Despite Hollywood producers wanting to keep its most iconic spy hero portrayed by leading white actors, fans of one British actor say it’s time that a black actor gets to star as James Bond. Fans say: “The name’s Elba, Idris Elba”. Celebrity websites and social media lit up this month with fans challenging Hollywood’s typecasting Elba as being unfit to play Bond.
The author of the official James Bond franchise novels, Anthony Horowitz, caused an uproar when he stated he didn’t think Elba fit to play the mold of the spy.“He’s a bit too rough for the role,” said Horowitz in his interview with The Daily Mail in early September. Horowitz told reporters that it wasn’t an issue of race, but he believed Elba is too “street” and not British enough to personify James Bond. Elba responded by uploading a photo to Instagram captioned, “Always Keep Smiling!! It takes no energy and never hurts! Learned that from the Street!!” Although Horowitz apologized for what he stated was a poor choice of words, Elba’s fans were offended by Horowitz’ comments.
“Just because one person has crossed the line, that’s just one person. We still have work to do,” said Dr. Tia Smith, the department head of Mass
Communication at Xavier, who studies race, gender, and the media.When veteran actress Viola Davis became the first African American woman to receive the primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series on Sept. 20, she singled out actors of color who still are trying to cross Hollywood’s color line.
According to the Nielsen ratings, the African American economic buying power is expected to skyrocket. “As we become more producers of the mass medias and less consumers, that will make a change,” Smith said. When the African American community starts putting more effort into making films as much as they view them, Smith further explained, then that’s how major changes will occur in Hollywood. Until then, black actors continue to push against industry stereotypes that consider them unsuitable for many leading roles.“How does a person not be English enough?” said Andre Morgan Jr., a junior, communication studies major at Xavier. “It sounds like they’re just making excuses to hide what the true meaning is.” Hollywood producers often fear black actors won’t attract the audience draw that white male leads do, despite recent trends contradicting the fact that black leading actors can pull in box office revenue.
“Columbiana,” “Independence Day,” “Obsessed,” “Inside Man” are just a few films in which black and brown lead actors have carried films successfully at the box office. Despite the large pool of African American actors in Hollywood today, these actors are usually cast as the stereotypical black person. “The character is either aggressively violent, uneducated, etc.,” Morgan said. “It’s rare that a colored individual serves as a positive influence within a movie, but it’s becoming more prevalent now depending on who’s making the film.”
Some Hollywood leading men disagree that the industryneeds more diversifying. Actor,filmmaker, and producer Matt Damon mentioned on an episode of the HBO series, “Project Greenlight,” that aired Sept. 13, “that diversity in film should be shown on screen, and not necessarily behind the camera. “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” said Damon to Effie Brown, an African American producer. Damon has since released an apology statement stating that he was sorry his comments offended others. Still in a state of shock, Brown shared her thoughts on Twitter about the episode. “Ooof! Wow! Okay. Thanks for watching the show and getting a great conversation started. I can’t wait to hear you on the other episodes!” Brown said. Even though African Americans don’t have to fight to be seen on the big screen, there’s still a lot of work to be done. “We need more Spike Lees, more Shonda Rhimes’, more Mara Brock Aklis, and more John Singletons,” said Alesha Smith, a senior, political science major at Xavier. “If African American writers put more demand on African Americans actors in traditional and non-traditional roles then we’ll make the film world respect us to the point where they would have to include roles for us” Smith said.
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