Rumors of Idris Elba as the Next James Bond Stirs Online Racial Debate
Speculation has soared on who should take over the role of famed British spy character James Bond, with fans ardently declaring that Idris Elba should be next—but his race is causing a stir with movie fans on social media.
There’s certainly plenty of time to settle this, since the next installment to the Bond franchise is already in the works: earlier this year, British actor Daniel Craig signed up for his fifth take as James Bond, teaming up with Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) on a sequel premiering in November 2019.
Nonetheless, a new report indicated that such subsequent casting after this 2019 sequel may actually be taking place already. The Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli reportedly told director Antoine Fuqua that “it is time” for a black actor to take on the iconic role.
The response on Twitter has been typically pointed, with fervent opinions on both sides, given that Elba is black and the character of Bond has historically been white.
Many fans used this potential casting news to comment on the racist treatment an Elba Bond might actually face—addressing heated issues that are at the forefront in our contemporary society.
One poignant tweet joked about potential storylines in a black Bond movie that would reflect the recent spate of black U.S. citizens being reported to police for engaging in innocuous public activities such as barbecuing or selling water.
Another tweet simply stated that dissidence towards such casting was indicative of conditioned racism that implies “black people as either an other or as inherently less than.”
But is there an argument for a film staying true to a character’s origins, including their ethnicity? Some commentators were simply arguing that, stating that if it were reversed and Bond was originally black and a white man was cast, there would be outrage. A tweet proposing this theory included a photo of a white actor in “yellow face”—made up to look Asian.
In recent years, there have been many films and cultural institutions that have been remade with new actors and images, reversing their original representation—from all-female remakes of the films Ghostbusters and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, to a female Colonel Sanders character in a commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken earlier this year.
Ghostbusters got generally favorable reviews in 2016 but wasn’t as well-received as the original, and failed to generate box office revenue to cover its high production costs.
2018’s all-female Ocean’s 8 film was a box office success but met with mixed reviews, which some of its stars publicly attributed to the dominance of male critics and a lack of diversity among mainstream film reviewers.
On the subject of popular films, fans and casting, there have also been reports of online trolling against new actors because of their ethnicity or gender, such as Asian-American actress Kelly Marie Tran, who closed her Instagram account after alleged harassment from fervent Star Wars fans, criticizing her role in the latest installment in the franchise, the 2017 hit The Last Jedi.
As for who will play the next James Bond, although it hasn’t been confirmed or refuted, Idris Elba took to twitter himself, simply stating: “Don’t believe the hype.”