The ‘Bond Girl’ is one of cinema’s most notorious female representations, with critics never seeming to be able to agree as to whether the gun-toting, luscious-haired women are empowering or objectified. The 007 franchise has always had an issue with women, from blatant misogyny and objectification in earlier films to more subtle sexism in the more recent releases. In Spectre, Monica Bellucci (whose character was hailed as some kind of feminist icon for being a similar age to Craig’s Bond as opposed to the twenty-something he usually favours) is on screen for all of ten minutes, during which she attends her husband’s funeral, has dubiously consensual sex with James Bond, and is then never seen again. When women appear in Bond, it is almost always in sexualised outfits, without much to say, or reliant on Bond for their narrative.
With the announcement of Daniel Craig’s retirement from the role, conversation has turned who his replacement should be. Idris Elba, John Boyega, Henry Golding, and Tom Hardy have all had their names thrown into the ring, but some have suggested that 007 needs a more drastic rebrand – a female actor.
At first glance, this proposal may seem like a win for feminism: a woman in a role that is central to British cinema and one of the industry’s most lucrative jobs. Representation allows women to dream bigger – as the famous saying goes, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. But if we dig a bit deeper, is a female Bond a win for feminism, or is it just tokenism?
Inserting a female actor into a sexist franchise isn’t feminism. We should be calling for new, better, more rounded and exciting roles for women rather than copy and pasting male roles and shoehorning women into them. This isn’t to say that I don’t think women are capable of portraying the famous super spy, or being cool, charismatic, brave and proficient with gadgets – but is James Bond, a role mired in sexism, chauvinism and issues of rape culture, really what we should be aiming for?
Lashana Lynch’s character in No Time to Die, the franchise’s latest release, is a great example of the kind of female representation we need on screen – even though she was hailed as the ‘new 007’, her character was decidedly distinct from that of James Bond, and I relished the ways in which their characters interacted. She was feisty, talented and cool without veering into the ever-looming ‘girlboss’ territory. In other words, she didn’t make me cringe, like so many ‘strong female characters’ written by male writers do. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s involvement in the script surely has something to do with this – maybe we need to think about getting more women in the writers’ rooms too.
Daniel Craig himself has weighed in on the discussion, saying, ‘Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?’, as has Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, who stated ‘I believe we should be creating new characters for women – strong female characters. I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.’ Their views sum up many other people’s feelings on the subject.
So, should the new James Bond be a woman? I would argue no. We can do better than shoving a female actor into a character whose history leaves much to be desired in terms of sexism. It’s time to pave the way for new iconic characters played by women of all backgrounds.
– Caitlin Barr
Featured Image Source: Still via Youtube // No Time to Die | Final US Trailer / James Bond 007