It's a White Industry
December 26, 2014 3:32 PM   Subscribe

It's a white industry, writes Chris Rock on show biz, from the lowliest focus-group testing gig to being a film executive.

Pullquote:
You're telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that's true? The odds are, because people are people, that there's probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody's company right now. The odds are that there's probably a Mexican who's that smart who's never going to be given a shot. And it's not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie because nobody is going to give you that — you've got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it's the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It's like, "We only let white people do that." This is a system where only white people can chime in on that.
posted by aydeejones (220 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
Happy Kwanza everyone!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:57 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't think the world expected things to change overnight because Obama got elected president. Of course it's changed, though, it's just changed with kids. And when you're a kid, you're not thinking of any of this shit. Black kids watch The Lord of the Rings and they want to be the Lord of the Rings. I remember when they were doing Starsky & Hutch, and my manager was like, "We might be able to get you the part of Huggy Bear," which eventually went to Snoop Dogg. I was like: "Do you understand that when my brother and I watched Starsky & Hutch growing up, I would play Starsky and he would play Hutch? I don't want to play f—ing Huggy Bear. This is not a historical drama. This is not Thomas Jefferson. It's a movie based on a shitty TV show, it can be anybody. Who cares. If they want me to play Starsky or Hutch, or even the bad guy, I'm down. But Huggy Bear?"

QFT
posted by chavenet at 3:59 PM on December 26, 2014 [112 favorites]


That's similar to what I said to the friend who could not let go of the fact that they ruined Annie because the new one didn't have red hair. From looking at Twitter, she's sadly not alone.
posted by viramamunivar at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


White guy in entertainment who just met the dude on the set of his very white show....he's not far off. It's changing but fantastically slowly.
posted by nevercalm at 4:08 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rock has always been pretty funny and often on point, but he's been seriously just flat out kicking it recently.
posted by edgeways at 4:15 PM on December 26, 2014 [40 favorites]


Yeah, this is interesting 'cause characters tend to have an iconic look, so changing it is bound to be confusing or irritating for sure me people. I just wish people could move beyond that initial discomfort.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:16 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I fully support the cessation of casting black actors just to say things like, "dayum!"
posted by michaelh at 4:20 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


I watched White Christmas the other day and I could not stop thinking about how to remake it with black actors in the main parts: Beyonce in the Rosemary Clooney part and maybe Jay-Z in the Bing Crosby role? They could be Iraq war veterans and Morgan Freeman would be the Old General.

Some really cool hip-hop dancing in place of the really cool Hermes Pan choregraphy.

It could happen.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:23 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


Meet the new James Bond!
posted by mygoditsbob at 4:28 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


I don't think Morgan Freeman counts. He's not cast for the Black Character spot, he's cast for the Morgan Freeman spot.
posted by michaelh at 4:29 PM on December 26, 2014 [17 favorites]


mygoditsbob, they'll have to rough him up a bit- he's got too kind of a face.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:30 PM on December 26, 2014


Rock has a point. Take the role of 'Mecha' for example.
posted by clavdivs at 4:33 PM on December 26, 2014


Idris Elba is aware of the effect he has on women.

Able was I ere I saw Idris Elba.
posted by michaelh at 4:34 PM on December 26, 2014 [43 favorites]


And, as usual, avoid the comments.
posted by papercake at 4:34 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Meet the new James Bond!

I was just getting ready to post that.

Sad thing is, a lot of people probably not only agree with RL, they'll probably also lose their minds if the producers ever dare to cast Idris Elba in the role. Whatever, I'm betting this is now why the theory of James Bond being a code name and not a specific race or nationality is being floated and gaining traction.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


"That's similar to what I said to the friend who could not let go of the fact that they ruined Annie because the new one didn't have red hair. "

You know, my one thing about this is that as a redhead I didn't get to see a lot of redheads in the media growing up, so I do sometimes feel a bit proprietary about them.

This, however, makes me MORE sympathetic to people who want more diversity in movies, not less! It's not like original Annie is now unavailable and gone forever and you shall never speak of her again. How ridiculous.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:42 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


mygoditsbob, they'll have to rough him up a bit- he's got too kind of a face.


...but The Wire.
posted by mygoditsbob at 4:42 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Dear Chris Rock:

Please run for some office. Any office. Anywhere. Bergen County Dogcatcher. We don't care, just fucking run so you can talk about this shit and people have to listen.

Yours truly,
America
posted by Etrigan at 4:44 PM on December 26, 2014 [37 favorites]


I thought the new Annie sucked because it simply sucked!
posted by ReeMonster at 4:47 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't want to see the new Annie because Cameron Diaz is no Carol Burnett. I do like that sassy Quvenzhané Wallis, but not enough to put up with Cameron Diaz.
posted by Duffington at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Colin Salmon was one of the actors considered for the part of Bond after Pierce Brosnan left. Pierce actually suggested him, if I remember correctly.
posted by I-baLL at 5:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really don't think there's any difference between what black audiences find funny and what white audiences find funny, but everyone likes to see themselves onscreen, so there are some instances where there's a black audience laughing at something that a white audience wouldn't laugh at because a black audience is really just happy to see itself. Things that would be problems in a world where there were a lot of black movies get overlooked. The same thing happened with those Sex and the City movies. You don't really see that level of female movie that much, so women were like, "We're only going to get this every whatever, so f— you, f— the reviews, we're going, we like it."
Man, this really shuts down the whole "how come it's ok when a _____ says it in a movie but not ok when a white man does it?" derail that goes through my head all the time.
posted by rebent at 5:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [23 favorites]


Hopefully the next version will be named Channie.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, I we are making some progress...

Rush Limbaugh, for example, is going through an evolution (evolution: something that happens over a long long period of time): " But that's not who James Bond is and I know it's racist to probably point this out." Ten years ago he would have no clue he's racist.

Rush of course continues to be both ignorant and wrong - "James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. "

Except, not so much, eh? He wasn't Scottish until Sean Connery played him in the films (his background wasn't mentioned before then), and even then he was Scottish/Swiss.

If Rush was truly upset at the canonical Bond being fucked with he would be thrown a fit when he was no longer depicted smoking. I hope they have him take up the habit again (70 cigs a day he was supposed to have smoked - that's devotion).
posted by el io at 5:12 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought the new Annie sucked because it simply sucked!

Of course it did, it's based on Annie. Pretty hard to dig your way out of that hole.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:17 PM on December 26, 2014 [39 favorites]


Bond fans lost their minds when Daniel Craig was cast because he was blonde. Who cares what they think?
posted by Ndwright at 5:27 PM on December 26, 2014 [29 favorites]


70 cigarettes a day would make you smell SO BAD! It might even be kind of a tip off for someone who's supposed to be undercover so often, especially these days.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:29 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rush Limbaugh, for example, is going through an evolution (evolution: something that happens over a long long period of time): " But that's not who James Bond is and I know it's racist to probably point this out." Ten years ago he would have no clue he's racist.

No, he said the same kind of thing ten years ago too. He's not actually admitting that it's racist. He's saying "I know that people are going to call me racist for saying this, but you, loyal listener, know that I merely speak the truth, even when it makes liberals uncomfortable."
posted by Etrigan at 5:32 PM on December 26, 2014 [19 favorites]


I so hope that Gabourey Sidibe portrays Rush Limbaugh some day.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2014 [68 favorites]


Chris Rock is dead on almost always, he's a smart dude and he's a humanist, I always feel like he really wants things to be better, people to be better and we can if we try.

It's funny, I've been watching a lot of CW shows on Netflix lately and they just cast people, it seems like.
posted by fshgrl at 5:35 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey Eyebrows, I am also a redhead and I am SO GLAD the new Annie isn't ginger, that bloody film has been the bane of my life for the past thirty years. One patient even bought me the DVD a couple of years ago (so when I was well into my thirties) "in case I hadn't seen it". Thanks, random dialysis patient! I have seen it.

Now I just need them to re-make the Moomins with a non-ginger Little My.
posted by tinkletown at 6:15 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


As long as she doesn't have pupils, she's Annie.
posted by maxsparber at 6:16 PM on December 26, 2014 [20 favorites]


I don't know that you have to be a racist to say that you don't like Idris Elba for James Bond. Saying that Bond has to be Scottish is just foolish, but there are many of the traditional Bond readings that are helped by the fact that he's white.

Bond was created as the executor's hand of a waning British Empire, who travels the world as the Old Establishment's enforcer. The re-old-fashoning that they are applying to the Bond franchise, with the M title now going to the stiff upper lip public-school educated ex-military man James Mallory (Raph Fiennes), also goes along these lines. Putting a black face on the Bond persona would update the franchise, but also rob it of a lot of that subtext.

After the suave Brosnan, I also like Craig's Bond as a chiseled brute barely hiding under the thinnest layer of urbanity. Bond is a well-trained thug, he's a brute and a monster. It just happens that we trained this particular thug to be our monster, the one we send to fight the monsters we fear. Add the Skyfall fantasy of having Bond take the car of his predecessor, and it's clear that the series is moving back to the old Bond. Call it period Bond or vintage Bond, it works so well for the character and the series.

Elba would be very good at playing both sides of Bond's thug/playboy coin, but it wouldn't be the same, just because he wouldn't be one of the old boys. Yes, because he's not white. Not because he can't do the wearing-a-tuxedo and thinking-on-his-feet parts, but because a black psychopath-on-a-leash reads differently from a white psychopath-on-a-leash.

On topic: If the people at The New York Times had any sense, they'd beg Chris Rock to write a column for them. Bonus: they might have to fire Friedman and/or Brooks in order to make space.
posted by kandinski at 6:26 PM on December 26, 2014 [21 favorites]


Not because he can't do the wearing-a-tuxedo and thinking-on-his-feet parts, but because a black psychopath-on-a-leash reads differently from a white psychopath-on-a-leash.

Different isn't bad nor does it mean it can't be done.

You're twisting yourself in all sorts of knots about how Idris as Bond can't work, under some purist understanding of a character that's been played by 4 or 5 actors at this point.

This is all fantasy and fiction. Worrying about a character's skin color in such a context is just ridiculous.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:33 PM on December 26, 2014 [54 favorites]


It also doesn't help that people in the industry pretty much flat-out say that they won't hire people of other ethnicities because they "won't sell".

Lets not forget (although I'm sure no one here has) what Ridley Scott recently said: “I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

Pretty much a huge sign that says "You're not welcome here if you're not white."

P.S. I would see enthusiastically see every Bond movie if Elba was Bond.
posted by No One Ever Does at 6:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


"It's funny, I've been watching a lot of CW shows on Netflix lately and they just cast people, it seems like."

The CW and ABC Family both have more diverse casts on their shows, probably because their demographic is so firmly "under 25" and they're relatively uninterested in the financial or cultural power of an older generation for whom "white suburbia" was normative/aspirational on television.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:42 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think a dark but not black James Bond would make the best spy. I run into people who could pass for Mexican or Central or South American or Chechen or Russian or Central Asian or Mediterranean or even Spain with the right hair cut, clothes and body language. Black hair, light or olive or darker skin= vaguely upper class guy from Everywhere.

Not that they'd be good Bonds, but the look I'm thinking of is that Verizon "can you hear me now" guy or even Antonio Banderas.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:57 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not that they'd be good Bonds, but the look I'm thinking of is that Verizon "can you hear me now" guy or even Antonio Banderas.

That has got to be the first time those two guys have ever been options for the same line of thinking.
posted by Etrigan at 7:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [35 favorites]


> You're twisting yourself in all sorts of knots about how Idris as Bond can't work, under some purist understanding of a character that's been played by 4 or 5 actors at this point.

I know what you mean. I went to see a performance of La Bohème where the action had been shifted to 1930s Berlin, and the lead tenor was Korean. Some people in our row were discussing that it took them out of the action. Surprisingly, nobody was taken out of the action by the fact that the healthy woman who sang for 2 hours died of consumption shortly afterwards. Or that the scene had been moved 90 years into the future and 1000 km to the East. I thought he was fine, but I'm not that much of an opera fan.

I was also cheering for Donald Glover as Spiderman, so now I'm wondering whether I care too much about Bond, or too little about Spiderman.
posted by kandinski at 7:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was also cheering for Donald Glover as Spiderman, so now I'm wondering whether I care too much about Bond, or too little about Spiderman.

