By BEN R. WILLIAMS
Earlier this year, Daniel Craig had his final outing as James Bond in the film “No Time to Die.” Since then, I’ve seen plenty of articles debating who will take up the mantle and be the next James Bond.
One name that’s been bandied about for years is Idris Elba, and I’ve always thought he would be an excellent choice. He’s a fantastic actor who elevates everything he’s in (except maybe for “Cats,” but no one could have saved that atrocity). He’s effortlessly cool. It’s not hard to imagine beautiful women throwing themselves at him. He was even born in London and has the accent to boot!
However, there exists a vocal contingent of folks who are vehemently opposed to the idea of Idris Elba playing James Bond. You’ll find these folks on the internet, complaining that casting Idris Elba as Bond is not merely a poor choice, but indicative of everything that’s wrong in the world today.
Their issue, you see, is that Idris Elba is Black, and they believe that James Bond cannot possibly be Black.
Now, if I were casting a Gerald Ford biopic, I would agree that Elba might not be the ideal choice to depict the 38th President. Unlike Gerald Ford, however, James Bond is not a real guy. He’s a fictional character. His race doesn’t matter. If I can accept that James Bond once went to outer space and shot a laser gun at a guy with metal teeth, I can certainly accept him being depicted by Idris Elba.
This isn’t the first time that a certain hateful subsection of the internet has flipped out because a person of color was cast in a role. In fact, this isn’t even the first time it’s involved Idris Elba.
I vividly remember the internet outrage when Elba was tapped to play gunslinger Roland Deschain in 2017’s “The Dark Tower,” adapted from Stephen King’s sprawling seven-volume fantasy series. In the novels, Roland is described as basically looking like Clint Eastwood.
I’m a huge fan of the Dark Tower series and I thought Elba was a fine choice. I mean, the movie itself was a war crime, but Elba was the only good part.
For many years, I was baffled as to why people got so bent out of shape about color-blind casting. If it isn’t important to the story for some reason, who cares?
A few years ago, however, I saw something that made me realize why some folks get so upset.
On Halloween in 2018, I was in Uptown Martinsville photographing all the youngsters in their costumes (for the record, I was doing this for the newspaper, not because I’m a creep). There was one kid that stuck out in my mind. He was a little White kid dressed up like Black Panther.
The Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther” had come out earlier that year and it was an enormous hit. The title character was played by the late Chadwick Boseman, a phenomenal Black actor who was taken from us far too soon.
It warmed my heart to see that little kid dressed up like Black Panther. I imagine some parents out there might not have let their son wear a Black Panther costume, might have forced him to pick from one of the 4,783 White superheroes instead. But kids pick out Halloween costumes based on who they admire, who they want to become. Clearly, this little kid wanted to be Black Panther. He wanted to emulate him. He thought Black Panther was awesome, and I doubt the color of his skin ever crossed his mind.
And that, I think, is what some people are very, very afraid of.