Trigger Warnings – Some strong language
Ok, Christmas obligations dealt with, let’s get back to the normal routine with this blog shall we? I’ve passed over some interesting subjects for the sake of doing some Christmassy stuff but I want to cover these before they fade from the attention of the public and so without further adieu, I want to talk about the recent leaked tidbit of information that Sony want Idris Elba as the next James Bond. Idris Elba, perhaps my audience know him best as Heimdall of the Marvel Thor franchise and you’re probably all aware that he is black, something that James Bond isn’t typically portrayed as. Now, anyone with half a brain can tell what happened when this info became public, opinions were polarised between “Why not? He’s a great actor, go Idris!” and “James Bond as a black man? OUTRAGE! Fuck the minorities ruining everything!”. I’m here to represent the former, in particular, taking opposition to some of the most ridiculous arguments as to why he shouldn’t be allowed to take on this role after Daniel Craig.
Film buffs, do not despise me but do you remember when Ben Affleck was announced to be the next Batman? My reaction was not one of anger but acceptance, I mean, he’s an established actor, writer, director and nerd, he’s got the physical requirements and the fact nobody could imagine him as being this tough vigilante meant he’d be all the more believable as Bruce Wayne, rather than looking like a slab of muscular man meat forced into a suit and trying to enjoy fancy dinner parties, this’d be a guy who could equally at home in his mansion as his cave. I felt that was important, too many people see Batman as the mean nitty-gritty dark hero because of Frank Miller’s work but a comic book franchise needs to do more than just brood in the shadows and say “Look, this is serious now, don’t laugh at the bat costume, it’s fucking cool”, it’s still a rich boy playing out a power fantasy in dress up, let’s at least PRETEND he occasionally gets off on it, rather than sulk around everywhere spouting poetic rubbish. However, people really get attached to fictional characters and when you shake up how they see them being played, they get really upset – a concept of there being a female Doctor, a black Captain America, a female Thor – you announce these things and fans lose their shit, sure a franchise is as much about the fans as the creators but you have to let a franchise shift and change or it goes stale, that’s where nitty gritty Batman came in, the original Batman was the campiest American family friendly silliness going in comics, Frank Miller made Batman into a dark hero and then suddenly people saw Batman as nothing else, not realising that this was pigeon-holing possibilities and leading DC Comics into a filthy rut.
So, looping back to the discussion at hand, this is the same deal with James Bond, people see James Bond, they think a suave British fellow driving cars really fast, banging hot babes and blowing shit up, essentially another entitled white guy living out fantasies with a seemingly infinite pool of resources. Idris Elba is our Ben Affleck Batman then, he doesn’t LOOK like the preconceived notion of the character, ergo, he can’t be the character. Well last time I checked, Idris Elba is British and by the way, the idea that James Bond was always a Scottish man is false, that was something Ian Fleming changed his mind on after seeing Sean Connery in the role so you know, clearly even the creator can bend the rules on the character, why can’t we? Idris Elba is a great actor and maybe he’ll play the Bond we all know and love as this reckless drunken gadgethead or maybe he’ll play a different Bond, a more sombre and pensive bond like Roger Moore once did perhaps? The beauty of fictional characters is we can interpret them in different ways and each different portrayal of that character brings a new element that fans can discuss, grow to love and fantasise about even newer ideas – this is how Doctor Who refreshes itself after all, each Doctor is different, you have your hate-filled lone wolf Eccleston and you have your silly lunatic Smith, fictional characters can change, they can adapt and each new combination of actors and writers open a world of possibilities.
Rush Limbaugh weighed in on this choice and said it was akin to a white guy playing Barack Obama, admitting it sounded racist but he went by the logic of comparing James Bond to Barack Obama, here’s why that’s a shallow argument. I know James Bond is based on actual facts, loosely, Ian Fleming got the idea from things that did happen but by and large, this is a made up guy, a story, a collection of pieces of paper that can be throw away or corrected. Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, they’re real people and you can’t have them portrayed by white guys because what was significant about their stories was the fact they were black, that’s what made them stand out in history, not just their accomplishments but the fact that they were the greats of black American history. The first black president, the black man who fought the white system without ever raising a weapon – changing them to white guys changes the story, it’s no longer a moving tale of a minority overcoming adversity to make the world a fairer place, it becomes the story of a minority being sent a white saviour to rescue them from their oppressors. Barack Obama and James Bond are two different kettles of fish – one of them is a fictional character, the other a historical figure. You can have a black man be Bond because Bond is the story of a super spy fighting super villains and having lots of sex, that has no skin colour requirements, but to portray the first black president in a film, you kinda need to be black for the film to make sense.
So, Rush, I doubt you’re reading but it is racist to suggest George Clooney play Barack Obama but it is not a problem to have Idris Elba play a made up spy in a film that is nowhere close to being real. As for worrying about them darn minorities stealing away our fictional characters, calm down, it doesn’t take a great deal of strain to list your top ten white male heroes in fiction does it? Or top twenty, or thirty… point being, you have a lot to choose from, not every last one of them will be ‘stolen’ and even if they were, so what? If you have a problem with a black Bond or a black Captain America, you need to think about that internalised racism you have going on in your mind and seriously ask yourself why these made up people HAVE to look the way you imagine them? Do minorities not deserve to look up to characters like James Bond or Doctor Who and think “That could be me one day, I could be the next actor to play Bond!” or is daydreaming an exclusively white privilege?
Thanks as always for reading, credit goes to my friend Millie for giving me the idea, I saw her Facebook status on the topic and decided to delve into the subject myself after meaning to do so earlier. You can check her out at the link below (As in her writing, not actually oggle at her, that’d be weird)
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