In fairness, Sony has spent the last several years trying to make us all care less about Spiderman.
posted by Etrigan at 7:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [41 favorites]


Ten years ago he would have no clue he's racist.

Nah, I think he always knew but his admitting it is a new form of disingenuity on his part. He saying what his dittoheads want to hear and he's giving them a new way cast their racist views as "facts" which can't be disputed by liberals, the left-leaning media, etc.

Elba would be very good at playing both sides of Bond's thug/playboy coin, but it wouldn't be the same, just because he wouldn't be one of the old boys.

How about having the series recognize that the "old boys" are dying/have died out and it's a new world where that background isn't as important as it once was.

Yes, because he's not white. Not because he can't do the wearing-a-tuxedo and thinking-on-his-feet parts, but because a black psychopath-on-a-leash reads differently from a white psychopath-on-a-leash.

Of course it reads differently--just on obvious appearances--but does that make it impossible?

I imagine the idea of a Black man having 007's kind of power would be discomforting to some people the same way the idea of Black man having a US president's kind of power is unsettling for many. Because, they can't help but assume that when push comes to shove, the Black man is going to put his race before everything else. Never mind that many if not most of the people he encounters are going to have his race in the forefront regardless of what he says or does. They just may not admit it or be conscious of it.

Which brings the reason why I have doubts about Idris playing Bond. I think there would be many places and situations his Bond could not be put into particularly because of his appearance. There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover. I think a Black Bond's potential storylines would be limited to certain geographic areas in ways that the previous Bonds' haven't been.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:12 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I think there would be many places and situations his Bond could not be put into particularly because of his appearance. There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover. "

What if, in this fictional story, we imagine that people aren't ridiclously racist and they don't question a black man's presence?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:24 PM on December 26, 2014 [67 favorites]


How about having the series recognize that the "old boys" are dying/have died out and it's a new world where that background isn't as important as it once was.

To riff off this a bit: James Bond is such a long-running franchise that the entire narrative world could stand to benefit from a totally new re-imagining. What room is there for a cloak-and-dagger spy who looks great in a tux and lives a life of danger and intrigue in a world of drone strikes and personal information soaked up with a mouse click in a darkened room? A new generation of espionage has long been upon us. Enter the new James Bond.

There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover.

I think there are also plenty of espionage circumstances where a smirking Anglo-Saxon with a penchant for coy one-liners and expensive tastes would stand out.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:26 PM on December 26, 2014 [34 favorites]


The Whelk blew mind with this the other day: Ninjas are invisible, that's the whole point of ninjas. You never see a ninja, just an old washerwoman or a bundle of sacks or a heap of wood or whatever, and then you're dead. The traditional "ninja" outfit you see is a stagehands outfit, that it means "ninja" now is a cultural misunderstanding.

A successful spy would be the same deal - they wouldn't be sticking out like a site thumb like Bond always does, they'd be blending in - they'd be that old guy pushing a broom, the woman who cleans the toilets, an inconspicuous face in the crowd.

So what if the tuxedo is the stagehands outfit for spies?
posted by Artw at 7:34 PM on December 26, 2014 [22 favorites]


A successful spy would be the same deal - they wouldn't be sticking out like a sore thumb like Bond always does, they'd be blending in - they'd be that old guy pushing a broom, the woman who cleans the toilets, an inconspicuous face in the crowd.

Definitely one of the things I loved about The Americans. Those were spies you would never see coming, because you think they're completely ordinary plebs, because they want you to think they are. Bond has been doing his version of high-roller spy for so long now that the first thing I think when I see a guy in a tux is "must be a secret agent". How does Bond blend in anywhere anymore?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think Art is trying to tell us he's MI6, embedded here to gather intel on raising children and writing comics in the service of Her Majesty.
posted by mwhybark at 7:46 PM on December 26, 2014




I think Art is trying to tell us he's MI6, embedded here to gather intel on raising children and writing comics in the service of Her Majesty.

I am merely wearing an inconspicuous scooba diving suit.
posted by Artw at 7:48 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


As good as the rest of that article was, I especially like Chris Rock's point about Mexicans. Because in California, racism is very focused on 'dirty Mexicans'* and much as they try to deny it, Hollywood is a part of and influenced by the rest of California.

There's been some strides forward recently in the public side of things (lots of Disney and CW actresses, especially, are Latina) but the back end, where a lot of the real power is? I definitely believe Rock when he says that no one on the back end sees Mexicans as anything other than the senora/abuelo pushing the broom.** The people who greenlight movies, influence the cultural space, become directors and DPs and what have you? More diversity there would be great. It's not just the talent, as I think Rock brings up pretty skilfully.

Oh, and Idris Elba would be an amazing James Bond. Rush Limbaugh is an idiot good at stirring shit up--witness this thread.

*Mexicans here are standing in not just for people from Mexico but also for Salvadorenos, Guatemalans, etc.
**which, given the conversation above, would make them great spies. but in terms of Hollywood power? not so much

posted by librarylis at 7:50 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Bond was created as the executor's hand of a waning British Empire, who travels the world as the Old Establishment's enforcer.

With Britain's history of colonies in both Africa and the Caribbean, it would be interesting if Elba's Bond was given a backstory that included some kind of ruling/elite parentage, so that he would have both an ingrained sense duty and belonging to "the Establishment", but also the burden of historic colonialism on his shoulders. I think the insider/outsider conflict is one that fits well with the bond character.
posted by Kabanos at 7:53 PM on December 26, 2014 [56 favorites]


Ok but if you're going to remake White Christmas with black actors, that tribute to minstrel shows number is going to be reaaally interesting.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Idris Elba Can't Be James Bond Because He's Black"

Why do so many people have trouble with this? I mean, seriously? James Bond IS white. James Bond is a character of the late Ian Fleming and James Bond is white. I don't mean that in a controversial kind of way, it's just the truth!

Q: Could Jude Law play President Obama in a future biopic? If not - why not?
A: No. Because Barack Obama has black skin and Jude Law is white.

Q: Could Ewan McGregor play Martin Luther King? If not - why not?
A: No. Because Martin Luther King was black. McGregor is white!

Q: Can Idris Elba play James Bond? If not - why not?
A: No. Because James Bond is white and Idris Elba is black.

Again, Mr. Bond is a character from the pen of Ian Fleming. Ian Fleming clearly described Bond as white. So...what's the problem? We have enough things to be outraged about without being so sensitive about things that are just what they are.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 7:55 PM on December 26, 2014


I refuse to believe that a walking macho fantasy like Bond need have any credible connection to the reality of spying. His enemies have metal teeth, lethal bowler hats and island hideaways with missiles. Reality is already off the table.
posted by emjaybee at 7:58 PM on December 26, 2014 [47 favorites]


Pst... Obama and MLK are real, historical, people. James Bond is (and I hope I'm not spoiling this for you) a fictional character.
posted by aspo at 7:59 PM on December 26, 2014 [118 favorites]


So...what's the problem? We have enough things to be outraged about without being so sensitive about things that are just what they are.

Guess which one of your examples is fictional.

Also, if you're going to bandy about "sensitive" and "outrage", you might as well throw in "PC brigade" for the full trifecta.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:59 PM on December 26, 2014 [19 favorites]


James Bond is not (actual historical figure) Obama or (actual historical) figure MLK, Jr.

I don't know why this difference is so hard to understand.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not to mention their blackness is a key part of who they are and what makes them special. Obama is 6' 1" but I suspect if they cast someone who was 5 foot 11 I wouldn't really care.
posted by aspo at 8:01 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


"There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover."

Are ... are you kidding? This is James fucking Bond, featuring love interests named Pussy Galore, and invisible cars, and helicopters flying on their sides, and no government insurance limits, and tidal wave surfing, and Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist and your complaint is a black agent in 2014 from the United Kingdom ISN'T REALISTIC?

Maybe his Bond girl will be called "Give Me A Fucking Break."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [106 favorites]


I get really frustrated with the people who say things like but Annie has always been white! Bond has always been white! Um- are we waiting for the re-dos of all the mainstream characters who aren't white? That's going to be a long long wait because of the blatantly racist mainstream culture since forever in the US.

Basically, to claim that because a fictional action hero used to be white and therefore must always be white is embracing and defending a horrifyingly exclusionary culture.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:03 PM on December 26, 2014 [11 favorites]


Maybe his Bond girl will be called "Give Me A Fucking Break."

Named for her henchman father.
posted by Artw at 8:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


So...what's the problem?
If you were going to argue that James Bond is a film franchise defined by the characteristics of Ian Fleming's novels, this is shitty place to start.
posted by rodlymight at 8:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Basically, to claim that because a fictional action hero used to be white and therefore must always be white is embracing and defending a horrifyingly exclusionary culture.

Seriously. It's fiction. Bond can have literally any skin color without it changing one jot of his Bondness. It is such a trivial detail to rush the barricades to defend that it makes the allegations of oversensitivity from Team White Bond sound hollow and ironic.

Were these people picketing Air Bud? "BUT DOGS CANNOT PLAY BASKETBALL THAT WELL COME ON"
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:08 PM on December 26, 2014 [25 favorites]


Elba would make one heck of a good James Bond. I want to see that happen so badly.

Why are people so invested in not even considering this? The amount of energy being spent on telling a particular individual (who really exists and has feelings about all of this) that he can't do something because he isn't white strikes me as really problematic and inconsiderate, and probably betrays deeper issues than commitment to plot and setting concerns.

What perhaps bothers me as much is that it's being defended on the probability that there is no one in Hollywood creative enough to navigate the superficial concerns to make this work. There are a bout a million ways to make this awesome, and to not see this simply betrays a lack of imagination. We reboot stuff all the time to accommodate questionable or mundane experiments in canon. This, in contrast, would be breath of fresh air.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:08 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Those were spies you would never see coming, because you think they're completely ordinary plebs, because they want you to think they are. Bond has been doing his version of high-roller spy for so long now that the first thing I think when I see a guy in a tux is "must be a secret agent". How does Bond blend in anywhere anymore?

yet we live in a world which looks more like the heyday of the European empires, where society is dominated by an extremely wealthy elite. so. no tuxedo, just Patagonia and some hiking wear or thousand dollar jeans.

re: idris Elba. bond goes to Russia, but none of the supermodels will touch him because they think he is a monkey. bond goes to Manhattan where he is immediately stopped and frisked. can't drive 3 blocks in his sports car without getting stopped and keeps being mistaken for kitchen staff at the casino.

admittedly it would be funny to see bond this way, maybe rock should play him... but seriously, can you imagine Bond's rapey approach to romance played by a black man? I don't think the focus groups would go for that...
posted by ennui.bz at 8:10 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


To be fair, people seemed just as adamantly against Daniel Craig and look how that turned out. I think he's the best one ever because he looks like a thug dressed up in a suit.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [15 favorites]



With Britain's history of colonies in both Africa and the Caribbean, it would be interesting if Elba's Bond was given a backstory that included some kind of ruling/elite parentage, so that he would have both an ingrained sense duty and belonging to "the Establishment", but also the burden of historic colonialism on his shoulders. I think the insider/outsider conflict is one that fits well with the bond character.


That's the thing - you'd lose one subtext, but with a skillfully made movie, you'd gain another. A terrible movie with a black Bond might still be okay just for the "yes, we can cast a black actor in this role" factor, though, since why the hell not. It would certainly be possible to make a "let's just drop a black actor into this role with neither a 'this is an alternate universe where his race does not matter' sensibility nor a 'let's create a plausible backstory and subtext' approach"....I guess that latter situation would be tokenism.

I would love to see a Bond movie with Bond as some kind of child of the post-colonial ruling elite - I think that could go lots of fascinating ways.
posted by Frowner at 8:11 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


re: idris Elba. bond goes to Russia, but none of the supermodels will touch him because they think he is a monkey. bond goes to Manhattan where he is immediately stopped and frisked. can't drive 3 blocks in his sports car without getting stopped and keeps being mistaken for kitchen staff at the casino.

Alternately, there's plenty of places in the world for espionage where a rich white guy would be a walking flashing neon sign. I mean, there's a lot you can do with this narrative.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:14 PM on December 26, 2014 [13 favorites]


That's similar to what I said to the friend who could not let go of the fact that they ruined Annie because the new one didn't have red hair. From looking at Twitter, she's sadly not alone.

Yeah, I know this guy as well. When he held forth on this topic a few months back, he chose to do so with me and another friend (incidentally, one of us white, one not) and made his argument in the form of a Socratic dialogue:
"Yeah, I hear they are making a new version of Annie. It is going to suck. They have everything wrong."

