I got to work this morning feeling pretty good about the world. A new iPhone is on the way. Miley Cyrus continues to be hilarious. But lo and behold, someone had to go and ruin my whole day. In an interview with the Daily Mail, new James Bond author Anthony Horowitz blurted out the kind of inanity worthy of Donald Trump — that Idris Elba is too "street" to play 007:
"For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue. I think he is probably a bit too 'street' for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah."
Horowitz has been charged with writing the next Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, for the Fleming Estate. As such, it's probably reasonable to assume he knows a little about the James Bond character. But saying any accomplished black actor is too "street" to play a traditionally white role is the kind of thinly veiled racism that makes it so hard to advance any character in pop culture.
Let's put the fact that Elba has stated he's no longer interested in playing Bond aside. Not suave? Are you kidding? What does that even mean? It can't be the iconic sophistication. Just look at him on the cover of Vanity Fair last year.
James Bond material. Is it his performances? Elba can be smooth and menacing at the same damn time:
James Bond material. Is it the affinity for alcohol? Because he already spent a few years as the face of Tanqueray gin:
James Bond material. Is it that Elba seems too rough? Too late; Daniel Craig already plays Bond like a barroom brawler. Particularly in Casino Royale, the movie Horowitz claims to love.
And for heaven's sake, what is "street" about playing a Norse god?
So what does "street" even mean in this context, if Elba exhibits all of James Bond's most iconic qualities? Given the context, Horowitz might have well have said thuggish. Horowitz is suggesting that Idris Elba has a presence that's little too lower class and a little too dangerous to play James Bond. His blackness isn't something white viewers can idealize, but instead comes across as unruly and uncultured — unlike someone like Horowitz's preferred choice, Adrian Lester, who is a fine black actor known for his Shakespearean roles. Horowitz seems to think Elba lacks the respectability needed to play Her Majesty's best murderer.
Horowitz might as well have said thuggish
This is bullshit. Horowitz might as well have hauled off and said, "I'm not racist, but..." which is one of the surest signs that you're, in fact, racist. It smacks of not wanting James Bond to wear a hoodie. That he's some stereotype waiting to besmirch the honor of MI6. And let's make something perfectly clear: casting choices for the next Bond is only a notch above arbitrary, and Horowitz is entitled to his opinion. But couching those preferences in the idea that seeing a large black man do violence is a little too off-brand for a sophisticated killer is nonsense and helps no one.
Stop doing interviews, Anthony Horowitz. Just write your book and pray people read it. I don't want to hear this shit from you again.