Arts & Culture

That Jamaican accent

Howard Campbell

Friday, February 01, 2013    

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High drama takes over at Super Bowl time in the United States. Whether it is a player allegedly using performance boosters, wardrobe malfunctions or one of the high-cost ads televised during the half-time break, controversy is never far away.

This year is no exception, as a Volkswagen ad featuring a white male 'from' Minnesota in the US Midwest with an innocuous 'Jamaican' accent, dominating talk on cable television as well as the Internet.

It prompted Charles Blow, an African-American panelist on CNN's Starting Point programme, to call the 65-second slot racist. This is the latest attempt at the Jamaican accent, which has been slaughtered by many an American actor over the years.

Here is a look at some of the worst patois, Hollywood style.

Clara's Heart

Whoopi Goldberg has received accolades for her roles in movies like The Colour Purple and Ghost, but her turn as Jamaican domestic helper Clara Mayfield in this 1988 drama was not her most memorable. She made an impression on Kathleen Quinlan's character Leona, but not on Jamaicans who were not taken with her attempt at their dialect.

Marked For Death

Starring Steven Seagal, this 1990 movie was heavy on violence and bad accents courtesy of 'Jamaican' gangsters led by Screwface. The flick fared well at the box office, but its portrayal of Jamaicans as violent drug runners who believe in obeah, was strongly condemned by the Jamaican community in the United States.

Kla$h

The award for worst attempt at Jamaican patois goes to actress Jasmine Guy, who plays Blossom in this 1995 movie. It had a strong dancehall flavour with cameos by the genre's top names but like Guy's muddled accent, Kla$h bombed at the box office.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

The 1998 movie, based on African-American author Terry MacMillan's book of the same name, made a star out of unknown actor Taye Diggs who plays Winston, a poor Jamaican boy who woos an older woman, played by Angella Bassett. The movie made millions and was a boon for Jamaican tourism but Diggs' patois was certainly not Oscar material.

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