"Oh, I had not heard about this -- what has gone wrong?"

"Well, what is the most iconic thing about the cartoon Annie?"

"Easy -- the pupilless eyes!"

"No, not that."

"Ah -- her little dog?"

"No, not that either."

"Oh, of course: Daddy Warbucks being wealthy and bald!"

"Well, no, it is -- "

"Wait -- is it his diamond stickpin?"

"Guys -- come on!"
It continued in this vein until he revealed that it was her red hair, at which point we quizzed him on how this is depicted in a black-and-white comic. He beat the retreat to an older hobby horse of his: the appalling addition of a Moor or Saracen to Robin Hood stories in the last few decades. We asked him if he objected equally strongly to Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, Alan-a-Dale, or to Robin Hood being depicted with a bow (all late additions to the canon). He is also a comic book guy* and I was hoping he might fall back to Superman, so we could talk about the X-ray vision, the super-hearing, kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen, and all that other johnny-come-lately crap the radio show tacked on to a guy who was pretty strong and could jump really high.


*In both senses.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:18 PM on December 26, 2014 [17 favorites]


I am merely wearing an inconspicuous scooba diving suit.

Self-Contained Olive Oil Breathing Apparatus?
posted by Kabanos at 8:20 PM on December 26, 2014 [21 favorites]


"Pst... Obama and MLK are real, historical, people. James Bond is (and I hope I'm not spoiling this for you) a fictional character."

Wait. Who drove Miss Daisy? Can we remake that fictional character? No matter what you might say, ultimately Morgan Freeman played a fictional character that was obviously described as black in the play (and the film). Really, this was my whole point - what some of you thought I missed. If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are.

Make as many action spy flicks as you want - and cast Idris Elba in every film. BUT, don't call him James Bond. Copyrights and trademarks aside, go make a movie about Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but make them cute little puppies, but it won't work, we KNOW that Mickey and Minnie are mice.

At a time when we need to unite the people around issues of income inequality and mount a populist challenge to the powers that be, there's no getting around that there are some who will send us off on these silly PC crusades that take our eyes off the target. Why would anybody want to cast a black man in a role that is a character clearly known as white? To cause a shit storm! To shift the focus on identity politics rather than on how we're all getting screwed by the ruling elite. I honestly believe that. These divisions are ruinous to the populist economic crusade that could roll through this country. But there's always someone who wants to make the white character black, or the mouse a dog, or place Gotham City in Asia.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:26 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


seriously, imagine black Bond in the bedroom? what for a white man is a fairly standard fantasy about masculine power, becomes with black Bond every white persons ( excepting the fetishists) nightmare about black men.

is black bond goofy and sweet between the sheets? does he have to make himself seem harmless?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:26 PM on December 26, 2014


I'm totally ok with Idris Elba playing Bond.

I was also totally ok with Christian Bale playing Moses.
posted by the webmistress at 8:28 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait. Who drove Miss Daisy? Can we remake that fictional character?

Of course we can.
posted by maxsparber at 8:29 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know that you have to be a racist to say that you don't like Idris Elba for James Bond.

No, but you do if you're Rush fucking Limbaugh.
posted by Atom Eyes at 8:29 PM on December 26, 2014


man this thread sure is confirming all sorts of horrible things about white people, isnt it?
posted by young_son at 8:30 PM on December 26, 2014 [73 favorites]


"keeps being mistaken for kitchen staff at the casino."

Which in the hands of a skillful director becomes both a slick way for a spy to infiltrate an invitation-only party at the casino AND a comment on how racism renders people stupid and gives Bond an advantage AND a way to underline the fact that the evil guy is evil, because on top of wanting to blow up the world or whatever, he's racist AND a nod to the audience and the debate over Elba, and it takes a common and painful minority experience of being mistaken for "the help" and twists it into a story where Bond uses that ignorance against them to come out on top. That's packing a lot of layers into a two-minute scene where he's mistaken for the waiter.

I also envisioned a British-Carribean background when I first heard Elba suggested ... I think that'd be a rich vein of back story.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 PM on December 26, 2014 [87 favorites]


At a time when we need to unite the people around issues of income inequality and mount a populist challenge to the powers that be, there's no getting around that there are some who will send us off on these silly PC crusades that take our eyes off the target. Why would anybody want to cast a black man in a role that is a character clearly known as white? To cause a shit storm! To shift the focus on identity politics rather than on how we're all getting screwed by the ruling elite. I honestly believe that.

I think you need a real sense of proportion and scale when it comes to why people are talking about movie spies and their skin color. People can care about more than one thing at a time, believe it or not, and assign them varying degrees of importance.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:31 PM on December 26, 2014 [15 favorites]


Elba's father was from Sierra Leonea and his mother was from Ghana, and he was raised in Hackney. All of these would provide terrific character elements for Bond.
posted by maxsparber at 8:32 PM on December 26, 2014 [26 favorites]


Oh and

But there's always someone who wants to make the white character black, or the mouse a dog, or place Gotham City in Asia.

Who gives a shit? Seriously, what will happen? Dogs and cats getting married and so forth?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:37 PM on December 26, 2014 [22 favorites]


A successful spy would be the same deal - they wouldn't be sticking out like a site thumb like Bond always does, they'd be blending in - they'd be that old guy pushing a broom, the woman who cleans the toilets, an inconspicuous face in the crowd.

So what if the tuxedo is the stagehands outfit for spies?


My theory: Bond's not a spy. Bond's an MI6 asset, yes, but the whole point of Bond is to be the hand that's juggling the balls while the other hand- those MI6 men and women who do the actual spycraft- slides a knife out of its sleeve and heads for your throat. James Bond is very good at what he does.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:39 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


WTF? Under Gerard Sorme's logic I am now going to be outraged, OUTRAGED, at WWII movies that do not cast actual Nazis.
posted by TwoStride at 8:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [16 favorites]


Making James Blond black would be no greater an injury to the original text than the fact that Orphan Annie doesn't spend all her time terrifying children with stories about how goblins will kidnap them.
posted by maxsparber at 8:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nazis are not a race, or am I misunderstanding you?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2014


Oops, no, sorry. My confusion.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:43 PM on December 26, 2014


Nazis are not a race, or am I misunderstanding you?

They're racist.
posted by maxsparber at 8:43 PM on December 26, 2014


No, but the pedantic literalism of descriptors still applies.
posted by TwoStride at 8:43 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


" If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are."

Yeah, its why nobody ever remade The Seven Samurai or Rashomon with American actors ... Oh wait ... I forgot ...

At least, you definitely couldn't remake Romeo and Juliet to be set in 1950s New York and feature street gangs and Puerto Ricans ... Dammit

Okay so you definitely couldn't cast Isabella Knightly, Emma Woodhouse's beloved sister in Austen's 1815 classic, a white Englishwoman, as a black California high school student in the 90s ... Dammit

Huh, it seems like people CAN successfully reinterpret beloved characters in different cultural contexts, probably because all humans are similar in their emotional lives so many stories resonate regardless of culture or race!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:47 PM on December 26, 2014 [113 favorites]


Why do so many people have trouble with this? I mean, seriously? James Bond IS white.
If Jesus can be white, James Bond can be black.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:50 PM on December 26, 2014 [141 favorites]


Yeah, sorry the whole argument that Bond must be white now and forever is silly purist drival. Purism leads to staleness and boredom. The adaptors of fiction do not need to limit themselves to exactly what was written 50 years ago. Narratives are cast and recast, stories change and that is OK. Gothum in Asia? Give it a try. A female Dr Who? Why not? It's all just puzzle peices being shuffled about, and really, if if you're that hung up about you might need to check yourself. FFS in Shakespeare's time men played ALL the roles. Yet somehow we've moved beyond that.

And Bond? Tell you what. When it manages to become a bit less of a sexist wank fest let me know, then I'll actually give a shit.
posted by edgeways at 8:52 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are.

Bram Stoker makes about a half-dozen clear references to Dracula's heavy moustache, but that detail has been lost somehow in the adaptations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 PM on December 26, 2014 [28 favorites]


Also, I get so infuriated by the continued insistence (see: Ridley Scott, most recently) that you need a white cast to have a big opening. The Fast & Furious franchise, with its majority nonwhite cast is one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history (particularly when you exclude all of the sci-fi/fantasy franchises).
posted by TwoStride at 9:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [12 favorites]


I would like him to be Bond because he is smoking hot and would fill out a tux like whoa. You can call it politics but it's lust, baby. I also find it interesting that there are assumptions he could only sleep with white women or that if he did people would burn theaters down therefore we shouldn't do it. Nuts to that.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 PM on December 26, 2014 [14 favorites]


If Bond were cast as Ian Fleming had wished he'd look like Vinnie Jones. I think Idris Elba, Chow Yun Fat, or Tamsin Grieg would all make decent 007s.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:02 PM on December 26, 2014 [9 favorites]


Elba would make a great bond. What's the problem with this. The guy is a great actor. If anything I think he would bring a stoic yet wry quality. It's still a pretty much an action role. He's done that.

Love the one your with.
posted by clavdivs at 9:02 PM on December 26, 2014


love the one your with
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's the problem with this.

People simply want the actor who plays James Bond to be white. They do not want him to be black. They have their reasons and the non-racist reasons are stupid and the racist ones are racist. I don't really care if someone is stupid or racist, they're wrong either way.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:06 PM on December 26, 2014 [47 favorites]


MovieBob made a lot of good points on this subject the last time people got unruly about Idris Elba taking the role of a fictional white character.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The smug, "why are you anti-racist people being so unreasonable when racism is just right" argument is pretty fucking infuriating, though.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:14 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't think Idris Elba should play James Bond, but only because it would taint his resume. I have no doubt he could play it with ease; it's way beneath him. (Ian Fleming ain't exactly serious literature.) Elba's big into fast cars, and there's a giant paycheck involved, so I've no doubt he'd probably snap it up if offered and do an excellent job of it. But I'd rather see him in something worth seeing.

I'd love to see Richard Ayoade take a crack at it, though.

Also: Rush Limbaugh apparently doesn't know Scotland's in Britain, nor that Fleming only made Bond Scottish after Sean Connery's Bond became popular, nor that Connery was the only Scottish person to ever play James Bond: Lazenby's Australian, Niven's English, Moore's English, Dalton's Welsh, Brosnan's Irish, Craig's English.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:15 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


When it manages to become a bit less of a sexist wank fest let me know, then I'll actually give a shit.

the funny thing is that when James 'idris Elba' Bond threatens violence against a woman in bed and then fucks her, half of metafilter is going to be OMG: how did they make this racist movie...
posted by ennui.bz at 9:15 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or maybe just don't script such a scene, for whatever reason? That could happen, too.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2014 [19 favorites]


I'd love to see Richard Ayoade take a crack at it, though.

I got a flippen gun !!
posted by edgeways at 9:28 PM on December 26, 2014 [25 favorites]


If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are.

"And in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, this conclusively proves that Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is ipso facto inferior to David Hasselhoff. Thank you."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:31 PM on December 26, 2014 [20 favorites]


Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is ipso facto inferior to David Hasselhoff. Thank you.

As a member of Hydra I find this line of reasoning perfectly sound.
posted by clarknova at 9:40 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


RSC casts its first black Iago for next year's Stratford-staged Othello

Iago is one of Shakespeare's greatest roles, played with relish in recent years by Rory Kinnear at the National Theatre and Ewan McGregor at the Donmar Warehouse. He is usually interpreted as being a deeply malignant racist, but what if both the main characters are black? "Really watch this space," said Doran. "I know when I was watching it [in workshop] with a really good white Iago opposite Hugh I was thinking right, yes, I've seen this before terrific. But with Lucian [Msamati], every line became freshly minted and it challenged the whole play in a way I found completely revelatory. It may be a completely crazy idea but I think it's worth pursuing because in the end, as you watch it, you just watch two really, really good actors doing it and that is the major issue."
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:44 PM on December 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


Fleming's conception of Bond is an ugly thing, and not in some kind of "we'll get inside the head of this rich white straight male brutal sociopath and find interesting insight" way, it's just a straight-up masturbatory fantasy about how awesome that collection of traits is to Fleming and how shitty and weak and stupid everything that isn't that collection of traits is in Fleming's estimation and how the whole civilized world would fall apart without people with that collection of traits at the helm. So really, fuck what Fleming's conception of Bond is, always be better than that in your adaptations. Elba would be better than that.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:51 PM on December 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


Remember when Rush Limbagh got all upset that Lawrence Olivier played Othello in a movie?
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:51 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Heimdall thing was also pretty surreal. Seeing people seriously arguing over the ethnicity of an actor playing in a fictional interpretation of a fictional interpretation of a fictional story. Like Heimdall, the non-existant entity, was being done a personal disservice by this. Then the movie came out, he did great, and everyone wondered what the big deal was about in the first place.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:52 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm unlikely to read Ian Fleming*, but I wonder if Bond is explicitly described as white, or if it's more of that racist habit of assuming that the default is white. Of course Limbaugh is appalled; Bond is sexy, suave, smart, wears a tuxedo like he was born in one, and is an iconic role for Western men. And he has lots of sex, maybe with white, black, Asian, and other shades of women. Ruh-roh. Connery was a fantastic Bond, but is also a sexist jerk when he wants to be. David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. Complain about Lazenby, Dalton, Moore, or the rest, but Idris Elba would fit right into that lineup.

