Pussy Galore in the new Bond

bond

The meh news of the day:

Since Daniel Craig announced he was standing down as James Bond, debate has raged whether the next 007 should be a woman, or black.

Now The Mail on Sunday can reveal that she will be both – thanks to the intervention of feminist TV writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

In what’s been called a ‘popcorn-dropping moment’, British star Lashana Lynch, will be given Bond’s licence to kill in the 25th movie in the franchise, currently being shot in Italy and the UK.

However, traditionalists can relax: she’s not the new Bond, but a new character who takes over his secret agent number after he leaves MI6.

For starters, I’m glad we all now seem to agree that no one will be trying to turn James Bond into a woman, which would be as ridiculous as making Snow White a male character or Garfield the Cat a human of either gender. 007, on the other hand, is merely a code designation – everyone can be 007, just as everyone can be Q. At the very least logic still rules in the world of fiction if not always in the world of reality these days.

As to how the Bond franchise will fare after this transition is another matter. The character of James Bond is a product of the early Cold War era, created by a real life former spy as a sort of a fantasy tribute to the profession. Suave, womanising, hard drinking secret agents who love fast cars are far from the norm in the secret world of intelligence and counter-intelligence; they would be too much of a liability and a security risk. Real life Bonds are inconspicuous and rather grey men and women who live in the shadows, more le Carre than Fleming.  But the fictional Bond made for a good escapist story throughout the decades of the covert struggle against the Evil Empire and managed to acclimatise himself quite successfully to the more chaotic post-Cold War world of terrorists, drug lords and covert cabals. A female will be a completely different 007 to James Bond. Girl power sure, but what happens to the brutal beatings and torture, borderline alcoholism, dangerous driving and the Bond girls?

Which makes for a more general point: all these recent remakes and sequels where the gender, sexuality or ethnicity of the protagonist/s is changed for the sake of diversity strike me as a creatively very lazy option. Cross-dressing existing popular culture myths and archetypes is easy; inventing your own new stories is harder but also more satisfying. Shouldn’t our modern creative class instead of sending a message that “A woman can do everything, including being a fictional male character created by an old British dude in the 1950s” tell us that everyone can have their own great story? I think this is the reason why “Wonder Woman” or “Black Panther” end up so much more popular than an all-female remake of “Ghostbusters” or a black “Lancelot”. Show some imagination and creativity instead of cheap wokeness and you just might end up a commercial success while still trumpeting your particular message of empowerment.

Because that’s what it comes down to in the end – cultural products are products like all others, competing for attention in a marketplace full of consumers with their interests, desires and wallets. We might all theorise ad nauseam about the ins and outs of a female secret agent with a licence to kill but it’s the market – the audiences – that will decide the long term future of this project. The fans as well as causal movie goers will vote with their hard earned cash whether Lashana Lynch is as watchable and as entertaining as Daniel Craig or his predecessors. Of course, if they vote the wrong way – as has been the case with the female “Ghostbusters” for instance – they will be accused of racism, sexism, bigotry and just generally not being sophisticated enough. But that’s just sour grapes and more intellectual laziness from the uncreative creative people. Do better.

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