As a longtime fan myself, I know that many adaptations of our favorite writer's work can really be hit or miss but despite the missteps, it's always great news to hear of one being made,especially when it's a story that hasn't been tackled before.
Yesterday, we had official word from the man himself about the filming of The Dark Tower, which is becoming a major motion picture and starring two big league actors, Idris Elba as Roland the gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as the infamous Man in Black.
Since this fantasy series has been in development limbo for several years now, this is wonderful news indeed and yes, I did expect a little speculation. Most people would be wondering if the movie would be a combination of the first three books or simply start with the second one, The Drawing of the Three(which it may most likely do). However, that was not the prevalent concern that I saw being expressed when I read about this online:
Sadly, the biggest objection was to the casting of Idris Elba. Why is it that such an excellent actor is constantly being harassed by genre fans whenever he is given roles that are not written for his ethnicity?
They don't want him to be James Bond(never mind the fact that he's actually British, unlike some of the other well known actors that have played the character!), they get upset when he's a god in the Thor movies(which are comic book mythology more than actual Norse mythos) and now some of us are freaking out about him being Roland Deschain! What gives,people?
For one thing, it's not like this is the first time that a white character in a Stephen King story has been portrayed by an African-American. I didn't hear any of this squawking when Morgan Freeman was cast as Red in The Shawshank Redemption and we all know how wonderful that movie turned out to be:
Again, another great actor whose race was not an important factor in either part and yes, they were supporting roles but Morgan Freeman played a leading one in Shawshank,so what is the problem? Other than The Mist turning out to be a much better movie than Salem's Lot(which has never had a decent version of it made,in my opinion, but that's another discussion), this is such a ridiculous debate to be having here:
It was just amazing to me to see people debate Stephen King himself on Facebook where he shared his announcement about the Dark Tower movie,telling him how wrong he was.
They find fault with his statement that " To me, the color of the gunslinger doesn't matter. What I care about is how fast he can draw... and that he takes care of the ka-tet." Instead, they insist that the relationship between Roland and Susannah(along with alternate personality Odetta) will be different and that the Clint Eastwood description of the character is still the one to keep true to.
I generally go by the rule of "If the author is happy with these changes, then so am I" and granted, I don't always agree with the writer's choices(for example, James Franco would not have been my pick to star in 11/22/63) but since that person is the one who created the characters in the first place, I bow to their judgement when it comes to this.
Considering that it's taken such a long time to get these books ready for film and that this series is not as well known to the general public as most of King's work is, why can't we be happy about this? Must the ugly specter of racism ruin what should be a joyous announcement?
People who enjoy horror,science fiction and fantasy have a hard enough time as it is being respected for their particular interests by others without this pathetic partisanship. This has happened too many times on the pop culture landscape and whether it's a bi-racial Spiderman, an African-American Johnny Storm or Idris Elba as Roland, enough is enough already!
We who appreciate the fantastical are assumed to be open minded but such narrow minded thinking shoots that theory down. There's nothing wrong with not wanting a certain actor or actress to play a part but that reason should be based on talent(I think James Franco is overrated, for example) not race. We can't all agree on everything involving Stephen King but that issue should definitely be the one to unite us all.
Lady T and the rest of the Ka-tet
P.S. If you have any doubts about how badass of a gunslinger Idris Elba can be, one look at this trailer for his upcoming movie Bastille Day should allay those concerns: