“Smooth, cool, badass, British.” These are the main traits you should be thinking about when you think of the cinematic James Bond, because everything else has been in flux nonstop since the series began with Sean Connery (and honestly not even always those traits were consistent – Brosnan was Irish and George Lazenby was Australian!). Sometimes Bond is brunette, sometimes he’s blonde! Sometimes he’s a bit older, sometimes he’s young! Sometimes he’s Scottish, sometimes he’s from Wales! The truth is, these other details don’t actually matter – Bond is a cool spy who has cool quips, does cool things, and hops into bed too readily with people who occasionally wind up trying to murder him.
So when rumors of Idris Elba taking over the role from Daniel Craig (who famously hates the role and wants out and DOESN’T want more millions of dollars and international fame, for some reason) started to float around, it shouldn’t surprise you that the internet all universally supported the news and weren’t horrible at all!
Just kidding. A lot of racists are mad – but they’re not SAYING they’re being racist, because they know that would make people call them “racist.” Instead, they’re using LOGICAL ARGUMENTS….that don’t actually make any sense.
1. “He’s too old to play James Bond!”
Idris Elba is 45 years old right now, and looks DAMN GOOD. If not for the bits of gray in his beard, you could tell me he was in his late 30s and I’d believe you. Besides that though, slightly more middle aged men are VERY in right now when it comes to action movies – the biggest stars around are Robert Downey Jr. (53), Tom Cruise (56), and Vin Diesel (51). And hell, Liam Neeson STARTED an action career at around age 60. But maybe you’re more concerned about Idris Elba because he’s STARTING as Bond at this age, so he wouldn’t be able to play the character long enough to develop into something more interesting. Well, uh, I disagree!
- Robert Downey Jr. was 43 when he started as Iron Man in 2008, and has only gotten more popular and more beloved with age (he’s 53 now and I don’t think anyone’s telling him to stop doing action movies)
- Pierce Brosnan was 42 when he started as James Bond.
- Roger Moore (the most prolific and long-lasting Bond) was 45 when he started out.
As long as he looks good and can handle the action scenes, what does it matter how old he is? Hell, weren’t geeks super excited for Ben Affleck to take on an older, more gruff Batman? What if they wanted to do a bit of a more experienced Bond? A big theme in the Daniel Craig Bond films was that he was getting older!
Just seems that maybe – MAYBE – age is not the thing that’s REALLY bothering people about this casting…
2. “He’s white in the books!”
This is a genuinely wild one – people who are trying to use the CANONICAL LORE of James Bond to poo-poo ANY kind of choice. For one, the Bond films have only the loosest sense of continuity and lore imaginable even within themselves. For one, if this is supposed to be the SAME INDIVIDUAL throughout the films, he’s over 100 years old at this point. Even the idea that each Bond is a ‘reboot’ is questionable, since there’s bizarre bits of continuity BETWEEN actors – like Roger Moore’s Bond visiting the grave of his deceased wife (from the George Lazenby Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) or the increasingly strange choice (but one I do like a lot) of having Judi Dench serve as M for both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, with no real explanation as to what was happening. The point is – lore and continuity don’t actually matter between these movies. It’s all arbitrary. Get over it.
But to go back to THIS weird argument – James Bond being canonically Caucasian in the Ian Fleming novels. Well, if you’re SO CONCERNED with how James Bond was portrayed in the novels, then you should also demand Bond:
- Be a brutish, violent drunk (instead of a smooth cool operator)
- Have a big scar on his cheek
- Look “cruel” (a term repeatedly used to describe his looks)
- Be a drug addict (he would abuse methamphetamines regularly)
- Also his drink order should ACTUALLY be: “A dry martini. One. In a deep champagne goblet. …Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”
Surprised no one ever seems to get mad that Bond’s drink order is consistently wrong!
3. “Well, why don’t we just cast a historically black character with a white actor then?!”
Ahhh the classic argument that comes up whenever a black actor is cast in a role that was historically white – I remember it fondly, like when Michael Clarke Duncan was Kingpin in Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, or when….Idris Elba played Heimdall.
To pretend that there’s no difference or that we’re dealing with an even playing field is to be willfully ignorant and arguing in bad faith – the vast majority of comic book characters and popular characters in fiction were almost UNIVERSALLY and EXCLUSIVELY white for a long time. Hell, they still are to this day, no matter how much you hear people whining about “too much diversity.” The majority of people in power in America in the entertainment industry are white – from executives down to creators. And most people tend to write what they know and their own experiences – and that leads to an overrepresentation of white characters.
And since pretty much 98% of all popular characters in the English-speaking world have been historically portrayed as white, it only makes sense that – if those characters are going to continue getting projects – maybe we could take a look at how importance their race is to the core of their characters. There ARE some characters where their race is an important facet of who they are – and these characters tend to be the non-white ones, who were created specifically to give some minor semblance of representation to minorities. The struggles and prejudices he faced growing up as an African-American are core to Luke Cage’s being, whereas most white characters didn’t have that kind of thought and meaning put into their race, because white was simply the “default” mode for major characters in fiction.
White people are overrepresented in film and TV, and every other minority is significantly underrepresented. That’s the reality, and why minorities taking roles that had historically been portrayed as white men isn’t the same as the reverse. Balancing the scales a bit shouldn’t upset anyone other than racists who PREFER this imbalance – especially in cases like this, where Idris Elba is OBVIOUSLY AN INSANELY EXCELLENT CHOICE FOR THIS ROLE. This isn’t an unnatural, forced fit or anything of the sort – Idris Elba was born to play Bond. He’s on of the most versatile and impressive actors of our time – we should be GRATEFUL that he’d want in on a role with this much responsibility and this much baggage attached to it.