What if...Bond was different?


#1

But would/could it be Bond with a Black actor? Just how far would such casting change the understanding of Bond? We would have an assassin of Empire played by the descendant of colonized subjects of Empire. A Black Superman–sure–he is fighting for "Truth, Justice and the American Way"–any race/ethnicity/gender can play that. But a Black Bond–what is he fighting/killing for? How would audiences respond to a Black Bond having a series of white Bond girls (or would Bond girls also now be Black with occasional exceptions?).

Bond’s granite exterior with occasional fissures (as played by Craig) allows for the possibility that Bond is aware of what he is doing and has doubts (different from Mr. Spock’s case where the human emotions underneath are allied with the exterior–both are oriented in service of the Prime Directive). Would a Black Bond be allowed to have doubts? What would/could they be? Or would he be doubt-free?

A White Bond is a Bond who has to do ugly things sometimes, but they are for the greater good (as defined/allowed by Bond’s superiors). Even when he goes rogue, Bond is brought back into the fold. The conclusion of SPECTRE is interesting in that Bond does not go rogue, but rather rejects his conditioning—maybe a different kind of rogue if you will where he does not use his training in his rogue state.


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#2

I think the color of his skin would be irrelevant for Bond - or at least it should be presented as such. That would do a lot to break down barriers, IMO.


#3

With a black Bond, you have to take into account that the character is already out of his original time period and supporting characters. All he has left in common with Fleming’s character is skin colour.

Having said that, Colin Salmon would have been great.


#4

I think the color of his skin would be irrelevant for Bond - or at least it should be presented as such. That would do a lot to break down barriers, IMO.

Hear, hear.

As always, the actor’s personality and abilities should inform the character. Colin Salmon and Idris Elba would have made very different Bonds - as different to each other as Dalton was to Moore.


#5

But it does. Whether it should have been or not–it was a major event when a White Bond was paired with a Black Bond girl. The whiteness of the previous Bond’s was not played as neutral/irrelevant. For example: for me, Moore played Bond as if he were the third son of the Earl of Southbush–first son inherited the title; second son became a reliable Tory backbencher; and third son–not being fit for the Church–drifted into the Foreign Service and eventually joined MI6 since one of the things he had shown aptitude for in his youth was shooting. Moore did not play him as some Everyman hero.

Maybe. I think it may help those already amenable to having barriers broken, but there is a cohort of folks who do not want those barriers breached in any way, shape, or form, and a Black Bond will only reinforce their sense of being under siege.


#6

Agreed. But a person’s personality is shaped by the experiences she has, and those experiences vary depending on the color skin one has and presents to the world. My husband and I can share many situations, but the experience of them is often different as he undergoes the situation as a Black man and I do so as a White man.


#7

I´m afraid so - but those can’t be helped anyway. And if a new Bond with black skin will drive them away, so be it.

It was a major event in LALD, yes. But only because it was publicized by the media as such.

(Or was it really? Only later on, in hindsight? I remember from Moore´s wonderful book that they only walked back their idea of letting Solitaire be played by a black actress due to pressure (and fear) from the studio.)

EON actually played Bond hooking up with a black Bond girl rather matter-of-factly. Heck, they even dared to make her a villain. At no point I remember LALD actually making a point of the color of her skin.

Would a black actor play Bond with another backstory (at least in his mind)? Definitely. But the important part of this backstory would/should remain: an orphan, disinguished by his military career, choosing to accept the new position as an assassin for Her Majesty.


#8

Adding to my quick “so be it”:

Easy for me to say, of course, as an armchair soldier here.

But if a black Bond actually drove people away in too high numbers EON would have to recast in order to keep on making these films. Which would be a major embarrassment since it would underline that they bow to an irritating majority of moviegoers.

Maybe that is one reason EON, so far, has shied away from this. Waiting for the moment when audiences will be more accepting might be the better way to ensure a future for that casting idea, as sad as that sounds.


#9

But a former colonial subject choosing to be Her Majesty’s assassin is different from a member of the colonizing Empire choosing to do so.


