PHILIP MARTIN: Failure of the imagination

I was brought to my attention a recent comment from a random angry person who had, for the time being, put aside predictions about the imminent restoration of a former president and praised the wisdom of those brave enough to resist the vaccination against the so-called disease (which he identifies as a PSYOP – a psychological operation – intended to compel the population to obedience) to take the time to denounce the idea that perhaps the next James Bond – because he there will be a successor to Daniel Craig, whatever happens the shocking ending to “No Time to Die” implies – should be a person of color.

RAP insisted that Bond was a white British male and should be played by him. Do not accept any substitutes.

Truly? RAP is wrong about this. Ian Fleming made a Bond half Scottish, half Swiss, not English. Her father was Andrew Bond, of Glencoe; his mother was Monique Delacroix, originally from Vaud in Switzerland. (Fleming’s grandfather was Scottish.)

Although these biographical details were not revealed until after the publication of Fleming’s novel “You Only Live Twice” in 1964, following the release of the film versions of “Dr. No” and “From Russian With Love”, Fleming did approved the casting of Scottish actor Sean Connery. .

Connery has been replaced by Australian George Lazenby. Irishman Pierce Brosnan has portrayed Bond in five films.

The first actor to play Bond was an American of Norwegian descent, born Robert Haakon Nielsen. He was known as Barry Nelson when he played Bond in a 1954 television adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel “Casino Royale” which was broadcast live as part of “Climax!” anthology series.

Nelson said no one had ever told him that Bond was an Englishman, and he lamented the fact that the production was so rushed that he didn’t have time to research the character or even read the Fleming novel. , which was released six months before the episode aired.

In the 60-minute program, he is known as “Card Sense Jimmy Bond,” who works for the CIA, not MI6. He’s also kind of an idiot, not at all sweet. (Peter Lorre, as Soviet intelligence agent Le Chiffre, is the only reason to look for this oddity.)

I am deliberately obtuse here. All of these Bonds were blank, which one can imagine is what matters most to RAP.

He’s had enough of all this talk about the importance of representation because it shapes how minority communities are viewed by society and how they see themselves. Mayberry got along very well with her occasional black actors who were not very aggressive; in season seven, they even let one of them, Opie’s football coach Flip Conroy (Rockne Tarkington), have a few lines.

But times change, no matter how much RAP hates him. While he may find some solace in the recent statement by Bond producer Barbara Broccoli that Bond is a male character and that the next Bond will be a male (although “No Time to Die” introduces us to the first black woman 007: Lashana Lynch as Nomi), she did not guarantee her continued whiteness.

And the bookies – who usually know more about everything than the rest of us – have installed 31-year-old Métis actor Regé-Jean Page as a 5v2 favorite. Page is currently playing in the “Bridgerton” series. from Netflix, a Regency-era romantic comedy series that takes a non-traditional approach to casting, generously sprinkling black actors in roles that would have traditionally been given to white performers.

Idris Elba and “Rich Crazy Asians” star Henry Golding are other non-white actors whose names have been mentioned as potential future Bonds. Elba would be my choice, but he would be over 50 by the time the next film begins production, which I guess is a strike against him.

Craig is 53 now; he was 51 when “No Time to Die” was filmed. Roger Moore remains the oldest actor to play Bond; he was 58 when he shot “A View to a Kill” in 1985. David Niven was 57 when he played “Sir James Bond” in the 1967 parody version of “Casino Royale”.

Either way, taking RAP betrays a lack of imagination. James Bond is obviously a fictional character, and the influences Ian Fleming drew on to compose him were diverse. Bond had the same golf handicap as his creator and shared Fleming’s tastes for cars, cigarettes and alcohol, but while Fleming was employed by naval intelligence during WWII he was attached to the office as as personal assistant to Admiral John Godfrey.

Still, he had plenty of opportunities to talk to real spies and hear their war stories. Among the dozens of inspirations on offer for the Bond character are Serbian triple agent Duško Popov and the man known as Sidney Reilly, the legendary British “As of Spies” (and master criminal).

Reilly, historians generally agree, was Jewish; they differ depending on whether he was born Zigmund Rozenblum in Odessa, Georgi or Salomon Rosenblum in the Kherson governorate of the Russian Empire, or Sigmund Rosenblum in Bielsk Podlaski, present-day Poland.

Fleming described Bond as “six feet tall, weighing 167 pounds, a slender build with blue-gray eyes, black hair, and a thin scar on his right cheek,” with some facial resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael – who, thought Ian Fleming looked a lot like Ian Fleming.

Craig is nothing like that, nor Ian Fleming. But, from RAP’s point of view, it is as white as a painting of Jesus with blue eyes.

The practice of casting actors regardless of their ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sex and / or gender is not really new – men were playing women back then. Elizabethan (because women were not allowed on stage). In the 19th century, it was common for women to play male roles, such as when Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet. Let’s not dwell on the black face. Realism in the cast is actually a fairly recent development – it probably started with the advent of cinema.

For the past two years, Dev Patel, who is of Indian descent, has played David Copperfield and Sir Gawain, son of Lot, King of Orkney. In the Hulu 2020 series “The Great”, Sacha Dhawan, another actor of Indian origin, plays Russian prince Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, who led the revolt that overthrew Tsar Peter III.

Black actor Abraham Popoola plays a Russian nobleman in the series, which sent commentators on Russia Beyond, which has been decried as a propaganda site, in a daze: “A Black Count Rostov ?!”

The “color blind cast” is not a stumbling block for most of us. We can accommodate characters speaking in iambic pentameter or singing their verses. As soon as you figure out what the movie, TV show, or play is doing, you sort of forget it. Your imagination must be able to accept the alternate reality offered by the production.

The literal mind is a vulgar mind; only the boring expect fiction to conform to the banality of the ordinary world. Saying about the prospect of a black (or Asian or gay or transgender) James Bond is silly, pathetic, and symptomatic of an impoverished imagination.

Philip Martin is a columnist and critic for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at [email protected] and read his blog at

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