It is time to live and let James Bond die.
With the recent casting announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the first FICTIONAL female doctor in the Doctor Who series, and the official release for the next James Bond installment set for 2019, it is time, once again, to reconsider the prospects of a future female James Bond. An exaggerated fantasy of the male perversion, the Bond franchise is coming to its landmark 25th film, and with Daniel Craig still unconfirmed to return, coupled with a growing outcry for a bold, new casting choice (i.e. not another white guy), it’s safe to assume Eon productions has at least considered introducing a new Bond…
As major film studios slowly progress towards including more female protagonists, the odds of a Jane Bond film have been steadily increasing, but with the severe backlash against the all-female led Ghostbusters reboot still fresh in Hollywood’s profit-based psyche, there is little to suggest that the next Bond could be Jane. Hopefully Atomic Blonde, Wonder Woman, or hell even Mad Max: Fury Road, can convince Eon productions that not only are women more than capable of leading action-driven films, but that there exists an audience willing to invest in these films, both financially and emotionally.
Perhaps Bond isn’t hurting for cash, but rather, Eon productions is hesitant to handle the gender swap of one of Hollywood’s only major male icons. You see, unlike other supposed leading men, James Bond is a man’s man, a manly man, an alpha MALE and as such, replacing him with a woman would be blasphemy. Not only would it deprive the character of his only character trait, his testosterone, but it would also prompt a set of nearly impossible sexist standards for Jane to fulfill. For, in order to have the gender reversal have weight and purpose, she must not simply replicate the character’s masculinity. She cannot act like a man, exhibiting exaggerations of stereotypical male characteristics, or function in relation to the support of a male savior. The last thing Jane Bond needs to be is a British Barbarella reincarnate. Instead, Jane needs to be an agent with her own agency.
As for the question of Jane’s sexuality, yes she should be a sexually active woman who has multiple partners! A major component of James Bond’s appeal is his ability to sleep with countless, if not, infinite number of women throughout his adventures, often without any long-term commitment, emotional attachment or societal pushback. Rather than continuing the long-standing convention of glorifying male virility, it is time for the franchise to enable a female protagonist who is celebrated for, and empowered by, her sexuality. Despite the great progress feminism has made in social, political and sexual realms, the lingering double standard of slut-shaming still exists- especially in popular culture. By being a woman who is confident in her sexuality, Jane Bond could act as a face for change, fighting off bad guys both on screen and in the YouTube comments down below.
In order for this to succeed, however, three conditions must apply: 1.Unlike the aforementioned Barbarella, Jane Bond’s sexual activity must not be filmed in order to satisfy the male gaze. Jane Bond is anything but just another Bond girl. 2. She must not degrade the men with whom she becomes involved with. As tempting as it is for Jane Bond to be a feminist fatale, the aim is gender equality, not revenge. That is not to say her lovers are free from general harm (if he dies… he dies), but instead that they are not treated as inferior or impure. 3. The sex in the films must be mutually consensual between partners. This should go without saying, but considering the forceful past of James Bond, it bore repeating.
Jane Bond need not replace James Bond, for he will forever live on as an international ladies’ man in history, but rather, by shifting the focus of the films from the character of James Bond to the moniker of 007, it would allow for a universe in which both characters could co-exist. This is a technique that is often used in comic books, with popular characters such as Robin, The Green Lantern and Captain America all having had numerous incarnations throughout the years, with their respective superhero names acting as aliases that could be adopted by anyone. The same method could easily be utilized in the Bond franchise with Jane Bond (or Jane Jones or Jane Hill or whatever) taking over the mantle of 007, thereby removing the character of James Bond from the films while still retaining the universe he inhabited with all of its gadgets, cars and exotic locations.
Since Bond’s masculinity is inextricably tied to his character, critics of change argue that Jane Bond should be a spinoff series, or alternatively, a completely different, new franchise, thereby ignoring a critical reason for why the James Bond character should be discontinued. In addition to bettering representation for “strong female characters” on the silver screen, the proposed progression would finally bury an artifact of a bygone era: James Bond. Although public scrutiny of the films’ social and political transgressions appears to be a part of a new social justice warrior [SJW] agenda, acknowledgement of James Bond’s antiquity by M herself dates back to 1995.
For all the changes the franchise has made to its ever evolving cast and tone, the psychology of the titular character has remained stagnant for the past 50+ years. Time and time again, Bond’s reductive attitudes towards race and gender continue to help make cultural insensitivity socially acceptable through the façade of film, with many accepting these transgressions under the pretense that it is “For Entertainment Purposes Only.” A period piece set in the modern-day, the James Bond-centered films need to die in order to allow for a society which lauds women who have both A View to Kill and A License to Kill. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll have a Bond who’s Black or Asian or maybe even *GASP!* gay! Oh wait Asian Bond already happened…
Author: Eric Guzman is a writer from LA that studies film in Chicago. This summer he is the Editorial Intern at Facets.