Let A Woman Play James Bond
Last week, there was a lot of James Bond talk buzzing around the internet. Gillian Anderson expressed a serious interest in playing the character. Eventually, Emilia Clarke did the same.
The last time there was this much “controversy” over casting Britain’s most recognized agent of espionage was when people started throwing around the possibility of Idris Elba in the role.
And if you think the people freaked out about the possibility of a Black man playing James Bond, just imagine the backlash at the suggestion that a woman play Bond: They are not jumping at the idea.
Personally, I think a female James Bond would be great. I want to explain my reasoning as to why a female James Bond shouldn’t matter, why a female James Bond is a good idea given the series’ direction, and, unfortunately, why it won’t happen for at least some time.
What—Not Who— Is James Bond?
The gender of James Bond should not matter because the concept of what James Bond is not entirely determined by James’ gender.
When Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels, he was doing so in a male-centered, post WWII world, where gender roles were different. James Bond, for that time, is a romanticized personality meant to appeal to young adult and adult male. These aspects of Bond are championed by Sean Connery during his time as Bond and are present in every Bond since.
But in the novels, it is true that Bond is somewhat deeper than a chauvinistic lunk. He’s also pretty flawed: he’s emotionally disturbed, unable to form meaningful relationships, has substance abuse problems, and is fairly dysfunctional. Moments that highlight depth for Bond are pretty interesting and in the last 20 years, and especially in the last 10 years with the Craig iteration of Bond, that side of Bond is highlighted more.
Another huge part of the Bond identity is his job. As a Cold War era spy, Bond’s position is romanticized. But in the information age, his identity as a spy is more complicated given the profession’s lack of modern relevance. The world functions differently.
But even in a world where espionage happens with a mouse and keyboard, there’s an argument to be made for the the human element: wizened, tenacious, and skilled people who can rely on their intuition and make hard calls. Bond and the Double 0 organization stand for this idea. This is the major theme of Skyfall and Spectre and is best expressed in the Skyfall scene where Bond meets Q for the first time.
To me, this aspect of James Bond place in the world is the prevalent theme of the character at this time and gives filmmakers the base on which to build their stories. What makes James Bond stories relevant today is exploring the way he exists in the modern world.
This combined with a more complex and less straightforward characterization of Bond’s personality and idiosyncrasies make the character interesting and ultimately what keeps the character modern.
This is what James Bond is, today, and this characterization is genderless.
Why A Female James Bond Would Work.
If James Bond is the representative of the idea explored above, then his gender is irrelevant. Hell, I think it would be great if you had a female James Bond and named her “James Bond” as a statement of this idea—the character’s gender is irrelevant, why feel the need to change the name?
Casting a woman as James Bond would be another way for filmmakers to build on the recently exploring theme of a changing and evolving world. Women are just as much a part of world as men are and the world is moving into a place that recognizes this. And while it shouldn’t be the case that this idea should come with growing pains, it is a fact of the times.
If we’re exploring James Bond’s place in the world and why he/she belongs in the world, despite the majority thinking otherwise, having a woman champion that causes adds a second level of depth: Not only is James Bond a figure that deserves to be here, but so do women.
Just as the films put forward an argument that James Bond is a figure that should be respected and acknowledged, they can highlight the same cause for women and explore the complexity of being a powerful woman in the modern world—an issue that needs to be highlighted.
Why It Won’t Happen.
This would all be great, but I also don’t think it’ll happen because I think that James Bond probably sells more tickets based off the older way of thinking about Bond—as an icon for the macho man. I won’t pretend that James Bond doesn’t appeal to me, a young man who would love to be considered smart, athletic, attractive, and valuable as a man. But even so, I’m not so enamored with Bond that this is the only thing that appeals to me in these stories. I want more depth.
I don’t think the majority of ticket buyers feel the same way. I don’t really blame them, honestly. After all, the Bond films have, historically, been aimed for this audience and sold themselves on the romanticized masculine image.
I believe that most people who see Bond films are still expecting this from James Bond, and until attitudes change, which would happen slowly over time, we’re likely to get mostly the same sort of James Bond, with slight advances in a better, more complex direction with each new iteration, if any.
I genuinely feel like the direction for the James Bond films is to embrace the idea of James Bond as a person of interest based off the idea of his profession and the modern world. I think these would make better films and more interesting stories. I also think it means James Bond will always be relevant, regardless who plays her.