“My name’s Bond, James Bond.”
It’s not always that old, fat, white guy you hate that’s the most racist in the neighborhood. You know, the one that’s more racist than you are and you can point to him and call him the bad guy while you slink away, unscathed. I’m talking about the guilt-ridden white people who need a champion, behind whom they can hide their own racist opinions and make themselves feel better for their own brand of racism. Case in point is the recent article in Film Magazine (link) bySam Eifling which highlights the recent backlash against Limbaugh for being racist (again). Wait, does that make ME a racist for assuming Sam is a white guy? Probably, but then, we’re all a little bit racist. That’s why I’m always wary of those who claim to be champions of racial justice. They’re usually pointing out someone else to avoid their own blame. Believe me, I take all the credit for my racist tendencies. I know I’m a sinner, and I have the balls to admit it – unlike Sam-Wise Elf-Ling who wrote a racist article about James Bond, calls Rush Limbaugh a racist, and spews out his own brand of racism in the process.
Limbaugh recently stated that James Bond is a “white, Scottish guy, period,” in reference to some who are calling for a new, black James Bond. In his article, Eifling writes that Idris Elba would make a great James Bond and that he is black. Eifling claims Rush’s discounting of Elba for the role because of his skin color is a racist act, then demands someone of color be put into the role – as if that act is not racist in nature. Then, he muddles his argument by citing proportions of ticket sales versus racial representation in the general population, further suggesting a colorful leading man might help slumping sales in the movie industry. I would argue that better quality stories and scripts would be a bigger help, but I digress. The popular media mantra is that Multi-culturalism makes everything better, regardless of the actual numbers or the income. Funny, but I’ve never seen a Brad Pitt turn down a 20 million dollar deal because they didn’t give it to a black guy, have you? The ticket sales argument is that 64% of the population are white yet bring in only 54% of movie revenue. I’m, not sure where Eifling went to business school, but 54% of marketshare far outweighs any other demographic. Although the proportion isn’t equal, it’s still the main focus of a trillion dollar industry. It has to be because that’s the demographic that makes the most money and still has the broadest appeal. But then, leftism is never about business, it’s about social justice. Social justice makes everything better – no matter how many people, or profits, have to suffer.
Eifling also adds that white people have portrayed people of color in the past, cites egregious examples of overtly racist characters, and uses this as an argument to let a black guy play a white guy in a movie. Unfortunately, no one sees the hypocrisy here, or remembers recent outcry against whites playing roles of color in the past. His premise is that whites have played colored roles, so blacks should get to play white roles. But not that a black actor should dress up in whiteface and be the new James Bond, rather that audiences must be forced to accept the new James Bond as black. So, is the argument against racism or is the argument for some type of social revenge? It seems, to me, to be an overt attempt to use a racist act to counter past racist acts – but I don’t think I can give Eifling the benefit of being smart enough to understand this underlying psychological motivation, nor the nullification of the logic in his own argument. In fact, the only thing Eifling’s got right in his article/rant is that James Bond is not Scottish. However, Fleming believed the character to be decidedly un-Scotlike and disapproved Connery for the role, but changed his mind after the success of the movies(link). So Fleming changed his mind, eventually, which makes Eifling wrong again.
Now, I have no problem with Elba being the new James Bond. He’s a great actor, and a suave personality that would make a great James Bond-like character. The problem is that James Bond IS white. The man who created James Bond, Ian Fleming, created bond in his own image. I happen to be a Bond fan, a literary one, not the movie character. Having read the entire series of Fleming books multiple times, I may be a better authority than someone like Eifling, who has probably never cracked a Fleming title save for Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang when he was a kid. Bond is a British secret service agent in the midst of the cold war era in the 40’s and 50’s. A black man trying to act as a covert agent in Europe, Russia, and traverse the social circles of aristocracy and espionage throughout the world in this time period is going to stick out like a sore thumb. So, changing the “real”, bibical, or literary Bond into a black guy just doesn’t work. The Bond character is too well defined as a British white guy, so there’s really no room for social justice to repay the debt of world racism in this instance. No one can argue that Injun Joe should be changed to a white guy, or Tonto should be turned into an aboriginal Australian for shits and grins to make the world a better, racist free place. Should Tom Sawyer be Chinese? Should Captain Kirk be a green alien? If you need to repay a racist guilt debt, I guess yes. Otherwise, characters were probably created in the visage that was intended. When we become far enough removed from them and the stories become timeless, such as a Shakespearean tale, then let’s talk seriously about redefining race roles in theatre.
But when it all comes down to brass tacks, I don’t own James Bond. The Broccoli family does, and they can do whatever they want with the character. I may not like it, but that’s none of my business. It’s a free country and if they want to cow tow to popular culture jackasses like Eifling and make James Bond into a Latino, so be it. If they do it well, I’ll pay money to see it. And let’s just say that the bar for the character in cinematic history isn’t that high, so I’d expect a modicum of intelligent writing could do wonders to refresh the franchise. One wonders why Saltzman and Broccoli didn’t do the following a few decades ago when Connery wanted more money and they fired him:
Make Bond a code-name. The original character has been morphed from a 50’s era, mild mannered spy into a modern-day super-action hero character. He really has nothing to do with the original story line that defined him in the cold war era. Flemming was dead when Connery demanded more money, so they should have morphed the character then to avoid the greedy, old, white actor trap. The characters of M and Q have changed a few times because M is just a code name for the head of the secret service, Q for the Quartermaster. Let Bond be the code name for the 007 position. That way we can have a continuity of the name and role while the face can change at will. Bond can now be resurrected from bibical canon and you can write any backstory you choose. He can then span the timelines without having to be 89 years old when he fights Osama sixty years after dismantling SMERSH. So go ahead, turn Bond black – just don’t apocryphally re-invent him and his back story as a black man. Use some of the talented, overpaid imagineers to come up with a reason as to why he’s now black, or chicano, or of nordic descent. But remember, if you try to shove it down my throat while calling me a racist, I may throw it up in your face.
And one more “fact” Elfman got wrong: His list of Bond actors omits the best Bond of all – George Lazenby. This glaring omission proves he knows nothing about the Bond character or it’s history. He’s a movie reviewer and should know better, or at least know more, but his glee to enact social justice outweighs his prudence as a journalist. A shyster and non-actor, Lazenby, bamboozled his way into being hired as a Bond replacement. He starred in one film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is the only movie to stay closest to the novel it was based on. Lazenby played a perfect Bond, and Savalas a perfect Blofeld. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about and should have all their opinions of Bond invalidated out of hand. In the books, which most of you have never read, he’s a real person with foibles, misgivings, real aches and psychological pains that are glossed over by the superhero movie persona. I’d love to see a retelling more true to the original character. And in those tales, he just happens to be a white guy.