White Dartagnan, Black James Bond | Angertainment to get angry about

A British production company have announced they are filming a new adaptation of the Three Muskateers, with a black actor cast as D’Artagnon.

The betting on the next James Bond also includes a number of black actors. Once upon a time a black James Bond, would have been unthinkable, but the new Dr Who is black, and Amazon’s Tolkien blockbuster Rings of Power had Black Elves and Hobbits. A black Bond feels like it is only a matter of time.

I was a bit surprised when they cast rapper Queen Latifah to replace Edward Woodward in the Equalizer, but having watched a couple of episodes it works really well, and is much better than having some modern male actor pretending to be the Ed.

These casting choices are still controversial in some quarters, this is Tory MP Nick Fletcher complaining that casting women in traditionally male roles is driving young men to crime.

I am a massive fan of the three Muskateers, and read all of the books as a kid, following D’Artagnan’s journey from rural kid in the big City through to the final moments of his death. For those who haven’t read the entire series D’Artagnan dreams of becoming a Field Marshall, but gets no higher than the rank of General. He dies in battle reading the news of his promotion. There was a real life French solider called d’Artagnan, however he was a nobleman, and had little in common with the fictional hero, other than his name. Dumas version of ancien regime France is very much seen through the eyes of the post revolutionary audience he was writing for.

But there is another aspect the the fictional D’Artagnan less well known. Dumas was one of the first successful black writers in Europe. He was part white French, part black Haitian slave.

Dumas Sr fought in Toussaint L’Ouverture’s rebel army which successfully fought the French for their freedom. After independence Dumas Sr was recruited into Napoleon’s elite military units. Just like the fictional D’Artagnan, he made the journey from a poor rural background to Paris. He joined an elite military unit, eventually leading it and, rising to the rank of General. He was the first black officer in any Western Army; Britain still has never appointed a non-white General, although we do have a black Air Commodore.

Like the fictional D’Artagnan Dumas Sr dreamed of being a Field Marshall, but had to settle for General in Chief.

Dumas wrote for a white audience, and his D’Artgnan was a white soldier. But the real life hero who inspired him was his dad, who came from a slave plantation to a Generals rank. Dumas race has also been quietly forgotten, like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Pushkin. and many others.

Casting a black actor to play the fictional D’Artagnan seems pretty apt to me, part of a process of re-discovering non-white writers and real life heroes who were written out of history around the time that Western Countries created vast Empires.

Sadly Idris Elba is a bit too old to be the next James Bond, but frankly if you can believe Roger Moore wearing white Gucci loafers in space, believing in a black Bond shouldn’t be too hard.


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