I doubt Hollywood will have the guts to cast Elba, but that's a Bond movie I'd go see.

on reading this page, at least 1 Bond novel was actually written by Kingsley Amis. dang. He was a sexist old curmudgeon, but can be a terrific writer. If you have not read Lucky Jim, go pick it up at your local bookstore and read it as soon as possible.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I think there would be many places and situations his Bond could not be put into particularly because of his appearance. There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover. "

So you're saying what bothered you about Live and Let Die was mostly that Bond was played by a white guy?
posted by The World Famous at 10:16 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't fucking believe I got snookered into a discussion involving Rush Il Douche Limbaugh, but you should still read Lucky Jim.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 PM on December 26, 2014


On the subject of Rock's essay: I would love to read a whole other article from him expanding on his point about Jesse Jackson. I'd never considered that he ran to "disrupt the presidency" rather than to run for president.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:24 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Which brings the reason why I have doubts about Idris playing Bond. I think there would be many places and situations his Bond could not be put into particularly because of his appearance. There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover. I think a Black Bond's potential storylines would be limited to certain geographic areas in ways that the previous Bonds' haven't been.

No way. Have you seen xXx? Racially ambiguous post-Bond is equally at home with California skaters, Colombians and Czech anarchists.
posted by michaelh at 10:36 PM on December 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


My theory: Bond's not a spy. Bond's an MI6 asset, yes, but the whole point of Bond is to be the hand that's juggling the balls while the other hand- those MI6 men and women who do the actual spycraft- slides a knife out of its sleeve and heads for your throat. James Bond is very good at what he does.

I love this. Bond is like a natural disaster or a train barreling down on you. He throws his name around in every bar within a hundred miles of your base of operations, and you get reports of that damned car of his getting closer for days, because he wants the full attention of the Blofelds of the world so they don't see the low-level technician that just Stuxnetted SPECTRE's latest giant laser or the fact that Bob from SPECTRE accounting got some old charges dropped back home in Manchester for a little favor.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:37 PM on December 26, 2014 [32 favorites]


Yeah this Bond thing is a big derail. The OP's essay is great and very true and I hope everyone read it. He even touches on the fact that it's ridiculous to stick to historical portrayals of fictional characters when there are so few good roles for non-white non-men. And how that ties in to the state of affairs behind the scenes.
posted by bleep at 10:39 PM on December 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


James Bond: The hand that's juggling the balls
posted by The World Famous at 10:48 PM on December 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


For days, I've been rolling the Rush thing around in my head, getting no further along than, "geez, can't he tell the difference between historical figures and fictional characters? Idiot." And then something interesting happened, which is both tangential and not.

Okay so you definitely couldn't cast Isabella Knightly, Emma Woodhouse's beloved sister in Austen's 1815 classic, a white Englishwoman, as a black California high school student in the 90s ... Dammit

In writing this, Eyebrows McGee makes an error, which helps make me an interesting point. Stacey Dash didn't play the modern counterpart to Isabella Knightly, Emma's sister, but Anne (née Taylor) Weston, Emma's former governess. I'm pretty sure that nowadays, an actress of any race (were one to believe in the concept of "races") could play "Poor Miss Taylor"/Mrs. Weston, without any narrative explanation, and it would be fine. However, if Isabella (née Woodhouse) Knightly were played by an actress of a different race (again, accepting, for the moment, the concept of races), given that old Henry Woodhouse ostensibly was never "with" any woman except Isabella and Emma's mother, making it -- within the confines of a Jane Austen story told without modern flourishes -- unlikely that they would/should appear to be of different races.

This brings to mind three issues to consider when casting according to race:

1) Was the person an historical figure?

If so, I suppose that if there's a common understanding as to the "race" of the character (an understanding that becomes less and less valuable as we go further back in time), this is a casting issue. Now. I can understand why it might cause some cognitive kerfuffle for some members of the audience if a modern historical figure were played by someone who looked and sounded dramatically different from the reality they know. I'm not sure how much it would bother me -- it would probably depend on the person. After all, didn't Cate Blanchett play Bob Dylan? Keenan Thompson plays Oprah. If we have situations where we can overlook atypical cross-gender casting (again, assuming, for the moment, binary gender for the purposes of this discussion), I can see a point where for some historical characters, race might not matter.

That said, I think of the three cases, I'm probably not off-base that most of us "get" why it might generally feel weird for historical figures to be played *in film or television* by someone of another race. (That opera example above, notwithstanding, I find that most people really don't care who plays what race on stage.)

2) Is the person a fictional character for whom "race" is either a significant factor in and of itself (someone playing the role of a slave in the American south in 1957, someone playing the first Asian-American US president) or for whom the differential races of two full-blood relatives might require some commentary in order to not create intellectual disequilibrium. In which case, well, you either:

a) cast race-blind and figure the audience will just get over it; or

b) cast race-blind and include a throw-away line to explain the issue --> the success of which depends on whether viewers have an entrenched relationship with the fictional characters, such as in Austen, or have no such relationship; or

c) cast for racial uniformity

Honestly, I think this, as with historical figures, has to be on a case-by-case basis. As with Eyebrow McGee's example, I wouldn't blink at Mrs. Weston being of a different ethnicity to the other characters. I'd figure, hey, I know Austen backwards and forwards, and if the BBC wants more diverse casting, I'll give them a yay, rah! But yeah, if Isabella were portrayed by an actress of a different race from Mr. Woodhouse and Emma, I think it would distract me a bit. (But perhaps only a bit, because Isabella's a pretty darn minor character. )

3) Is the person a fictional character for whom race or ethnicity really isn't material?

I haven't read a lot of Fleming, but leaving aside the fact that RUSH IS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, I suspect that nothing in modern stories using James Bond requires that he be white (or Scottish, though I can't think of a reason why, if he did need to be Scottish, or Scottish/Swiss, he couldn't also be black).

Race or ethnicity only matters if it matters to the story. If it only makes sense to you because you consider "white" to equate with "normal" or "default human being," I'd invite you to then go sit quietly with Rush and share in your irrelevancy.

(P.S. Thanks, Eyebrows McGee for setting this up for me, and everyone else for indulging me in paralleling a character I barely know -- Bond -- with ones I know well.)

posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:51 PM on December 26, 2014 [7 favorites]


This looks like a good place to post this depiction of the Doctor Who casting choice of my dreams, by Mefi's own Steve Lieber.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:58 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


The casting questions are interesting and relevant - and important - but Rock's point about non-actor jobs in Hollywood is, I think, even more compelling and interesting. I think there are perfectly valid reasons why someone might think it a bit odd when casting a movie to cast, for example, a black actor to play the title role in a biopic about Thomas Jefferson, or a white actor to play MLK. There are artistic reasons why someone might do each of those, but generally I think it's easy to understand why someone would be inclined to cast actors in actual historic figure roles by including the race of the figure as part of the decision.

But why are the filmmaking people who do not appear on the screen overwhelmingly white? There is no legitimate reason for that. None.
posted by The World Famous at 11:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [31 favorites]


How about Ruth Wilson who co-starred with Idris on Luther being the next Bond? Her portrayal of Alice was beyond awesome.
posted by futz at 11:16 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think there would be many places and situations his Bond could not be put into particularly because of his appearance. There'd be a lot of circumstances where he'd stand out enough to make people immediately question his presence therefore undermine his ability to be successfully undercover.

Western media creates the impression that white people are the default kind of people, but they really aren't. There hasn't been a James Bond whose presence wouldn't raise eyebrows in the majority of the world yet. Just in the past few years, I've had to watch Daniel Craig clobber his way across Madagascar and Turkey and Haiti and China, bullying his way into muddy tents and flattening persimmon carts as ordinary citizens leap screaming into bushes (IIRC, though I never do). You think nobody noticed that? Nobody noticed him? There's not a chance. Anyone can see the man is MI6. There are 8000 sinister cocktail parties going on every night on planet Earth where Idris Elba would be at least as inconspicuous as Sean Connery, if not more so.

What I'm really trying to say is, please Jesus let this happen oh please.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:24 PM on December 26, 2014 [16 favorites]


The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it's the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It's like, "We only let white people do that." This is a system where only white people can chime in on that.

I can't really speak to the whole casting/acting portion of Rock's argument, but at the end of the business he's discussing here, racism isn't the problem, at least not at the point of hiring. There's a pipeline of people coming up through places like UCLA and similar institutions where you learn how to do things like foley art, places where people who already work in the industry and who have some hiring or recommendation abilities have connections and get new people into the business. That pipeline is unfortunately not populated with "Mexican" people, probably largely for socioeconomic reasons. The reason that "only white people can chime in on that" is because they're the only people around for those gigs, not because the shops and the studios hate non-white ethnicities and actively avoid hiring them. (FWIW, it's pretty much the same deal in live entertainment--the technical theater graduating class at places like Yale and NCSA is generally pretty lily white, and that's where new blood gets hired from.) About the only other means I've seen of getting your foot in that door regardless of what color you are is straight up nepotism (which is becoming more and more rare), or somebody with a lot of innate talent and drive coming up with a fantastic portfolio of original work and putting it up on YouTube and/or showing it around relentlessly until somebody lets them do something, and even then they've got to put up with quite a bit of work in the trenches before they can get their union card and start seeing some steady work. There's a lot of skill and dedication that goes into "picking the right 'boing' for Dodgeball", and there are a lot of people out there who want that job--belittling the work by saying that pretty much anybody could do that so why don't they hire a non-white person is akin to saying "hey, anybody could get up on stage and tell a good Chris Rock or Kevin Hart joke; why is it only black guys?"
posted by sce2aux at 11:26 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Able was I ere I saw Idris Elba.

Cain, a maniac?
Able, sir, did a bad Idris Elba.
posted by msalt at 11:41 PM on December 26, 2014 [29 favorites]


Robin: "Whatta say to that Richard"

Richard: "FFF"

Robin: "Oo, a man of few words- I like that now let's go see Harold Lloyd wind clocks"
posted by clavdivs at 11:56 PM on December 26, 2014


sce2aux: There's a lot of skill and dedication that goes into "picking the right 'boing' for Dodgeball", and there are a lot of people out there who want that job--belittling the work by saying that pretty much anybody could do that so why don't they hire a non-white person is akin to saying "hey, anybody could get up on stage and tell a good Chris Rock or Kevin Hart joke; why is it only black guys?"

Are you're saying that there aren't any black or brown people with a lot of skill and dedication?

Because Chris Rock never said anybody could do those jobs. He just eliminated physical appearance and artistic talent (e.g. writing and delivering jokes) from the equation, which leaves precisely skill and dedication. I believe you are the one who made the leap from "they can find black and brown people qualified to do these jobs" to "anybody can do them," which is not the same thing at all.
posted by msalt at 12:11 AM on December 27, 2014 [17 favorites]




We watch a lot of Everybody Hates Chris in our house. Sublimely funny family viewing.
posted by Nevin at 12:38 AM on December 27, 2014


I hope to see a day when Chiwetel Ejiofor goes EGOT by playing James Bond, Doctor Who, the Phantom of the Opera and covering Frank Sinatra in the same week.
posted by Reyturner at 12:43 AM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]



sce2aux: There's a lot of skill and dedication that goes into "picking the right 'boing' for Dodgeball", and there are a lot of people out there who want that job--belittling the work by saying that pretty much anybody could do that so why don't they hire a non-white person is akin to saying "hey, anybody could get up on stage and tell a good Chris Rock or Kevin Hart joke; why is it only black guys?"


