Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

BASSEY: Diversity in Film: Shaken, Not Stirred

With 24 films and a combined gross of $13 billion, the James Bond/007 movie franchise is a film industry juggernaut. Good or bad, it has netted hundreds of millions of dollars and collected some of of the highest box office revenues of all time.

What is it that piques the interest of audiences all over the world in the aura of personality that is James Bond? The swagger, the martini drinking, the diverse weapons skills, the talent in bed?

The bottom line is that James Bond is supposed to be a charming action hero. Who can replace Daniel Craig after he has finished his tenure after two more movies?
Anyone really, but he should be a minority.

Diversity in the cinema industry as a whole is unfortunately lacking. The University of Southern California recently released a diversity study of minority representation in film for 500 (top-grossing) films and 20,000 characters. It found that over 76 percent of speaking characters in films are white. The University of California Los Angeles did a similar study, finding that over 90 percent of Oscar and Emmy winners are white males.

Yet, this debate becomes divisive, because race issues such as these may sometimes be criticized for consistently attacking the same demographic of white men. There are those who would call this debate petty or claim that it’s motivated by anger.

In truth, the overwhelming amount of people advocating diversity in society are reasonable, rational people.

I have white male friends, but I also have female friends, I have black friends, I have Latino friends, Asian friends, Native American friends and the like. I have seen and heard the struggles that they have endured, and I have experienced some of them myself.

Our priority should be to make American leadership, American hierarchies and American culture look like America. It is important that we do this in our culture and age, because our history has shown us that we are running out of time.

It should be of the utmost importance to include under-represented groups. This country cannot be whole unless all the other parts are represented.
Let’s start including them in the most popular, most profitable films.

Seven actors have played James Bond on screen. With newest incarnation Daniel Craig’s contract up within the next two films, the question of who will replace him remains a topic of debate.

Coming off Rush Limbaugh’s highly unpopular comment that James Bond must be “white and Scottish,” it is clear we still live in a world where race is still an issue that draws unnecessary debate.

The original purpose of James Bond was to recapture Britain’s lost perception of its national power among its citizens, after they saw themselves becoming a regional power after World War II. Black actor and reported contender for the next Bond, Idris Elba, is a British citizen. He grew up in Britain, and has practically lived there all his life. He has played roles that are treated with great respect in society, such as that of the title police detective character in “Luther,” one of the BBC’s most popular TV shows, about an embattled British homicide investigator, and Stacker Pentecost, the military commander of the extraterrestrial defense system in “Pacific Rim.”

It is a fact that we cannot stand to ignore any longer that American film casts are 76 percent white on screen, while only 56 percent of the people who pay to see these movies are white.

I have heard the argument that a black actor playing James Bond is akin to a white actor playing Nelson Mandela. This is an incomplete analogy.

Yes, Matt Damon should not play Mandela but Will Smith should not play Franklin Delano Roosevelt either. These are profiles of unique individuals’ social struggles, and need to be respected as such.

Nobody needs to be white, black, brown, male or female to play an artist, a dancer, a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman or a general. Actors shouldn’t need to be of any background to write about, mold, or portray a race-neutral leader or a symbol.

So yes, we should make James Bond black. It shouldn’t matter to begin with.

But it is an unfortunate indicator of the way we continue to place whites over minorities in film, and yet another onus placed on us to be mindful of inequality in the industry.

Minority actors can play a role that is not just about their struggle for freedom, but about actual freedom. They want to be able to express themselves in roles the same way that white people do. It’s not about race. It’s about freedom.


MusaBassey_ColumnistPhotoSketchMusa Bassey is a freshman in the College. The Undergrad Almanac appears every other Tuesday.

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