Friday, April 10, 2009

Kumar invades the White House

At first I was completely baffled by Monday's episode of House, where co-workers discover the body of colleague Lawrence Kutner, who completely out of nowhere had committed suicide. On reflection and reading the real story of actor Kal Penn, from an artistic standpoint it makes great theater to have the curmudgeonly Dr. House, who can figure out anything, have a mystery strike close to his life that makes no sense.

The hard thing to wrap my brain around turns out to be Penn's decision to take a job in the White House as "associate director in the White House office of public liaison." Then I realized it was not such a stretch — after all, as Kumar in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, he had visited the western White House and smoked dope with George W. Bush. That's him on the left, in case you missed that particular cinematic moment.

In the interview I linked, Penn said he was inspired by his grandparents — "They marched with Gandhi in the Indian independence movement, and that was always in the back of my head." In that case I'm further perplexed. First, because he's going to work for an establishment that is devoted to locking up people like Kumar and throwing away the key. Second, because Gandhi is one of history's most revered philosophers of nonviolence, and Penn is going to work for a man who is in the process of ramping up the war in Afghanistan and reneged on his pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months, instead putting a plan in motion that will leave an occupying force of 35,000-50,000 soldiers after 19 months.

I'm guessing Penn's grandparents are spinning in their graves.

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