What is it that makes James Bond so appealing to the mass audience? Is it how debonair he looks in a Tom Ford suit? Is it his ability to drink endless martinis, and, unlike his notorious cocktail, never come across shaken? Is it how easily he cheats death? Or is it because he is white? Given the recent outcry against the notion of a black actor playing 007, you would assume it is the latter.
This week betting was suspended on which actor will next play the super spy. With bookmakers and the media assured that Tom Hiddleston- renowned for his role as Marvel’s Loki- is going to be the next to carry a licence to kill. However, a year ago, things were not as clear. In fact, Idris Elba was the man on the tip of our tongues, and the first black Bond seemed a reality. Why then the sudden change?
As you may know, Sony Pictures, who co-produces the Bond films, was hacked in 2014 as a result of their controversial film The Interview. A document that was leaked was an email from former Sony-Co Chair Amy Pascal, in which she urged that ‘Idris should be the next Bond.’
Many people rejoiced at this suggestion, declaring that this was going to be a new era for the character who, as his own boss stated, is somewhat considered ‘a relic of the Cold War.’ On the other more vocal hand, many were not happy with this decision. US commentator Rush Limbaugh asserted that the character is definitely English and ‘white’, and therefore Elba (who he seems to forget was born in London) should not be considered. Former 007 Pierce Brosnan also declared that the next James Bond will be ‘male’ and ‘white.’ After the information came to light, a real repugnance seemed to felt by some at the idea that this British icon could even be considered black.
This truly disturbs me. In my opinion, grasping to the belief that James Bond should be white, is the same as clinging to the perspective that all colonists in the 19th century were civilised and all native Africans were savages. Now, it is only fair to express that this does not mean that Tom Hiddleston is wrong for the part. I am a fan of the actor, and I myself have said he would be ideal for the role. My issue lies not with the casting of another white actor, my problem is that when the world faced the concept of a black 007 some people responded in a way that revealed society’s underlying prejudice. I do not want a society where we say that the next James Bond should be black or that he should be white, or even that he should be male (recently Gillian Anderson has been a name brought up as a possibility). I want to live in a world were Bond could be any ethnicity, gender, or nationality; a world that acknowledges how beautifully multicultural and diverse it is.
Professor Chris Lindner, in an interview with GQ, stated that ‘Hollywood tends to give the public what it wants.’ Therefore, if the backlash against Pascal’s email had not been so vocal, would we already have our first black James Bond? I think we would.