Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thoughts on a Black James Bond...

One interesting bit of material from the Sony hack was that Sony executives had thought about casting a black actor--particularly Idris Elba--as the new James Bond. This, as anything involving race and entertainment generally does, produced a massive controversy.

The problem with casting someone with an obviously different back-story (you know, since he's a different race) is that Bond is a specific individual, not a code name. He was briefly married in On Her Majesty's Secret Serviceand mourns his wife's death for multiple films, played by different actors all the while. Skyfallgoes so far as to show the Bond ancestral home (complete with a priest-hole, indicating the family was Catholic) as well as graves of his parents, dead on the same day in the climbing accident Trevelyan alludes to in Goldeneye.Unless you can work in a Caribbean or African mother in there somewhere--and Bond's mother is supposed to be Swiss--having a black actor play Bond within the existing continuity does not work. Since I'm not a Bond canon expert by any means, take this fellow's word on it, not mine.

That said, there are two ways that this can work:

1. A full-blown reboot. Start over from the get-go. You can change everybody's race, gender, etc. It's a total blank slate and allows for the "modernization" of classic Bond stories unencumbered by previous canon. SMERSH, for example, could be the FSB of Putin's Russia rather than the Soviet Union's counterintelligence, while SPECTRE could be some kind of organized-crime or terrorist organization. You could also bring in the villains of the modern day like al-Qaeda, ISIS, North Korea, etc.

(Personally I'd prefer an Indian James Bond to highlight Britain's historical links to India, but there are actually more black Britons than Indian Britons. If you want to play the odds, a black Bond is more likely. In either case, as a nod to the original, he could have a Scottish ancestor as the source of his name.)

2. Introduce Idris Elba (or another black actor) as a successor to the Daniel Craig Bond. One problem with Bond films is that nobody seriously expects Bond to come to any significant harm, let alone die. Have Bond and Elba's character go on a mission together and have Bond mortally wounded. The dying Bond does a Take Up My Sword speech to Elba's character, who then for some reason or another has to be pretend to be the actual James Bond. Given how probably not all that many people know what James Bond actually looks like, this is something that might actually work for a time. At the end of the film, Elba's character for whatever reason decides to take up Bond's mantle.

You could call the movie 007 since unlike James Bond, 007 is a code name. Subsequent movies with the "black Bond" could be called 007 and then a subtitle to show that the series is now centered on the new character.

Another idea I had would be to introduce the "black Bond" as another 00 agent. There have been previous 00 agents other than Bond in the franchise, but if I recall correctly they've all been killed, turned traitor, or both. He could be a foil to Bond--faithfully married or even homosexual as opposed to a chronic womanizer, young and inexperienced as opposed to the old veteran Bond, subtle and risk-averse instead of flashy and destructive, etc. He and Bond can have an adventure together and then he can get his own spin-off series.

I thought perhaps he could be introduced in the upcoming SPECTRE film and then his own movie could be advertised as, "He fought alongside James Bond and now has his own adventure" or something to that effect.

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