the side. But no not-black-black actress has worked her stealthy secret acting game without the fame like the gorgeous Jennifer Beals.

She could have just wound up being Jessica Alba of the 1980s after she burst on the scene in one of my favorite crappy films — “Flashdance.”

Oh what a feeling!

Of course a dance body double was working out all the sexy moves Jennifer couldn’t fake. And there was a little controversy over that. Oh, and the usual eyebrow raisings when word got out she was a not-black-black person. Jennifer, like many incognegros, doesn’t look black at all. But despite a hit film and giving millions of young women the inspiration to wear leg warmers and to try to take their bras off while not removing their shirts, Jennifer’s career hit the wall.

But she bounced right off and set to work on indie films, bargain basement films, things starring Nick Cage (see “Vampire’s Kiss“) and things starring Christopher Walken (see “The Prophecy II.”) If there was a crappy film between 1985 and 2000, Beals might have been in it or auditioned for it or turned it down because she wanted to finish her schooling at Yale. And if there was an obscure indie or a TV show no one watched, Beals was there, grabbing the cred for acclaimed parts (“Roger Doger“), and just ducking her head and taking the checks on stuff like “The Grudge 2.”

Personally, I’d forgotten the comely Ms. Beals still existed after I stopped rocking the leg warmers around age seven. I didn’t rediscover her until I rented the miniseries “Feast of All Saints,” a movie about “free people of color” living in Louisiana during the time of slavery. As I’m obsessed with anything having to do with black people, not-black-black people, “American history” and anything that tries to address the various issues and complexity of slavery, I was all over the film. Sure, I had to block out the fact that Robert Ri’chard, one: does NOT look like he could pass for white. And two: Suffers from Halle Berry’s EYESSS NEGRA disease.

That said, Jennifer Beals popped up out of nowhere, looking fresh and sumptuous, running a brothel and getting into some bodice ripping action with … sighDaniel Sunjata. Because of that film I rediscovered her and found that my love for Jennifer remains.

Nowadays Jennifer holds it down on Showtime’s “The L Word.” Playing for the third time in her fifty-six films/TV appearances … a biracial person. (She played a person of mixed race in, naturally, “Feast of All Saints” and the oft over-looked, brilliant Denzel Washington film, “Devil in A Blue Dress.” Her character was originally supposed to have blond hair, but with her olive skin tone Beals admitted that it looked so ridiculous they let her remain a brunette.)

In my dream world where I work as a powerful Hollywood film producer, I would create tons of vanity projects for her and all my other under-employed actresses of color. “Soul Food” style, homegirl films. Suspense. Crime Dramas. Romantic comedies. Tragic mulatto tales. Sci-fi. Historical fiction. Film noir. You know. Diversify the black film market. Does EVERYTHING have to be a tired, half-warmed over effort starring Martin Lawrence in a fat suit? Why can’t people make suspense filled, action packed, dramas for black folks? It doesn’t have to be high brow. I’d take a tawdry, well directed, sexual psycho thriller a la”Basic Instinct.” Black folks have an AMAZING level of drama. We can bring it. Spike Lee can’t do everything, people!

But I digress. Hopefully Jennifer will get to star in another major film. After all, she’s buddies with Quentin Tarantino (who I love-hate as one of my favorite directors). He crafted a film for the crafty, smart and sexy blaxploitation, Scream Blackula, Scream star Pam Grier. And I loved that movie no matter what anyone says. So hook a not-black-black sister up, Quentin.

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Written by blacksnob

January 6, 2008 at 11:34 am

5 Responses

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  1. I was unfortunate enough to have witnessed Halle Berry as “Queen”. I have NO words to describe that “performance”, If that’s what you call it. Her looks have served her well.

    As for Jennifer Beals, I’ve never thought much of her. I saw her in “Prophecy” which I enjoyed. I’m into all things theological/angel/God/heaven/hell oriented. “Flashdance” is iconic and her swan song for always.

    I saw the train wreck that was “The Feast of All Saints.” I’d read the book by Anne Rice and then saw the tv series. Big Mistake! Robert R’ichard needs to seriously leave the acting game alone.

    Danielle

    January 8, 2008 at 3:11 am

  2. Jennifer has also played a Biracial role in a movie called “A House Divided”

    Anonymous

    May 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  3. I adore the highly intelligent Jennifer Beals and suggest that all those wanna be writers out there start writing material for such as Jennifer.

    charliegyrl

    October 27, 2008 at 8:15 am

  4. I’ve read some Jennifer Beals hate mail from black folks and want to respond. I would have to say that we are all a product of our environment, regardless of what race. Those who accuse a person of “running away from their blackness” need be careful. Sure we are all aware of the story “Imitation of Life”. To this day, that behavior has not completely dissolved away, yet it is very inappropriate to make such strong accusations without being sure.

    When you were born, the doctor smacked you on the bottom and I guarantee that your first words were NOT ,“say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud”. No, you were taught to be proud of that heritage. You were influenced by grandma ‘nem, and those who sat you down and shared with you the stories, the photos, the emotions, the feelings and the wisdom of our rich Black heritage. You were shaped by your aunties, uncles, neighbors, teachers, black entertainment, black music, the wiered guy on the corner, and so much more. Most of us were MAJORLY influenced by the Black Church. You speak ebonics and slang because that is the way people around you spoke. You enunciate your words and speak eloquently, because that is the way people around you spoke. You like the rich foods you eat because that is what you were fed.

