The new James Bond might be black. So?

Published: December 25, 2014

Ian Fleming’s James Bond is not a historical figure, but a fictitious character. He could be of Asian, Chinese, Arab or Mexican descent. PHOTO: AFP/REUTERS

The upcoming James Bond movie might offer a critic much to complain about; a hint that the crucial male lead may be played by a ‘black actor’, is no legitimate reason to moan.

There are instances of jaw-dropping idiocy one becomes rapidly accustomed to, following social political news in America. I no longer jump out of my seat when Pat Robertson says something misogynistic, or when Jenny McCarthy links vaccines to hair cancer, or whatever her latest unscientific concern may be.

Rush Limbaugh too has earned a similar reputation, but blatant racism is something particularly difficult to get accustomed to, especially in the ‘I can’t breathe’, post-Fergurson America where patience is running particularly thin.

Responding to the rumour of the British actor, Idris Elba, set to replace Daniel Craig as the new Agent 007, the right-wing radio host quickly expressed his uneasiness:

“James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is, was….But now [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Britain, rather than a white from Scotland.”

Let’s keep Scotland out of it, as we haven’t had a real Scot playing James Bond since Sean Connery in 1971 anyway. The issue, basically, is the actor’s race.

“But that’s not who James Bond is and I know it’s racist to probably point this out.”

You said it, Rush, not me.

Limbaugh attempts to fortify his lousy tirade ad antiquitatem – an appeal to tradition, reminding us that we’ve had “50 years of white Bonds”. That is as impressive as America’s 130 years of male-only voters, until the blessed presidential election of 1920.  I’m sorry, conservatives, but things do change eventually. Get used to it.

Limbaugh further mocked the casting suggestion of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s co-chairman, by adding:

“We can always be more equal about it. So, fine and dandy. George Clooney and Kate Hudson as Barack and Michelle Obama, and you can have Idris Elba as James Bond.”

There are numerous differences between Barack Obama and Agent 007, but let’s focus on just one: James Bond’s race isn’t remotely as crucial to his story as is Obama’s. You can’t take the ‘black’ out of the ‘first black president of the United States’, and claim to have accurately limned his legacy.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond is not a historical figure, but a fictitious character. He could be of Asian, Chinese, Arab or Mexican descent, with no impact whatsoever on his tale as a smooth-talking, martini-sipping, damsel-rescuing British spy, knowing that there no specific race that makes you British.

Or so the dreaded “political-correctness police” may have you believe.

Modern racists take great pains dressing their transgressions intelligently and making their prejudice less conspicuous. The giveaway is the interminable, illogical mumbling against an African-American president or a black British actor; and a self-conscious, pre-emptive ‘clarification’ that the statement is not racist.

One mustn’t hesitate to call out smart-sounding racism, out of fear of ‘overplaying’ the race card. With the appalling prevalence of this disease, ‘over-diagnosis’ is rarely a primary concern.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bill Kleinsturn

    “Modern racists take great pains dressing their transgressions intelligently and making their prejudice less conspicuous. The giveaway is the interminable, illogical preaching and finger-wagging against anything that doesn’t fit their pro(Re)gressive narrative; and a self-conscious, pre-emptive ‘clarification’ that the statement is not racist.”
    Yes, you did. And yes, you are.Recommend

  • Bill Kleinsturn

    Yes, you did. And yes, you are.Recommend

  • Hunzawala

    The author seems to have a fixation on things American. Hardly anyone
    knows who Rush Limbaugh is, outside the Deep South. The Cornpone Belt.
    Let alone anyone,…in the Land of the Pure. Kate Hudson? Try iconic Madhubala.
    And James Bond? He may be fiction. But he is strictly Stiff Upper Lip British. And
    Scottish, with a burr. And making him black, would be the end of the James Bond
    franchise. Recommend

  • James Bleyer

    Racism has nothing to do with it. This move shows no respect for the creative process, instead choosing to ruin Fleming’s carefully detailed and nuanced character.Recommend

  • Kevin Snyder

    James Bond is a man, not a job title. The Flash can be black, and so can Green Lantern, as these are job titles. James Bond is a white, British male.Recommend

  • Diggs

    Well I don’t see why they can’t just make a difrent 00 agent movie. I grew up watching bond movies, he is one of my heroes and I don’t want to see him changed. Bond is like Santa, super man and batman you can’t just change him to black for no good reason. It’s like Shaft, I don’t want to see a white Shaft. Recommend

