James Bond was written as a male, and till the end of time, will remain a male.
In recent times, gender and race-swapping are becoming a common practice to diversify Hollywood. Makkari in Marvel’s upcoming movie, Eternals, was gender-swapped and the character Alina Starkov, who was understood to be caucasian, turned out to be biracial in Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone.
As Tinseltown continues to struggle with achieving full representation where even movies like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings does not fully embody the Asian representation needed in Marvel’s history, no one could’ve said it better than Bond actor Daniel Craig, who in a recent interview with Radio Times, said that James Bond shouldn’t be played by a woman.
Hold your torches. When asked if he would support a more “diverse appointment as his replacement”, Craig responded:
“The answer to that is very simple. There should simply be better parts for women and actors of colour. Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, for a woman?”
Craig’s reply echoes comments made by Bond franchise executive producer Barbara Broccoli who in 2018 said, “Bond is male. He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male. And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.”
Although there are fans who would love to hear ‘Good Evening, Ms. Bond’ on the big screen one day, the act of gender and race swapping can be seen as a disservice to the pool of talented actresses and actors of colour. This is especially when hiring diverse talents are often rooted in tokenism and for brownie points from fans and critics. Swapping a character’s gender and/or race doesn’t do much for actual representation if they aren’t re-written to some extent to reflect the experiences influenced by said identity.
For example, Bond walks into a bar and orders a martini. When asked if he wants it shaken or stirred, he responds, “Do I look like I give a damn?”. Would a female Bond say the same? Would she be revered as a woman’s woman like Bond is a man’s man, if she does or would she be seen as rude and entitled? Would she even ask for a martini in the first place? Would it be sexist if she orders a gin and tonic? Is a whiskey neat too try-hard or unsexy for a woman?
The point is, basing a powerful character off an existing cishet male character isn’t as representational as one may think. And if scriptwriters, producers and directors have to jump through these hoops in order to seem intentional with their representation and diversity, wouldn’t it make more sense if they were to create an entirely new, unique and powerful character from scratch?
There are plenty of female spy characters that hold the same respect as Bond, that haven’t been gender-swapped. Think Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde, Evelyn Salt in Salt, heck even Natasha Romanoff from Black Widow. All these female icons are beloved by fans regardless of their gender identity, and it’s because they are great characters in their own right.
This has been proven in other mediums too.
Comic book fans love Supergirl because she isn’t Superman. She’s an entirely different character with different origins and motivations. She doesn’t end up working in a major newspaper and marries a fellow journalist like Clark Kent. Harley Quinn isn’t a ‘female Joker’, but rather a complex character on her own that has grown so much from her initial comic book appearance.
So if a new spy is to come on board the Bond franchise, whether it be a female spy or a person of colour, or both, the spy should serve more than a replacement of Bond and instead be as good, and hey maybe even better, than Bond.
The bigger question is, do you then consider 007 (and even the name James Bond) a codename, and should this female spy get her own Double 0 identifier?
No Time To Die starring Daniel Craig opens in Singapore on 30 September, and the rest of the world on 8 October 2021.