Should James Bond Be A Female?

24 min


With the constant debate surrounding everyone’s favorite British spy James Bond and whether he should be “gender swapped” I felt that it is time for me to chime in on this rather interesting and contentious topic. Before I go on with this editorial, I want to issue a disclaimer to the readers of the site and make it very clear that the opinions reflected in this post are my own and I accept full responsibility for what is going to be said below and are by no means reflective of the values of the entire staff at FandomWire.

As someone who has grown up watching all of the 007 films, owns all of them including the non-canonical Never Say Never Again which saw the return of an aged Sean Connery, and has read most of the original novels by Ian Fleming I believe that a change in the character’s gender would be a betrayal of the character, his values, and what he stands for.  I do know and understand that a character can change over time. That is certainly true when it comes to any live-action adaptation of a novel, but not in the case of James Bond where his gender has often served as a key aspect of what makes him who he is and often serves as a plot device. This was most notably true in Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale, which served as a gritty psychological analysis and deconstruction of the character that established him as the “blunt instrument” that his creator Ian Fleming always described him as.

Casino Royale (2005) starring Daniel Craig

In 1953, Ian Fleming published the first original novel titled Casino Royale and in many ways it was a character study on masculinity in a particular historical context. A context where he is the quintessential Alpha male that every person would hope to be in a post-World War II society. This is something that still remains true today despite some minor changes in it’s portrayal. Bond is not completely a sexist cigar smoking homophobe like he was in the original novels or in the early Sean Connery films. His taste in cars and firearms is not the same, but it is still an expensive taste nonetheless. He’s not a cocky and humorous man of mystery anymore like he was in the Roger Moore years. He’s more ruthless, rugged, and debonair like Timothy Dalton who is perhaps the one depiction that is closest to the original novels and resembles the Daily Express sketch that Fleming had commissioned. He is that quintessential man that evokes both envy and desire. As actor Sean Connery once said, “Men want to be him because he represents masculine ideals.” Ian Fleming further added to that by saying, “All women want him between their sheets.”

Now what exactly are those masculine ideals? Well, I think one of the most profoundly masculine ideals that someone like James Bond possesses is competency. Now that is not to say or suggest that competency can’t be or is not a feminine ideal or that females lack competency because they do. That is something that we can see in Charlize Theron’s character in David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, but generally it is a trait that men value differently and they do things differently according to whatever judgments are passed during a situation. Men certainly have been seen in many films and in real life to judge each other’s level of competency and measure their own value and worth based on that. In some instances, it becomes a form of currency to buy another person’s respect. This causes men to compete to attain more of that currency and whoever has the most is the one that people will want to follow and try to aspire to be like. Women do this too but it’s more largely based in femininity and competency is measured in a different way than how men do it. This is certainly true if you view the average workplace or school environment from a purely sociological and psychological angle. Men typically have a higher level of aggression/assertiveness in a lot of what they do and women are more passive/negotiable and how much you are of one or the other among your respective gender determines your worth in society and how you move through it. It is why you often see more men working in physically demanding fields like construction, auto repair, combat arms in the military, and welding than you do women who work mostly in office-based jobs or nursing. Clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson was able to identify this based on statistical data that anyone can attain on a Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

For example, men make it important to take note of others’ skills and how well another male can do something. As someone who affiliates with individuals in law enforcement and the military this is where this notetaking is perhaps most common. If you are not skilled with your firearm, capable of land navigation, or making a sound decision that won’t get you or the person next to you killed then you aren’t exactly worth much to anybody. As for women, they mainly evaluate competency by appearance. I can definitely attest to this as someone who has grown up with only women in the house and being raised by women. They heavily emphasize and enforce the fundamentals of hygiene, what clothes you wear, and how you wear them because it attributes to your own personal advancement and being able to showcase your self-confidence. If you cannot look stylish in everything that you do or wear like a job interview or trying to sell something then life will be a lot harder for you with success being much harder to achieve and for women that will always mean working your hardest to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to males in career fields like business, politics, and law. My mother has always had to the former and to the degree that she enforces the same belief system on me out of concern. Men often concentrate on doing the job and getting it done regardless of if they’re in a team or not and how the overall morale is for their teammates whereas women are not just about getting the job done. They value people’s psychological, physical, and spiritual welfare. They are heavily extroverted and enjoy working to collectively achieve some form of goal. This of course often leads to the formation of friendly, professional, and intimate relationships which will lead to a variety of interactions and reactions that will stem from those relationships. Now that doesn’t mean I’m attempting to devalue feminist ideals or characteristics as they are worth something and I think it certainly is important for a woman to take pride in who she is, her strengths, and her weaknesses. If anything, I’d say this means that they do a much better job at balancing work and pleasure than men not just because they focus on getting to know people are but they actually hold some genuine regard for people even if they are strangers, which men admittedly are not always good at. This is something that the character of James Bond doesn’t do. He firmly believes in work and that women are a distraction only meant for pleasure which he states within the first few chapters of the original Casino Royale novel.

