A “Black” James Bond? Don’t Call Him That

Idris Elba made a particularly striking notion in the media, stating that despite staunch support, he declines the role of the new decade’s James Bond due to the fact that he doesn’t want to be known as “the black one”.

A Black. James. Bond. A Fascinating Concept Indeed.

“We don’t say ‘white Bond,’ we just say ‘Bond.’ So it suddenly becomes a black man and he’s a ‘black Bond.’ So I hate that phrase.” ~ Idris Elba

Now, this is not the first time an Afro-British fellow has been called for a “black Bond” before.  It’s been said by the 90’s James Bond, as well as the current new millennium one.

“I’ve always thrown Colin Salmon’s name in the mix.  He’s somebody I have worked with closely over the years.  He would be outstanding and I think it would be absolutely essential.” ~ Pierce Brosnan

“I think the role could easily be played by a black actor because the character created by Ian Fleming in the ’50s has undergone a great deal of evolution and continues to be updated.” ~ Daniel Craig

Idris Elba is a great actor. He has played diverse roles, from number two to a drug lord, to a demigod.   Idris Elba has a level of charisma, and presence, that rivals many in Hollywood.  It is indeed striking that a fellow who chose to play Heimdall, who by Norse Mythology is written in as “the whitest of all gods”, does not want to play James Bond.

Hold up — is James Bond, much like Heimdall, explicitly written in to be an ethnically Anglo-Saxon fellow? Is “James Bond” a call-sign that every generation (or decade) someone adopts? Or is James Bond is the exact same person each time just simply played by another actor? Truth be told, James Bond is written as a white person, but that’s not the same thing as being written in explicitly as white, as Heimdall was by Norse Mythology. Truth is, James Bond is white due to white defaultness, which is a true underlying concept that manifests itself in movies, music and media, as well as real life. The bigger truth is, that a black covert agent from the U.K. is actually more feasible than a black Norse god. Interestingly, the James Bond series have had many subtle race/gender lifts; a woman cast as M, Felix Leiter as Afro-American, an Afro-British woman as Moneypenny. So, that brings the question, can James Bond possibly be black? My answer is yes in the same manner that Jason Bourne can be black; the U.K. boast just as a significant African Diaspora as the U.S. does to fulfill such a concept. It is not a foreign concept to see a black person in London, or Washington D.C. for example.

So, what’s wrong with a “black James Bond”? I’ll have to admit, Mr. Elba has a point; anyone who is of Afro decent who ascends to a certain role is ultimately doomed to be considered the “black” {insert role here}.  Now this phenomenon goes beyond modern times. Toussaint Louverture was known as “the black Napoleon”.  The twice elected 44th President Barrack Obama is considered “the black president” in presidential office (as if his race has anything to do with his policy).  Ladies and gents, the unsaid shameful notion that skin color contributes to character is so common, that a school teacher told a student that “we don’t need another black president” when a child spoke of dreams of the White House.  Wow.

So Idris Elba has a point; he is fully aware of white defaultness and how it works in society.  Is his justification valid? Usually, black characters are written in as black. Luke Cage, War Machine, Blade, Spawn, and Shaft are all black characters, and it simply wouldn’t work if they were cast as white men.  Why? Because this white defaultness in reverse; while the “default setting” of characters is white, if a character isn’t it’s because it’s explicitly stated so.  Jim Rhodes for example, is specifically the “black friend” of Tony Stark; he will never be cast as a white guy (it is not a moot point that he was known as the “black Iron Man” when he wore the red and gold suit in in the comics).  Strange enough, while characters of color are usually written in to be so, white characters are usually not due to white being the “default setting” of humans in story.  While this allows people of color to be race-lifted into white characters, it doesn’t quite work the same way for whites to play people of color.

So we have a guy who despite a huge following, and calling, he does not want to be the “black James Bond”.  I understand his point; unfortunately in this world had he become the next Bond after Daniel Craig’s two more slated movies, everything he does would be attributed to his skin color.  Sad, because I have asked the question does one think our skin color translate to our character before. I already know the answer despite no one answering.  Idris Elba does not want to be James Bond because he is fully aware that the masses cannot see PAST his skin tone.  This creates something looking like the prisoner’s dilemma; either you take up the mantle be the {insert ethnicity here} whatever, or you simply decline the option entirely.  Do you agree with Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan and suggest that a black James Bond is possible? Or do you believe that it can never be so?

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  • CS

    The problem with this concept is whether or not we like the “black” moniker it’s going to be that, whenever we are in new roles. It is interesting that people cherrypick when to avoid the moniker though. Imagine if the POTUS didn’t even try because he didn’t want to be “the black president.” I’d rather look at it as a breaking stereotypes. That’s just me though.

  • That makes a lot of sense.

    What if Jackie Robinson had the same decision? Martin Luther King? Cicely Tyson? Oprah Winfrey? Bill Cosby? Frank Street Jr.? Thurgood Marshall? Edward Brooke? Shirley Chisholm? Colin Powell? George Washington Carver? Michael Steele? Tim Scott?

    Without a lot of firsts, you get a whole lot of nothing.

  • Some Guy

    The one thing people keep forgetting about Idris Elba and Bond; he’s too freakin’ old!!

  • Is James Bond too old or Idris Elba too old?

    James Bond exists in “comic book time, thus he never ages.

    Idris on the other hand, is 41 years old as of this print. To put this in perspective, Daniel Craig is 45 years old currently. Pierce Brosnan was 42 when he first starred as Bond in Goldeneye and Timothy Dalton (80’s Bond) was 43 in his Bond Debut.

    Further, Looking at Idris, he can easily play a person who is ten years down from his current age.

  • Pingback: The Problem With Casting A Black James Bond | marbledpages()

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