Rumours are growing around alleged plans for a “Black Bond”. Seems the news has left both ultra-liberal knights in shining armour and extreme right wing nut bars shaken and stirred. A quick scan of the media landscape suggests that – once again – thorough social-cultural analysis is impossible, if not undesirable. Such are the state of things that you have to be very careful expressing your opinions for fear of the “R” word rearing its ugly head. The issue has been rendered black and white – pun intended – by those who harshly condemn anyone who dares to question such a decision and, on the other extreme, the likes of Rush Limbaugh (need I say more?), making discussion difficult for those of us who valiantly search for truth and meaning in the grey areas in between. Was this North Korea’s master plan when they hacked Sony and uncovered emails suggesting a Black Bond was being considered? Are they dividing us along black and white lines then sweeping in to conquer us with their green uniforms, oversized hats and odd hairstyles? Well, they don’t need any help. The mainstream media, miraculously able to dumb things down when they were pretty dumb to begin with, polarizes issues for the sake of brevity and sales. They over simplify complex issues into dramatic battles between two well-defined sides, as if no other opinion or analysis could possibly exist. It reminds me of George W. Bush’s post-9/11 speech about the Axis of Evil – “You’re either with us, or against us.” This reductionist thinking defies analysis by accusing those who question decisions – even with the noble intentions of generating knowledge and understanding – of being the enemy. So, where am I going with this? Where do I stand on the “Black Bond” rumours?
Let me start off by saying my immediate reaction caught myself off guard. I think it took me ten second to get over it. Then I thought to myself – why this knee jerk reaction? I grew up watching Bond, often with my father who was pro-Connery and anti-Moore, although he’d sit through all of Moore’s films, oddly enough. I remember him taking myself and my two sisters to see “Moonraker” at the Park Theatre cinema in my hometown. I remember him making smart comments throughout the film (e.g. “You can’t shoot a man out of a tree from that far away with a shotgun!”. “How does Jaws brush his teeth?”), which ticked me off. When I went to the “For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond” exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum back in 2008, I learnt how far the “Moonraker” film drifted from Fleming’s novel. I was fortunate to see Flemings’ original draft with his notes scratched along the borders. Apparently, it was intended to be a more serious novel focusing on Bond’s character with the backdrop of nuclear arms stolen for nefarious reasons. I laughed out loud when I read Fleming’s original title for the novel, penned in as “Mondays are Hell”. Needless to say, fond memories of Bond swirl inside my head. In fact, the films probably served as a role model (perhaps a dubious one), directing me into a nomadic, glob-trotting career in which I used lots of gadgets and accumulated an enormous collection of suits. Maybe that’s why I loved the films so much. Alas, I can’t claim Bond influenced my taste in cars. I have owned two – a light blue Toyota Tercel and a deep forest green Camry. Come to think of it, I was never very successful with the ladies either. Until a shy, quiet, introverted Bond with a preference for Japanese economy cars comes along, I’m afraid the image doesn’t suit me 100%. But I digress. Let’s move on to my stance on the issue, shall we?
If news of the “Black Bond” had not been leaked by North Korean hackers, I’d wonder if this was just a crass marketing gesture to capture public attention as Craig moves towards his (reputedly) last Bond film. Would the studio unfairly put certain Black actors on alert, forcing them to engage with the hype and rumours, only to have the next Bond be another White man? I wouldn’t put it past them! Years ago, there were rumours of a “Gay Bond”, and apparently Rupert Everett was interested, but nothing became of that. Maybe I’m too pessimistic for my own good, but I fear this is a superficial, token gesture dreamed up by wealthy white accountants to make themselves feel socially responsible . Even Idris Elba, who is supposedly under consideration for the role, does not know why they call it a “Black Bond” and not just “Bond”. It seems to me this is the studio’s way of saying “Look – we finally have a Black Bond! All is well!” Personally, I think the decision to cast a Black Bond does not go far enough. Merely replacing Daniel Craig with a Black Bond is taking the easy way out. If the studio is truly committed to using the Bond legacy to make a positive statement for change, they need to go deeper. What follows are some of my suggestions.
Firstly, I think Idris Elba is a great choice. He has the physicality, charm, and a quiet air of authority that make him ideal for such a role. For some strange reason, and this is my imagination running wild on me, I can imagine him sharing a scene with Craig where they’re at a posh bar in some exotic locale, ordering martinis. Craig orders his shaken, not stirred. Elba orders his “stirred, not shaken”. They toast one another, but grimace upon sipping their drinks. The bartender mixed up the order. He accidently gave the stirred one to Craig and the shaken one to Elba. When he apologises for mixing it up, one of them quips: “People are always getting us mixed up”. I can imagine a “fork in the road” scene where Elba goes one way, thus beginning his franchise as 007, and Craig goes the other – perhaps into a lucrative career modelling swim trunks for M&S. (Sorry – can’t resist a Craig-in-bathing suit quip!)
I think the new Bond (let’s stop calling it the “Black Bond”!) should be written and directed by a predominately Black crew – with production by the Broccoli family, of course. Could you imagine what Spike Lee might do with such an opportunity? What about Steve McQueen or Antoine Fuqua ? Or how about Ava DuVernay? Her direction of “Selma” got snubbed at the Oscars, so how about letting her be the first Black woman to direct a Bond film? If the Bond franchise chooses to go down this route, the possibilities are endless. I’d definitely pay to see it. Curiosity would get the best of me. What sort of gadgets would he have? What would be his car of choice? Would Q congratulate him for returning things safely, then bitch and moan about the former 007? What locations would he venture to? Last but not least – who would be the Bond girl?
While it seems unlikely (there’ a reason most of us have a jaundiced view of major media players), we can only hope that the studio is really committed to shaking and stirring the Bond universe turning “Dr. No” into “Dr. Yes”.