There is a lot of skill and dedication involved, but we can't pretend that the playing field is level either. Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of highly skilled artists, carpenters, photographers, electricians, and sound engineers that are POC, and that is just people I know. They put a shitload of time and sweat and thought into honing their skills, too, and yet frequently find themselves frustrated by cultural preconceptions and expectations that devalue their work for reasons that have nothing to do with its quality. If they do get a foot in the door, they might be expected to tolerate hostile working conditions (such as racist "jokes" - but you're cool, right.)
posted by louche mustachio at 12:49 AM on December 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


There's a pipeline of people coming up through places like UCLA and similar institutions where you learn how to do things like foley art, places where people who already work in the industry and who have some hiring or recommendation abilities have connections and get new people into the business. That pipeline is unfortunately not populated with "Mexican" people, probably largely for socioeconomic reasons.

Assuming that's true (I don't know enough to know if it is), it's still a big problem. It's equivalent to the problems attracting and retaining women and racial minorities to STEM degrees and fields, and there are people working to fix that. It's not like "Well, they can't afford the training" should be the end of the conversation.
posted by jaguar at 3:37 AM on December 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


What's interesting to me about the Chris Rock piece is how he tried to go back to Howard University and start a feeder program for black comedians. I think that shows an great amount of foresight and commitment to both the school and to future comedians.

As bleep pointed out above, talking about a black Bond isn't a particularly interesting idea in the context of Rock's article. Two reasons: Once the movies jumped away from Fleming's books (or those permitted by his estate), there's less reason to stick with the source material. I don't think Bond is sacrosanct in any way, and burbling about him being a Caucasian Scot shows a strange orthodoxy usually reserved for weightier topics.

Combine that with decades of progress and the original character suffers. Not only was Bond a heavy smoker, but he was also a amphetamine user in a few of the books. Hard to relate to a speed addict, especially with meth being a modern nuisance. Finally, if we restrict ourselves to the original Fleming character, Bond's been retired since 1966 or so. Not super interesting to follow a retiree (corpse?) in the year 2014 mulling over his glory days.

The second reason is that it seems more exciting to me to start from scratch with an original character, who isn't weighed down with all of his author's antiquated views. I know there's a strong desire to have Elba to play Bond, and in the spirit of modern retelling, he's an awesome choice. He'd make a strong and attractive Bond. But he'd be better in a role where he can play a spy that rolls over an outdated and out of touch archetype based on Bond. I don't know. Maybe it's just strange that we have this powerful piece from Rock, and we very quickly found a way to maneuver it into being about white America's reactions to a hoped-for casting choice for a character that's quickly becoming a byword for outdated.
posted by boo_radley at 3:39 AM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


A black Bond? What's next, a blue Greedo?
posted by univac at 3:40 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wait, people are worried that Idris Elba as James Bond would STAND OUT? Even completely leaving aside the fact that he would stand out as little or less among, what, about 70% of the world population, James Bond is a "spy" in the same sense that the Freemasons are a "secret society". You've kind of lost the secrecy if everybody already knows who you are.

(In "A View to a Kill", Bond uses the alias "James St. John Smythe" ... for about 15 seconds until the villain looks him up on a computer which says "actually, this guy is secret agent James Bond". When it is essentially canon that your enemies can google you to determine your identity, standing out is not really the main issue.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:48 AM on December 27, 2014


You know what else was a white industry?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 AM on December 27, 2014


You could totally do a black Bond:

Option 1. Bond was the child of the king of a tiny African state, one of the many little colonial divisions the British maintained in their African empire - think Lesotho. Of course, he was sent to Eton and Oxford by his parents. He became a playboy and sportsman, but while on a drugs-and-girls-fuelled sanctions-breaking tour of apartheid South Africa, a Soviet-backed coup led to the massacre of his entire family by Communist revolutionaries. So he joins the British Army, fights in Iraq, Sierra Leone etc., winds up in MI5, still loaded with guilt and violence. Can contrast his service with the white elite who treat him as one of us while maintaining their cynical racism.

Option 2. Just cast a hot good black actor and never mention it. Who cares?
posted by alasdair at 4:39 AM on December 27, 2014 [13 favorites]


So you're saying what bothered you about Live and Let Die was mostly that Bond was played by a white guy?

No, I'm not. That was just another version of a '70s blaxploitation movie and Bond's race was beside the point.

What if, in this fictional story, we imagine that people aren't ridiclously racist and they don't question a black man's presence?


Sure. I imagine that's what the producers might attempt. I just think there's still a large swath of the world that unfortunately isn't going to buy into that premise.

Pst... Obama and MLK are real, historical, people. James Bond is (and I hope I'm not spoiling this for you) a fictional character.


Yeah, and people like RL, his fans, and their ilk seem to have a hard time making that distinction. I'm not saying their "issues" should be coddled but despite all the progress that has been made we're really not a colorblind society yet.

your complaint is a black agent in 2014 from the United Kingdom ISN'T REALISTIC?

I deliberately didn't use the word "realistic" for exactly this reason. If the audience is to be expected to completely suspend disbelief then there will be no problem. I just doubt that's likely to happen. I think Idris' Bond would be subject to a lot of "realism" scrutiny that none of the previous Bonds had to undergo. His qualifications and ability to perform the job as well as the previous Bonds did will be nitpicked to death. Who knows whether he or the producers want to deal with that.

I've been rooting for Elba to play Bond for years (and I laughed at the complaints about Craig's Bond being blond). Heck, I say let's have Idris take a crack at Batman too. I just think there'll be problems staging a Black Bond because of deep-rooted racism and the Hollywood studios don't yet appear to be inclined to take that kind of risk with such a legendary franchise. I'll be elated to be proven wrong.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:08 AM on December 27, 2014


I think Chris Rock would make a good James Bond.
posted by TedW at 5:12 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Apologies for contributing to the derail. I've also realised that my arguments were for how good the current Craig Bond is, and not at all for how bad an Elba Bond could be; I'd watch the hell out of and "Idris Elba is James Bond" movie.
posted by kandinski at 5:32 AM on December 27, 2014


Yes, it's hard to imagine Shakespeare with a black Iago, or with women actually playing the women characters, instead of all white men like The Bard intended.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:46 AM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are.

Bond was born in about 1920. For a new Bond movie set in the present, should we only hire 95 year old actors, and stage slow-motion races in the nursing home hallways? (Don't get me wrong: that would be a great movie and I would watch it.) Don't be so ridiculously racist -- it's a fictional series, there are plenty of great non-white actors who could play Bond better than some of their predecessors, and as people have discussed there are easy ways to make a non-white 007 fit the story very well.

racism isn't the problem, at least not at the point of hiring

The scientific evidence, from well-done studies of the hiring process, is that indeed racism is a factor in hiring decisions, often probably at an unconscious level. But it's also a pipeline problem, just like in other fields, with barriers at every level, from what high school you go to and how you are treated there, to who gets invited to the good internships in college, etc.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:56 AM on December 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


Iago---the Italian translation of the Hebrew Yakov. Is he supposed to be a Jew who had been forced to convert?
posted by brujita at 6:19 AM on December 27, 2014


People here are so quick to throw around the word 'racist'. It's just their way to say 'shut up' while feeling self-righteous.

I'm fine with a black Bond, but going by the only movie I've seen Idris Elba in, he's way too stiff to be Bond. I also don't see anything racist about people wanting Bond to be white. They've grown up with him in movies since the earlier '60s. I can understand why people wouldn't want a white Shaft, too.
posted by stavrogin at 6:30 AM on December 27, 2014


Brujita, not 100% sure, but Othello is often played by a black actor (or white actor in blackface, historically), even though his skin color is never explicitly made clear. Although a modern interpretation is that "Moor" meant African with black skin, that is not the consensus of scholars.

My point was that it's a bit silly when people get too purist about it, because there was no concern about authenticity concerning race and gender of the actors playing Shakepeare's roles while he was alive.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:39 AM on December 27, 2014


People here are so quick to throw around the word 'racist'. It's just their way to say 'shut up' while feeling self-righteous.

Yes, you're right, racism isn't real and pointing out racist arguments and ideas is just a way to shut down arguments that... ummm... well, they all pertain to race, but since racism isn't real and is only a way to tell people to shut up, I can't tell why people say it. All statements and actions exist without context or meaning! Nihilism forever!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:47 AM on December 27, 2014 [15 favorites]


I think Idris Elba, Chow Yun Fat, or Tamsin Grieg would all make decent 007s.
And I thought I was bold casting her as The Doctor.
posted by whuppy at 7:09 AM on December 27, 2014


"Iago---the Italian translation of the Hebrew Yakov. Is he supposed to be a Jew who had been forced to convert?"

It's also Spanish and Portuguese, and usually Iagos are named for St. James (Yakov -> Jacob -> Jacobus -> Jacomus -> James, in English). It also turns up in Spanish/Portuguese as Santiago and Diego (San Diego). Its a name that traveled weirdly in Western Europe. Shakespeare probably would have been at least loosely familiar with the etymology, since "Jacobite" or "Jacobean" is already in circulation in English meaning "things related to James".
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:14 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


(As in Jacobite Christians ... Jacobite British politics follow slightly AFTER Shakespeare)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:19 AM on December 27, 2014


Option 2. Just cast a hot good black actor (actress) and never mention it.

Moneypenny!
posted by mygoditsbob at 7:51 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


> "I also don't see anything racist about people wanting Bond to be white."

I do. In fact, it's hard for me to conceive of a reason for it other than racism.

(Also, wow, there are a metric ton of false equivalence arguments in this thread. Martin Luther King? Seriously?)
posted by kyrademon at 8:03 AM on December 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


Is it racist for me to dislike white actors playing what should've been Asian roles?
posted by gyc at 8:08 AM on December 27, 2014


If you're talking about Hollywood films, probably not.

Does the concept of false equivalence and why it applies here honestly need to be explained? Because I'd be happy to do so if that would be useful.
posted by kyrademon at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


Let's go further down the rabbit hole and ask why does Bond even have to be a cis-male?
posted by Renoroc at 8:19 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


People here are so quick to throw around the word 'racist'. It's just their way to say 'shut up' while feeling self-righteous.

Seriously? You greatly underestimate the ability of mefites to feel perfectly self-righteous saying "shut up" directly without resorting to code words. Like for example: Shut up with that pointless derail.

Is it racist for me to dislike white actors playing what should've been Asian roles?

Rule of thumb. If you sincerely have to ask yourself if something you're doing is sexist, racist or homophobic, the answer is probably yes. And if you're insincerely asking if something you're doing is sexist, racist or homophobic, the answer is almost certainly yes.

But this is also a derail. Please let's not turn this into yet another discussion about how some people's feelings of oppression that they can't be casually racist without being called on it is a worse problem than actual racism.

Rock specifically drew attention to non-actor positions in Hollywood to demonstrate that the reflexive race-specific casting defense is inadequate to explain the massive disparity.
posted by xigxag at 8:26 AM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Renoroc, that's pretty related to the thought I had a few hours ago. Imagine Bond as gay.

Mind you that might cause riots.
posted by edgeways at 8:30 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw a Shakespeare play where a few of the actors were black, I was a little taken aback (I was quite young) - is Gloucester or whomever really going to be black? But you quickly realize that if you did this, you'd exclude everyone except white people from acting in these kick-ass plays. You get over it in a minute and then you never think of it again.

Now, I read all the James Bond books at some point, and I'm pretty sure that Fleming never actually says explicitly that Bond is a WASP - though I'm sure he conceived of Bond as such. And really, that gum has had almost all the flavor chewed out of it - anything to bring it back to life would be an improvement.

Doctor Who does pretty well on this, come to think about it. While the Doctor and his companion have been exclusively white and M/F, one of the things I do love about the show is that the race of everyone else is up for grabs. It seems as if the majority of the romances are between people of different colors - and non-white people are heroes and cowards (sometimes the same person at different times), good guys and villains - and at least 10% of the couples are gay (and we have the super-bisexual and super-charming Captain Jack who flirts with everyone, regardless of gender, age, or color) and it simply never comes up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:43 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Renoroc, that's pretty related to the thought I had a few hours ago. Imagine Bond as gay.


