Give Rush Limbaugh credit: the guy certainly knows how to stir a debate over topics few would touch for politically correct reasons.
The latest controversy stirred up by the 63-year-old radio icon (and regardless of your opinion on Rush’s politics, the “icon” label has absolutely been earned, given his huge audience and decades of success in the business) surrounds the prospect of Idris Elba–a black British actor–playing James Bond on the big screen. And as you may have heard, Limbaugh is staunchly against the idea, stating, “That’s NOT who James Bond is, and I know it’s racist to probably even point this out: We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white. Bond was never black. Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond. The character was always white. He was always Scottish.”
The argument against Rush is that a fictional character can be whomever since he isn’t based on an actual person. That said, it’s not Limbaugh’s opinion that matters here, nor Sony’s, regardless of holding rights to the franchise. Instead, the only person who has a say in who exactly Bond is… is one Ian Fleming, who created 007 in his mind back in 1952 when writing the first of many books on the spy character starting with the timeless Casino Royale.
So just how did Fleming–who passed away back in 1964–imagine Bond looked like? To find the answer, one has to go back to 1958, when the author agreed to allow London’s Daily Express to create a Bond comic strip, but only under the condition that all published material must be approved by him and him only. Once an agreement was finalized, Fleming hired an artist to draw a portrait of how he envisioned Bond would look like:
So as you can see, Bond is white. Fleming alone created the character and wrote eleven novels that eventually turned into one of the most successful movie franchises of all-time, and therefore is the only authority on the matter.
Of course, controversy always seems to arise in terms of who should play the lead character when it’s time to find another lead on the movie front. The first Bond–Sean Connery–was obviously the gold standard. Sir Roger Moore carried the franchise nicely as well, with George Lazenby doing one film in between. Timothy Dalton is always the forgotten Bond (and a great trivia question), having only done two (not one: correction) films (The Living Daylights back in ’87, and License to Kill two years later). Pierce Brosnan was decent (it was hard to separate him from his Remington Steele character, however), while Daniel Craig completely outperformed expectations despite many objections from Bond purists when it was first announced he landed the role (the main issue being Craig’s dirty blond hair and blue eyes).
So in the end, Rush is right on this one, and to call him or anyone a racist for insisting Bond is white is just more cheap racial dialogue somehow disguised as a moral high ground (you’ll see plenty of that below). Ultimately, Fleming’s vision should be respected… Bond is, after all, his creation. But perhaps if he saw Idris Elba–a fine actor who would likely do the franchise proud–play 007 well, maybe he’d be OK with it.
We’ll never know the answer, of course. So to err on the side of caution, Sony should honor Fleming’s memory by sticking with how Fleming–and Fleming alone–envisioned 007.
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