The Hollywood Reporter recently asked former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan whether he thinks Bond should be portrayed by a female in future films. Brosnan’s response is the best bit of acting he’s done since “Mrs. Doubtfire”:
“Yes! I think we’ve watched the guys do it for the last 40 years. Get out of the way, guys, and put a woman up there. I think it would be exhilarating, it would be exciting.”
This is, of course, the only answer Brosnan is allowed to give. Does he really find the prospect of a politically correct, gender-swapped James Bond “exhilarating?” I tend to doubt it. But he had a metaphorical gun to his head, and, sadly, he was not as courageous under fire as he was in “GoldenEye.” One can only imagine the spasms of feminist outrage that would have ensued if Brosnan had sighed in exasperation and told women to go make their own damned spy franchise. He said what he had to say in order to escape with his career and reputation intact.
But, really, women should go make their own damned spy franchise. James Bond should not be a female. And they shouldn’t replace him with a female 007, either, as appears to be the plan for the upcoming James Bond film. The protagonist of the Bond franchise has always been a man and should always be a man.
Please note: I am not “outraged” by the prospect of a female Bond. I am not participating in a “backlash” of any kind. They could reimagine Bond as a transgendered lesbian dyslexic vegan with ADHD and it wouldn’t provoke anything approaching outrage from me. I would merely find it stupid, just as I find this idea stupid.
Leftists understand the arguments against a female Bond, even if they pretend otherwise. After all, these are the same people who react with sincere anger when Asian, Arab, or black characters are portrayed by white people. And if an iconic female character were ever played by a man, we all know the outrage would be of nuclear proportions. I suspect feminists would be ready for armed revolution if Dorothy became Derek in a “Wizard of Oz” remake, or Lara Croft morphed into Larry Croft for the next “Tomb Raider.” So they can scoff and go into their “what’s the big deal?” routine whenever anyone objects to male characters being made female, or white characters being made black, but their act is transparent. They know what the “big deal” is, and they wouldn’t hesitate to tell us all about it if the switch were made in the reverse.
As it happens, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think it’s a small but still annoying deal. There have been slightly different versions of James Bond through the decades, but two demographic details remain essential to the character: His sex and his nationality. James Bond must be a Brit, and he must be male. Both his Britishness and his maleness are defining facets of his personality and screen presence. Bond is a dapper, charming, resourceful, somewhat chauvinistic man. That’s the whole point of the character. It’s what makes him iconic.
Sure, you could make James Bond enlightened and feminist, just as you could make Indiana Jones morbidly obese and Darth Vader sensitive and in touch with his feelings. But these wouldn’t be changes to the characters so much as they would be creations of entirely new characters. And that’s fine. Go ahead and create new characters. Hollywood could use a few of those. But new characters need to build their own fanbases and excite the interest of the public themselves. If a female character has to borrow relevance and relatability from the male characters she replaced, that’s a good sign that she’s too weak and bland to justify the switch in the first place.
If some screenwriter has an idea for a truly compelling female spy character, let that film be made. But don’t attach it like a barnacle onto the Bond ship. Let it float or sink on its own merits. James Bond has earned the right to continue existing because he — notice, he — continues to engage the audience and attract fans new and old alike. Perhaps a lady secret agent could do the same. Let her do it on her own merits.