Since at least 2012, some fans of the James Bond/007 franchise have been calling for Idris Elba to replace Daniel Craig, which would make Elba the first Black Bond. And finally they have their answer: No. But we might be getting something better.
On July 13, The Daily Mail reported that British actress Lashana Lynch is rumoured to be taking over the “007” designation in the upcoming Bond 25 film. Craig will still reprise his role as the infamous spy, but since Bond left MI6 in the previous film, his codename will have been given to Lynch’s character. Meaning we’ll finally have a Black female spy, y’all!
Wow. Lashana Lynch is the next 007. She’s not playing Bond, but will take over the code name. Brava, Phoebe Waller-Bridge for ushering in a new era where WoC can lead a spy series, like Sandra Oh in #KillingEve. H/t @iamlaurenp https://t.co/qcSpMHF2zR
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) July 14, 2019
If the rumours are true, this will be the first time in the franchise’s 57-year history that a man hasn’t played the role of 007. So, it’s hella big.
MOOD: the way brie larson looking at our new 007 lashana lynch pic.twitter.com/WhVOA560Ei
— sprinkles (@spacelesbiam) July 14, 2019
While Lynch’s rumoured casting isn’t necessarily the 007 we asked for, it’s actually better. By casting her in a role that isn’t the iconic and coveted Bond, the powers that be have not only avoided trying to squeeze Lynch into a pre-defined role but have also made room for her—and other female actors who come after—to create her own character and story. Bond is tired. A new, female 007 who can lead the franchise moving forward? That’s inspired.
We’ve tried the whole pink-washing thing before—to varying success
The decision to cast Lynch in Bond 25 comes in the wake of a series of female-led remakes over the past few years. In 2016, the world was re-introduced to Ghostbusters. Helmed by an all-female cast of comedians, including Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig, the remake of the ’80s classic was exciting but had tepid box-office success. In 2018, Sandra Bullock and a bevy of A-list female celebs (including Rihanna!) graced us with an Ocean’s 11 reboot and the greatest red-carpet looks of all time. And also in 2018, it was announced that there would be a 21 Jump Street reboot with the main characters swapped out for two female detectives.
While obviously in demand, these films have also been largely criticized—by both detractors (who use women at the helm as an excuse if a film doesn’t do well) and supportive critics, who say the films come at the expense of original stories and further highlight the problem in Hollywood: that there just aren’t as many opportunities for female actors.
Criticism aside, without these films, we might not have female-focused original movies like Wonder Woman. As Kimberlee McTaggart, a director and editor and the chair of Women in Film and Television’s Atlantic chapter, told FLARE in June 2018: “In the last few years, there’s been a real appetite for female-driven films, both on-screen and behind the camera, and I think Hollywood wants to do that, and their way of kind of inching their way in is doing the reboots, the remakes, doing it that way.” While McTaggart recognized that Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 were a “quick fix,” they are at least a step. “Will it end there?” she asked. “I don’t think so. I think we’ll just build upon that.”
Changing up 007 helps create new stories and opportunities for women
And to a degree, that’s what the casting of Lynch is—a step forward. In an era of remakes and attempting to shoehorn feminist narratives into already existing films (here’s looking at you, Aladdin), it’s refreshing to see original characters and storylines incorporated into existing stories in an organic way. Even more exciting is seeing characters written explicitly *for* women and not just added as an afterthought or dropped in as the alternative to men.
This is something that the minds behind Bond may have been thinking of for a while. In October 2018, executive producer Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian: “Bond is male. He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male. And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women. Let’s just create more female characters and make the story fit those female characters.” Amen to that.
And from a broader perspective, the casting of a female 007 helps show young women that they can find success in high-level roles.
And it helps us leave old tropes—and our attachment to them—behind
Listen—by now we know that stan culture is real, especially when it comes to franchises of the sci-fi and spy variety, whose fans can be diehard enthusiasts and purists. It’s probably one of the reasons we *haven’t* had a Bond that isn’t anything but snow white, despite an outspoken desire for one from some fans. Until Lynch’s casting, female characters in the world of Bond had typically adhered to a preordained type: She’s mysterious (a.k.a. says very little), beautiful, and sexy, she looks great in a bathing suit and she inevitably dies.