What a great idea! Throw in some loosely based pieces of Alan Turing's life and it could be a winner.
posted by TedW at 8:47 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Imagine Bond as gay.

Why do you assume he isn't? Certainly metrosexual long before it became a thing. So, possibly still closeted, of course, but I mean to say - all those women- maybe a bit of over-compensation? Remember, boys and boys was illegal back in the day.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:50 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Patrick McGoohan was supposedly one of the first considerations to play Bond (Flemming was an initial consultant for Danger Man), but Paddy never seemed to like Flemming's super aggressive womanizing character and flatly rejected Flemming's consultation for Danger Man as well as the Bond role.
posted by edgeways at 9:06 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it racist for me to dislike white actors playing what should've been Asian roles?

I don't like this either, and this thread did make me analyse my anger for a minute and see whether it's justified. Seeing as Asian Americans only make up 4.4 percent of speaking roles, I think it is.

Hollywood doesn't cast Robert Pattinson in Akira because they want to explore the teen gang power dynamics and violence in an American city (for example), they cast him because no one makes movies with Asian-American leads.

When there's a ton of Asian-American representation in Hollywood, when there's more than just Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and Gedde fucking Watanabe, go ahead and put whoever you want in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Until then, it's just a slap in the face: not only will we not cast you in roles where your race wouldn't matter, we won't even cast you in roles where your race would be appropriate and true to the original source material.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:09 AM on December 27, 2014 [34 favorites]


That pipeline is unfortunately not populated with "Mexican" people, probably largely for socioeconomic reasons.

I am not sure what the reasons are but I don't think they're socioeconomic given the zillions of very integrated, very middle class Hispanics in southern California. They probably need the sort of advocacy that women are getting regarding the STEM fields or something.

There were a couple of careers I considered when I was in college that I didn't pursue because I didn't want to be The First Woman Who Whatevered, or even One of 3 Women in Whatever Field. That is a hell of a job and I didn't (and don't) have it in me. Maybe that's true for them, too.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:18 AM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Black people can be Scottish, so I'm not sure why 'Scottish' would stop Idris Elba from being Bond any more than 'English' would.

Yes, it's hard to imagine Shakespeare with a black Iago, or with women actually playing the women characters, instead of all white men like The Bard intended.

To be fair to Shakespeare, it was the law at the time.
posted by Summer at 9:29 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, Bond is an essentially BRITISH character, and "British" is no longer just WASPs. In more ethnically homogenous societies, it might be strange to have a non-that-ethnicity actor play an iconic character, but Britain is an emphatically multicultural society. Bond's Britishness is central to the character but I really dont think whiteness is. Maybe that is some of the disconnect.

One of the things that was striking about the North Korean movies about the US with Korean actors in whiteface to play Americans was that (to american eyes) it had the paradoxical effect of making the North Korean hero look the most American of all, since he just looked like ... a regular Korean-American.

The US and Britain are multicultural societies and restricting our movie heroes to "whiteness" just makes no sense.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:40 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Imagine Bond as gay.
Bond's not gay?
I thought he was a British spy.
posted by fullerine at 9:46 AM on December 27, 2014 [14 favorites]


Hollywood doesn't cast Robert Pattinson in Akira because they want to explore the teen gang power dynamics and violence in an American city (for example), they cast him because no one makes movies with Asian-American leads.

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

Yeah, it is pretty ridiculous to make an Aryan version of Akira. But if they make Jon Hamm the Colonel and Bryan Cranston the Scientist, I'm all in.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:54 AM on December 27, 2014


Maybe throw in Joel Grey as Takashi (no. 26) and Patton Oswalt as Masaru (no. 27)...
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:57 AM on December 27, 2014


Why that would be like having Charlton Heston play a Latino! In fairness, that was the worst part of a great movie.
posted by msalt at 10:05 AM on December 27, 2014


The World Famous: "The casting questions are interesting and relevant - and important - but Rock's point about non-actor jobs in Hollywood is, I think, even more compelling and interesting."

I was reminded of the thought about how "The goal of feminism is not for a female Einstein to have the same opportunities as a male Einstein, it's for a female schlub to have the same opportunities as a male schlub."

sce2aux: "I can't really speak to the whole casting/acting portion of Rock's argument, but at the end of the business he's discussing here, racism isn't the problem, at least not at the point of hiring."

No, really, racism is the problem. For example, the actor Clifton Collins, Jr., is the grandson of Pedro González-González, an actor who'd appeared with John Wayne and others during his day. When Clifton started working, he took the stage name González-González in honor of his grandfather.
"My Latino friends told me not to do it," says Collins, whose father is of German extraction, "because I would never play white again. And there was a stigma that came with the name. [Casting directors] heard me say González-González, but they didn't hear the name, they heard 'Mexican-Mexican,' right in their face. I didn't understand the racism of the Latino thing was as big as it was until I changed my name."

Collins reverted back to his birth name about 10 years ago and has been working steadily ever since.
From an article that starts out about how he was reluctant to take a role as a Little League coach… because it was a team from Monterrey and when they contacted him about it "he'd taken several Latino roles in a row, and didn't want to be typecast."
posted by Lexica at 10:08 AM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am not sure what the reasons are but I don't think they're socioeconomic given the zillions of very integrated, very middle class Hispanics in southern California. They probably need the sort of advocacy that women are getting regarding the STEM fields or something.

That sort of advocacy would help, but I bet there's still a large socioeconomic component. "Middle-class" has a much different meaning for non-white Americans, who are often only a generation or two away from poverty. It's a lot harder to say "I want to go into an industry where I'm basically rolling the dice" to parents who remember what it's like to hold down three jobs to keep food on the table, even if they're now successful.
posted by Etrigan at 10:15 AM on December 27, 2014


Who gets more (although certainly not better) roles: Emilio Estevez or Charlie Sheen?
posted by TedW at 10:19 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Heimdall thing was also pretty surreal. Seeing people seriously arguing over the ethnicity of an actor playing in a fictional interpretation of a fictional interpretation of a fictional story.

Black Heimdall is the equivalent of white Jesus. Anyway, I think Elba would be a fine Bond but I heard that he doesn't want the role because he feels he would only be cast because he's black (the source is Kevin Smith so take it for what's it's worth).
posted by MikeMc at 10:36 AM on December 27, 2014


"Middle-class" has a much different meaning for non-white Americans, who are often only a generation or two away from poverty

You're probably right for a lot of people but in Southern California (and Mexico) there are a quite a number of Hispanics who have been middle class for a long long time- more than a couple of generations. They're probably not the majority but they're not insignificant, either.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:42 AM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ugh, I don't want to see an Idris Elba Bond where he gets frisked by police and treated like shit because he's Black. I want to see an Idris Elba Bond where he gets to be as suave, sexy, charming, and debonaire as every other Bond, because Bond exists in a crazy, escapist fantasy world anyway and in this world being Bond means ladies fall for you, you drive as many great cars as you want, you have fantastic gadgets, and you fit in among high society everywhere. There is no need to change that for Elba and provide an additional reminder to Black audiences that they get shat on every day.
posted by schroedinger at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2014 [19 favorites]


Really, this was my whole point - what some of you thought I missed. If the fictional character is clearly identified as to their ethnicity, their height, what planet they are from, etc. then. they. are. what. they. are.

You must be outraged by all the James Bond movies then, because Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were all taller than Ian Fleming's Bond, and Daniel Craig was several inches too short.
posted by layceepee at 12:06 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I want to see a female Bond. Every bit as much a ruthless, sexist, brutal thug.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:56 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


or place Gotham City in Asia

That's actually been done. By DC Comics itself.
The Bat Man of Shanghai: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3
posted by FJT at 1:01 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the things you could do with a black Bond (if you didn't want, as schroedinger suggests, just to have the "this is a fantasy world where racism does not impact Bond" framing) would be to have Bond do his schtick in settings where being a suave black espionage agent would be a plus - what if he's espioning amongst the elite of Kenya amongst recent social upheaval, for instance? What if he really, really needs to get over with third culture elites at glittering global thingummies and being a black man from a global elite background actually makes him more plausible to these groups because it seems like he's less likely to have a white person's prejudices and provincial attitudes? ...oh, here's an idea - do a retro Bond movie and set it in, like, Cote D'Ivoire in the seventies (like the Yop City graphic novels) and have it be all retro-elegant and it can play off various seventies movie tropes.

I mean, if anything, whole swathes of history and location open up with a black Bond, because while of course any Bond can do the standard Bond thing, white Bond is going to be really out of place in some interesting times and locations.
posted by Frowner at 1:09 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't really get this 'but Bond needs to blend into all kinds of society'.

Because Roger Moore in safari suit really 'blended'.
posted by Summer at 1:12 PM on December 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Because Roger Moore in safari suit really 'blended'.

It was the '70s, everybody wore safari suits.
posted by MikeMc at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2014


really the only thing worth posting further in regards to this Idris Elba Bond "debate" is this
posted by young_son at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because Roger Moore in safari suit really 'blended'.

Made think of this from "Live and Let Die":

Strutter: Kind of obvious you weren't coming out front. Not even with that clever disguise you're wearing.
Bond: Hmm?
Strutter: White face in Harlem, good thinking Bond!
posted by MikeMc at 2:10 PM on December 27, 2014


Black Bond drives a sportscar down a winding mountain pass like this - Vrooooooom Vooooooor

White Bond drives a sportscar down a winding mountain pass like this - Veeeeeeer Vreeeeeeeeerrrrr
posted by mannequito at 2:13 PM on December 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why would anybody want to cast a black man in a role that is a character clearly known as white? To cause a shit storm! To shift the focus on identity politics rather than on how we're all getting screwed by the ruling elite.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 8:26 PM on December 26


Or it could be because Idris Elba is currently the most suave, handsome man alive, and he happens to be black. Your assertions that it's actually, secretly, some sort of PC conspiracy, to "shift the focus on identity politics" is fucking looney tunes.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2014 [22 favorites]


I want to see a female Bond. Every bit as much a ruthless, sexist, brutal thug.

I, uh, spitballed an idea kinda like that to rescue the good on paper villain reversal/reveal from the World Is Not Enough
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or it could be because Idris Elba is currently the most suave, handsome man alive, and he happens to be black.

Sure, the guy can act and he looks good in a tux but isn't there more to being James Bond than that? Actually...I don't think there is. Oh, and he has to come from the Commonwealth (I believe that's a contractual obligation imposed by the Fleming estate). What? Hackney? Well, I guess that covers all the bases then.
posted by MikeMc at 2:53 PM on December 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I want to see a female Bond. Every bit as much a ruthless, sexist, brutal thug.

Just wait for the American Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries reboot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Again, Mr. Bond is a character from the pen of Ian Fleming. Ian Fleming clearly described Bond as white.

Sure, Bond is white as he was written by Ian Fleming. But correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't all of Fleming's novels already adapted? Even if they aren't, any number of Bond films aren't even from Fleming or his novels. James Bond has evolved and changed since Fleming's day by orders of magnitude. Fleming's Bond was dark-haired, yet Daniel Craig is blonde--that's not canon, just as Idris Elba wouldn't be canon.

So...what's the problem? We have enough things to be outraged about without being so sensitive about things that are just what they are.

That coin has two sides. What's the problem indeed...with Idris Elba playing Bond? The fact that he's black could be part of the story and plot (and personally I think this would be a great way to transition him), or the producers could simply play it "colorblind," and have no character remark upon his race at all. Either way it would work, and it only wouldn't work for racist people. But fuck them, so what's the problem?
posted by zardoz at 3:41 PM on December 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am merely wearing an inconspicuous scooba diving suit.
posted by Artw at 7:48 PM on December 26 [7 favorites +] [!]


As long as you've got that MI6 standard-issue duck helmet no one will ever notice you.
posted by chavenet at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


So this all reminds me of that time that Louis CK's ex-wife Janet first appeared on Louie -- and she's played by a Jamaican-American (hilarious in and of itself, considering that his kids are played by two very pale young ladies) (and the actual ex-Mrs. CK is Caucasian, while CK himself is 1/4 Hungarian Jewish, 1/4 Mexican, and 1/2 Anglo-American; was born in Mexico; and spoke Spanish as his first language). And then, in the most recent season, there was a flashback sequence where Young Janet was played by a Caucasian. At the time, a reviewer that I agreed with said:
But I think what Louis C.K. is getting at here is something elemental: Young Louie and Louie are part of the same continuum. Young Janet grew up into literally a different person because of what happened. She has changed and evolved. Louie hasn’t. And that’s all the difference.
But what actually happened in the casting of both Janet and Young Janet is that Louis CK simply does not fucking care:
"Ethnicity is not what was important for that role," says [casting director Gayle] Keller. "It was more about the fact that we wanted someone who just understood the character immediately. All of the actors who come in to audition go on tape and they only get the material when they get to the audition. Everything is a cold reading because Louis likes when actors are not that prepared and forced to go with their instincts."
posted by Etrigan at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm heading to see "Top Five" with a friend tomorrow - really psyched.