Vesper Lynd, the woman who broke 007.

Basically, I am trying to get the point across that Bond according to Fleming is all about masculinity and being able to do things that mostly men have done for decades and will continue to do so. He’s someone who is well-endowed with exceptional competency which is something that a lot of men want to have. This is often why most men stereotypically love expensive and fast cars, guns, gadgets, consume the most expensive alcohol, and sports. Our willingness to become so enthralled by all of that is not just for entertainment as some imply It is something that strengthens and emboldens the male mindset. We want to improve and sharpen our craft and build ourselves up in a constant race to achieve competency and win in a male versus male game of survival in a fight to preserve our masculinity by any means necessary. Masculinity is about men being able to hold down the fort while also expanding their ability to conquests. These conquests are sometimes good but other times they are not always the best for other people or them.

In the case of James Bond, it is queen and country. Something he’s adamant about protecting. This is best evidenced in Casino Royale and it’s follow-up Quantum of Solace where Bond is bound by his duties as a spy to pursue his targets despite being hunted by MI6 and flexes every muscle he has during the construction site scene where he exhibits a profound ability to creatively maneuver it in a tactical but still brutish style that only Bond could pull off. He proves capable of not just utilizing his physical strengths but his more psychological and monetary power as well to get what he wants. He is able to charm the beautiful Vesper Lynd and roll up to any scene with the latest and greatest Aston-Martin that the British government can buy. He is compelled to show off which also leads to his downfall and it shows that he at times cannot balance work and pleasure which nearly costs him his life in numerous situations. It once again becomes a driving point within the first hour of Skyfall where Bond is a broken and slightly aged alcoholic who can barely hold a gun and he does fail his evaluation to return to duty. Throughout this point we can tell he’s fragile, broken, and not the ruthless idol of masculine authority that we saw in the last two films. It’s something that gets to him and hurts him initially until he regains it. Why? Because he feels inherently robbed of that ability to show off his male competency that made people both respect him and hate him. Femininity does not often suggest that same thing as it about contributing to and sustaining the needs and desires of the group and I think that’s what made Judi Dench’s M so important to the Bond films in later years, particularly the Craig era. It brings that slight femininity to the table but it’s still rugged to a degree as she serves as somewhat of a “tough-love” matriarchal figure to Bond and keeps him together when he needs it most. She was the one who offered some sort of psychological support for him after Vesper died and kept him going up until her death in Skyfall. 

Would it be interesting to see a film where the female spy can move down a hallway, clear out rooms with hostages, and kill a bunch of armed gunmen to find some top secret dossier or assassinate the leader of a rival spy organization? Yes, absolutely and I definitely would like to see more of that considering I’m a colossal fan of films like Salt, Atomic Blonde, MI6 agent Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, shows like The CW’s Nikita, and of Bond femme fatales like Xenia Onatopp and Elektra King since they proved that they were close to possessing a similar level of competency and lethality that you see in characters like James Bond. Naturally, there’s a certain psychological stipulation that makes the measuring and competition of competency between men versus men. Men do appreciate competency and independence in a woman and I’m certainly one of those men considering how much I admire the things my girlfriend can do that I can’t but it doesn’t get men interested or excited like it does when they see that competency in another man and they don’t have that interest or willingness to compete with women most of the time. They don’t feel a complete challenge to “one-up” them. It’s something that can often be based on a mostly physical standard where even the most elite and strongest of females cannot go toe-to-toe with an elite male consistently and win– not even Xenia Onatopp as she was bested by Bond later on in Goldeneye but she did put forth an admirable deal of effort in that steamy (pun intended) sauna fight scene. Yes, the 007 franchise is largely fiction that is being sold as reality to us but with that portrayal of actual reality comes the fact that women would not be able to consistently physically hold their own against an elite male at his most peak physical form like James Bond is always at.

Left to Right: Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) and Elektra King (Sophie Marceau)

Regardless of how skilled and experienced a female may be in the world of spycraft where they will be dealing with other men on an equal playing field where anything can go haywire, a woman can’t necessarily always hold her own in a conflict in the same way that a man would. Placing something that is potentially improbable in most intense instances would ruin the fiction and dampen the high octane thriller and the constant analysis of how far male competency reaches when it is ran through a gauntlet like the helicopter fight at the beginning of Spectre. Basically, Xenia Onatopp and Lorraine Broughton would be annihilated and slaughtered by Daniel Craig  any day of the week, regardless of their skills and strengths, and men know that. They’re not worried in the slightest at what women could bring to the table even if it is something remarkable.

