Barbara Broccoli recently made news. If you didn’t know, Barbara Broccoli is one of the producers of the James Bond film series, taking over the reins from her father Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli in 1995. With the upcoming release of the next Bond adventure, No Time To Die, there is inevitibly a lot of press tours involved. And with this being Daniel Craig’s final turn in the role, attention now swings to who will fill the tuxedo next. And it will be a tuxedo. With the question of casting coming up, Broccoli was asked if she would ever consider casting a woman as Bond. Her answer was a definitive no.
And she is absolutely right to do so. While it is right and proper for the character to evolve to reflect present day circumstances, there are certain aspects of him that, in order to remain faithful to the source material, should stay the same. The main one for me is that he remain male. Switching Bond’s gender doesn’t make sense from a story standpoint and it will be reduced to a token gesture in a desperate attempt to remain current. There can absolutely be female Double 0 agents, there is one in the new film, played by Lashana Lynch. That’s fine, times and attitudes have moved on in terms of women’s military service. As long as espionage has been around, there have been female spies but given the clandestine nature of their activities and the prevaling attitudes of Ian Fleming, most female characters he wrote were something fun for Bond to chase. The watershed moment in the film series was when Judi Dench was cast as M. Having a woman in a position of authority over Bond flipped the tables. That trend carried on with the Daniel Craig films, particularly with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.
Broccoli’s stance is that rather than flip Bond’s gender, writers and filmmakers should be looking to create new strong female characters and writing new stories around them. And she is backing that talk up. Besides the new Bond film, Broccoli’s production company has another film being released this year, called The Rhythm Section. Based on the book of the same name by Mark Burnell, it focuses on a young woman’s search for the truth surrounding her family’s death and her increasingly violent actions to find what the truth is.
I can definitely see why some people may think that this is the right thing to do. They may argue that something similar was done in Doctor Who. Casting Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor worked because of the nature of the show. It had been established that that could happen. Bond is set in the real world, however ridiculous the Brosnan films got, and without a reboot of the series, (which they may end up doing anyway given they’ll be replacing the lead actor) that kind of casting wouldn’t work.
I feel that if the character was changed from male to female then it would lose any sort of connection to James Bond. We would be much better served by creating an original character rather than taking a male character and having it played by a female. It would look rather like trying to cash in on the #MeToo movement and attaching a well known name to it to try and ensure its success. Surely it would be better to have confidence in a new character than try and force something onto the series which wouldn’t feel in keeping with the character.
I do think there is a point where you can go overboard trying to make things like this equal. Rather than demand that a fictional character be played by a female rather than a male, campaign for equal pay for women, encourage women to become involved in politics and improve women’s representation there. Britain has had the office of Primer Minister since the mid 1700s, only twice has a woman held the office. Concentrate your efforts on making a difference in the real world. Art imitates life, so if the changes happen in the real world, they will in movies and television and any realm of entertainment you like.
Barbara Broccoli is right not to cast a woman as Bond. It doesn’t make sense for the character and it denies writers from creating a new female character to be a role model for young girls. Not simply to be James Bond for girls, but to have her own adventures and character arcs while doing all the stuff the boys can do.