x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

James Bond is not a woman, Lashana Lynch is not James Bond: please all calm down

The internet has been ablaze since it was revealed Lashana Lynch will play 007. Here's why it absolutely should not be
British actress Lashana Lynch, who recently played Maria Rambeau, Captain Marvel's best friend, has been chosen to play Her Majesty's new agent using code name 007 in the latest untitled James Bond movie franchise. AFP 

To say that the internet has been going into meltdown since the revelation that black, British female actor and Captain Marvel star Lashana Lynch is set to play 007 in the forthcoming Bond 25 would be something of an understatement.

A trawl through Twitter to find representative opinions provided plenty of opinions, but few that should be given any airing or could be published in a family newspaper.

Let’s just say feelings were “strong” on both sides of the debate: we'll leave it to one of James Bond's many iterations to express the mood…

The media was in on the anger too. The UK’s Daily Telegraph headline read: "Phoebe Waller-Bridge's black, female 007 shows the new Bond will display the worst kind of virtue signalling”. Really?!

While The Raw Story caught the mood perfectly with its lead, “White dudes flip out over casting of a black woman as next Agent 007."

Bond quit. It seems perfectly reasonable that a replacement 007 could have been found by now. It makes little difference to the story whether that replacement is black, white, male or female

We can’t help but think everyone should calm down. What many opponents of the “black female Bond” concept seem to have overlooked in the course of their online ranting is that Lynch will not be playing James Bond.

Daniel Craig will, as usual. Lynch will be 007. That's Bond's assigned MI6 code number, not his name.

Given that Bond was last seen quitting MI6 and driving off into the sunset with Madeleine Swann at the end of Spectre, it seems perfectly reasonable that a replacement 007 could have been found by now. It really makes little difference to the story whether that replacement is black, white, male or female.

What will be interesting is Bond’s response to his replacement, and how this fits into the narrative.

Here's Bond effectively quitting as 007:

Remember, there have been many 007s

James Bond wasn’t even the first 007. The Bond novels expand beyond Ian Fleming’s original 14 books to Bond novels commissioned by his estate following the author’s 1964 death, beginning with Kingsley Amis’ 1968 Colonel Sun.

The writer who currently has the task of carrying the Bond torch is Anthony Horowitz, and the very first line of his 2018 tome Forever and a Day is “007 is dead.” He doesn’t mean Bond though. Forever and a Day is a prequel to the events of Casino Royale, and follows Bond on his very first mission as 007 – investigating the death of the man whose “00” designation he has inherited.

The films too have dealt with the notion that the “00” prefix isn’t fixed to one person. Agent 002, aka Bill Fairbanks, is killed by Scaramanga, aka The Man with the Golden Gun, at a cabaret venue in Beirut in the preamble to that novel and movie, released in 1974.

Fast forward to 1987’s The Living Daylights and a new 002 is one of three agents, alongside 007 and 004, sent on a training mission to Gibraltar, here they are parachuting in:

Agent 009, meanwhile, is killed in 1983’s Octopussy. But he is replaced by a new 009 who launches a failed assassination attempt on the villain, former KGB agent Renard, in 1999’s The World is Not Enough. He is also named as the intended recipient of Bond’s flashy new Aston Martin DB10 in 2015’s Spectre.

Lynch isn't the first female '00' agent and Bond isn't always 007

We’ve also seen female “00” agents on screen before, including in MI6 briefings in both Thunderball and The World is Not Enough, so there’s really nothing new about this notion, and Bond hasn’t always been 007 himself.

In both Licence to Kill and Skyfall Bond is not even an active MI6 agent at the start of the movie, in the former following a resignation, and in the latter after faking his own death. In both of those movies, his place hadn't yet been filled and he ended up reclaiming his title. It looks like that could be trickier this time, should he even wish to.

Following the example of Dr Who, who took on his/her first female persona in the form of Jodie Whittaker's Dr in 2018, there has been immense pressure for fellow British national treasure Bond to follow suit.

Lea Seydoux, with director Cary Joji Fukunaga, Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris and Lashana Lynch, who make up the cast of 'Bond 25'. AP

Long-term producer Barbara Broccoli has always maintained that there will never be a female Bond, however. It may be controversial to say so, but she has a point. Dr Who is a shape shifting immortal alien who can take on any form. James Bond is a suave, slightly thuggish, highly sexist, man - definitely a man.

By one side of the debate we mean those who believe Bond's character should be male, not the racist misogynists complaining now - they don't deserve any thought

By introducing a non-white female into Bond’s vacated role, Broccoli and co have met both side of the debate in the middle (and by one side, we mean those who believe Bond's character should be male, not the racist misogynists complaining now - they don't deserve any appeasing).

Even Bond 25 co-writer Phoebe Waller Bridge, who was brought on board specifically to give the new film a slightly less “blokey” feel has rubbished the idea of an actual female Bond, saying “the important thing is that the film treats the women properly. He doesn’t have to. He needs to be true to this character.”

The producers have perhaps brought some of the confusion on themselves by using 007 and Bond so interchangeably in the franchise's marketing historically, but let’s all take a deep breath, relax, and look forward to seeing how James Bond himself reacts to this younger agent stepping into his shoes.

It’s a safe bet there will be fireworks.

Updated: July 17, 2019 01:55 PM