Anthony Horovitz, who has written a new James Bond novel Trigger Mortis recently said, in an interview, that, in his opinion, Idris Elba was too ‘street’ to play Bond. He went on to say that another black actor, Adrian Lester, would make a better Bond.
Predictably, social media ignored the reference to Lester and instead went into overdrive, accusing him of ‘racism.’
Twitter users who happily use hashtags like ‘Oscars so white’ and ‘white privilege’ declared that, of-course Elba had to be the next Bond because they would RUN to their nearest cinema to see him in anything!
Judging by the modest box-office for Mandela, long walk to freedom, in which Elba starred, that’s probably not quite true. But Idris Elba for Bond has become quite the story.
However, here are 7, or even 007 reasons why Elba becoming the first black Bond would be no big deal:
- Bond is not Hamlet. He’s a paper thin character in Ian Fleming’s novels, turned into very much a fantasy figure of his era in the cinema versions; a glamorous, womanizing playboy with cool gadgets. Is it really the best role a black actor can aspire to? The role has hardly been a springboard for a fantastic career. George Lazenby anyone? Where is Brosnan these days? Elba, meanwhile has a substantial career in both blockbusters like Thor and well received smaller films. His upcoming movie Beasts of no Nation could be a major awards contender.
- The acceptable ( ie politically correct) thing to say is that the next Bond must absolutely be black. As must the next Spiderman, Batman, the Pope…. In other words, every high profile vacancy must be filled by a black person because only then can the world prove that it is not racist. The fundamental flaw in this reasoning, of-course, is that being black is not a qualification in itself. By patronizingly demanding that a high profile role or position be filled by a black person, simply because he is black, is pretty insulting, not to say racist.
- Elba being cast in Bond won’t make Hollywood and related film industries more diverse. It will just mean one black actor has a high profile role. What would be better and have far reaching ramifications would be the nurturing of diverse talent in all aspects of the film industry. Let a non white writer create a non white character who becomes as iconic as James Bond has become over the years. Let non white directors, producers, cinematographers, cameramen. costume designers, grip boys, catering staff create an exciting film that people all over the world want to see because it is exciting and fun not just for curiosity value..
- Cultural appropriation is now a thing, apparently. *sigh*. A white girl with corns rows in her hair, a white pop-star rapping, whatever, can now be denounced on social media as ‘appropriation’ of black culture. So, wouldn’t Elba playing a spy written very clearly by Ian Fleming as white, be cultural appropriation? You can’t have it both ways. James Bond was written as white. He is a white literary and film icon. Imagine the outcry if Shaft, written as a black character was remade starring Jason Statham. So, instead of putting a black actor into a role known worldwide as a quintessentially white English spy (though he’s actually Scottish) and risk backlash and cries of ‘he only got it because he’s black, why not create a compelling new character who is black. Think Vin Diesel in XXX not Michael B Jordan playing a black Johnny Storm with a blonde, blue eyed sister and having to laboriously explain the relationship.
- Diversity doesn’t begin and end with black people of African origin. A black Bond does not make it easier for Chinese or South Asian actors to get work. In today’s political climate a non white Bond would most likely be a Muslim of South Asian heritage, brought in to fight ISIS. Why isn’t there a call for a British Asian actor to play the part? It would make sense politically and play to the large South Asian diaspora which turns Bollywood films into huge international box office successes – far bigger than black movies which make little money outside the USA.
- It’s a little rich to always be calling out for Hollywood to be more diverse when the film industries of many non white countries unashamedly cast lead actors who are several shades lighter than most of their countrymen or who blatantly have ‘western’ facial features. Hollywood actually does pretty well by comparison. And therein lies the potential rub for Elba. Would he go down well in the many parts of the world where there is unashamed racism towards black skinned people? And these parts of the world are very often non white countries. Racism is not confined to white against black.
And anyway, everyone knows the best Bond would be Henry Cavill. See how that man fills a suit in The Man from Uncle and you’ll be converted.