It has been suggested that Idris Elba could be the next James Bond. Cue Outrage! He’s (gasp) black! How can he be James Bond?
James Bond is a fictional character. To me, that is very very different from casting historical figures with actors of a different race than the original. The latter is messing around with history and distorting facts. It puts the wrong image of the past in the heads of people who have never studied history – and that’s most people.
The former is… well, a fictional character. A well written fictional character can look any way you want.
I deliberately don’t specify race in my stories unless it is crucial to the storyline. When I wrote Romulus Crowe in ‘Samuel’s Girl’ I imagined a haughty, arrogant Englishman and I ‘saw’ him as a white man but I deliberately did not specify that.
Why? Because it was not relevant to the story and because I wanted as wide an audience as possible.
Readers like to imagine scenes in their heads and it’s far easier to do that if the story characters are not too rigidly defined. You get to make up your own images based on your own experiences of life and you feel more engaged with the story.
In ‘Jessica’s Trap’ it was different. The story was set in 1647 in England, so a black or Indian or Chinese cast of characters really won’t work. ‘Samuel’s Girl’ is in the present day, again in England, and that means Romulus Crowe can be played by anyone.
I would prefer that he be played by the same person, or at least by actors of the same ethnicity in that and later stories (assuming Hollywood can get its hands out of kiddie’s pants long enough to notice the story exists) precisely because of the fuss over Idris Eba possibly taking the Bond role now.
It’s the same as making the latest incarnation of Dr. Who a woman. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing that. It’s a fictional universe. Do what the hell you want. However, having watched the show from the very beginning, it is a sudden and jarring change for me. It’s going to take some getting used to.
I still haven’t seen a Dr. Who to beat William Hartnell’s grouchy, devious old curmudgeon. And the daft casting after Tom Baker left just got sillier until they gave the job to Sylveste McCoy – who most of the fans at that time remembered from ‘Vision On’. He dressed in a suit covered in question marks and looked even more like a clown than the previous incumbent, Colin Baker. So give this woman Dr. a chance, I say. She can’t be worse than those two.
Incidentally, I never understood all this ‘hide behind the sofa when the Daleks come on’ stuff. I thought they were great. It was the Autons that scared the shit out of me.
If the Romulus stories ever made it to film, I’d want the same actor, or at least the same ethnicity of actor, to play him throughout. Making him Chinese in one film, Asian in another, white in another, is going to put people off. He’s just a bloke. He’s not a Time Lord, he can’t regenerate.
So it is with James Bond. A fictional character. Could look like anyone. Might look like Sean Connery. Or Roger Moore. Or Timothy Dalton or David Niven… there have been a lot of different faces in that role. All of them white. They are all playing a fictional character though, not a historic one.
The Bond storyline has Bond often meeting up with his contact in the CIA, Felix. Felix changes in every film and (I can’t recall which film) in at least one of them, Felix was played by a black actor. So if it’s good enough for the CIA, it’s good enough for MI5, right?
I would be very much opposed to recasting James Bond as Jane Bond. Really, just because it’s extremely silly. If you want a story about a female spy with access to all kinds of gadgets and who has dozy males with names like Donkey Dick, Clint Torisrubber, Gee Spotfinder and Hugh Jeballs jumping into bed with her all through the film, fine, go ahead. But don’t pretend it’s a James Bond story because it’s not.
A character like Dr. Who, who rewrites their entire body every time they regenerate, can change gender in the process. Even in that storyline it was a stretch but it’s plausible within that storyline’s universe. It is not plausible in a story where the characters are human. If you try it you lose your regular audience and they are the ones who pay your bills. Appeasing the SJWs is going to put you out of business fast.
I don’t really see any reason why James Bond could not be black. I’m willing to bet that MI5 is not a totally white organisation. It would be very limited in scope if it was. James Bond is set in the present day – in fact, judging by the level of gadgetry available, possibly a bit into the future. That means he could be absolutely anyone.
The major reason there is such resistance to a black actor playing the part is the recent trend by many – especially the BBC – to cast black actors in historic roles when the person they are playing was whiter than a sheet of printer paper. Doing that is bound to get people’s backs up. It is, no matter how the SJW idiots try to justify it, messing with history and when you lose your history, who are you? You cease to exist. You have no roots any more.
Speaking of ‘roots’, how would the SJWs react if we remade that programme using a white actor? A white woman, no less? I think we all know the answer.
Bond is not a historical figure. He’s text on a page. Fiction. Who plays Joan of Arc or Boadicea or Margaret of Anjou – that matters. Who plays a fictional character does not matter.
It’s going to be a bit jarring for Bond fans but only because they are used to a succession of white actors in the role. They got over the idea of that white face changing many times though, so Idris Elba is really just another different face of Bond. Just so happens this face is a little darker than the previous ones.
As I said with the Romulus character – and I doubt I’ll ever have to really face the idea of it being a film – I would prefer to stick with the one they start with. If they start with him as Korean, stick with it. The reaction to a black James Bond shows how fans react to change. They don’t like it.
It’s not because they are racist. If a remake of Roots had Johnny Depp cast as Kunta Kinte then black people would be up in arms and I’d agree with them. That show is based on history. But what if you remade Black Panther as ‘Somewhat Pale Panther’ with a load of white actors? There’d be outrage again and I’d shrug and turn away. That story is fiction. I don’t care how you interpret it, none of it is real and none of it really happened.
Fans of a franchise don’t like big changes. Every new incarnation of Dr. Who had to work hard to recover the support of the fans of the previous one. The latest incarnation is going to have to work harder than ever.
Idris Elba would have to work a lot harder to regain James Bond fans than Roger Moore had to when he took over from Sean Connery. It would be a bigger change. I think he can do it though.
In the end, it’s fiction. It doesn’t matter. There’s no point getting all high-blood-pressure over people who don’t exist and never have.
Save your rage for the rewriting of real history. That’s the part that matters.