The new James Bond might be black. So?

Published: December 25, 2014
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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.