Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He's Having A Jolly Good Time

"When you start a sentence with 'this is probably racist,' you should stop right there."

Priceless. And that was Cenk Uygur's reaction to Rush Limbaugh after the latter on Tuesday commented

One of the e-mails that leaked in the hack of Sony, Amy Pascal, the cochairman of Sony Pictures, in an e-mail thread back and forth, I forget who it was, she suggested that when Daniel Craig's run as James Bond is over -- and this is it, this is contractually his last film -- she suggested a new James Bond.  I'm not sure how you pronounce the guy's name.  Idris Elba is what it looks like.  Idris Elba, which is -- I can't say African-American, 'cause he's British.  African English.  African Brit.  He's black. He's from Great Britain. He was on The Wire, and he was in a British cop drama, procedural called Luther. 

Do you watch Luther?  Luther on Netflix?  I have it, I just didn't watch it.  Here's the thing, though.  James Bond is a fictional character, obviously.  James Bond was invented, created by Ian Fleming, a former spy, MI6, and James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming.  He was white and Scottish, period.  That is who James Bond is.  But now Sony is suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton rather than a white from Scotland.  But that's not who James Bond is, and I know it's racist to probably even point this out. 

But the franchise needs to get with it, right?  The franchise needs to get hip. The franchise needs to get with the 21st century.  That's right.  We had 50 years of white Bonds because Bond is white. Bond was never black.  Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond.  The character was always white. He was always Scottish.  He always drank vodka shaken not stirred and all that. 

Okay, so we're not supposed to have a problem with this.  I mean, it's the movies.  Come on, we've had 50 years of white James Bonds.  We need to spread it out.  We need to be equal.  We need to be fair about this.  Okay, fine, let's play a little game.  (interruption) Jay-Z's favorite drink?  How would I know what Jay-Z's favorite drink is?  Ah, what would that be, Cristal?  Yeah. 

How about in the movie about the Obamas, 'cause there's gonna be one, how about George Clooney play Obama and Kate Hudson play Michelle (My Belle) Obama?  How would that do?  I mean, if we're gonna do this, let's imagine it.  Nelson Mandela movie, Idris Elba played Nelson Mandela and Nelson Mandela was black.  The movies can do whatever. Kelsey Grammer as Nelson Mandela. How about that?  We're just playing here, ladies and gentlemen. 

Al Sharpton.  There will be a movie, The Al Sharpton Story.  Who do we get to play Al Sharpton?  'Cause they need two or three of 'em at various -- how about Rob Reiner to play the early Al Sharpton with the bullhorn and megaphone and all that.  General Colin Powell, Colonel Colin Powell.  You know there's gonna be a series of TV documentaries or movies. Who will it be?  How about George C. Scott.  He played Patton.  I know he's dead, but what does that matter?  We could reproduce him cinemagraphically. 

How about, let's see, let's see, Condoleezza Rice?  We do a movie on Condoleezza Rice. You might be thinking that we would have Halle Berry.  No, no, no.  Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson, all she's have to do is take some piano lessons, she's got it. Scarlett Johansson is Condoleezza Rice. Michael Sam.  You know there's gonna a movie on Michael Sam.  And if Idris Elba is going to play James Bond and if that's a natural hit and that's the only way we can go and then let's see, how about Hugh Grant as Michael Sam? ...

They did it with Whitney Houston.  There was a movie in 1947 called The Bishop's wife, and it was remade for Whitney Houston called The Preacher's Wife.  Sometimes a story is just a story, but we can always make it better. We can always be more fair.  We can always be more equal about it.  So, fine and dandy.  George Clooney and Kate Hudson as Barack and Michelle Obama, and you can have Idris Elba as James Bond.

You might wonder why someone says "I know it's racist to probably even point this out" and then goes and points it out.  You'd almost think he was egging his audience on, especially as he mentions Nelson Mandela, Jay-Z, Al Sharpton, Michael Sam and, of course, Michelle Obama. To Rush's credit, he did mention one Republican, Mushroom Cloud Condoleezza Rice, and neglected to mention one of the right's favorite boogeymen, "AlSharptonJesseJackson."

Rush's apparent failure to recognize the difference between real people and imaginary characters understandably is pivotal for Uygur (as seen in the video below), Raw Story noting

“If they think they’ll get good box office returns, and he’d make a great Bond and they’d make more money — hey, Rush, we’d call that capitalism, isn’t it?” Uygur said. “I know it bothers your racist ass — that’s probably why you won’t go see the movie. But the rest of us are not like you, and we might enjoy things ‘shaken, not stirred’ at Bond.”

Limbaugh brought up the issue on his radio show earlier in the day, arguing that Bond, the fictional British spy, “was white and Scottish, period"...

“The question is, why does it bother Rush so much?” Uygur asked, before alluding to conservative reactions to the idea that Santa Claus could be Black.

“I hate to break the news to you, but Santa’s also fictional — we can make him anything we like,” Uygur said. “Yes, normally he was drawn up as a jolly fat guy who’s white. You can make him a skinny Asian if you like.”

That is the obvious takeaway from a critique of a guy who deploys race-baiting roughly as often as he changes his underwear.  (Limbaugh is on only 4-5 days a week so he'd have to do his race thing more than once a day. Most weeks, he meets his quota.)

But though he downplays it, Limbaugh states also

Now, admittedly, all these characters I've mentioned are real-life characters, and James Bond has never lived, per se, he's a fictional character.  But he was white and Scottish.  Oh, I know they're doing it with comic books.  There's now the African-American version of Annie, of Captain America coming up.

The talk show host knows why Sony is doing what Sony is doing- and it has nothing to do with a cultural sensibility Limbaugh and his acolytes would often refer to as "political correctness." He acknowledges "But the franchise needs to get with it, right?  The franchise needs to get hip. The franchise needs to get with the 21st century.  That's right."

He won't admit it, of course, because corporations can do no wrong, but he knows "the franchise needs to get with the 21st century" because its potential customers, ultimately the source of most of its profit, demand it. Sony's consideration of a black James Bond is predicated on economic considerations.  This Limbaugh dares not state explicitly because the interests of the 1% are his primary motivation. Meanwhile, he feeds his followers red meat, tossing out the names of prominent black people.

In an otherwise excellent piece in Salon, professor and author Sophia A. McClennen writes "There seems little doubt that nuance, subtle thinking and critical insight are well beyond the grasp of Rush Limbaugh."   It may seem so because on the right, the market is stronger for outrageousness and simplicity than for nuance, subtle thinking, or critical insight. Limbaugh's effort, is, as McClennon colorfully puts it, "to spit bile at his fellow citizens, constantly hurling invectives at those with whom he disagrees."

But Limbaugh never actually criticizes Sony for its decision. He knows it's money that motivates the company and he will never, ever question that motive.  The rest- albeit racially incendiary- is largely a smokescreen.

                                           MERRY CHRISTMAS

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