by Cara Winter
When the Sony hack revealed that Idris Elba was being bandied around to take on the role of James Bond… first I screamed, “They stole my idea!” …and then (naturally) I realized that this is just a good idea, an idea whose time has come. And Elba happens to be the right actor at the right time, with the right emotional, physical and psychological makeup to play the role. (So… Sony, if you’re downloading my thoughts, which it appears you are… download my inner “Bravo!” and continue to run with it…)
After I read this very cool (if, ah-hem, obtained illegally) “news”, I started wondering what the “reaction” from “ordinary people” would be, on the internet. Overwhelmingly, from what I’ve read, people are enthusiastic. People are psyched. They are totally ready for a black James Bond.
Except if they’re idiots.
One person on Facebook, a random person I’ve never met, and probably will never meet, wrote something that really struck me. It was because, at first glance, it seemed inoccuous, a plain-spoken objection: “Ian Fleming intended James Bond to be white. He’s Scottish. Casting Idris Elba is wrong.” Or, something to that effect. (I’m paraphrasing because I don’t want to quote the person word-for-word, and embroil TVWriter.com in a lawsuit. But that was the gist.) Then came the “news” that Rush Limbaugh (a scab on the ass of humanity, if ever there was one) had said more or less the same thing on his radio show. (He still has a radio show?! Oh, I see… he chimed in with his all-important opinion on this topic because there was a rumor going around that he was either retired, dead, or at least completely irrelevant. Never mind…)
To the people who honestly DO have this thought, that “James Bond is white. He’s Scottish,” etc… I have a few points I’d like to make.
ONE: William Shakespeare (you may or may not have heard of him; he was the most influential playwright in the English language, wrote about 38 incredibly brilliant plays about 420 years ago, which are still performed all over the world today, having been translated into, I don’t know, ALL the languages)? Shakespeare wrote lots and lots of female characters. And he wrote them, intending for men to play them. Let me say that again: all those ladies’ roles, from Juliet to Margaret to Lady Macbeth, were written for MEN to play. That’s right – guys in drag. Why? Well, because WOMEN weren’t allowed to become actors because of their unnatural wombs, or menstrual cycles, or because they were witches, or some shit.
Does this mean that women aren’t supposed to play Juliet or Lady Macbeth in our modern theater/films, because Shakespeare didn’t write them for women? OF COURSE NOT. It means that as soon as women became liberated enough to choose a profession, and some chose acting, women started playing women in Shakespeare’s plays. (And then, a couple decades ago, they also started playing MEN.)
Are you trying to tell me that James Bond IS SO PRECIOUS, so IMPORTANT, that we should treat him like he’s above the wheels of justice and progress turning? Was LADY MACBETH – or for that matter, MACBETH himself – less precious than …JAMES BOND?
TWO: There are actually BLACK SCOTTISH PEOPLE.
What? GET OUT! That’s just CRAZYTOWN!
I know! Just as in America, people from Africa were kidnapped and enslaved (and some did come of their own free will)… in Scotland. All over the UK, actually, and throughout Europe. But once it was deemed inhumane for people to “own” one another, these people of African descent were freed, and they became Scottish.
In the years hence, many of these Afro-Scottish people (is that a thing?) – or, let’s call them Scottish, because they are citizens of Scotland—and many other people of color decided to spend their lives working for the British government. Some (gasp!) are even in the British Secret Service. Because, I don’t know, having spies who can blend in while obtaining intel in Somalia or Cuba or Haiti or China might come in handy. And, I’m not trying to blow anyone’s cover, but you honestly could be sitting next to a Scottish spy RIGHT NOW, and not even know it – after all, the British are really, REALLY good at American accents. (I’m lookin’ at you, Brody… and Quinn… and House… ). Much better than we are at imitating their accents (I’m lookin’ at you… all American Actors…)
THREE: How the F do you know that Fleming intended him to be white, forever? Did he ever call you, personally, and say “If Bond is ever Asian or African or Hispanic, I’m going to rise from the dead and haunt you for the rest of your days…”? NO. No, he did not.
What we DO know, from interviews with Fleming, is that he chose the name “James Bond” not because it spoke to long lines of Anglo-Saxon family lineage, but because it was the most boring name he could think of. Do we associate James Bond as a dull, boring guy who things just “happen to”? Certainly not; Bond is a man of action, a rule-breaker, a maverick. Yet this was not Fleming’s original intent with the character. Over the years, Bond has morphed into something else; an enigmatic, powerful and witty man with a dark past – hardly the boring guy who likes scrambled eggs and golf that Fleming imagined. So if we’ve allowed the character to become so estranged from his roots, evolve into something else… it seems natural to me for Bond’s skin color to be allowed to evolve, right along with the character.
We will never know if Fleming would have been cool with a black James Bond. Just like we’ll never know what Shakespeare would have thought of a person with actual lady-parts reciting “Unsex me here!”
But we do it anyways. And for good reason. Because women rock, and they should be playing Lady Macbeth and Juliet and Hermione and Queen Margaret. Just like Idris Elba rocks, and should be playing James Bond.
When a story transcends color, when the character stands for the “Everyman”, or is “heroic” and “special”… it is actually IMPORTANT to put people of color in these roles. We need to do it more often. We need Idris Elba in fucking everything. Because our stories are a mirror of who we are — all of us, not just the old, white guard. We need to see ourselves – people who look like us, people who don’t look like us, men and women, LGBT and straight —acting like great and heroic men and women, so we can more easily see the greatness in one another – from the child walking through that elementary school door, to that young man or woman coming in for an interview, to that teenager stopping at a 7-11 for a soda.
We need to start seeing the potential greatness in one another, and stop seeing quite so much color.
Cara Winter is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.