Bond may still be smashing box office records 50 years on from his first mission, but increasingly he does so against the backdrop of alien modernisation. These days, not only is he fighting Orwellian surveillance, but an even more personal threat – suggestions Bond should be Jane rather than James. This is more than political correctness gone mad, it’s both shaken AND stirred.
The past few years have witnessed welcome breakthroughs in decades of fights for the acceptance of progression in sexuality, and particularly this year, gender fluidity. This does not mean that James Bond, a franchise built so entirely on male fantasy, should be reassigned.
Daniel Craig's co-stars Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Ben Whishaw (Q) both stated they do not feel the world is “ready” for a female 007. Quite right too. There is no equality driven motive at work, simply a desire for archaic battle of the sexes one-upmanship. As Henry Kissinger put it “nobody will ever win that fight. There is too much fraternizing with the enemy”.
James Bond, the hard-drinking, warm-blooded lover turned cold blooded killer, may be the easy target, but he is far from the right one.
For starters, the reality of Bond is not a nice one. As Craig himself put it, the character “is a misogynist”; a broken shell of a man, secretly tormented by the shackles of a life prohibiting commitment to anything other than the establishment he protects. As far as role models go, he is a pretty disastrous one.
It is a shame that just as Bond is sketched out in more detail than ever before, including explorations of his orphaned childhood and maternal relationship with Judi Dench’s M, the on-screen sexism has increased in turn.
Director Sam Mendes’ women are nothing more than hapless damsels in distress and figures of ridicule. Take Skyfall, where, having watched his lover shot while balancing Scotch on her head, Bond proclaims “what a waste of good Scotch”. Or the time Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny started out in the field, only to accidently shoot Bond and end up as his secretary. Yes, really.
These are no doubt tongue in cheek references to the Connery and Moore periods, but the point is, would a female equivalent really be something to positively shout about?
It makes better sense to fight for more empowered female characters than castrate Bond. None have come close to matching Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. A Chinese spy, she remains the only Bond girl to have collaborated with him on an equal basis – saving his life numerous times.
The same can be said for female action heroes in general. Over the past decade or so, only Tomb Raider and S.A.L.T, both starring Angelina Jolie, have tried to match Bond. But neither of these escaped the male gaze lens. S.A.L.T sees Jolie’s supposed spy credentials reduced to disrupting surveillance by graphically removing her underwear and throwing it over the camera.
But there is hope. The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen is a true 21st century female action hero. A heroine of the teen books now adapted to the big screen, she remains a leader of men and women, putting others ahead of herself – entering the Games to protect her younger sister. This empowered, independent personality also fits that of the actress playing her, Jennifer Lawrence.
Better still, take this a step further and match Bond with a fitting female villain. The World Is Not Enough’s double crossing Electra King is the closest of recent memory, but ultimately gives all the power to Bond by saying he “wouldn’t dare” kill her as “you’d miss me too much”. A cliché honeypot storyline.
Find a girl to match Bond by all means, but a female Bond? Don’t be so condescending.