The Dark Tower: It’s OK That Roland Deschain is Black


After the casting of Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower, some fans of the books have taken to the internet to voice their complaints. Here’s why they’re wrong.

I don’t know why there has been so much backlash over the news of Idris Elba taking on the role of Roland Deschain in The Dark Tower.

Despite being an established, talented actor, some book readers can’t get over the fact that a black man will be the iconic gunslinger from the novels. As Roland was a white guy in the books, purists believe Elba should have never even been considered for the sake of staying faithful to the source material.

If you’re one of these people, stop. You’re being ridiculous.

I get it. Maybe you pictured Clint Eastwood in your head while flipping through the pages of The Dark Tower series. Idris Elba is not Clint Eastwood, so, suddenly, there’s a disconnect between the story you enjoyed in print and the one which will play out on the big screen.

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But that right there is the key. These are going to be two separate stories. And Roland having a different skin tone will hardly be the only change we’ll see from the books. If you’re hung up on that small detail, just wait until you see how differently the entire story plays out.

Some of those who are upset have pointed out that there are moments of racial tension in the books that are a part of the story, which is why Roland needed to be white. Likely, they’re referring to a series of exchanges between Roland, Eddie Dean, and the character of Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker, a wheelchair-bound black woman, in the second novel.

Odetta/Detta is leery of white people, so she doesn’t trust Roland and Eddie Dean. It was an issue that came up several times in the book. But changing Roland’s skin color doesn’t mean that the racial tension is going to be removed— just that it will have to be done another way.

Maybe Odetta/Detta will treat him differently as a black man. You’re taking away that thread of having her distrust Roland as a white guy, but with that comes many new story opportunities. For example, how will other characters treat Roland based on his different skin color?

Besides, those feelings basically vanish by the end of the book in which they start, when Odetta/Detta becomes Susannah, a merge of her split personalities. And beyond that, the elements of racial tension never really come back into play for the rest of the novel series, making it ultimately not that important.

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Just trust Stephen King, guys. We will always see changes from the books when it comes to film and TV adaptations, but that isn’t always bad. A TV show based on another King novel, 11.22.63, recently concluded on Hulu— and despite having several major changes, that mini-series was just as freakin’ incredible as the book.

I have no reason to believe the same thing won’t happen with The Dark Tower.