The Next James Bond

The Bond franchise has a white casting problem, but at least it has made peace with Britain and its institutions' marginal position within world affairs.

Idris Elba being directed on the set of "Pacific Rim" (Chehui Liao / Flickr CC).

If you believe the rumors, sex appeal’s Idris Elba — half Sierra Leonean, half Ghanaian, fully a Londonerwill be the next James Bond, although Daniel Craig may clench and mumble his way through a couple more before that happens. If it does, Elba would be taking over at a very interesting moment for the Bond franchise, apparently now entering full-on postcolonial melancholia mode.

The new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” is a vision of what American thrillers will look like in a few years time should this country ever get through its current phase of chest-beating denial regarding its inevitable decline as top global dog. (Remember how irritated NPR were by how little anyone in China cared about America’s tremendously exciting presidential election? Apparently the Chinese ought to have been reminded that they are governed by an unaccountable elite, so very unlike the American situation.)

Nobody’s pretending that the UK is a great power anymore, politically or morally. Even the supposedly nationalist Conservative government that’s currently busy ruining our public institutions doesn’t present the country on the international stage as much more than a bunch of BAE Systems sales representatives in nice suits. Skyfallis all about the vulnerability of the old bulldog heroes to nasty newfangled foreign contraptions like homosexuality (one man caressing another man’s leg is the new waterboarding), China (with their massive neon cities and man-eating komodo dragons), and the internet (Javier Bardem as Julian Assange, anyone?). I won’t spoil the film, but suffice to say that its main interest is in exploring how Britain and its institutions respond to the dawning realization of the marginal position within world affairs that the country has already occupied for more years than anyone will admit. (Clue: they dig out the muskets and a stick of dynamite.)

The next step might be to send Bond to Luanda or Lagos or Maputo or Rio, not just as backdrops for high casualty car chases, but to show how the rest of the world has moved on and largely forgotten about how important Britain likes to feel. Maybe by the time Idris Elba takes over, Bond will be working for the UK’s DFID.

Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.