Black James Bond a Great Idea?

I just read in my newspaper that Barbara Broccoli, the current producer of the James Bond movies, said something along the lines that – as there is now a black American president, there might just as well be a black James Bond.

I didn’t know this, but it seems that the same thing was actually discussed back in 2004 when there where some rumors that the colored actor Colin Salmon would step into Mr. Bond’s shoes after Pierce Brosnan. I must admit that, from a pure marketing perspective, I thought a forum post I found on this topic to be right on the money:

Shouldn’t this be in the “Career Suicide” thread?

Naturally, in that very same forum thread, quite a few people (who no doubt felt an irresistable urge to once again show how open minded they where – by the way a trait instilled in quite a few of us by skillful “marketing” as well) where saying that maybe this was a good idea or perhaps even “about time”.

Now, since I don’t have any of the marketing data the producers of the James Bond movies have, I can’t say if a black Bond would be an ingenious move for the series or a horrible mistake. However, I am inclined to believe the latter.

Here’s why:

Positive brand recognition is one of the main aims of almost all marketing. You want your product to be “top of mind” in people’s heads. You don’t want them to think “car” – you want them to think “BMW” (assuming that you work for said brand, of course).

People learn to love certain characteristics of a product almost as much as they love the actual products. Take the classical shape of a Coca-Cola bottle for example. The beverage is actually almost never sold in this old glass bottle anymore, but all the same that old image is still associated with their brand – even if you buy it in a can. I think this also is a good example of branding that people subconsciously respond to. Thanks to this, as well as some other aspect, you immediately know how to separate a Coke from any other soda out there.

And the reason it works this way is that you have learned what Coke looks like. I could probably serve the same coke in two different bottles, one having the right look and the other something that makes it look like a cheap knock-off. I am willing to bet that a majority of the people testing the beverages would say that the real Coke tasted much better, even though both bottles actually hade the exact same content in them.

So what has this got to do with bond?

The James Bond island in Thailand.

Do you recognize this place? I case you do, I assume that you would actually prefer Mr. Bond to remain the white guy he is known as.

Well, the audience of the Bond movie has grown up with a certain kind of mental image about who James Bond is. Have you ever met someone who you would probably not even be able to torture into admitting that there is any other “true James Bond” besides Sean Connery?

I’m sure you do, and I am also willing to bet that the person in question probably was introduced to Bond for the first time when Connery indeed was portraying this British agent with a special relationship to shaken martinis and beautiful women.

The first Bond movies I ever saw starred Roger More as the leading man. And if I would spontaneously “think about James Bond” who’s image do you think appear first in my head? That’s right, Roger Moore’s.

In fact, the first time I saw another (even older) James Bond movie starring George Lazenby I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. When I much later read an esteemed film critic claim that Lazenby was in fact by many regarded as the best Bond ever, I laughed so much that I think I actually DID wet myself a little…

Since then I have learned to live with others such as Dalton, Brosnan and Craig as James Bond, but I must confess that the mere thought of a black actor portraying James Bond caused an immediate knee jerk reaction. And it has nothing to do with racism, just with the fact that I am so strongly primed to think of James Bond as a white, male British agent. I would have reacted in exactly the same way to the idea of a white man portraying Ray Charles in the movie with the same name.

The question the producers of the James Bond movies must carefully consider is if they would actually gain something by changing the skin color of their main character, instead of only making the whole thing seem like an unintentional comedy in the eyes of their old fans.

I have gathered that quite a few people think that Daniel Craig’s Bond is very close to becoming too pretentious. We don’t want to feel sorry for Bond, nor do we want to see him sulking over some love he lost – he is agent 007 for goodness sake! I don’t care if what he’s doing or if his character isn’t realistic in that regard. We have plenty of other drama series and movies dealing with feelings of lost love etc. Personally I don’t want to be force fed the same stuff in James Bond movies as well.

With the above in mind, I think it is most uncertain if many James Bond fans – especially the older ones – would be very thrilled about another ethnicity for their beloved hero.

But I could be wrong of course. You should never say never (again) I guess.

Who knows, maybe it would also actually be a smart move for Coca-Cola to change the color of their top selling product to yellow, with a dark blue logo…


Photo credit: René Ehrhart under a CC licence.

3 Responses to “Black James Bond a Great Idea?”

  1. free2bee says:

    I have to agree with you, hate to admit it, but I really do! James Bond was created with a British WHITE man in mind, when I think of Bond, I think – Sean Connery…even if Billy Dee Williams (undeniably one of the savviest black men to EVER walk this earth) was to take a stab at it, it just wouldn’t work.

    Nice Post!

  2. […] I, in my earlier post about a black James Bond, said that some people think the latest Bond movies where almost a bit too pretentios, I would like […]

  3. Vamp_Almighty says:

    Although this article is a couple of years old.Its ok to say black insted of colored… i grew up reading James Bond novels and watching all the movies,and I as a “black” male,at times would visualize a black 007 when i was reading the books. I do agree with you on one thing.George Lazenby & Timothy Dalton were joke Bonds. Sean Connery is a scottish man that played a british spy and yes he is the best Bond ever (followed by Roger Moore then Pierce Brosnan).What i’m getting at is that 007 can be black or white. Just as long as he has that Bond swagger. Colin Salmon is a great choice,also Idris Elba who is also british born and raised. I’ve asked white women that i know who are hard-core bond fans about a black Bond and they said it would be a brilliant idea if they would give an black british actor a shot. Just as long as they dont black up the whole movie,ticket sales would go through the roof. Oh! Daniel Craig is a dark cut-throat Bond (pure genius).He goes up there with Connery and Moore. open up your mind a little Mr. Hawkins and read a Bond book and imagine him being black…….

    • Mike says:

      The main theme of this post was meant as a reflection on branding and how our opinions and views are heavily driven by our personal background as well as how by we are primed (by advertising for example) to perceive something. The “black Bond” aspect was used as an example simply because I happened to read about it at the time.

      As I said multiple times in the original post – no disrespect intended.

      But while we’re at it (being open minded), shouldn’t all ethnicities then get a shot at playing the British secret agent?

      For instance, why not begin by making Bond Indian or Pakistani?

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