When I saw Giles’ article I was straight away intrigued as a fan of James Bond, I eagerly read it wanting to be enraged by his reasoning and was then left feeling slightly deflated by his argument. First and foremost, I believe it is important not to make generalisations and assumptions; my first issue is the assumption that ‘a significant proportion of [those voting] were women’ – on what basis is that assumption valid? Furthermore, GMB originally conducted a survey regarding who should be the next Bond in 2016, 1 year after the 2015 release of “Spectre”; as we approach the release of “No Time to Die” in 2020, yet again they have trolled out the issue of, who should be Bond? But how did they present this information in their poll? 9 options were available for people to choose from: 8 of the options were the names of individual female actors, and the final option was ‘James Bond should only be played by a man.’ Now, I’m no mathematician but I am pretty sure those options would skew the results. In light of this ground-breaking GMB poll discovery, Piers Morgan then posed the question ‘Is it time for a female 007?’, of which respondents voted 82% no, and 18% yes. ‘Is it time?’ is a vastly different question to ‘Should 007 be female?’
Giles mentioned the ‘stereotypical fantasy of a male spy’ that Fleming crafted, but what is the difference between the Bond Fleming wrote of and the mass-market Saltzman and Broccolli movie creation? The Bond Fleming wrote of knew his limitations, he admits his alcoholism, is more of a detective than a gadget-wielding action man and does not actually acknowledge the status of women as other people – they are simply a distraction or tool to achieve his end. While you may think this last point does represent the Bond we may know and love, who seduces women for information and access to organisations. What about the movie Bond (in his many incarnations) that falls in love? In ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, George Lazenby in his one outing as 007 marries the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo and is then bereft upon her murder, this is then raised many movies later in ‘Licence in Kill’ featuring Timothy Dalton (my personal favourite Bond). ‘Casino Royale’ sees Bond fall in love with Vespa Lynd and quit MI6 to build a future with her, then upon her death he spirals into a calculated vendetta. My point being there is no ‘stereotypical fantasy male spy’ that Bond portrays. Therefore, why should Bond not be female?
Considering a range of spy movies (Spy; The Bourne Trilogy; Mission Impossible; Kingsmen – of which I eagerly await the prequel) , I’m not convinced any presents this supposed stereotypical fantasy male spy. In fact, I think the ‘man from Milk Tray’ is about as close as we have come.
To what extent is Bonds masculinity his defining feature? I would argue the defining quality is not masculinity but more control of and manipulation of the situation. This may be due to his training to fulfil the role of 007, and in part, his personality. To draw comparison: Sherlock Holmes is male, and this is a key feature of his character, particularly in relation to his relationship with Irene Adler and no subsequent women. But that wouldn’t be his defining character, instead it can be argued that his actions as a high-functioning sociopath is his defining feature. Masculinity comes in many forms, especially in current Western society where gender and identity are acknowledged in their diversity by many. Therefore, why could 007 not be female but still include masculinity as a defining feature?
The issue isn’t necessarily about appropriating a male character in making Bond
The parallel can be drawn between the other successful British export and icon; Dr Who. The first Bond novel was written in 1953, whereas Dr Who was first broadcast in 1963. But it is worth noting that the first Bond movie “Dr No” was released in 1962 and the first Dr Who movie “Dr Who and the Daleks” was released in 1965. It is thus fair to argue they are contemporary. Dr Who created an ingenuous method of handing on the baton to another actor through the use of ‘regeneration’, the Bond franchise has the same option available through the use of the code-name ‘James Bond – 007’. Dr Who made the dramatic change of the Dr being female in 2017, the writers and producers had already tested the waters of viewer reaction through changing The Master to The Mistress in series 8, 2014. It can be argued that the Bond franchise started testing the waters of acceptance regarding a male into female figure when Dame Judi Dench took over as the first female M in 1995. This mirrored real life, as Dame Stella Rimington took over as the first female Director General of MI5 in 1990.
Incidentally, since Dame Stella Rimington retired, she has become a writer, and her first novel was about a female intelligence officer (spy), so there may yet be a new franchise to carve the way for female actors to represent spies. But I see no reason why ‘James Bond-007’ cannot or should not be female.