  • fuckstick

    Rush Limbaugh it the single most recognizable conservative blow-hard in America. Everyone knows who he is, sadly.Recommend

  • fuckstick

    Shaft is a black-splotation movie, it has to be a black actor, race and racism is a central theme to the character.Recommend

  • Diggs

    Shaft was a hard core black dude. Kicking ass and taking names. Though the original was the best. Get off the race bating.
    Recommend

  • James Dean

    I think the Bond character should be a Blackanese/Indian homosexual disabled dwarf.Recommend

  • michael

    James Bond stopped being relevant decades ago. Bond movies make money, however, so they continue to get made. But Bond is a 1960s anachronism in corporate , PC 2014. Why do we care about Bond any more? A black Bond will make money and that’s why there will be one. Next? A Latina Bond.Recommend

  • Golnath Agarwal.

    See, this article is for desi consumption. in Pakistan. NOT
    the US. Even in US Limbaugh is reviled and more or less hated
    by the majority. That means everyone and his brother.Recommend

  • John Cornell

    Liberals cater to the 13 percent of America that is black. African-Americans have enough creative juices to create their own enduring fictional characters without help from white liberals. Give liberals and the box office the chance to mess with our cultural fiction and Tarzan, Superman, Zorro and Barney will all be black. Blacks don’t need affirmative action in the creative process, they can stand on their own and be wonderfully successful without liberal agendas.Recommend

  • Bayou Crier

    If the producers want to portray a black bond let them its their money.
    But I think it will flop at the box office.Recommend

  • http://www.warbuckwrites.com/ John Warbuck

    I find it ridiculous that Rush wants to take issue with a black actor playing in a fictional role but will not express equal outrage when white actors are cast to play Moses and the Ramses of Egypt in “Exodus: Gods and Kings” which are historical figures who were not white.Recommend

  • michael

    He’s not really a man, he’s a character in a book. Whoever has the rights to the character can do as they please, just as George Lucas is free to muck up Star Wars to his heart’s content. There is nothing sacrosanct about James Bond.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Anyone who is an avid reader of comics will know that this issue has been raised-and answered- when the mike morales spiderman comic went up. Lou dobbs was the racist then, and he got LAMBASTED by general public when he went against a latino spidey.
    This ought to happen to Mr.rush. Not the just the higher ups, but the general too, should raise such an outcry that he takes refuge in his house for a long period of time, perhaps indefinitely.Recommend

  • Nandita.

    James Bond should be HOT. Idris elba is Not.
    I don’t care about the colour , but the hotness quotient matters and unfortunately, Idris elba is not upping it.
    Daniel Craig – now he’s a sight for sore eyes.Recommend

  • D Buck

    James Bond is not a black man. Neither is Sherlock Holmes, Superman, or Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s not racist. It’s what they are.
    If you cast him as 008, that’s great. Recommend

  • Harry

    I have no problem with a black cinematic Bond, especially Elba, who would be great. However, this departs the character from the literary Bond even more than ever. There are things about the literary Bond that with Elba cannot be brought out with Elba in the role. Still, if he’s the guy, he’ll do a great job. He’s got the style, and the age to carry it off. That said, the feeling of the literary Bond is what probably matters
    most and they portrayed much of that with Craig. The coldness and
    dispassionate ability to kill was gone when Connery left the role, and
    Craig brought it back. If Elba can deliver that, then the most essential part of the literary Bond will remain.Recommend

  • Harry

    By the way, I’m a white Anglo-Irish American. Rush Limbaugh is one of our most shameful buffoons, and he’d be a national laughing stock if he wasn’t such a hateful
    individual.Recommend

  • Reagan Brown

    Every now and again they create a James Bond which doesn’t connect. Tim Dalton, George Lazenby. Here’s another.Recommend

  • Alann

    ‘James Bond’ was/is a British character. Although, there’s been a noticeable rise in number of blacks living in UK over past couple decades, it doesn’t mean they should/can simply cast a black guy as James Bond. I’ll say the same thing even if someone Asian (especially from the Indian subcontinent) was selected for the role of that particular character.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    why not a woman?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Actually, I haven’t written about America in ages, and this is the first blog where I mentioned Limbaugh. I’m not entirely sure how that constitutes ‘fixation’.

