Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

Idris Elba as James Bond? The Real Breakthrough Would be Casting a Woman Part 2

black women bondHere we go again. The new James Bond has become a sort of racial battlefront. In this new flap, a writer for the series criticized Idris Elba as being “too street.” And then had to apologize, because that comment is so obviously racist. Earlier this year, I wrote about former Bond actor Roger Moore said Elba wasn’t English enough. Which is also racist, because Elba—unlike many of the white actors who have played Bond—was born in London. So both white men have received a massive push-back on their outdated notions of who is English, who is suave, and who could be James Bond.
 
The notion of a black Brit as Bond is clearly causing some upset. However, I continue to argue that—from a character development perspective—such a change doesn’t really call for a complete overhaul of Bond. Elba could slip into the same wardrobe, participate in the same tropes, travel around the world facing off with the same evil bad guys, and saving the same sexy babes, and getting laid. What would really shake up the franchise would be to make Bond a woman.
 
Back when Ian Fleming began the series in the 1950s, race would have been an utterly radical change. But in 2015, things have changed. We have a black president of the US, and black athletes dominate sports from golf to tennis. Hip hop has become mainstream music worldwide, and white males are the majority of consumers. The massive success of Straight Outta Compton demonstrates that good old misogyny is bankable among white folks. I am in no way arguing that we are post-racial. Rather, that racism has shapeshifted again. We live in a patchwork quilt of old and new racial micro- and macro-aggressions. Perhaps racism would manifest in a film with Elba as Bond in new ways. Perhaps Bond would have to choose between two hot women, black and white, and would choose the white girl, in validation of the supremacy of white women. Because today—unlike in Emmet Till’s day—there’s no taboo against relationships between black men white women, particularly if Hollywood can cash in on white women drooling over a black movie icon. So the white violence against black people has to find other justifications like Skittles and Arizona Ice Tea. But it doesn’t change the basic structure of white supremacy, because there was never any evidence that Emmett Till whistled at a white woman, it was only necessary that he was accused of doing so. Just like today’s black men and women killed by police only need to be accused of charging an officer, carrying a gun,  pulling a knife. In film, however, the battle for black male subjectivity has been won. Yes. Audiences of all races and genders will pay to see a black man as a hero, can root for him, can see him as human. This doesn’t mean racism is over, or that black men don’t face huge obstacles in the industry as actors, directors, or producers. It just means that this patch on the quilt has shifted a bit.
 
But Hollywood hasn’t gotten there yet with women. As story after story attests, the numbers for women are dismal. We are underrepresented as protagonists, as characters with depth, even having speaking roles. Behind the camera, the numbers are worse. The recent MRA hysteria about a female hero in Mad Max shows how far we haven’t come yet. 
 
But a female Bond would be an amazing experiment. Everything would have to change. From the tux, to the spy tradecraft. Perhaps I’m excited about the idea of a female Bond because I’ve gotten bored with the same old Bond story. I love the action genre, which is why I write action stories. My book Uptown Thiefis a feminist heist story, the first in a series. I’m excited about the way gender influences genre. Who can manage to steal what from whom. Why do they do it, and how can they get away with it? 
 
The spy genre is about international power. How do women move in rooms and spaces of power? It would be even more complicated for women of color–a great challenge to the scriptwriters. In my last post, I suggested Yvonne Strahovski, Jessica Alba, and Angelina Jolie. For this go round, I’d like to see African heritage women: Rosario Dawson, Viola Davis or Gugu Mbatha Raw. Yep. That would shakeup the race/gender of the Bond franchise permanently.
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This entry was posted on September 2, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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