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde (2017)

It’s not even important if women want to be like “Jane Bond” or look up to her in the same way that men do idealize James Bond. Mainly because they have so many other strong feminine heroines that they can look up to and can be better “role models” than the man who has women dying as soon as they get within an inch of him like Severine and Vesper Lynd. It is important to note that in the world of fiction we have been graced by some great and well-written female leads such as Ellen Ripley and Wonder Woman and they are the epitome of what it means to be a strong woman. These are the characters who generally hold more positive relationships in life and have made enormous differences in their respective universes and they still retain their femininity even after a physically demanding task has pushed them close to the edge. They can put up a fight but they still have emotions, compassion, and aren’t just cold, suave, and ruthless killers like any version of James Bond that we have seen since the 1960’s. Men cannot fully look up to them or admire what they do like they would any character like James Bond or John McClane of Die Hard fame regardless of how interesting, powerful, and heartwarming they may be. This is where I have always believed that James Bond’s role in the study of masculinity certainly isn’t any different from the role that Wonder Woman has always played in the study of femininity and what it means. Now imagine if she was changed to a male but her values and target audience of women wasn’t a part of this change. She would not work as well. There’s no instance where her goals of female empowerment and capitalizing feminism would be successful and she’d ultimately be a failed experiment if they chose to “genderbend” her. From a business standpoint, that is why the James Bond franchise has been so successful and is still one of the longest franchises in cinematic history just like how Wonder Woman has been a successful character in the comic book medium and such a durable political icon for the feminist movement. Both are marketed to a certain demographics and want to invoke certain feelings of admiration in certain groups of people. Psychology, physicality, and gender play an extensive role in the identity of these characters and their values so it does disqualify the opposite genders from assuming their roles.

If there’s one thing that we all know about James Bond and it’s one of the most well-known details about him is that he is a womanizer. He has slept with dozens of women of various races all over the world and you would almost have to wonder if he has had any accidental children along the way. Not that his potential role as a father is important at the moment. Hypothetically speaking if we were to have a female Bond who exhibits all of Bond’s traits then that would mean that she would have to be a womanizer as well or whatever the female equivalent of that would be. In my opinion, this would honestly be a bad thing and generate a more negative image of what women are like and provide people the wrong idea on what feminism is at a time where the concept of feminism is not viewed in a positive light by some people, but not all of them like me. I’m extremely favorable to the feminist movement. It would not matter if she was sleeping with exotic women or male heartthrobs. She would come off as more of a promiscuous “slut” to some and I do not think I need to tell you what kind of backlash that would generate for a studio and it’s director if they really had the stones to put out a film with a character like that. It would ultimately result in the common “sexist” allegations being thrown around regardless of if people petitioned for a female Bond and got their way or not. It’s one of those situations where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. For a film studio it would be a waste of everyone’s time and money to even toy with the notion of it. The other thing is that there’s not always a dance or tension that is often unique to the male-female dynamic with lesbian sex if “Jane Bond” were to sleep with women, which can prove itself to be rather alluring or exciting. There’s no real sexual power struggle, aggression, or masculine tension behind it, and it’s this theme that makes Bond so attractive for both genders in the audience. It’s why your average audience member was more than likely at the edge of their seat in the bath house fight scene with James versus Xenia in Goldeneye and the garrote torture scene with James and Elektra King in The World is Not Enough. You can’t really provide that with some girl-on-girl action like you can with the sexual tension that exists between the male-female dynamic that can be exacerbated by women’s agenda to bed Bond

Why exactly would it be on a woman’s agenda to bed Agent 007, though? Well, it’s not just about tempting and teasing him to the point he pursues them all the way to their bedroom as has happened in numerous films. There is more to it than just some hot fling which we know two women can definitely create but it doesn’t create a certain level of satisfaction in them that can be lethal to a man. They want to flaunt the fact that their femininity and the ideals behind it are a lot more powerful than meets the eye. They want to be able to triumph over masculinity and the ideals that it represents. I doubt that a woman wouldn’t be excited at the very prospect that a man would kneel to them but this man would not just be any man. It would be the alpha male who would be kneeling at her feet because of her sexual appeal that stems from her femininity that has beaten him and becomes his new addiction. There’s a certain eroticism and pleasure that can come from having a fiercely dominant and dangerous man wrapped around their fingertips and completely at their mercy. Something that Xenia Onatopp and Elektra King both exemplified in their attempts to kill Bond while Vesper Lynd was able to extort Bond at the cost of her own life which left him broken at the end of Casino Royale. They want him because he’s the hottest item on the shelf and they can’t wait to control him and challenge his masculinity and his masculine ideals to the point that they may no longer be as strong as they used to be. This is even within this context of hetero-sex because as I have stated previously men can identify with Bond because he is a man just like them and he has their values enveloped him to a degree that he is meant to invoke pride in the belief that they are the dominant sex and take pride in their masculine sexuality and identity as men. They wouldn’t be able to identify with or connect with “Jane Bond” like they would the James Bond even if she was acting like a typical male and doing typical male things because the ideals enveloped in James Bond would not encourage the same level of pride or identity in men if “Jane” was the one carrying them as that story dynamic in the films has now been eradicated.

