So here’s the thing: I like Ed Norton. He seems like a cool cat, doing his humanitarian and environmental thang pretty consistent-like. Among many other laudable political and charitable activities, Norton was part of bringing the excellent & emotional HBO documentary By the People: The Election of Barack Obama into being. Furthermore, his portrayal of a reformed white supremacist skinhead in American History X (if you believe the testimonial comments of ex-skinheads in iTunes and YouTube who say this movie changed them) probably singlehandedly saved some black folks’ lives.
So really — I ain’t hatin’.
That said, the pictures of Edward Norton, thespian, in cornrows as a criminal in the new movie Stone are working me over for some reason. I realize it’s no doubt authentic to prison culture. I think it’s the symbolism — beyond the whole wigger cultural imprint so completely developed into the Boondocks’ Ed Wuncler III, a white man in prison with cornrows is a white man charismatic enough to charm or terrifying enough to command some tough black convicts into braiding his silky, silky hair. Because you know and I know no white man goes into prison knowing how to cornrow anybody else’s hair, black or white. (Or at least probably very few).
The cornrows look good on Norton IMHO yet are jarring in some way — he’s handsome in a familiar way, like the guy next door. The cornrows make that next door neighbor thing look all wrong, de-familiarizing his sort of normal guy vibe. Kind of like when Bo Derek wore braids, is this the start of some trend among white folks that we need to start tracking? And I’m not the only one asking. Our hair is different — I liken it to 2 slinkies that are pulled straight, wound together and then released. And that’s gonna hold for awhile. That’s the whole point of braids, cornrows, locs, twists — we need to get our fine little coils organized, sculpted, under control & beautiful. Braids and cornrows just don’t hold that long on white people however – Norton probably had to get those re-done every other day to keep them sharp. He’s not the first white guy to do this in the movies — Jared Leto and Justin Timberlake have also gone there, btw. Here’s a brief history of white people in the movies with cornrows.
Anyway, is it just me? How are we feeling — as a people — about Edward Norton’s cornrows? Is a white guy getting in touch with his inner Snoop sexy or sinful? I’ll meet you in the comments.
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats