Idris Elba as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
The wonderful Combonight and I were actually talking about this, but the thing of it wasn’t that we just wanted a black actor playing Batman, we wanted a black batman. There’s a distinction between having a black actor portraying a character, and having that character actually be black.
Put another way, for Batman to be black would mean that the character simply did not replace a white man for a black man, but the origin story, the conditions that gave rise to the character within the narrative would be adjusted to reflect the different way in which a black person (man, in this instance) would occupy the social space that the character inhabited.
This is actually my problem with calls for representation within media: it is not enough to simply say “we need more black bodies in fiction,” but we need more black stories, more media that recognizes that being black in the world is to approach the world from a different perspective, and that being in the world as black would change how the character moved through a narrative world.
So yes, I would love to see Idris Elba as Batman, but only if the narrative of this black Batman reflected the way his blackness changes how he could and would move through the social space of the narrative. How much different would it be for a black man to be beating criminals to a pulp? How different would it be to have a black billionaire doing all the things that Bruce does to maintain his identity? Would the people of Gotham be so willing to accept their “Dark Knight” if he was black?
These are the kinds of things that I think any “racebending” of big properties would have to tackle. A property doesn’t just become “black” by inserting a black actor in the role: the narrative itself must acknowledge the blackness of the character in some meaningful way.