With Moneypenny in Hijab!

Rush Limbaugh’s Fear of a Black James Bond

The speculation that the next Bond might be black has Rushbo all hot and bothered. All the more reason to hope it happens.

12.29.14 10:45 AM ET

Rush Limbaugh is freaking out!  So what has got ole Limbaugh so worked up this time? No, it’s not feminazis or Muslims or the President. Limbaugh heard that Sony Pictures was considering casting as the new James Bond—assuming Daniel Craig doesn’t want to play the role again after the upcoming Bond film—the talented British actor, Idris Elba.

That news sent Limbaugh into a tizzy. Why? For those unaware, Elba is black. The idea of black Bond caused Limbaugh to exclaim on his show last week that Bond was “white and Scottish, period.”

While Limbaugh did concede that Bond was a fictitious character, he still insisted, “We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white.  Bond was never black.”  Adding, “I know it's racist to probably even point this out.”

“Probably racist”? No, I’d say definitely. How else do you describe the notion that certain roles should be labeled as "whites only”?

Limbaugh then tried to defend his asinine opinion by asking if people would be okay if Nelson Mandela was played in a movie by Kelsey Grammer?  Well, it could happen, I guess. But since Mandela is a real person – as opposed to say, James Bond – it could prove difficult for audiences to believe Grammer’s Mandela when he complains about being discriminated against due to his skin color. (Unless, of course, Limbaugh meant Grammer was to play the role in black face, which we shouldn’t put past him.)

Look, I hate to even write about Limbaugh because he says crap like this in a desperate effort to get press.  But there are times when he must be called out.  Just like when he made racially motivated comments in the past such as, “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” And that the NBA should be renamed “the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ‘em gangs.” 

Limbaugh makes comments like this because his right-wing fans require a non–stop diet of race-baiting red meat.  But Limbaugh isn’t alone in pandering to conservative white America on the issue of race. Who can forget last December when we were treated to Fox News’s Megyn Kelly’s view that “for kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”

Kelly made that comment in response to a thoughtful article by Slate’s Aisha Harris titled “Santa Claus should not be a white man anymore.”

Kelly, however, didn’t stop with Santa Claus. She also opined that Jesus was white, noting he was “a historical figure, that's a verifiable fact.” Actually, the Bible describes Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jewish man, as having skin color that was “burnished bronze,” not white.

While we can debate whether historical figures should always be played actors who share the same race, clearly fictitious ones can evolve as the times change. However, to the right, if the character they love was originally white, then they should stay white forever. They view any updating of a character's skin color to reflect our nation's changing demographics—and to open up primo roles to non-white actors, who’ve spent plenty enough decades playing servants and sharecroppers and so on—as a sacrilege.  In fact, Limbaugh has viciously attacked the concept of multiculturalism in the past with comments like, "Multiculturalism is ripping this country's heart out."

Don’t forget that Limbaugh, along with others on right, even attacked Coca-Cola’s commercial during the Super Bowl back in February because it featured people singing “America The Beautiful” in different languages and by people of various races and ethnicities. Many on the right truly despise any celebration of our nation’s diversity, even a one-minute Coke commercial.

So when the entertainment industry wants to cast a person of color in a role that was traditionally played by a white person, the outrage is even more severe. We recently saw that very thing with the new “Annie” movie because a black actress played Annie.

Same goes for the comic book character “Captain America,” which Marvel announced in July would be now be portrayed as a black man. Indeed, Limbaugh, true to his outdated philosophy, bemoaned both these two racial updates and mocked those who advocate that “we need to be equal about this.”

If the Bond issue was really about some type of literary integrity, we would have heard Limbaugh and his ilk screaming over the recent film “Exodus,” where Moses was played by British actor Christian Bale and the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II was played by the blonde hair, blue-eyed Australian actor Joel Edgerton.  This film elicited complaints from some on the left, but not a peep from the right.

However, intellectual honesty is the first thing to go when you are forced to constantly pander to your base. And you can expect to hear even more of this type of shrill whining from Limbaugh and his brethren over the coming yeas as America becomes even more diverse. To be honest, though, it’s kinda of fun to watch them freak out.

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So back to James Bond. Will we see a black Bond? Well, Elba has publicly stated that he would love to play the role. He even playfully mocked those raising the issue of if there could be a black Bond with his tweet Saturday: “Isn’t 007 supposed to [be] handsome?”

Yes, the original Bond, as imagined by Ian Fleming, was obviously white. Born around 1920, he was indeed Scottish, and in Fleming’s mind he resembled the composer Hoagy Carmichael. But of course the film franchise has strayed far away from the literary premise, especially considering that that original Bond would be pushing 100 now and therefore pretty unlikely to be out seducing women and killing people. Over the 50 years of Bond films, he’s stayed about 35 years old and has gone from fighting the Russkies to taking on evil media moguls and cyberterrorists. Just as there are presumably people of color in the real-life MI6 these days, there’s no reason today’s Bond has to be white.

Elba as Bond would be great. However, being of Arab heritage and Muslim, I'd really love to see an Arab or Muslim James Bond. I can picture him now, instead of introducing himself as, “Bond...James Bond, ” he’d say, “Abdullah...Abdullah Abdullah.” If you think Limbaugh is screaming now, just think how angry he’d be to see that Bond.