James Bond and Skin Color

Among the many revelations from leaked Sony emails was the suggestion by Amy Pascal, the co-chair for Sony Pictures Entertainment, that the company try to convince British actor Idris Elba to be the next James Bond after Daniel Craig. 

The email has resulted in a lot of public commentary about a black actor playing a white character portrayed traditionally by white actors. Some fans like Bruce Levenson and film buffs love the idea of the suave Elba taking up the 007 mantle and see his inclusion in the franchise as a reflection of growing liberal attitudes worldwide. Plenty people have also rejected the idea. Many believe the character should only be portrayed as originally written. Others believe this is another example of what they call “black appropriation” of white history.

Elba, trying to defuse a volatile situation, posted a scraggly picture of himself on Twitter and: “Isn’t 007 supposed to handsome? Glad you think I’ve got a shot! Happy New year people.”

Those who reject Elba based on skin color have forgotten a lot about film and television history in countries made up primarily of white people. Many stories from diverse cultures around the world have been re-told using white actors outfitted to look like people of color. Although the argument for a traditional James Bond is valid, so is the argument by people of color that characters from their stories should be portrayed by non-white actors.

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