They serve a very specific purpose.
Not only are these characters sexualized, they’re also seriously infantilized. Can we please address the fact that, despite being full-grown women, Bond’s love interests are referred to as “Bond girls?” Even the one-and-only Mrs. Bond, played by Diana Rigg in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, is referred to as a “spunky Bond girl.”
And it’s hard to break out of the mould, although the franchise has tried. In 2006, Casino Royale featured Craig’s Bond opposite actress Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. While she was billed as a Bond girl, Green’s Lynd was atypical in that she was a double agent, going against Bond in order to save her kidnapped lover. But, in typical Bond fashion, the pair end up falling in love, and then Lynd sacrifices herself to save him and drowns. So, same old, same old.
With these clearly defined roles, it’s not hard to believe that fans would be unwilling to accept anything but the norm. Which is why the casting of Lynch as 007 works perfectly.
By casting her as a new character rather than that of Bond, the franchise eliminates the potential for direct comparison of—or competition between—the two, instead giving longtime fans something that they can come to love without feeling like it’s a direct attack on or in opposition to their fave character. And in creating a strong new female character—one who we will go ahead and assume is, as a spy, intelligent AF—we can, in essence, just let the idea of the Bond girl die (and stay dead).
But some people are still a *little* hesitant
As great as this new shake-up in Bond’s world sounds—and it does sound really great—some critics are the teeniest bit hesitant. Because, as history has shown, old habits die hard; it can be difficult not to revert back to the usual way of doing things, especially when the usual way has become comfortable and we know it works. In the case of Lynch and the Bond franchise, it would be more than easy for Lynch’s character to fall into the trap of being the typical Bond girl.
All the power to women like Halle Berry, Eva Green and Diana Rigg, who all played seminal Bond leading ladies, but that’s not what we want for Lynch. Her casting as 007 is a groundbreaking moment, not a surf-emerging one. But, frankly, we wouldn’t put it past the Hollywood bigwigs to indulge the fervour and desire for a Black Bond by casting Lynch and then completely subvert her character to become another sexualized sidekick who dies at the end. (Because Bond, a man of mystery, can’t be tied down by matters of the heart.)
The Lashana Lynch is 007 news is great, but I do wonder if people celebrating aren't forgetting that she will inevitably have to be somehow removed before the end of the film so that Craig can be given back the number. I mean, how many times has Bond been stripped of rank before?
— Alex Donaldson (@APZonerunner) July 14, 2019
As journalist Noah Berlatsky notes in a July 15 op-ed for The Guardian, while casting Black female actors as legacy characters is a great first step towards rectifying the racism and sexism inherent in both society and the movie industry, it’s very easy to write these characters badly, especially in comparison to their white counterparts. “Black women also need to be written with respect,” Berlatsky writes. “They have to be presented as natural, worthy heroes who deserve to wear the cowl or cape or tux in question. Otherwise, the new hero just becomes another way to demonstrate that the real, worthy hero is the white guy.” Berlatsky points to the Marvel franchise and tv show The Vampire Diaries, in which characters of colour are often not given the development they deserve. “The difficulty with changing legacy characters is that the original is generally seen as the iconic version, and successors are temporary and secondary. As a result, the non-white or non-male versions of the character can be treated as afterthoughts or sidekicks or as mistakes to be quietly pushed from centre stage,” says Berlatsky.
So, he’s not super optimistic about Lynch’s character because her mission–as far as we know—is to bring Craig’s Bond out of retirement, which suggests, says Berlatsky, that the “white, male Bond is still considered the best of the best, with Lynch relegated to a supporting role.”
We’re a little more optimistic—with a smart and strong woman like Fleabag‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge writing the script, we have to be. Here’s hoping that the newest Bond film signals a much needed shift in film—and maybe an appearance from *that* jumpsuit. Tbh, it would be the perfect thing to wear while kicking some serious bad-guy ass.
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