James Bond Is the One Who’s ‘Street,’ Not Idris Elba
If you just turned on your phone or computer, then by some miracle this is the first time you’re hearing about #TooStreet. And if that’s the case, then you should consider yourself exceedingly lucky, because it’s a fun thing that came out of a very very dumb thing.
Over the weekend, The Daily Mail ran an interview with the author Anthony Horowitz—next week’s publication of Trigger Mortis makes Horowitz the seventh writer to pen an original James Bond novel. The conversation wandered to modern-day Bond dream casting, and Horowitz volunteered that he much preferred British actor Adrian Lester to Idris Elba as a post-Daniel Craig 007. Elba, he said, was “too street.”
Guess who loved that? THE INTERNET. “Idris Elba” became a Twitter trending topic almost immediately, and #TooStreet exploded into a meme. Because yeah, Elba might have played Stringer Bell on The Wire, but he’s also—and this is a clinical term—the dapperest motherfucker that ever walked on two legs.
“Too Street” starter pack: pic.twitter.com/Pa8TXEqSqv
— Patrick Lucas Austin (@patbits) September 1, 2015
He also loves to wear denim jackets with the sleeves ripped off and sing about ladybits.
So far, so street. Just a belligerent, nonromantic, unsuave bully of small animals. How could we imagine sullying such a pristine fictional legacy with a lout like this?
It didn’t take long for Horowitz to apologize:
I’m really sorry my comments about Idris Elba have caused offence [full statement attached] pic.twitter.com/UD6ouA45Uv
— Anthony Horowitz (@AnthonyHorowitz) September 1, 2015
That’s fine, but here’s the thing Horowitz is missing: James Bond is the one who’s a little bit street. He’s an orphan with a face scar who drinks like a fish. And if you want the actors who play James Bond to be as externally suave as who you imagine Bond to be, maybe they shouldn’t—like Sean Connery—cop in a 1965 Playboy interview to slapping women around.
And then 20 years alter, DOUBLE DOWN ON THAT SHIT.
But that’s not even the problem. The problem is actually a neat little three-ply mashup of idiocy. First: if you’re going to arbitrarily dismiss an actor like Elba because he’s played a gritty character, then you must be terrified when you watch the Oscars that all of those serial killers and gangsters and evil wizards are gathered under one roof. Last time we checked, it took a lot more panache to play a Norse god than it did to drive a sports car with a grim expression. Second: if you’re writing James Bond, and you claim that you “don’t want to know about his doubts, his insecurities or weaknesses” and you “just want to see him act, kill, win,” then maybe you shouldn’t be writing fiction—or watching movies or making adult decisions, for that matter. And third, if you can actually tell the difference between an actor and a character, then it means you’re tossing off a racially-coded word like “street” without considering its subtext, and maybe you should be hosting the VMAs.
So, everyone: let’s please stop being idiots and conflating acting roles with personalities. And let’s think before we speak. And maybe let’s not give interviews if we haven’t nailed down the thinking-before-speaking stuff. And while we’re at it, let’s not let Sean Connery off the hook either.