I watched Gabriel Iglesias on Comedy Central the other night and noticed that he's a fine actor who happens to do standup comedy. When he does a character, he IS that character, sort of in the Pryor vein.

I thought to myself, "He should be in movies." Then I thought: "Dream on." Remember 10-15 years ago when Luis Guzman was in every second indie flick? Hollywood has gone backwards, I think, mostly because of studios not taking any chances on human-centered films, but of course this affects actors of color disproportionately.

That being said, Iglesias DID play the DJ in Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" and apparently he was the first choice. So perhaps some sort of cultural singularity will occur and we'll see more of him (and other actors of color) on the big screen.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:15 PM on December 27, 2014


Just want to say I understand Gerard's passion about the integrity of fictional characters seeing as how he ightmay ebay unway ootay.
posted by maggieb at 5:31 PM on December 27, 2014


What room is there for a cloak-and-dagger spy who looks great in a tux and lives a life of danger and intrigue in a world of drone strikes and personal information soaked up with a mouse click in a darkened room? A new generation of espionage has long been upon us. Enter the new James Bond.

We got that, it was called The Bourne Noun, it was great mainly, and nothing else has really risen to the top of the heap since--for me anyway. Well, the fourth one sucked but the first three were good.

In some ways, I'm more interested in seeing a female Bond (of any ethnicity but ideally a person of colour). I think there'd be an excellent chance there to really turf out a lot of the more atrocious sexism even in the current batch of films, but would require deft hands to actually do that and not just some grotesque parody.

But while we're on the subject anyway, my vote would be Naveen Andrews for the next Bond. I loved him on Lost.

I know there's a strong desire to have Elba to play Bond, and in the spirit of modern retelling, he's an awesome choice. He'd make a strong and attractive Bond. But he'd be better in a role where he can play a spy that rolls over an outdated and out of touch archetype based on Bond.

I think that could easily be a Bond movie though. A bloviating criminal mastermind with an overly complex plot made of handwavium has captured Bond and is doing the usual Villain Stuff. Bond listens to three seconds of the spiel, shoots the dude through the head, and does the thing to the Macguffin. Cue Bond theme and gunbarrel shot. Similar to the first Craig movie where he shoots the guy talking about killing people. Solid statement that this was going to be a different style of Bond.

Also the theory about Bond being a flashy distraction is great. Thank you!

I am tempted to apply for American citizenship just so I can vote when Chris Rock runs for President. He's batting on Carlin's level, or better.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:37 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


the first three were good.

My wife and I rewatch the first three in a marathon session every once in awhile. It is a remarkably cohesive experience. It was hard to pick up on how well knit together they were when seeing them a couple of years apart in the theater, but it's basically a six hour movie. The fourth one comparatively was a bit of a letdown.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:19 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is that before this, I hadn't really given any thought to future-Bond casting, and now I very much want to see a film exploring the character of a conflicted Bond of Caribbean or colonial African descent played by Elba. That could be a really fertile background for character and conflict in the Bond setting.

Thanks, Rush!
posted by Alterscape at 9:41 PM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's a bad thing if people are thrown off by different ethnic actors playing previous roles in movies. It's because they've been so used to whites in Hollywood movies that caused the disconnect in the first place.

It's also understandable when people are miffed that a character isn't of the race they were in the source material, or that they can relate to. But again, context. There's a disproportionate amount of movies with white actors in them.
posted by halifix at 11:53 PM on December 27, 2014


Female Bond would basically be Lara Croft, if Lara Croft had ever had a decent script.
posted by Summer at 2:04 AM on December 28, 2014


IMO, the only must-have physical characteristic for James Bond is that he must be dead sexy.

Idris Elba qualifies.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:04 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or another Angelina Jolie character- "Salt".
posted by small_ruminant at 10:34 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]




As a non-white lady who grew up watching the Bond movies and has seen them all, even the awful ones, and for whom Skyfall is probably the best James Bond movie ever I WILL FIGHT YOU ON THIS:

1. I have no idea why people think that there aren't any black people with Scottish accents.

2. The myth that Bond can only be playd by a Scotman is really stupid. Sure, Connery put in some great Bond performances in the beginning, but the Bond films from his second tour are uniformly shitty. Plus, 007 Magazine did a poll a couple years back for the favorite Bond films of hardcore aficiandos. Sure, Connery has more movies in the top 10 than any other bond. On the other hand, the other six Bond movies have non-Scottish dudes. Bond in the No. 1 all time Bond movie?

Australian.

3. A couple years ago, Daniel Craig made some public comments that he was up for Bond having an onscreen male/male encounter and that he thought it would be a good idea. The studio LOST ITS SHIT, and Craig then had to go on an damage control tour, saying that he did not think that Bond was gay.

I like to think that in return, he got them to agree that in the next Bond movie, there would be something to suggest that Bond is totally nonplussed by male/male sex -- in Skyfall, there is this great scene where the male villain sexually propositions/threatens Bond with the prospect of male/male sex. And Bond is like, what, like it's a big deal.

4. Idris Elba is the only worthy heir to Craig James Bond, and he could actually pull off fun playboy Bond and make it interesting.

5. The recent Craig Bond movies are actually a lot, lot, lot less sexist than people think they are. Like, a lot.

True, you still get rando dead ladies fridged to advance the plot, but you also have remarkably interesting, excellent ladies played by some top fucking notch actresses -- the last Bond movie, for example, has Judi Dench and Naomi Harris playing amazing lady spies on the opposite ends of their careers, and they take scene after scene after scene out from Daniel Craig. Even more importantly, I think that the script and Sam Mendes's directing meant for them to. The rewrite of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royal for Eva Green is smart, acid-tongued, not having any of Bond's shit, with a dark past of her own. She dies at the end, but the movie makes it very, very clear that it is her choice, her penance, her agency that brings it about.

I'll put the newest Vesper Lynd, M, and Eve Moneypenny up against any lady character from any recent lady-centric action movie.

My fave Bond lady, though, is from Quantum of Solace. That movie gets a lot of shit for having a legitimately disjointed and terrible and implausible (even for a Bond movie) plot, but pretty much everything you need to know about the character of Camille is that old-school fanboys lost their shit

lost it so hard

over the fact that Camille was a gorgeous lady, but didn't sleep with Bond. Instead, her role in the movie was about getting her murder revenge on for the lead baddie killing her family. And at the end of the movie, she rides off into the sunset, alive, revenge complete, respected by Bond. In fact, Bond is shown as getting closure on his Vesper Lynd issues because he helped her. It's great, and the whining from Bond fanboys, even ones whose reviews I usually respect like Ebert, is the schadenfreude frosting on my delight over Camille.

5. The idea of Naomi Harris and Idris Elba being reuniting onscreen as sexually-charged Eve Moneypenny and James Bond is so hot that it makes my BRAIN STOP FUNCTIONING.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:46 AM on December 28, 2014 [15 favorites]


Or another Angelina Jolie character- "Salt".

I loved the shit out of that movie. I'm happysad that it didn't develop into a franchise. Not sure how they could have, but the movie left me wanting MOAR OF THIS PLEASE.

Totally disagree that Female James Bond = Lara Croft. Really, Lara Croft = fanservice female Indiana Jones.

Fun thought: imagine all the heads asploding with a female James Bond (Rosario Dawson maybe? Rowena King?) who continues the exact same banter with Moneypenny.

joyceanmachine, I'd not thought of the Craig-era women in Bond that way. Thank you!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:52 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


But why are the filmmaking people who do not appear on the screen overwhelmingly white? There is no legitimate reason for that. None.

My impression is that the "does this person gel" factor is important in business, and hugely important in the film industry. I don't think it's a "legitimate" reason, no. In the film industry it's a lot of "who you know" and then once you're in you're in barring fuck-ups (and sometimes even then).

I think the same thing is true of places like MetaFilter. Small group hired by Matt based on personal connections and how well they gel with the team and culture after they've satisfied whatever requirements are in place on paper. And everyone is white, I think, right (or almost everyone)? I don't think it's malicious, but it's much easier to just go with what feels familiar.

Thanks for the read, aydeejones.
posted by ODiV at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2014


British theatre had this debate about ten years ago when the National cast Adrian Lester as Henry V. There was bit of fuss in the more conservative newspapers for a week or two then everyone saw how good he was in the role and simply got over it.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:00 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like Elba, but he's 42, too old to be Bond.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:07 PM on December 28, 2014


Craig is 46. Plus, Skyfall was all about Bond getting old (granted, it too great.)
posted by michaelh at 1:55 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


It was not* too great.
posted by michaelh at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2014


Oh man, my plot description of Skyfall is "M and Bond team up to fight the terrorist that is... AGEISM!"

(Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore were over 42 as well).
posted by TwoStride at 4:09 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


jeff-o-matic: I like Elba, but he's 42, too old to be Bond.

Connery was 53 when he did Never Say Never Again, his last Bond film.

Brosnan was 49 when he did Goldeneye, his last Bond film.

Moore was 45 when he did A View to a Kill, his last...no wait, his first Bond film.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:48 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hope they make the Elba Bond film. Anyone that thinks he's too old or black can just not go see it while the rest of us are getting our faces rocked off.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:28 PM on December 28, 2014 [8 favorites]


Guys...
posted by Artw at 5:58 PM on December 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


The British have used spies of African descent for a long time (though this particular example turned out to be a brilliant double spy, important in helping the US become a country).

And as long as I avoid thinking about the actor involved, one of my favorite shows was I Spy, made in the 1960s about two spies that worked together all over the world. Not only was it the first drama to star an African American, his race was never brought up as a plot point in the show!

It seems we've gone backwards in some respects. Would they be as enlightened with a black James Bond?
posted by eye of newt at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2014


My impression is that the "does this person gel" factor is important in business, and hugely important in the film industry. I don't think it's a "legitimate" reason, no. In the film industry it's a lot of "who you know" and then once you're in you're in barring fuck-ups (and sometimes even then).

I think the same thing is true of places like MetaFilter. Small group hired by Matt based on personal connections and how well they gel with the team and culture after they've satisfied whatever requirements are in place on paper. And everyone is white, I think, right (or almost everyone)? I don't think it's malicious, but it's much easier to just go with what feels familiar.


I wonder how the thread would've gone had this been posted early on.

Tricky.

The Bond derail is idiotic, because it's so uncontroversial, except to the rubes. Yes, water is wet, and yes, Bond could be played by an actor of any race, gender, orientation etc.. The only question is what will sell, and those who judge what will and will not sell, regularly make giant mistakes and are horribly conservative/fearful - the audience will usually be ready for things for a painfully long time before the nervous nellies and CYA corporate schemers in marketing wake up to this reality (I'm talking studio films, not little indies).

But back to Chris Rock. He's right in principle, of course. But it's too pat to pin the responsibility for this situation on racism 100% - or rather, on racism in the immediate blast radius. Instead, it's the long range downstream consequences of racial power imbalances going on for generations, so that even if the people in positions of power were actually not be racist in the least (talking Platonic ideal here), the outcomes would continue to be unbalanced just because the whole system is tilted that way.

And now bring it back to the post I quoted. What is the racial makeup of the Metafilter workforce? What is responsible for that? How does racism factor into that reality? It's the same question I asked when I reflected on my having gone to two Mefi meets and seen Not. One. Single. African-American at the meet, of dozens, in Los Angeles, CA. How does racism factor into that? It's easy to say this and that, but what are you going to do about it? It's clearly structural - and so what would CR propose? Note - agreed 100% there is a problem here, as CR points out. But the interesting question is "what is the solution"? And to bring it home, address yourself to the Mefi examples I gave above. It's easy to aim our cannons on the distant and somewhat abstract "Hollywood", and harder to be so quick with "well, why, of course, we oughtta... err... you know... like..." when a situation we're intimately acquainted with confronts us. It's not just about the plentiful supply of good will.

