I’ll Have My James Bond Black, Please

By Sammi Brennan

Upon recently viewing the trailer for the upcoming James Bond film Spectre, the fire of outrage, which was at the time mere ash, had once again reignited from within me. It all began with the comments sparked by Anthony Horowitz, author of Trigger Mortis, which is a continuation of the classic James Bond book series. Although not the original James Bond creator, Horowitz decided to provide his input on who should follow Daniel Craig as the notable secret agent. Let’s just say his comments had “shaken” many and “stirred” a heap of controversy.

As far as casting goes, there has yet to be any diversity in regards to who should play Bond. Beginning in 1954 with Barry Nelson’s portrayal in an hour-long TV special, Agent 007 has since continuously been casted as a white male seven times. In one of the many leaked Sony Pictures Entertainment emails, Chairperson Amy Pascal suggested British actor Idris Elba be the next James Bond. Social media went mad and there was an overall, if not overwhelming acceptance of Pascal’s proposal. In December, Elba took to social media as well, tweeting: “Isn’t 007 supposed to be handsome? Glad you think I’ve got a shot! Happy New Year people.” Alongside the tweet was a selfie of Elba making a comical face. Elba as Bond rumors began dying down and sadly there lacked any information of a production in the works.

In an article for the Daily Mail published on Aug. 29, when asked about Elba’s consideration as James Bond, Horowitz’s response took a major wrong turn in this deliberation. Horowitz’s reply was as follows, “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.” Upon first reading this comment, countless thoughts and questions flew through my mind like a raging storm. Above all, I was frustrated with the amount of ignorance this statement held.

Firstly, Anthony Horowitz took to social media for his apology– tweets clearly show how sincere a person is. Since when did our culture decide that posting a status or writing a tweet would be a fulfilling apology? Nevertheless, Horowitz went that route. In his defense, he mentioned that in his Daily Mail interview he specified another black British actor would be better suited for the role. This sounds eerily similar to the “I’m not a racist, I have black friends,” argument.

Horowitz’s apology also sparked some connections in my head to the CNN article tweeted by the actor Don Cheadle. The article was titled “Go Ahead, admit you’re a racist” by CNN writer John Blake. The article revolved around Kelly Osbourne’s racist comments on The View in which, upon discussing Trump’s views on immigration, Osbourne said, “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet?” Of course, many were outraged by Osbourne’s remark, including The View host Rosie Perez. In Osbourne’s apology tweet, she wrote, “I will not apologize for being a racist as I am NOT.”

Writer John Blake discusses in the article how he urges those who make racist comments to take responsibility for what they have done by whole-heartedly saying something along the lines as, “I was being racist,” “Those were racist comments I made,” or “What I said was racist.” Anthony Horowitz needs to admit that what he said was, indeed, a racist comment. Moreover, can we finally end twitter apologies? If I made a racist comment that upset someone I wouldn’t tweet it, I would go up to the person I offended and formally apologize. Clearly, Horowitz was not willing enough to take that extra step.   

Secondly, Horowitz admitted his comment about Elba being “too street” was derived from Elba’s role on the BBC drama Luther. Elba plays a detective chief inspector who doesn’t play by the book, but that is only because he is geared to seek justice for others with law enforcement constantly clashing with him. As a fan of the show, it’s difficult to perceive how Horowitz interpreted the character of Luther as being “street.” Let’s not forget all the roles Elba has had, like, say, portraying Nelson Mandela? Or how about his roles as a Nordic God in Thor (2011), a branch manager on The Office, and, one of my favorite roles, as marshal Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim (2013). Guess he only plays street thugs. Perhaps Horowitz was referring to Elba’s role as the drug lord Stringer Bell on the critically-acclaimed television series The Wire. Since when did we start assuming that a person’s role on a television show or in a film has anything to do with how that person is in reality? If that is the case, then Michael C. Hall is a serial killer, Leonardo DiCaprio sniffs cocaine out of butt cracks and Andy Serkis is an actual ape. To quote John Blake, “go ahead, admit you’re a racist.”

Breaking it down into specifics, Elba would be the ideal James Bond. The actor is used to backlash, which he will inevitably receive from racist James Bond fans stubborn in their beliefs that James Bond cannot be any other race (cue Rush Limbaugh). Do not fear, Elba already has dealt with white supremacists. He can definitely handle it. In 2011, Elba was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in Marvel’s Thor, and the Council of Conservative Citizens was not pleased. They urged others to boycott the film since a black actor was cast as a Norse god. A website was created known as boycott-thor.com, where the CCC described this outrageous casting by claiming that Marvel “viciously attacked the Tea Party movement, conservatives and European heritage.” This is where I roll my eyes so hard that I get a headache. Elba’s response did not let me down. He told the TV Times, “Thor’s mythical, right? Thor has a hammer that flies when he clicks his fingers. That’s OK, but the color of my skin is wrong?” He went on to say that the casting choice was “a sign of the times for the future.”

Overall, Anthony Horowitz needs to own up to his words by distributing a face-to-face apology with Elba, acknowledging his comments for being what they truly are: racist. No, I will not be seeing the new James Bond film. Better sharpen your pitchforks CCC, because I am not seeing anything with Agent 007 until I see some diversity.


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