    A person who has not experienced what you have, is not going to become the person you are. Yeah, we all have a little this and a little that in our blood, but we all identify mostly with the community that reared us. That’s why some say a person of African ancestry may be accused of acting like one of another culture. It’s likely the culture that had more influence on them.

    My mix is Black, White and Native American. But I identify as black because that is the strongest heritage I was fed and I have brown skin. I would love to discover my Indian heritage but I have no one around me to embrace me and give me that experience. Unfortunately, I find nothing to be proud of my white heritage. Sorry white people, no offense so don‘t take it personal.

    I can tell you stories of my mother who was tied to a chair by her cousins and they cut her hair because her hair texture was fine, long, soft and wavy. Or my sister who was called names because she has light bright skin and long black wavy hair. Or my grandmother who had a car full of her children and told them to duck down in the back of the car so no one would see them, while she goes into the white gas station to pay for gas and get food. All because she could pass as an Indian woman but her children could not. She lived in a town where Indians were left well alone.

    A person who was reared in an African American culture are not likely to just run from it. I’d like to say that I feel it’s important to have people of different races and celebrate the variety of this earth and the people herein. Heritage/race is a tie that connects people, uplifts people, gives something to be proud of, something to be remembered. While being human alone should cause us all to behave in a civilized manner toward one another and live in unity and harmony, I do not agree that we should just dismiss the conversation of race and heritage or stop asking people about their race/heritage. We should just stop letting that be a reason to be divided. The conversation of race and heritage should never end. However we should respect whatever a person chooses, or the simple fact if they choose not to choose, after all they are only saying what they know. Just because I identify as black does not mean I reject any other race on earth or even my own mixed heritage. Because, just as stated above, I will gladly discuss all three. There used to be a common practice where the child identifies as the father’s race. So if Mom is Indian and dad is Chinese, then child is Chinese. Times are not that simple anymore and that’s fine.

    Regarding Jenn Beals, I don’t claim to know her but I do think the race of her parents have been communicated accurately. With her mother being Irish and father being Black/African American, she is not part white at all, by historical definition, as Irish were not considered white. Rather they were treated as minorities, the same as free slaves. SOME of the Irish chose to take advantage of their light skin and use it to get ahead, so they chose to oppress blacks, the same as whites did, in order to win the acceptance and privilege of whites. See “How the Irish Became White” http://academic.udayton.edu/Race/01race/white13.htm.

    There are many races in this country who are accused of acting white and denying their own. There are even examples of people who have in fact done such thing. But I think mostly, anyone who has been truly accepted, taught and allowed to experience love and security within the heritage of their blood line, would not readily deny nor run away from it.

    Now we have public information that says her father died when she was young and we have no information regarding any of his side of the family who could have remained an influence to her. So if you want Jennifer Beals to “act black” then maybe you should, throw a fish fry and invite her over. Or you can introduce her to black radio such as Tom Joyner morning show (www.tjms.com and http://www.blackamericaweb.com), Rev. Al Sharpton show (www.sharptontalk.net), Warren Ballentine (www.thetruthfighters.com), Steve Harvey (www.steveharvey.com), Michael Baisden (www.michaelbaisden.com). Or maybe you can invite her to come to church with you. Or maybe you can take her to your grandparents, aunts, uncles or elderly figure of your family and let them share their stories, experiences and pour their love into her. Maybe you should invite her along with you to see the latest Tyler Perry Movie. But if you don’t have enough guts to speak up for her when one ignent (no, I did not misspell ignorant, that‘s just how some black people say it) person says something out of the way to her, then don’t bother her at all. Because I’d bet good money that she has, in many ways, experienced more rejection from every direction than a human would like to know about.

    I did not know much about Jenn Beals before LWord and it’s been only a few weeks since I discovered she is biracial. Now that I know that she is part black, I will keep my eye open for her work and try and support every movie, and TV show she’s in. No, not just because she is part black but because she is part black, GOOD at what she does, and deserves more recognition for her work. That’s just what some of us do. I don’t think I need to explain that, we all know what world in which we live.

    Every mixed person should be most privileged to have the honor of experiencing and representing the richness of more than one culture. A Jewish-Black-Scottish person should be able to have a Barmitsfa with pride, wear a Kilt with pride and sing the Black National Anthem with pride. However we have reduced them to a tug of war in which they were never willing participants, demanding they “pick one“.

    I personally choose to claim anyone who is any part black, who wants to be claimed. PERIOD. I know some people don’t want to hear that but I just believe that the African heritage, the triumph over the Slave experience, and the current strength of the Black community is such that binds us all together and gives us all something to be very proud of. We are such a strong people and I want everyone even remotely associated with it to at least have an opportunity to embrace, know and love what is a part of us all. Now if there are other cultures in your mix, then by all means, love that too and teach your children.

    Go Jennifer!

    agreeordisagree

    January 23, 2009 at 2:54 am

  5. 1

    agreeordisagree

    January 23, 2009 at 3:20 am


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