I've been around and worked in the entertainment business out here on the West coast for close to 30 years now. I've worked at one of the three largest talent agencies in town. I've been on both the business and creative sides. And I've seen what's going on. Obviously, I have thoughts about this. Identifying a problem and finding a solution - so very far apart. Everybody (except the clueless) agrees enthusiastically when the problem is pointed out - and then as soon as "so what can we do" comes up, everybody opens their mouths and no sound comes out, because nobody has any solid answers. And I don't mean those CYA answers that is easy to spout - and perhaps even believe in - mentoring, promoting, outreach. I've seen "mentoring, promoting, outreach" since the early 90's with my own two eyes - it was fresh back then, and eminently plausible and therefore embraced with a lot of optimism. Except here we are, some 20 years later, and it's no longer quite plausible to say that more of the same remedy that's got us nowhere much in the last 20 years is going to work any better in the next 20 years. Progress at the margins - often shockingly erased subsequently - just doesn't cut it.

Racism? You know what you hear a lot too? "They" run the town - by "they" we mean a specific ethnic/religious/cultural group. How true is it? The numbers - numbers - would say "yes". But so what? I think the vast majority of people would bristle at any implication that those numbers came about because of some kind of unfair discrimination. Indeed it's a well-worn anti-Semitic trope about who "controls the media". There's history too - hampered in other fields (by more and less soft anti-Semitism), it was easier to create this whole industry from scratch, because there was so little competition, and of course, that has had consequences.

It's not an easy conversation to have, and people don't want to get into areas that will become overly complicated and bog down everything - so we consciously or semi-consciously ignore the complexity and spout good-feel slogans. Except slogans don't get us anywhere, and complexity comes back to bite us.

If immediate blast radius bigotry was controlling, then Jews should never have had the numbers in the industry - because, hello, the U.S. was anti-Semitic for much of the 20th century (and still is to some degree). They managed to do it, because they created the industry (not exclusively, obviously), and more importantly poured enormous human resources into it. It's not because Jews are inherently "good with entertainment" (or "good with money" in banking), but because the whole community threw themselves into it in disproportionate numbers - and when you do that, you'll become over-represented compared to groups that didn't prioritise that. If African-Americans prioritised music and created whole movements - how surprising is it that they dominate hip-hop? Here's a mind bender - what would happen if the same kind of energy was poured into whatever field... film, sports, painting, fashion, whatever.

If immediate blast radius bigotry was controlling, how did gay people come to dominate so much of the fashion industry? Note the parallels. Excluded or hampered in other industries, they poured themselves into a field that was less unwelcoming, and then having the numbers became more welcoming, and when you create a whole industry, you get the numbers. See also arts - ballet, theater etc. Nobody is discriminating against straight people in the fashion industry - and indeed tons of them work there. Just as nobody is discriminating against non-Jews in "Hollywood" - and indeed tons of them work there.

Have all communities been equally oriented toward the entertainment industry? Note - and be extremely careful with this - proportionately. *Proportionately*, how many African-Americans pour their energies into getting into that side of the entertainment business, the one CR is pointing out - below the line, the crafts, the business, the executive side? Proportionately. I've got news for you - because I have actually seen what came into the application numbers when I worked at the agency. You are not going to dominate - or indeed even crack - if you have 3 out of 400 applications in 6 months. It's about the numbers. Because the odds are brutal. You need 400 for just one to succeed - and if you have 400:1 odds, what are the odds that your 3 rolls of dice are going to come up with the win? Numbers. Same for Latino. Asian - slightly different situation... and interestingly enough, different results. When I was at the agency, there were quite a few upcoming young Korean-American, Chinese-American, and (fewer) Japanese-American and even Indian-American. And they are slowly making their numbers in the executive suites in the industry... now finally even reaching studio head status (Kevin Tsujihara, WB). But guess what - there were far, far, far, far more Asian-American applicants at the agency than there were Latino or African-American. Numbers. And you can't simply say "history", because there was no greater history there for Asian-Americans compared to African-American - any smattering was on the acting side (as was true, by the way, for African-American, so even there they were no different history and roots-wise). Numbers, prioritisation, community focus - proportionally.

CR is right to ask the question. But if he - a man of such power, success, prominence and authority - can't get young folks to get enthusiastic about making sacrifices to get into an industry - who can? Because it is a sacrifice - it shouldn't be, but it is. Maybe they can't afford to intern. Maybe given their accomplishments, they can do a lot, lot, lot better elsewhere, instead of working in a mailroom at an agency (which is the standard way to get into the executive and business side) - why, yes, of course... but I'll tell you straight out, when I was in the mailroom back in the early 90's, guess who was in the mailroom with me - lawyers, often in their 30's, even 40's, often with successful careers, who dreamt of working in the entertainment industry, now delivering lunch, making coffee, distributing mail, cleaning up for $250 a week. I made a very good living doing photography and then went to a talent agency and graduated from the mailroom with $15K in credit card debt, because I couldn't live on $250 a week, while working there for 12-14 hours a day. I am not shocked that folks who are not BURNING with desire to be in the industry, decide that's madness. And today it's better than it used to be for entry level people.

But if you can get a whole community focused on making massive sacrifices in face of staggering odds, you'll eventually get the numbers. How do we know? Because we've seen it, over and over again. What are the odds that you'll be drafted into the major leagues, or become a Michael Jordan? Yet, how many kids and their parents, and whole families, and yes, communities, make tremendous, heart-breaking sacrifices to roll those ridiculous odds? Yes, out of that tidal wave of sacrificial lambs, you'll get your modest number of golden unicorns and you'll dominate an industry. Worked in fashion, worked in music, worked in film, worked everywhere. But if there is no tidal wave, you simply can't get enough numbers to find the lucky few. Maybe it shouldn't be this way, but how - in practical terms - do we reform this? How do we make it better? And before we are tempted with too quick and pat answers, remember the post I quoted above. Tricky.
posted by VikingSword at 7:46 PM on December 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


There are a lot of similarities in the music biz too, obviously. The way I put it is that there are "ballers" or "players" in professional sports who are on the level of professional musicians and actors, but then there are "owners." Ballers are rich, but owners decide who get to be ballers, knowing there is a near-endless supply of them to groom, and are wealthy. Luckily in the hip-hop game a lot of "ballers" have started their own labels and become "owners" but they often end up doing the same exploitative things to their talent.

In fact Chris Rock has a bit exactly about that.

There's an often unspoken concern that black people, being more likely to be "low-to-middle-class" are buying less and less music overall, so all music is shifting in favor of a white audience. Simply Google "Music is a white industry" to immerse yourself...

I haven't found the quintessential equivalent article on the music industry, but have increasingly been reading on the topic while immersing myself in more and more hip-hop gossip. For example, Kendrick Lamar is often called out for being too "white friendly" or a "backpack rapper" because he goes into more "emo" topics and has a large appeal with white audiences. I briefly went on a Hopsin binge before getting sick of his shtick, and a lot of folks have the same complaint about him. Both artists have expressed statements in their music that have been read as "self-hating" about the black community, but in a motivating, "c'mon guys, let's show them" almost "Cosby-esque" sort of way. If you Memail me and don't let me forget I might get a real post together :D
posted by aydeejones at 8:57 PM on December 28, 2014


My sample Google terms aren't useful actually, they mostly bring me to this article. These are roundabout ways of getting back to "music is a white industry" but...
black people buy music
music appropriation
music white audience
posted by aydeejones at 9:02 PM on December 28, 2014


Or another Angelina Jolie character- "Salt".

I loved the shit out of that movie. I'm happysad that it didn't develop into a franchise. Not sure how they could have, but the movie left me wanting MOAR OF THIS PLEASE.


Too bad this movie had Jolie in it. It was tepid at best. A much better actress/director/editor/screenwriter could have done wonders for this flick. Hollywood really needs to reevaluate. Indie films are where the good stuff is. And soooo many foregin productions (tv and film) have a very different and refreshing diversity of ethnicty and "average" looking people. Hollywood is airbrush city.

And despite saying the above there are still major problems. Male actors are allowed to age or be plain ugly but actresses rarely are.
posted by futz at 10:51 PM on December 28, 2014


I loved Jolie in it. I just didn't like the movie. No humor. Too grim for me.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:13 PM on December 28, 2014


If Idris Elba isn't the next Bond they should at least make Ruth Wilson the next Bond Villain.
posted by fullerine at 2:13 AM on December 29, 2014


You know, I was in the film and TV business for about 3 years, in production, back in the 90s. I was so scared of having to deal with Harvard-educated, rich white people out in Hollywood, I went to NYC after I graduated uni. I wish I had had any clue as to how to navigate through the business when I was a young woman. I knew nothing. No one at my school gave me any guidance on how I should behave or how to connect with people as an equal from outside the social class I was raised in. I left school afraid that my race, gender, and social class would be held against me, even though I graduated from a selective Big 10 university. I still saw myself as a kid from the ghetto. I was convinced that somehow, I'd "give away" the fact that I "didn't belong".

And yes, black and white people back in my home state said things to the effect that "certain people" run the that industry, and since I wasn't one of them, I would flat out not be given a chance to tell any stories, get any of my writing bought, would get no mentoring, would never direct. Because they'd hire their friends and family over me, of course, and why wouldn't they? Such was the way of things and I had to accept this. I didn't see myself as so supremely talented that I could break through. Plus, the kids who could get their indie movies made had contacts and money. I had my relatives who, though they knew I was struggling in New York, were asking me for money to live on.

The trouble was was that I believed that I could not get past any of this, when obviously, that wasn't true. At the time, I was too worried that I hadn't made a good enough impression to get my next job, so survival trumped everything. I didn't even know about New York Women in TV and Film until I started my current job! And that way of thinking permeated my entire time in the industry in New York. I had only gotten as far as production secretary by my own efforts, and once a major HBO show I was working on moved out of state, I was too scared to try to go for any higher job, or to ask for help or advice from anyone on how I could progress. I did my job well and went home. I didn't network, so I barely knew anyone on the shows and movies I worked on. I didn't realize that connections were forged by going to the bar after work with the others, not in being a good girl and keeping my head down. I cringe now to imagine how subservient I must have come off to people.

Now I see Shonda Rhimes. She didn't care about what anyone said, didn't appear to care about how long it would take to make it, and she went and carved out her place. And while, of course, she didn't make her way to prime time dominance alone, she started with the deep-seated belief that she could put her stories out there and they would be seen, and bought, and put on the air and that people would connect with her work, regardless of race.

I have three young "nephews" from my surrogate family who are in the business now. One is an actor and writer in NYC (both he and his wife have been on some TV shows, Law and Order-style with "under-5" parts), one is an actor and comedian in LA who's just started getting screen time on some cable shows, and one has just graduated from a theater program and will be joining his brother in LA in January, just in time for pilot season. I don't have a terrible job these days, it's somewhat creative and what I do touches lives also, except... I had wanted to have a TV production company. I wanted to be a Shonda Rhimes. :( And I was too scared to even find out what steps would make that happen. When you're "all in", like VikingSword talked about, that means people have your back and are willing to do things on your behalf. You have to not only believe in yourself, but be able to transmit that belief and enthusiasm to others in your network, so they don't feel as if it's a completely foolhardy risk to help you. I didn't believe in myself, ergo, had no one to back me up. You better believe I give all the encouragement to my nephews that I can.

I wish I had had access to Chris Rock's attempts to start a "Lampoon" type feeder when I was in school. I'd've been all over that.
posted by droplet at 6:07 AM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


...[kids] want to be the Lord of the Rings...


who are these children who want to be Sauron?
posted by Tarumba at 6:26 AM on December 29, 2014


who are these children who want to be Sauron?

I'm not a kid anymore, but still I dream.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 AM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


I like the idea of Idris Alba being Bond. The only thing that needs to happen is that we re-prioritize why we'd hire a particular actor, and turn down the skin colour parameter. Here's "Becoming Falstaff", a cool example of how this works. Here you have a small male opera singer being transformed into a much larger man for theatrical effect. It's not that there aren't larger singers capable of doing Falstaff in this production, but Gerald Finley is the man for the job. Does it matter if he's not big enough to play this character? Would it matter if he were black? (And I'm not suggesting Idris A. should play a white Bond...)
posted by sneebler at 6:53 PM on December 30, 2014


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