    Also, I do not believe the story of James Bond is hinged on the character’s ‘whiteness’. There is really nothing about the black race that precludes a stiff-upper lip, flirtatious personality.Recommend

  • Kurtis Engle

    Which man?

    Barry, Bob, Bob in the gun barrel opening every movie, Sean, Roger, David, George, Sean again, Roger again, Christopher, Sean a third time, Timothy, Michael, Pierce, Daniel, or Toby?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    We’ve had several varieties of short, tall, lean, muscular, blonde, brunette, charming, dead-eyed Agent 007s till now, often using technologies that Fleming never foresaw or intended to be used.

    If to you, race is the one factor that utterly “ruins Fleming’s carefully detailed and nuanced character”, there’s a word for that sort of thinking.Recommend

  • Kurtis Engle

    Seriously? Rush is trying to tap into that redneck nightmare of a black man being attractive. You know. sexually attractive.

    You Foreign folks might be able to overlook this fascinating feature of the American Experience. If so, count yourselves lucky.Recommend

  • Parvez

    It matter not if Bond is black or white……as long as he catches the bad guys and he gets the girl ( and not a boy….they must not change that bit ) in the end.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Time has come for James Bond to be Muslim. Audience may not go for Bond girl wearing Burqa. On the plus side, embracing Burqa may improve the storyline as you don’t know who is inside. Also, Islam allows multiple Bond girls as long as Bond treats them equally.Recommend

  • UkPak

    oh tu rehnde. Stiff upper lip… Most of the comments in the White British Daily Mail were pro Elba. James Bond is fiction, they can add in whoever they want. Elba is British, from London, unlike you. Most people over here want Elba to be the next Bond. Phenomenal actor, and fits the bill.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I have to completely disagree with you on this because James Bond is a person. It would the exact same reaction had he been a black character being played by a white one. It isn’t about race as it is about authenticity.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    The Bond movies haven’t been authentically Fleming-ian since the 1970s.

    As I said, James Bond is an evolving character, played by every variety of tall, short, skinny, chubby, lean and muscular actor, with oft varying personalities. We’ve had Aussies and English actors playing the Scottish character. We’ve had bond girls Fleming never envisioned, and technologies Fleming never dreamed of.

    Change the race of the contemporary Agent 007 and…oops, childhood ruined.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    You answered your own concern.

    The modern James Bond is no longer the guy from 1970′s driving a busted AMC Concord. He operates in the present, where it’s not unusual for a smooth-talking British super-spy to be non-white. Race has no impact on the story of a contemporary Agent 007.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Sure, the character himself is evolving, but it isn’t a massive variation year by year. To change the race of the character is just a bigger variation than fans find acceptable. What’s wrong with that?

    Fleming didn’t write an African British character. I mean why not have a 009 and have him be black? Why not write a new character?

    “Change the race of the contemporary Agent 007 and…oops, childhood ruined.”

    I am sure we can discuss this without resorting to comments like that. :)
    I think you are making it about race when it really isn’t. It is just about the change itself. It’s like a new Terminator film coming out where Arnold has a gun instead of a hand. Fans would be divided but would be more accepting of it where Arnold a green skinned alien.

    Again, it isn’t about race, it is about the degree of change.

    There is nothing wrong with that.Recommend

  • Maclolm Walsh

    First of all I am a black guy from the UK and this came up before when Will Smith was going to be Bond and my family being Bond fans completely disagreed that it should be a black actor. It’s not racist to say you don’t think it is right. Why bring race into it? It is scary when people use racism to win arguments. I think the writer needs to do some deep soul searching or find some people of black skin colour to consult before using the race card.

    Why not have the black secret agent be 006 or somethinRecommend

  • Curtly

    as a person of color i don’t know why the author is bringing race into it. i am a fan of comic books and movies and i hate it when they turn a white char into a black one because its not the charactr

    i suppose you will tel me that as a black man i am also racistRecommend

  • Curlty

    sir i am a person of color and i am against this. now will u tell me i am a raicst. please don’t use racismRecommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Mike Morales being black was OK because he wasn’t Peter Parker.Recommend

  • Hunzawala

    Who gives a doozy Elba is English? This has to do with the
    character created by Ian Fleming. You never read the books.
    Unfortunately, to the detriment of the world at large, there will
    always be uncouth, mentally challenged people like you.
    And Daily Mail is a rag, sold at checkout counters in supermarkets.Recommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi

    That is funny ! With an ‘ F ‘ ! ! Still laughing. Joke in good taste.Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Good sense of humor!!Recommend

  • Gopeet

    Who was the ‘chubby’ Bond? Do you recollect?
    Could you name him? This chubby Bond.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    If a black person says the ‘N’ word, does it stop being a racial slur?

