Idris Elba And The Racial Politics of Bond
Rumours have been spreading like wildfire lately over whether Idris Elba (Luther, The Wire, Thor) might be the next Bond after Daniel Craig.
Skyfall actress Naomie Harris started the speculation when she told The Sun that Elba was in talks with the Bond producer Barbara Broccoli. This won't be happening any time soon – the current Bond, Daniel Craig, is still reportedly signed up for two more movies. Elba himself is refusing to confirm the rumours, but admits that he would love to take on the part.
I, personally, agree with him. Have you seen the man in a tux?
He also gave this comment:
"I just don't want to be the black James Bond. Sean Connery wasn't the Scottish James Bond, and Daniel Craig wasn't the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don't want to be called the black James Bond."
I understand what he means – he doesn't want his race to define the characters he plays, the same way I don't want it to define everything that I'll do in my life. I also understand his point that using the qualifier of “the black” James Bond makes it seem like he's an alternative Bond - a Bond that doesn't quite encapsulate Bond-ness as much as a white one would, a Bond that is intrinsically different from all the others.
The fact remains, however, that lots of black people like me would be very excited to see him play 007. It would be a sign of progression in our society, and a much-needed addition to the black actors portraying emotionally complex characters. While we're at it, I would die of happiness if Richard Ayoade was Q, but that's just my dream.
Other Bond fans are, to put it lightly, not so sure about the possibility of Elba as Bond, and for predictably racist reasons. There are people complaining that Bond must always be played by a white character because apparently whiteness is a character trait now, or that he should be an “Englishman”, apparently missing the facts that Idris Elba is in fact actually English whereas Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, and George Lazenby were not, that James Bond is a fictional character who doesn't actually have to stick to any arbitary model, and that M was a man in the books. And let's not go into the number of black or other minority characters who have been played by white people.
Englishness isn't something only reserved for white people, and neither is James Bond. If the franchise wants to continue its modernisation, then it's likely that it will start aiming for a more racially diverse cast.
And I'll be happy to see it.