James Bond must be suave.
James Bond must be fearless.
James Bond must be an expert shot.
James Bond must be a master of the martial arts.
James Bond must look terrific in a tuxedo.
James Bond must be irresistible to women.
James Bond must order his vodka martinis shaken, not stirred.
And, above all, James Bond must be British.
But James Bond need not be white. Not at all.
Well, OK. Maybe Bond did have to be white back in 1953, when Ian Fleming first introduced his superspy in the novel “Casino Royale.” England, even in London, was a much less multiracial country then.
But not in 2014, soon to be 2015.
Rush Limbaugh does not agree, of course. Limbaugh is making a stink about the very idea of a black man — a British black man — playing an iconic British spy.
Does this surprise anybody?
A couple of weeks ago, somebody leaked an email from Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal in which she wrote that Idris Elba, the actor who played Stringer Bell in the HBO series “The Wire,” should succeed Daniel Craig as the next James Bond.
We thought this was a brilliant idea. Elba exudes all those classic James Bond traits — the good looks, the elegance, the athleticism, the accent — and the fact that he is black is irrelevant.
Brits don’t wear bowler hats anymore, last we looked. And that stiff upper British lip, especially in cosmopolitan London, comes in all colors.
James Bond is a fictional character. He frequently has been updated for the times. The only essential constant is his ineffable Britishness.
But Limbaugh, on the radio on Tuesday, could see only skin color.
“The franchise needs to get with it, right? The franchise needs to get hip,” Limbaugh said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Bond was never black. Ian Fleming never created a black Brit to play James Bond. He was always white, he was always Scottish, he always drank vodka.”
Then Limbaugh argued that a black actor playing James Bond made no more sense than a white actor playing President Barack Obama.
Limbaugh’s logic is so obviously faulty as to need no refutation, but for the very small children who might be reading this editorial, it goes like this:
An actor’s skin color matters only when his character’s skin color matters. Skin color does not fundamentally matter for James Bond, Little Orphan Annie, Fat Albert or the Wizard of Oz. Race is not at the heart of their identities. Skin color does matter when depicting the life of Barack Obama or, while we’re at it, Harold Washington, Bull Connor, George Wallace, Malcolm X, John Brown or Sojourner Truth.
But give Limbaugh points for consistency. It was just a year ago, two weeks before Christmas in 2013, that Limbaugh insisted that Santa Claus can only be white and railed against the very idea of a black or brown or yellow Santa.
“In every portrayal since the beginning of Santa Claus, Santa is white,” he said then. “This is worse than political correctness. This is Stalinism.”
Get over it, Rush. Things change, sometimes for the better.
Consider this earth-shattering exchange from the 2008 movie “Quantum of Solace”:
James Bond: “Vodka martini.”
Bartender: “Shaken or stirred?”
Bond: “Do I look like I give a damn?”
No, wait. We take that back. Even when he’s really up against it, Agent 007 — whatever his complexion — should remain attentive to the details of a proper vodka martini.
Or the British Empire will fall.