    It’s not about you individually as a “person of color” (so am I, although that’s a rather inappropriate term too, when viewed in historical context). It’s about billions of people of a racial group(s), of whom you are not a chosen representative.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Thick-figured, if you will. That’s really not the most salient part of my argument.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Yes! M could be a bearded (unkempt) mullah with a rosary in one hand and a Quran in other and Moneypenny could be a Burqa clad old Ayyah. Bond would be wearing a skullcap with Kurta Pajama throughout the movie and asking for a timeout in the middle of a fight if it was time for Namaz. He would meanwhile try to convert the infidels and kill them if they do not agree. He would prefer a shaken Rooh Afza instead of stirred.
    Recommend

  • Englishpak

    Lol HUNZA wala seems a little hurt because someone doesnt share his opinion. And has resorted to insults. Ian Fleming is dead and probably wouldn’t have cared anyway. The majority of native English people (not hunza wollas) agree Elba should be the next Bond. loool. Last time i checked the daily mail was the second best selling paper in the UK. Hunza Wala nobody cares. Elba will be the next bond, deal with it.Recommend

  • MK

    Talata i tip my hat off to you for this one!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    The self righteousness on display here is just flabbergasting. Are you seriously comparing this to the N word, which is actually a racial slur? Ths guilt tripping is just a poor show.

    “It’s about billions of people of a racial group(s), of whom you are not a chosen representative.”

    Do you realize that’s exactly what you are doing here? I am just stunned by the ignorance and highly manipulative pseudo-intellectualism.Recommend

  • imram

    Desis don’t find Blacks (or dark skin) attractive or atleast cool. So you find much support for Elba amongst desi audience.Recommend

  • marik

    Next a Chinese James Bond starring Jackie Chan. And he wont get the girl because the movie will be aimed at children.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I’ll ignore the outbursts, and respond to this instead.

    > “Do you realise that’s exactly what you are doing here?”

    No, because I’m not. Nowhere did I imply that my argument is automatically valid because I’m a “coloured person”, like the commenter I replied to.Recommend

  • Hunzawala

    “…native English people…” Pardon me, the natives are
    now composed of Bharatis, [big majority] Paks, Ghanians,
    Nigerians, Ethiopians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshi, Egyptians,
    and all the Eastern Europeans…..er…Mediterraneans.
    The Islamic Maghreb. Plus one Englishpaki?
    The Ethnic Britons left, for Canada, Australia, NZ, South America..and US. There are no Englishmen left there.
    They are all gone. Did you notice? All pushed out.
    There is just the Queen, her staff and David Cameron plus
    some typists left at 10 Downing St,.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I meant you are representing yourself as the opinion for a race of people who aren’t exactly agreeing with you.

    Anyway I am penning a counter argument to this.Recommend

  • cally

    In the present world it wouldnt be out of the ordinary to have a British black agent,doesnt have to be exactly like the books ,its just one adaption one interpretation . Any way M was supposed to be a man but then judi dench played the character and people eventually got over it.Recommend

  • BritPak

    lololol “Pardon me, the natives are now composed of Bharatis, big majority”… nope, bhaalatees are not the majority, majority are white british. British asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis) make up less than 5%. Stop crying hunza wolla. Look at how you’ve turned this debate about the next James Bond into a whine about the demographics of GB, to justify your crying and whining. Idris is loved by WHITE British people, get over it HUNZA WOLLARecommend

  • LetMePoint

    Think about this: if James Bond were originally a person of color, and Hollywood would now replace him with a Caucasian actor, most would cry foul and accuse Hollywood of whitewashing. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Godspeed.
    I’d love to hear why every personal detail of James Bond from hair color to body type is negotiable, except his race, which somehow makes Ian Fleming roll over in his grave.Recommend

  • Hunzawalla

    How many names are you using? Britpaki, Englishpaki, UKpaki,…see if you can combine them or stick to one, like Mentalpaki or Challengedpaki. And debate? Where? Huh?
    See,..debate is held with cognitive lucid persons.Recommend