Is this a big deal? It seems like it is, but is it really?
According to the Guardian, the Ian Fleming Estate has hand-picked Selma‘s David Oyelowo (aka, the man who did a damn fine Martin Luther King, Jr. impersonation) to play 007. Whoa. Daniel Craig is leaving? No, no. Put down your “Down with the blonde Bond!” banner. That’s not what’s happening here. Spectre is still coming out later this year, and there’s been no announcement that it shall mark the end of Craig’s tenure with the franchise. Oyelowo isn’t replacing him. Instead, Oyelowo will simply be providing his voice to an audiobook version of Trigger Mortis, a new James Bond continuation novel written by Anthony Horowitz.
So, you’re telling me that the first black man to play James Bond will being so in an entirely audio medium? We won’t be able to see him play Bond, but if we listen to the audiobook and close our eyes we can tell ourselves, “That’s a black man reading those lines. I am so [excited/incensed]!” But then we’ll get to experience the confusion of hearing him also read all of the other lines in the book thus not really making it seem like someone is playing a role as much as someone is simply reading us a book with a goofy title. Hopefully someone else will read Pussy Galore’s lines. Oh, I just buried the lead there. This book will resurrect the Pussy Galore character.
Not really because the internet has already proved this whole thing to be factually incorrect. Yes, Oyelowo will be reading this new audiobook and thus kind of, sort of playing James Bond, but he’s not the first black guy to get that honor. That distinction goes to Hugh Quarshie, who read the audiobook for Dr. No.
This story seemed like such a conversation starter, re-igniting the divisive argument over whether or not we’ll ever be able to accept a black version of James Bond. However, no great door has been kicked down here. The only reason this is notable is because David Oyelowo is someone we know thanks to Selma. A black actor we don’t know already got to be “the first black 007,” but that distinction doesn’t mean much when it’s exclusive to audiobooks.
But The Guardian took a wider view on it, “Oyelowo believes black actors still have huge obstacles to overcome. He is not alone. The director Rufus Norris has said that the UK still lags behind the US in casting black actors, while the comedian Lenny Henry has spoken of work having ‘dried up’ for home-grown black, Asian and minority actors. David Harewood, who stars in the hit drama Homeland, is among black actors who have left Britain to find work.”
In fact, Oyelowo has lived in Los Angeles since 2007, “Part of the reason I moved to America was I could feel my head bobbing against this glass ceiling that wasn’t going to break.”
Getting to do the audiobook isn’t exactly breaking any glass ceiling, but it might weaken it enough for Idris Elba to break through since he’s been the rumored frontrunner to replace Craig for years. Oyelow, for one, would love to see that happen, “[Elba’s] a titan on screen, he has all the qualities that you’d want in a James Bond. Because films and TV affect culture, a black Bond would be a cultural event … a statement … beyond just entertainment.”
But James Bond is white.
Yeah, but does he have to be? It’s like the “Should the Doctor on Doctor Who be female” all over again?