Eye on Hollywood: The Interpreter

Nicole Kidman is a stunning woman.  Standing at just under six feet tall and sporting strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes, she cuts an impressive figure.  Needless to say, she is white.  In her 2005 film The Interpreter, however, her heart clearly lies back in black Africa, where she once had an African lover involved in national politics.

Multilingual, fastidious, idealistic and dedicated to her work as a interpreter at the United Nations, Kidman’s character Silvia yearns to restore the hope that a once promising leader has destroyed in his nation of Matobo.  (The fictional leader President Edmond Zuwanie and the country bear a strong resemblance to real life leader Robert Mugabe and the disaster that is Zimbabwe, though in the film Zuwanie is played by an actor who is nearly white.)

This racial emphasis is important because Silvia wishes to kill Zuwanie for his transgressions against “her people” (and not just her family members that have been murdered).  Forcing Zuwanie to read from a book he had written years before, Silvia gazes at the accompanying picture of a small African boy and tenderly utters “That little boy was my country.”  To drive home this message, she closes the film by telling her almost-lover (Sean Penn), “I’m going home.”  “I never had time to tell you how much I miss Africa.”

Perhaps this is merely an interesting twist to a Hollywood romance.  On the other hand, it can be seen as a celluloid depiction of what Hollywood stars are doing with their real lives.  To wit, many not only agitate on behalf of oppressed non-whites (think Richard Gere and the Tibetans), some have actually adopted non-white children or had their own with non-white spouses.

For her part, Kidman and her then-husband Tom Cruise adopted two children, one, Connor Anthony Cruise, an African-American born on Jan. 17, 1995. This would have made Connor ten years old when The Interpreter was released, so perhaps Kidman’s sentiments in the film were drawn from this family link.

Director Steven Spielberg, of course, is the “godfather” of the movement, with two adopted African American children, Theo and Mikaela.  If Spielberg is the godfather of the movement, then Madonna should be its godmother.  In 2006 she adopted a young boy from Malawi in southeastern Africa.

Some stars, on the other hand, have their own children.  Nicolas Cage, for instance, met his Korean American wife Alice Kim when she was his waitress.  Cage was 40 at the time and Alice 20, and they now have a son, Kal-El.

For sheer theatrics, however, Angelina Jolie takes the cake.  While married to Billy Bob Thorton, she adopted “Maddox” from Cambodia. (Naturally, Maddox was named Hollywood’s best looking kid by  Life and Style magazine.) Then she adopted a six-month-old girl from Ethiopia, now named Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt (Brad Pitt is Jolie’s current significant other).  Finally, she adopted a three-year-old boy from Vietnam, Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt.  When Jolie and Pitt had their own baby, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, in Namibia in 2006, Pitt confirmed that their newly-born daughter would have a Namibian passport.

Jolie is no slouch when it comes to crossing borders: gossip columns are abuzz with talk of her rumored lesbian relationship with Japanese American model Jenny Shimizu.  (In turn, Shimizu has been heard to make claims that she was involved with Madonna at the same time she was with Jolie.) Perhaps we could call a film made from this relationship Guess Who’s Coming to Brokeback Mountain.

There is no question that in recent years Hollywood has widened its horizons when it comes to depicting its heroes, nearly all of whom were white in the past.  Whether there is any causal connection (in either direction) to the real-life racial crossings made by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars remains to be seen.  One point seems clear: Many in Hollywood have begun to believe Hollywood’s own propaganda.

Kidman, Madonna and Jolie, though, can certainly afford to live such exotic, non-traditional lives. But the working and middle class white girls who respond to this propaganda by imitating such behavior are rarely rewarded with red carpets and paparazzi.  Yet Hollywood, for its part, seems in no mood to show the downside of this kind of diversity.

Edmund Connelly is a freelance writer, academic, and expert on the cinema arts. He has previously written for The Occidental Quarterly.