- 07 Aug 19
The news recently broke that the newest movie in the iconic James Bond franchise will be doing away with its played out “Bond Girl” role and introducing their next leading actress as 007 herself. Yeah, you read that right - the next 007 is a woman. But that’s not the only headline that has people talking. Not only is the new 007 is a woman, she's is also black.
Lashana Lynch, who just recently gave her breakthrough performance as fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, has been cast as “Nomi,” in the yet-to-be-titled 'Bond 25'. Her character will not be James Bond specifically, but the new holder of the illustrious alias, “007”. This radical concept change, however, is not being given as warm a welcome as the producers might’ve hoped.
The movie received a public backlash for changing the role of 007 all together. And just like with any other “controversy”, people have taken to the verbal battleground that is Twitter and shared their opinions on why they think this was a terrible idea. Some of the highlights being this:
I really feel sorry for today's youth, I grew up watching James Bond with fast cars, fast women, a man of excellence, focus & competency.
Today's boys will get this, some Grace Jones looking shemale replacement, and we wonder why men today are so weak.
— Richard Cooper (@Rich_Cooper) July 14, 2019
And one more, just for shits and giggles…
— Kate in Pittsburgh ⚾ (@kcpitzarella) July 14, 2019
All of this follows the controversy that exploded with the announcement that black actress Halle Bailey will be portraying Ariel in the upcoming live action version of The Little Mermaid, which has received even more hateful backlash due to the fact that Ariel was not cast as a white person like the 1989 cartoon portrays her as. People have been quick to attack Disney for straying from the original portrayal of Ariel, saying that they are creating diversity just for the sake of creating diversity. (And before people go off and say stuff about it being a Danish fairytale so she should be white, I would refer you to Freeform’s open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls.)
An open letter to the Poor, Unfortunate Souls:#TheLittleMermaid #Ariel #MyAriel pic.twitter.com/XYJSXKt2BU
— Freeform (@FreeformTV) July 6, 2019
This is the same criticism that many other movies and TV shows that have gotten throughout recent years. Viewers consistently voicing their aggravation about the casting choices, and the producers, writers and casting agents being accused of throwing people of varying races, sexual orientations, gender identities, body sizes and ability statuses into their scripts to do just that; create diversity for the sake of diversity.
And you know what? They’re totally right. That’s exactly what they’re doing. They are creating diversity for the sake of diversity. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
For me growing up, watching movies or TV never made me question my place in society or whether or not I belonged in it, because I always saw women who looked like me on the screen; white women with blonde hair and light coloured eyes. The same can be assumed for white boys, who constantly saw white men starring in every film and show on their TV. They never questioned their acceptance in society because their existence had already been widely validated by everything that flashed across their screen.
But can the same be said for black people in my generation? Can the same be said for Latinx people of my generation, or other people of colour? What about disabled people of my generation? LGBTQ+ people? People of a larger body size? How often did they see someone like them portrayed on screen? And when they did, how often were those characters portrayed without some sort of stereotype attached to them?
Diverse representation of people in media is something that has been needed for quite some time now, and we are now finally starting to see a consistent pattern of it. But quite a few people are not having it, with one example in particular I heard recently being someone who claimed that diversity was being “shoved down their throat.” I've heard this analogy before, but it was only on this occasion that I truly stopped and thought about the meaning and intention behind that statement at a greater level.
Before I go any further, allow me to say this; I know the position from which I speak - which is a position of white, able-bodied, and (relatively) straight privilege. I do not presume to know the viewpoints or experiences of people of colour or any other minority in general. It’s an odd and unsettling feeling to try write about the experience of minorities when you aren’t one. You don’t personally understand what they have experienced and its more than likely that you never will, and you don’t want to overstep boundaries and try to speak over them. And that is not at all what I am trying to do.
But as someone with those aforementioned privileges, I feel that it is a responsibility of mine, as well as those of everyone else with those privileges, to call out injustice (and frankly bullshit) when I see it. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.
For the longest time, our media; movies, TV shows, commercials, etc.; have been dominated by mainly white, cisgender, heterosexual, thin, able bodied people. Deny it if you want, but it’s overwhelmingly true. For years, media in the western world has spoon-fed everyone the same subconscious belief; that white people, straight people, and people who encompass any other “societal norms” are meant to be the leads, and everyone else is just there to support their story.
Only recently have Hollywood and the film and TV industries began to say, ‘enough’ to this exclusion. Within recent years we have seen the rise of diversity in media that the world has so desperately needed. We have received new, diverse additions to the worlds classic favourites, like Ghostbusters, Star Wars, countless super hero movies with female/ POC superheroes; and so many others are on the way. Diverse representation is on its way to becoming a normalised thing; but it has been a long and difficult road to get here.