However, there is one secret value that they do have common with women. They too want to be pursued just as much as women will want to be pursued by them. If they are to be pursued and then dominated then it should be by a woman who retains her feminine wiles and uses them to her advantage like a lethal weapon that is locked and loaded instead of her attempts to mirror dominance and masculine authority. Femininity and masculinity are both important things and they both have to exist in any relationship as they enhance each other and create something that’s natural. This is what a lot of men expect out of a relationship whether it’s friends with benefits or more romantic in nature. It is something that has worked well for the Bond franchise with numerous Bond girls such as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day. To do the complete opposite of this would be a complete injustice to women and would come off more as “trying too hard” to be something that they may not be, provide a lack of self-confidence in their own identity, and inspire unhealthy human relationships. If anything, that’s more sexist than the arguments against keeping James Bond as a male like some have argued.

“You are a sexist!”

In a nutshell, I do believe that if a female Bond were to be cast right now it’d have lasting negative affects on the franchise which would potentially kill it. People may show up to see the first ever “Jane Bond” outing in theaters but mainly out of curiosity to see how it may turn out but the era for that particular iteration would not have any true staying power with the audience as they would undoubtedly slowly back away from the franchise after losing touch with what has had audiences so enthralled with Bond and disposing of one of the most vital ingredients that has made Bond such a thought provoking, compelling, and successful character/franchise: masculinity. Men are not interested in feminist portrayals of themselves or something along the lines of a shadow of a “real” man. In that same breath it can be and is vice versa for women. They want to be proud of their femininity and they do not want that taken from them as a result of an attempt at pretending to be men. As I said previously in the last paragraph it would be an outright injustice to both genders and it’s something that I think a lot of the pro-female Bond advocates do miss when we get down to the nitty gritty details of James Bond from an analytical and business standpoints. It may work for a series like Doctor Who, where a lead character such as The Doctor is a shapeshifter and the theme that embodies the show and it’s lead is change as we are now seeing with the debut of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor but for James Bond it is does not. No, I do not object to the idea of a Bond-esque franchise with a stellar and empowering female lead and I think that many other people would agree with me on that. What we do disagree with is unnecessarily and arbitrarily changing a character’s sex when it’s a vital aspect of who he is for political reasons and that’s largely what this whole “Jane Bond” campaign boils down to at the end of the day.

If people want to raise their flags, pound on their war drums, and shout “equality” at the top of their lungs when it comes to the portrayal of women and men in the action genre, or spy films for that matter then perhaps it is within the best interest of everybody that they advocate for the creation of a new character with her own set of admirable and useful attributes which has proven to be a success with Atomic Blonde or make use of an already existing character within the current canon like Eve Moneypenny who is qualified to be a field agent in the Craig-era which we have seen in Skyfall or a spin-off film featuring Ilsa Faust from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Either way there are plenty of avenues for females to function in the spy sub-genre or action films that people are ignoring. It would be beneficial to invest in all of those instead of promoting some sort of inherent or upfront injustice like “gender-swapping” a character whose very gender is a plot point for what makes him who he is, a critical success, a box office success, and will always be. We shouldn’t have a film like that being made as it would strike a polarizing blow for the feminist movement, which should always be empowered by all means.This editorial is not an attack on those who believe Bond should be a female or an attempt to deride the entire feminist movement or it’s ideals. I do respect the intentions, opinions, and beliefs of those who are out there advocating for “Jane Bond” and think that they are leading a well-intentioned crusade of sorts since I think we can always benefit from more feminine heroes, creativity and diversity even if we’re not really in short supply of either in the film industry but at the same time it is one that would prove detrimental I think that they are not seeing the bigger picture here about what Bond is about and overlooking all of the better routes they can take for a bad-ass female spy that they can take and work hard at. It would be a much better idea to pursue than changing an already existing character where his masculinity is a plot device and has worked for the franchise since the 1960’s and if there’s one thing that I can say about the 007 franchise it is this: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

As previously stated in the disclaimer at the beginning of the post: this article is a reflection of my views and my views are mine alone and I accept responsibility and ownership of them at all times. They are not meant to be sexist or anti-woman at all. They are not endorsed by the rest of the staff at FandomWire.

What do you think of gender-swapping James Bond? Let us know in the comments section down below!


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Simeone Miller
Simeone has been involved in popular culture journalism since early 2015 as the co-founder of the highly successful Up Your Geek news organization. He specializes in covering DC, Marvel, cinema, and gaming. He is a political science major minoring in sociology and plans to be a lawyer.