“He can be of any colour, but he is male,” Broccoli told Variety. “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.”
Broccoli’s comments have been met with the approval of some fans, who are apparently convinced that never having a female Bond is a wonderful idea. Indeed, they say, women deserve better than men’s hand-me-downs! They should have their own characters, their own franchises and their own films. Who even cares about Bond?
I understand the sentiment, but, first of all, it begs the question: why can’t women have both? Must we choose between original — “strong female characters” — and an iconic character at the heart of a beloved franchise? It’s not like male actors have been starved of either. In the Bond film series itself, men get to see themselves reflected both in the suave spy and his antagonists (Rami Malek is playing the main villain in the upcoming No Time to Die, Javier Bardem was unforgettable as Raoul Silva in the 2012 Skyfall, and Christoph Waltz got to portray Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 2015 Spectre – a role he’s reprising this year).
To suggest that a female Bond wouldn’t be interesting enough is to ignore the fact that there is tremendous power in seeing a female version of such a monumental character as 007. It would make for a clear, undeniable sign that we have kicked open the doors and entered previously forbidden territory.
Being told that it will be more “interesting” for me to get my own characters reminds me of being told, as a child, that it would be more fun to play with a different toy than the one my sibling refused to lend me. I don’t want the alternative toy! Granted, I sort of want the elusive “strong female characters” – sure, why not – but I also want the real deal. I want Bond. I want a woman behind the wheel of that Aston Martin. I want a woman in a very stylish pantsuit to do the iconic pistol-grab about-turn. I want a woman who sleeps with men she barely knows and doesn't give them a second thought once the post-sex shower is over. I want a woman to order her Martini shaken, not stirred.
Certainly, sometimes, progress for women means carving our own path and finding our own way into things. Other times, though, it’s reaching for – and being given – exactly what men have. If anything, the James Bond franchise seems like the ideal playground for this sort of gender switcheroo to happen, because the character is meant to be played by radically different people every so often. Remember when Daniel Craig first took over the role and people where horrified that a blond would be called on to play 007? We collectively got over that. All findings suggest that the world wouldn’t collapse if a woman were to get the part next.
The Doctor Who franchise comes to mind, of course, for two reasons. Firstly, like Bond, the Time Lord is designed to be played by different actors over time. And secondly, in July 2017, Jodie Whittaker was announced as the next Doctor – a female Doctor! Some were angry. Others, including me, were thrilled. After years of being relegated to the rank of companions, a woman was finally taking control of the TARDIS. I was 25 at the time, but the teenager inside of me – the one who had fallen in love with the franchise when it relaunched in 2005 – was over the moon.
There is a reason why a female James Bond seems counterintuitive. It’s because Bond is meant to be powerful, capable, and – shall we say – sexually confident. Those aren’t traits we typically associate with women, for all the wrong reasons.
Having a female Bond would also be an interesting thought experiment for male fans of the franchise. Women are generally asked to identify with male characters in fiction much more often than men are asked to identify with female characters. Don’t believe me? Just think about the fact that books written by women, presumably for women (whatever that means) are typically marketed as “women’s fiction”, as opposed to “just fiction”. Or the fact that when women do write books that they want to become mainstream, they often disguise their first names and create male protagonists so they don't get ignored by mainstream marketing from day one (hello, J K Rowling and the Harry Potter series.)
There is a systematic tendency to relegate female characters to their own, separate corners. It’s high time Hollywood did its part to help change that. Besides, a female Bond wouldn’t just be good for the industry and for the ageing Bond franchise itself – it would also be riotously fun. I refuse to give up hope.