Yes, there were some shows and movies that were ahead of their times and broke stereotypes, such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Ellen (the sitcom), Legally Blonde and even Dora the Explorer. But those were few and far between. Many would be quick to argue with me and say “no this show had a black person in it,” or “that movie had a gay person in it” but that is exactly my point. A black person. A gay person. Minorities deserve to be more than just token characters in a show that’s based around a white/straight lead. That is creating diversity for the sake of diversity, and not in a good way. They use token characters as ways to claim that they have diversity and representation within their production without actually having any. We’re finally at the point in this process where a strong and independent female lead is normalised. This is huge progress, and with the inclusion of women like Lashana Lynch as 007 and Halle Bailey as Ariel, we are doing even better to include not only women, but women of colour, which is the open door to allowing all minorities a chance to be represented on screen. However, we can do better, because this fight is about more than just lack of representation; it’s also about lack of proper and accurate representation.
Improper representation of minorities in cinema dates back to the 1800s when black characters would be included in films, but would be portrayed by white people wearing black face. While blackface is no longer done and accepted (at least on TV), that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from white washing dozens of roles meant for people of colour.
From Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo, to the all-white cast of Exodus; Gods and Kings (I mean, do Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton or any other actor in that movie look remotely Egyptian to you?) to Jake Gyllenhaal in The Prince of Persia and Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, (plus dozens more) Hollywood has done a fantastic job of actively keeping the industry white as snow.
Countless movies based on Japanese Anime’s have been white washed into oblivion, such as Speed Racer, Dragonball Evolution, The Last Airbender, and of course Ghost in the Shell, which caused a huge controversy when Scarlett Johanson was cast as the lead actress instead of a Japanese actress. The act of casting white people in roles meant for people of color is essentially an indirect way of telling POC that even when their own culture is being represented, they still don’t belong.
There is often the argument that there are not enough big name actors who are Latinx, Asian, Native American, etc. to play roles in big movies or shows. This excuse is not only a way to justify the whitewashing of roles meant for POC, but also a way to allow it to be continued by not allowing anyone from those cultures to become a big enough name in the first place.
That is why the surplus of inclusive movies, TV shows and ads are becoming so popular, because for the first time everyone is seeing themselves represented on screen in front of the entire world. From Black Panther to Coco to Spiderman into the Spiderverse and so many others, the entire entertainment industry has finally been giving the world the on screen representation we so badly needed.
So when someone says that diversity is being “shoved down their throat”, they’re laughably incorrect, because what’s happening is the exact opposite. People of minorities are finally being consistently represented on screen in roles other than that of the side kick/supporting character to a straight white lead.
The entertainment industry is slowly becoming a more positive and accepting place, but people who can’t handle the concept of change are claiming that diversity is being shoved down their throat because they are used to the privilege of being favoured. And when you’re used to privilege, experiencing equality can often feel like oppression. Saying diversity is being shoved down our throat is essentially saying that you acknowledge people who are different from you, but you don’t want to see them or be purposefully made aware of their existence.
Moral of the rant/article/whatever this is; representation is important. representation is necessary, representation makes a difference. So why not create diversity for the sake of diversity? What is so wrong about making everyone feel included? What is so wrong about letting people know that anyone can be Spiderman; anyone can be a mermaid; anyone can be 007; anyone can be the star. Nothing. Absolutely nothing is wrong with that.
So to the people who are claiming that diversity is being shoved down your throat; stop. Diversity is finally being integrated into mainstream media to the point where it accurately represents our society and everyone within it. And if you can’t get on board with that, then you are part of the problem, and you’re gonna get left behind.
But to the people who are routing for this new age of representation, I say thank you and keep it up, because the more people there are who want representation, the more we will get it. And the more representation we get, the more everyone, and I mean everyone, will start to feel that they are seen, heard, noticed, and welcomed. And who wouldn’t want that?
So in order to end this on a good note, here are some tweets from people that congratulate Lashana Lynch and/or condemn people when their white privilege is exposed as white supremacy! Enjoy!
OH MY GOD. A Black woman saving the world as 007 and being the most stylish person on the planet — sounds about right.
Lashana Lynch deserves this so much, she’s so dope! I can’t wait, congrats @LashanaLynch. https://t.co/PiDEe0CUi0
— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) July 14, 2019
Ppl in the comments hate this, but think Scarlett Johansson deserves better. Y’all have no shame about looking like racist hypocrites at all. https://t.co/7R03A0KXkX
— Valerie Complex (@ValerieComplex) July 14, 2019
And P.S.; if you’re wondering my personal opinion on it (in case you haven’t already grasped it enough), I’ll leave you with one final tweet that I think sums it all up quite nicely.
Thoughts and prayers for everyone caught in this storm.
Hurricane Barry? No, I’m talking about the surge of white tears we’ll have to endure when word gets out that the new 007 will be a black woman.
— Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) July 14, 2019