#10

Brosnan is Irish by birth making him less British than Elba would be if cast.


#11

I always considered myself a traditionalist, so when I first read that CBS television was considering a female Dr. Watson for their new show Elementary, I had preconceived issues with that. Now, Joan Watson is one of my favorite characters on television and I see how silly I was in my position. Point being, I would be hypocritical to denounce a Bond of color without giving that actor a chance.


#12

Yes - but how different? And how would that actually affect playing Bond?


#13

And here’s another winkle - what about an Asian actor as Bond? How would that play?


#14

a person’s personality is shaped by the experiences she has, and those experiences vary depending on the color skin one has and presents to the world. My husband and I can share many situations, but the experience of them is often different as he undergoes the situation as a Black man and I do so as a White man.

Oh, absolutely.

However, (at the risk of sounding naïve in light of your husband’s experiences) I’d wager that there are far more British people from ethnic minorities who’ve had a ‘normal’ experience than there were in the 1960s (or even the 1990s). With that in mind, I think it’s perfectly possible to change the ethnic identity of Bond 7 without fundamentally changing the character. There are many non-white British actors who’ve had the same privileged upbringing - and convey the same sense of sophistication - that audiences tend to associate with Bond.

Of course, the media would make a racist fuss regardless. Heck, they’d make a racist fuss if Tom Hiddleston played Bond 7 but with a Scottish accent…


#15

Thanks for this MoC. In America, there is a strong sense among many people that there is a Black American culture and a White American culture. For Blacks who have had a privileged upbringing, there is the constant mandate to “keep it real” and “not act white.” It is possible that portions of an American audience who saw a sophisticated/privileged Black Bond would regard such a character as having sold out to whiteness, without realizing that British culture can produce such a person. For example, in America there is the example of LeBron James–definitely privileged and sophisticated, but also a leader in terms of Black Lives Matter and other issues on the subject of race. As my husband says, for all his intelligence, degrees, and sophistication, for many Americans he is still just a _________ (fill-in-the-blank). The challenge I see is that for a Black Bond to work for a portion of the Amerircan audience, there would have to be an acknowledgment that 1) yes, he is working for Empire; and 2) he knows that Empire committed some great crimes on the basis of race.


#16

Would it?

Having followed the Windrush events I’m not sure…

The former ‘subjects’ were called to the hub in order to help build up a country devastated by war. And they came in numbers and shaped and reshaped that country over decades of prosperity - and also defended it in gravest times of need. Right until this very moment actually.

Is that so different from the 17 year old who enlisted to defend his country?

Of course, the dynamic is slightly changed. But that’s the case for any version of Bond after, say, the mid-eighties.


#17

Taking MoC’s point into consideration, maybe it would not. I do not know British culture/society well enough to know how Black Britishers experience their Blackness–maybe it is like the French where Frenchness overrules all. In America, we are a hyphenated culture. I often compare it to living in NYC–I am a resident of a neighborhood (Park Slope) which is part of a borough (Brooklyn) which exits within a city (New York City). Sometimes I am a Brooklynite; other times a New Yorker; and yet others a Park Sloper.

In America, we are hyphenated people, so in cultures where the hyphen is subsumed, things may play out/be perceived differently.


#18

EON where okay with an Irish Bond, and hired him twice before the ceasefire in 94, and Britain was the target of the IRA (as Skyfall, and Dynamite’s James Bond:M, sought to remind) indeed there is still bad blood in some areas regarding partition but EON never shied away from casting an Irish actor as Bond because of it.


#19

Again, my questions come from my American perspective. Instead of “former subjects,” we have descendants of slaves. In America there has been an ongoing attempt to discredit and demean Black culture. In Britain was there a similar attempt to diminish the cultures of former subjects? Also, Blacks in America have been consistently excluded from the prosperity they worked for and supported with their labor.


#20

This is where my ignorance kicks in and I need help in understanding. For me, an Irish actor is still a White actor. Hiring a brown- or black-skinned actor is in a different realm for me since the history of how White societies have treated Black societies has some similarities to, but major differences from, how British society treated the Irish.


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