In the last week, the internet has blown up over a deceptively simple question: What if a woman played James Bond?
On Saturday, Gillian Anderson tweeted a fan-made poster of herself in the role, standing before the franchise's iconic gun barrel. In a recent Complex interview, Priyanka Chopra dismissed the suggestion that she play a Bond girl, saying, “I get that all the time. But fuck that—I wanna be Bond.”
Either one of these women would make a pretty cool James (or Jane) Bond—as would, say, Natalie Dormer, or current Moneypenny Naomie Harris. But you have to wonder: Wouldn't it be more satisfying to just bury this skeleton of a franchise? Besides the fact that they print money, the Daniel Craig movies have been praised because they were such a departure from the previous Bond films. But let's be real: Even these are getting stale. Just let the poor man die already. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but your guy Jimmy is a borderline psychopathic misogynist in both the movies and the Ian Fleming novels on which the movies are based. Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.
Overall, Bond’s various relationships with the disposable-by-default female characters, some of whom had more action-y roles than others, are pretty ridiculous. BuzzFeed crunched the numbers: In 24 films, he slept with 61 women. Twenty-five women have been killed as a result of being associated with him (or sleeping with him). He’s personally killed five women, four of whom he slept with. Damn.
And here’s a list of the names of some of the more iconic Bond girls:
- Pussy Galore
- Chu Mei
- Holly Goodhead
- Honeychile Rider
- Plenty O’Toole
- Kissy Suzuki
- Xenia Onatopp
In case their status as sex objects wasn't obvious enough! Then there’s this:
Of course, Bond’s bigotry is intersectional, and his sexism overlaps with racism. The very first James Bond film, Dr. No (1963), is set in the Caribbean, with a clear racial divide established between Bond and the subservient characters of color. Two actors appear in yellowface, because Hollywood loves its whitewashing: Joseph Wiseman, a Canadian actor born to Orthodox Jewish parents, was put in yellowface to play the half-German, half-Chinese Dr. No himself. And Zena Marshall, a white woman from Kenya, had her “exotic” looks accentuated to play the Bond girl Miss Taro—Bond’s orientalist sexual desire is inflicted on a white woman pretending to be Chinese. Classic!
Another example of this racism is in the book Dr. No, in which the Colonial Secretary of Jamaica gives Bond this breakdown of the people who inhabit the island:
“It’s like this.” He began his antics with the pipe. “The Jamaican is a kindly lazy man with the virtues and vices of a child. He lives on a very rich island but he doesn’t get rich from it. He doesn’t know how to and he’s too lazy."
Anyway, back to yellowface! In You Only Live Twice, Bond underwent a non-invasive cosmetic procedure (a woman in a bikini—STANDARD MEDICAL ATTIRE—put a small lump of some silicon-like substance on his eyelids and put a wig on his head) to “become a Japanese.” Yep, yellowface James Bond is a thing that happened.
Not to mention Fleming’s crazy anti-Korean rhetoric when describing the beloved character Oddjob in the 1959 book Goldfinger on which the 1964 movie was based (“They are the cruelest, most ruthless people in the world”), or the portrayal of Indian culture in 1980's Octopussy.
So, to circle back, not only is Bond sexist as fuck, but considering the political atmosphere post-World War II, at a time when many of the countries Bond visits—like India, Jamaica, and the Bahamas—were in the midst of gaining or had recently gained independence from Great Britain, he’s also a dumb metaphor for the subjugation of crazy ex-boyfriend England’s former colonies. It doesn't matter if these places are no longer subject to the Queen's rule, so help him God, Bond will make subordinates of their people.
Casting a woman as James Bond is an objectively dope idea, and probably the only circumstance in which I would enthusiastically watch another James Bond film. (I mean, could you imagine Priyanka Chopra in an Octopussy remake, utterly destroying the dumb stereotypes the original relied on?) And for anyone who thinks a female Bond precludes the possibility of a Bond girl, that's not necessarily true, as writer Clara Mae pointed out. 😎
Even Daniel Craig has addressed the blatant misogyny of the franchise, saying he hoped to remedy some of Bond’s woman-hating tendencies. But how do you chip away at a legacy that is literally forged from bigotry?
In recent years, Idris Elba emerged as a fan-favorite choice to replace Daniel Craig, a suggestion which in itself sparked some pretty racist comments. While Elba would no doubt have made an amazing Bond—and would have certainly changed the direction of the franchise to better suit, um, reality—there's no way he could have singlehandedly erased the racism that has historically weaved in and out of the films. The same is true of a Jane Bond: She wouldn’t undo the damage already done.
Besides, even Gillian Anderson believes the idea, while fun to entertain, is far from viable. In a Tumblr post (Gillian Anderson has a Tumblr now, friends!!), she wrote in response to question about the "Jane Bond news":
Well, it’s not news, it’s a fantasy. Someone made a fabulous poster and it started an intriguing conversation. Will it ever happen in the real world? More than probably not.
While a woman or a person of color (or a woman of color!) could be exactly the Bond we deserve, let’s not forget what the franchise really, truly is in this day and age: just another stepping stone towards Adele’s inevitable EGOT.