To start off let me say that I have truly enjoyed James Bond movies over the years, and even as a kid I had the “spy toys” associated with the character, especially the attaché case that I wish I had kept. In my mind James Bond is more than the actors who have portrayed him – the character somehow subsumes the men, and they are “Bond” for however many films in which they appear.
When I heard the story that radio personality Rush Limbaugh said that actor Idris Elba couldn’t portray Bond because he is black, I thought that Rush must have a case of foot-in-mouth disease again. Known for his inappropriate comments about women, gays, and blacks, it would seem Rush is living up to the title of the book Al Franken wrote a book about him (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot). Yes, he has his right to freedom of speech, but he has a history of caustic and unnecessarily inflammatory statements. I guess that he is playing to the audience that gives him ratings, but that kind of pandering is even more annoying.
If you explore some of Rush’s rationale, he incorrectly states that Bond comes from Scotland. If you look at one of the best sources for Bond information (author Ian Fleming who created him), we get the history of Bond’s lineage:
James Bond was born in Zurich in the early 1920s to Andrew Bond of Glencoe and Monique Delacroix, from the Canton de Vaud in Switzerland. The family divided their time between a flat in Chelsea and a large house just outside Basel which enabled James’ fluency in French and German, as well as English. Tragically, both James’ mother and father died in a climbing accident whilst on holiday in France when he was only eleven.
Now while Glencoe is indeed in Scotland, we can see that Bond would not actually identify much with that place judging from what we are told. Of course, in Skyfall, the latest Bond film, we learn that Skyfall is actually Bond’s family estate in the Scottish highlands. All of this may have tinged Rush’s thoughts about Bond, but he has lost sight of one of the most salient things about James Bond – he is a fictional character! While I believe Bond is more than just a stock character, why can’t he be morphed in different directions? After all, anyone who believes that Roger Moore’s James Bond was the same as Sean Connery’s version needs to see the films again. They are distinctly different while retaining certain aspects of the Bond legend.
One needs only to look at other traditionally “white” characters who have been played by black actors to see there is precedence for it. The current smash hit film Annie stars young Quvenzhané Wallis as the titular heroine, the old red hair and blank oval eyes nowhere to be seen. Samuel L. Jackson has done a nice job as Nick Fury in the Marvel films, Halle Berry has played Catwoman, and who can forget William Marshall’s turn as the blood thirsty count in Blacula? A number of black actors have tackled the Shakespearean Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear roles in plays, sacred cows that sometimes could use some tipping. Why should any actor be prevented from taking a role simply because of his or her race? If you are thinking this is 2014 and why are we having this conversation, join the club.
This situation reminds me of another ludicrous moment from last year when FOX newscaster Megyn Kelly infamously declared both Jesus and Santa to be white. Santa is once again a fictional character; therefore, should he not be depicted as however the eye of the beholder envisions him? I have been in stores and public places where Santa has been played by persons of various ethnicities, and none of the kids ever seemed to mind – it’s some of the adults who have issues with it I suppose. As for Jesus, if you are a Christian and believe that he is the Son of God, isn’t it your right to see him in whatever form is pleasing to you? People who think of God can and should see him in a similar way. Since the Bible tells us that God made humans in his own image, there is certainly every reason to think the entirety of the human race looks like God, not just one race.
Back to Idris Elba, I am certain that he would slip into Bond’s finely tailored tuxedo, sip shaken not stirred martinis, and drive sports cars as well as any of the previous actors. Having seen Mr. Elba in various roles, my first impression of him is as an actor who can handle any role. No wonder the SONY executives (whose emails were revealed during the hacking of that company) were discussing Elba for the part.
Current Bond Daniel Craig is probably the best actor to ever play the suave spy, and certainly is my favorite after Sean Connery; however, as with all actors who have played Bond, there is a shelf life to the role, and it seems like Craig is nearing his expiration date. There is no reason why Elba shouldn’t be considered for the role, and certainly race should have nothing to do with it.
James Bond is a cultural phenomenon that has remained extremely popular after 23 films. Craig will next appear as Bond in Spectre, and then he is committed to one more film. After that the search for a new Bond will be on, and I for one hope that Elba gets serious consideration for the role. Of course, if they really want things shaken and not stirred, why not cast a female and call her Jane Bond? I imagine old Rush then might get his appendage caught in his mouth permanently and be forced to quit radio. Well, one can dream anyway.
Photo credits: dailycurrant.com, 007.com, collider.com
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