I’ve heard a lot about how we should let James Bond be a man, and just make a different franchise, and give women their own female Bond-counterpart. I’ve heard that James Bond is a male ideal, that a woman in the role would turn the film into nothing more than a feminist statement, and I’ve even heard (from an anonymous Youtube comment) that making a female James Bond is like making “a male Laura Croft.” Most alarmingly, I’ve heard that we shouldn’t have a woman as James Bond because it won’t solve the rampant sexism in our entertainment industry.
I have addressed these complaints respectively in the list below.
1. Believe me, if there was a an original spy franchise with a woman at the helm, I would watch the hell out of it. That would be great. But currently, no one is making spy movies with women at the helm, because people don’t think they will make money.
2, James Bond is quite possibly the worst male ideal to strive for. Sure, he’s handsome and suave; “women want him” and “men want to be him,” et cetera, et cetera. But when we idealize James Bond we forget that he’s hardly a decent person. Even the filmmakers idealize him, and in at least the most recent film, “Spectre,” several characters remind James Bond, “you’re a good man,” which to be frank, he is not. He was never supposed to be.
I wait for the day when M calls Bond into the office and informs him, “you’re an asshole, 007, but you’re good at your job.”
3. A Bond film with a woman at the helm would simply be another Bond film. The only thing that can reduce it to just a ‘feminist statement’ is if men refuse to enjoy the character for who she is, instead seeing only that Bond is a woman and being insulted by her very presence. The very reason we need feminism in the entertainment industry is because no one will take an idea like women in spy movies seriously if we the reasoning behind them is just a fun idea for a movie. When a man helms a spy movie, it’s perfectly normal, but the minute there’s a woman in the lead role, the streets fill with protesters because God forbid an action flick have a “feminist agenda.” We need feminism, because whenever a woman does anything new, her accomplishments are overlooked and reduced to a ‘agenda’.
This film wouldn’t have to make a feminist statement if people treated women leading action flicks with the same respect as men. If we could see a woman as Bond just because it’s a good story, if that was treated as casually as Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible, then it wouldn’t have to be a feminist statement. It would be normal. As long as the very existence of a spy film starring a woman is considered a huge deal, it’s going to make a statement.
3. James Bond is not Lara Croft. In fact, there is a male Lara Croft; his name is Indiana Jones, and he receives far more recognition and respect than Lara Croft does. To be blunt, Lara Croft is more often considered the sexy female counterpart of Indiana Jones.
Furthermore, we forget that James Bond has been played by so many different actors with so many different takes on the character that it would hardly be a stretch for a woman to take on the role. Bond is not a set character like Indiana Jones or Ethan Hunt (who has been played by Tom Cruise for all five Mission: Impossible films). 007 has become a pseudonym for several characters over the last few decades, with different appearances and personalities.
4. This won’t solve sexism in film. It won’t make a difference until we get original spy movies starring women, which studios currently won’t do. Even then, female representation in action flicks is obviously not the overarching solution to gender inequality in Hollywood. But here’s the thing: I don’t expect a female James Bond to solve all the problems for women in film. I don’t need it to. That’s not the reason I gunned for Gillian Anderson to be the next Bond last May, when she commented on it on Twitter, and it’s certainly not the only reason I’m writing this post right now. To be honest, I thought it would make a fun movie.
If we refuse to take action because our actions won’t solve everything, we miss incredible opportunities. Just because a film won’t immediately solve sexism doesn’t mean it’s not worth our time. A lot of small steps cover just as much ground as a few great leaps, and if we want to advance women in entertainment, we cannot forget that.
World of entertainment, if you don’t ever want to see a woman as Bond, don’t complain when women get their own action franchises. Don’t complain about “feminist agendas” and simultaneously refuse to normalize women in action roles, because there wouldn’t have to be a statement about it if you didn’t throw a goddamn fit every time it happened.
Add endum as of Jan. 2018: I still want to see Gillian Anderson play James Bond. I’m also incredibly excited to watch Proud Mary, an original spy flick starring Taraji P. Henson.