With a new James Bond film currently in production and Idris Elba promoting one of his many projects the debate continues: Should the next James Bond be black?
This article is a very long winded way of saying Hell tf no!
Consider the origins: Despite a victory against The axis powers, the second world war devastated The British Empire. Haemorrhaging colonies as well as military, economic and political power; Britain had seceded the most powerful nation on Earth to the Soviet Union and USA. Along comes James Bond, a post-war lullaby for a crumbling British empire.
Bond can quickly jump from hard edged thriller to camp pun-heavy caper; but either way, the oxymoronic famous 'secret' agent, who can seduce any woman with...some dad jokes...is more Harry Potter than Tinker Tailor. Bond was a fantasy movie for white British men who needed empowering after saving the world and coming home to rationed food, economic poverty and PTSD. But the necessity behind the Bond franchise has changed. Where once it was to heal a nation, now it's merely a computer game for the 40+ crowd. For 2 hours you get 5 years worth of free holidays, drive the most beautiful cars, sleep with the most beautiful women (without putting more than 30 seconds work in) shoot big guns and save the day. It's after work drinks on a Friday, with Hollywood backing.
Every Bond era loses its way eventually. They'll get back on top with a fresh take; get a little too money hungry and be usurped by some young plucky upstart (Last time: Bourne Identity. This time: Mission impossible) and have to scrap the whole thing and start again.
And 2015's Spectre is that film. What about the snow plane where one of guards runs to restrain him and instead of engaging he simply yells 'No! Stay!' like a Sunday league dad losing his patience with the family dog that he didn't ask for but knew he'd end up walking. No? What about him half heartedly peppering faceless goons barely paying attention to where he's aiming? No? What about the how he kinda...sorta...cohereced?...raped? A grieving widow while she was still in her funeral attire and really looked like she didn't want to have sex. I'm no secret agent but I'm gonna say most women probably at their horniest when they've just buried their husband. But that's the fantasy. Bond can have any woman, fight any man, no matter their size, strength or experience; drive the most beautiful cars, save the world all with zero trauma to unpack. It's telling that the best entry in the series dealt with the trauma of violence and showed Bond as vulnerable; was quickly dispensed with for making him sleep with any woman he was left alone with.
In 2019 Bond is a white male power fantasy. And today, with all the problems these fantasies are causing they should remain that and maybe dare to address it.
Casino Royale was a step in the right direction. Here they accounted for things like the consequences of violence and even where his attitude towards women originated from. This instantly created a more engaging character. Well, why not instead of ANOTHER tech billionaire with plans that pale in comparison to real world tech billionaires; what about white supremacy? Incels? Home grown terrorism instead of the exotic? Why not show James to be ruthless in his pursuit of information through manipulation. Is he gas lighting women? Are these women complicit in their partners crimes? Are they victims? Are they brainwashed? Is that an excuse? Are they all just super rich and rarely suffer the consequences? Is a bullet from James fantasy because in reality billionaires do try to destroy the world and are usually applauded for it? At what point is he less the hero and more a government agent willing to do whatever to protect his country? Why does James never have to manipulate men for information by bedding them?
What if for once we're not on James' side and instead we view him as an killing machine without the dad puns? What if he's a government sponsored serial killer running into countries murdering and empowering as he sees fit, all so middle class Kensington families can sleep at night? What if a new James Bond film is essentially Michael Myers but with the British government picking up the tab? Maybe it's a little too close to the home, but our understanding of global conspiracies and political manipulation have changed. So a Bond for our time should reflect that. Just as 9/11 rendered Brosnan's campy Roger Moore remake irrelevant; now that the most powerful democracies are being manipulated; how does 2019 Bond confront a problem he can't shoot?
There are so many interesting places that the franchise can go instead of just getting a black man and telling exactly the same stories. Fleming said he wanted the most boring name for his charter because it wasn't about the character; Bond was a character things happened to; instead of one that made things happen. So please get the most boring milk toast white guy and stay away from ours.
So while Bond certainly can be black (or British-Malaysian) the fact that the character was created to sate the sort of men who cry when they hear the national anthem and don't feel a mild anxiety when they see too many England flags on display on a street; means they should hold the melanin.
Does Johnny Storm need to be white? Nope. Race has nothing to do with character. (Movie) Heimdall? Nope, he's an alien. But Bond's creation was born out of British hopelessness. But it certainly doesn't mean he has to stay white and if this were 2013 it'd make for a better discussion. A woman? There's an interesting take, but Bond is so resolutely about toxic masculinity that it's have to be a brilliant take. But again; this isn't 2013, Captain Marvel is sleepwalking to a billion and somehow even incels liked Wonder Woman; and this is just a start. The point is; the Bond franchise as of writing is in a pretty yawn worthy state and it shouldn't be on women or POC's to fix it.
Bringing us to Idris Elba. Or any black person playing Bond. It's true that black people in 2019 are as British as any stereotype you'd insert here, but you know what? Keep it. Maybe it would've been empowering finally seeing a black face state how he'd like his martini; but we'll never know because that validation came in Black Panther. All 1.3 billion dollars of it. The Oscar winning Spider-verse, Get Out and Us being behemoths. Cinema can validate an identity and its experience but if they ever do get round to casting a bit of a melanin it will have to be more than just that. Fact is black money has been running the west for a minute now and financially this is a perfect time for a black Bond. But a black Bond with a black writer? Director? Blackness? Because if James is supposed to be a vessel for secret agent stories then you'd all but have to erase his blackness. Otherwise you'd have to at least address how his blackness affected his climbing the ranks in MI6. Idris Elba is getting everyone in the cinema but that goodwill would be better placed in an original character that won't have to brush their blackness under the rug for continuity's sake and instead embrace it. If they do cast a black Bond of course black people will turn up (myself included) it'll make a tonne of money and the only people who will benefit will be the studio. Black Panther hired a tonne of black people in front of and behind the camera and set up 'The Black Panther Scholarship' with the Loyola Marymount Univeristy. That's not happening with a black Bond. Simply put, black audiences have come to expect mote than a token casting in studio films. When the conversation started black cinema was in a different place but truth is as of right now with Craig needing the net gross of a small island to even think of playing Bond, the new film losing Danny Boyle and well....Spectre; Bond needs blackness more than blackness needs Bond.