Tag Archives: The Mandarin

James Bond is Debonair, Deadly, and Black?

To start things off, current Bond actor Daniel Craig announced in 2008 that we might be ready for a bit of a shift in the mythos of Ian Fleming’s most well-known character. He’s quoted as saying “After Barack Obama’s victory I think we might have reached the moment for a coloured 007.”

Four years later and the Huffington Post has an interview with latest Bond Girl Naomie Harris, with an exchange that goes as follows:

In recent years there’s been talks of the possibility of fans seeing a black James Bond at some point. Do you have any personal favorites that you would consider for the role?

I didn’t realize that there was this talk and then I did a film with Idris [Elba] and he said that he met Barbara Broccoli [James Bond producer] and that it does seem like there is a possibility in the future that there could very well be a black James Bond. And I would have to vote for Idris because I just finished working with him and he’s a great guy. [Laughs]

Obviously this change would rile people [and racists] quite a bit, but it actually fits in with a very popular fan theory. The idea is that “James Bond” is a codename that’s passed on from one agent to the next, justifying the change of roles as the decades have rolled on, and the extreme personality changes in the character. Lee Tamahori, the director of Die Another Day actually espouses this theory, and thought it would be great if former Bond Sean Connery could make an appearance in his movie alongside Pierce Brosnan.

Idris Elba is an immensely-talented actor, and a shoe-in for the role. The London native has clearly thought long and hard on the issue, and although he appears to have had some uneasiness about it, the following quotes show that he now appears to be very on board with the idea.

I would do it, but I don’t want to be called the first black James Bond. Do you understand what I ‘m saying? Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond. So if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond.”

– Idris Elba, interview with CNN, 2011.

I’d be honoured to play the part if it comes my way.

– Idris Elba, at the Golden Globes, 2012.

I engaged in a recent debate with someone over the casting of Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in the upcoming Iron Man 3, and the same argument I’ve heard time and time again popped up. “The person who’s best for the job gets cast.” Somehow, though, I doubt that those who believe this will be using the same logic in support of Idris Elba portraying James Bond.

In all honesty, the world probably isn’t ready for a Black James Bond. People are, in general, averse to change, especially when it comes to their beloved characters. While a film with Elba as Bond will receive a large amount of criticism [much of it racist], it may just be the beginning to a world that truly doesn’t see colour.

Why I’m Okay With The Mandarin

This is part of a multi-blog series about Race and Comic Books put together by RodtRDH. Justin Tiemeyer has written the first of many such posts [about black comic book characters] on his blog, Cavemen Go.
                                                                                                                                                                  

One of my favourite blogs [you can see it in the sidebar] featured an article sometime ago titled “On Marvel, Mandarin, and Marginalization.” The gist of said article asking why an Asian villain like the Mandarin is being portrayed before any Asian American lead heroes. I’m going to start my defence with the quotes racebending.com used:

“There are certain fears and certain strengths the character evokes that are applicable, but of course you have to completely remove any of that short sighted cultural ignorance that leads to any sort of bigotry in the storytelling. That isn’t to say those fears and shortcomings of Iron Man as relating to that character aren’t relevant…He was based in China which was then mysterious because it was Red China. Today China is mysterious in other ways because it’s Global China.”

– Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 to CHUD in 2006

“You have to do The Mandarin. The problem with The Mandarin is, the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that.”

– Favreau again, to MTV in 2010

“The Mandarin is a racist caricature.”

– Iron Man 3 director Shane Black at Long Beach ComicCon, October 2011

I’m not going to skirt around the fact that the character was indeed rooted in the “yellow peril” that was rampant at the time of his inception, but the following images should paint a picture of his evolution since that time.

From left to right: The Mandarin as he first appeared in the 60s, then the 90s, and the present day.

Continue reading