From Wonder Woman, to Catwoman, to Olivia Pope, from the A-Team, to Superman, to Spider-Man, sheroes and heroes have always instilled an idea that problems created by humans and superhumans alike could be solved when extraordinary people put it on themselves to take on extraordinary challenges. For me, there was always one character that transcended superpowers and superhuman skills and made me think, “I could totally do that for a living.” His name is James Bond. Before I go any further, let’s take a quick break for some important words from my sponsor, aka, my consciousness. We’ll get back to regular programming in just a quick moment.
Random Yet Imperative Thought Commercial: To be clear, following years of self-reflection, anti-patriarchy trainings, and continued efforts to become more of an adult, I am keenly aware of the problematic variables that make up James Bond’s misogynistic equation. This was marginally mollified when Judy Dench took over as the character of “M” for a few movies, and the fact that she totally crushed it in that role, especially when she called Bond out for his patriarchy, cannot be denied.
There are lots of reasons that explain my higher affinity for the idea of being James Bond rather than being a “superhero.” Some of them have to do with the fact that my mother, who had a proclivity to be overprotective at times, would never let me be in close contact with radioactive spiders, allow me to inject myself with Adamantium, or let me attend a boarding school run by a strange, bald white man with the ability to read and control minds.
Ironically, the idea of teaching myself to defy gravity, climb on walls, or shoot energy out of my eyes seemed way more feasible than becoming a white man. I guess growing up black in the U.S. taught me that superpowers are more attainable than the social and economic powers monopolized by straight white men. But that’s way more psychology than I want to get into right now.
I will never forget the moment that engendered the idea of a black James Bond. I have seen every single Bond flick and can name the villains, the special gadgets via Q, and everything in between. But something was different the first time I saw Never Say Never Again.
In Never, Sean Connery reclaims his time as James Bond, even though Roger Moore was “actually” playing the character. The reasons for all of this have to do with toxic masculinity, lawsuits, and, apparently, a disagreement over whether shaken, not stirred, vodka martinis even taste good. The result was a non-franchise version of the series – and I have to say, it was arguably the best Bond movie of the 1980s.
Anyone who knows Bond flicks also knows about Felix Leiter, a CIA agent who’s always there to help out 007 when he gets into trouble – especially on U.S. soil. In Never, Leiter was actually played by a black man, Bernie Casey.
And we all know by now what Bill Cosby did to the legacy of Heathcliff Huxtable, one of the few black characters of endearment during that era of television (not to mention the fact that I can’t eat or feed Jell-O pudding pops to my three-year-old either.) After researching the cast and crew of Never, I wasn’t that surprised that director Irvin Kershner cast a black man in a key role. After all, this is the same director who brought us one of the smoothest, most badass black characters ever, Lando Calrissian, who made his debut in The Empire Strikes Back.
Even though Lando may have resided in a “Galaxy Far, Far Away,” trust me when I say, back in the 80s, I would have taken any badass black character I could get – not to mention that a black man flying the Millennium Falcon is the best thing that’s happened to aviation since the Tuskegee Airmen.
The answer to this question was most recently pondered when rumors circulated about the possibility of perhaps the only black man I can think of who can pull it off, Idris Elba, taking over for Daniel Craig. Not surprisingly, the idea of a black James Bond engendered more controversy than the character’s clear examples of misogyny in pretty much every movie. One of the writers brought on to continue the novel franchise created by Ian Fleming, Anthony Horowitz, even remarked that Elba was “too street” to play 007. He also insinuated that Elba was not “suave” enough.
No offense, but a white man even thinking they get to opine on how suave a black man is, ESPECIALLY when that black man is Idris Elba, would be like New Kids On The Block or NSYNC telling the Wu-Tang Clan that they are not authentically hardcore. The abject racism of Horowitz’s statement has reinvigorated my personal campaign to make Idris Elba the next James Bond, and, let’s be honest, you know you want to see a beautiful black man in an expensive suit tell a white cop to fuck off after showing them his License to Kill. For those reasons and more, I humbly invite you to this five-part series, Bond(ing) with Idris Elba.
Over the next few weeks, I will re-cast, or better yet, black-cast Elba as Bond in my four favorite 007 movies to demonstrate what he would have done in a better, more badass, and, yes, more suave way than his predecessors. If you would like to get a head-start before the next installment, rent or stream the first of the four movies to be black-cast – 1973’s Live and Let Die. And no disrespect to Sir Roger Moore – who also got caught up in “Black Bondgate” – but breaking down how and why Elba would have been better as Bond, especially for this movie, will be easier than teaching my three-year-old Latin.