Commenting on the crime drama ‘Luther’, Miranda Wayland hailed the program for featuring a “really strong, black character lead,” portrayed by Elba, but lamented that the fictional detective lacked authenticity.
“We all fell in love with him. Who didn’t, right? But after you got into about the second series you got kind of like, OK, he doesn’t have any black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic,” the BBC official said at a recent conference, as reported by the Times. According to Wayland, black characters should be placed in environments and have traits that are reflective of their background. She ultimately concluded that Elba’s character “isn’t black enough to be real.”
Her theories on the subject seem to clash with the writing philosophy of ‘Luther’ creator Neil Cross. Cross, who is white, signaled in an earlier interview that race was not a driving factor when Elba had been picked as the lead and that he had “no knowledge or expertise or right to try to tackle in some way the experience of being a black man in modern Britain.” He added that trying to make the fictional detective ‘more black’ would have resulted in an “ignorant, middle-class, white writer’s idea of a black character.”
The BBC, which produced the award-winning series, released a statement in which it reaffirmed its commitment to “continued investment in diversity.”
Wayland, whose official title is ‘Head of Creative Diversity’, works to assist the BBC with increasing on-air diversity. After accepting the position last February, she said that she was excited for the opportunity to ensure “the diverse voices and talents within our industry are included and better reflected across our outputs and productions.”
Judging by reactions on social media, it seems many feel that she may be the wrong woman for the job.
Numerous comments accused her of dabbling in identity politics and “forcing black people to conform to stereotypes.”
Others shared personal stories and anecdotes about why it was presumptuous to assume that skin color dictates food tastes or what kind of friends you have.
One fan of the show wondered why there was even a discussion about how ‘black’ Luther is.
“Why does it have to be black enough? Why can’t it just be good enough?” they asked.
Predictably, Wayland’s remarks also led to calls for withholding cash from the publicly-funded broadcaster, with #DefundtheBBC hashtags appearing on Twitter.
Critics have accused the BBC of engaging in social justice crusades in the past. In December, the BBC’s Vicar of Dibley featured its lead character giving a speech in support of Black Lives Matter.