A new author has taken over the James Bond franchise. Anthony Horowitz has a new Bond novel due out this month. He’s generated some controversy leading up to the September 8th release with some comments regarding the potential casting of Idris Elba to replace Daniel Craig in future Bond films. From Collider:
[Elba] came to prominence playing “Stringer” Bell in David Simon‘s The Wire and broke out as the titular, grim detective of BBC’s superb Luther. There haven’t been many credible naysayers to his taking over for Craig when all is said and done, but now, James Bond author Anthony Horowitz has come out publicly as against the casting of Elba in the role, citing that the actor comes off as too “rough” and “street.”
Naturally, critics have piled on Horowitz, accusing him of utilizing these terms as euphemisms suggestive of racial epithets. That may or may not have been his intent. (He denies it.)
Regardless, there is a credible argument against casting Elba as Bond. That argument centers on his race.
The case for Elba rests on the claim that Bond’s racial identity shouldn’t matter. In some sense, that is true. A black Bond is conceivable in the modern age, and would even be uniquely interesting. Idris Elba remains an outstanding choice to play that version of the character. However, the question of whether Bond could be black deserves separate consideration from whether the current iteration of Bond should remain white. Indeed, making the current iteration black would prove insulting.
While a color-blind society remains a noble goal, the truth of living as a black man remains some distance from that ideal. Craig’s Bond has not had the experience that an Elba Bond would. Recasting the role without rebooting the character would trivialize the black experience. Elba’s Bond would need to be a different version of the character, not the one Craig has played to this point.
That transition would be premature if forced now. In many ways, this version of Bond is just getting started. He’s just begun his relationships with both Q and Moneypenny. He’s just established himself under Ralph Fiennes’ archetypal M. His new adventure, due this Christmas, will re-introduce his classic antagonist in the organization Spectre. Now is not the time for a radical redefinition of the character.