Film Critic Matt Taylor delves the depths of the Sony superhero slumpWritten by Matt Taylor on 2nd November 2018
The Name’s Not Jane Bond (And Nor Should It Ever Be)
Assessing the recent James Bond casting controversy, Film Critic Antonia Miles calls for a more imaginative approach to female representation
It’s safe to say that the future of cinema’s most iconic spy has been shaken recently. The nation was initially divided when rumours first surfaced a few months ago that Idris Elba would be replacing Daniel Craig after the next film comes out in 2020, bringing issues of racial diversity and representation in cinema well and truly under the spotlight. Now, the latest conversation on Ian Fleming’s beloved character has been ignited in response to the comments of the film franchise’s executive producer, Barbara Broccoli, and her insistence that Bond will never be a female character.
Many fans have long favoured the idea of a gender swap when casting Daniel Craig’s successor; the world is changing and so too should our leading roles in cinema, they argue. Many of those who first jumped aboard the casting idea of Idris Elba as the first ever black actor to play 007 are now rallying behind several of Hollywood’s leading ladies for the role, including the likes of Emily Blunt and Gillian Anderson. In light of Broccoli’s blunt comments on the issue of gender in the next casting of Bond, legions of fans have rushed to her defence, insisting that classic films are classics for a reason: the character was written as a male and he should therefore stay as a male too, they protest. After all, the name’s not Jane Bond.
“It’s about time the films moved with the times
It would appear then that the character of Bond has been cast in stone, unchanged as the decades have gone on and with the same best-loved features of the 1950s version: the vintage cars, the ‘shaken not stirred’ martinis and – let’s not forget – the iconic black tie suit. I really liked how the producers of Skyfall revived so many of the retro aspects of the earlier Bond films and blended them together with a plot with drew upon the modern-day realities of technological masterminds who curate plots designed to terrorise. The effect? A fast paced, action packed story which grabbed viewers’ interests from start to finish and my personal favourite film of the Daniel Craig era. So I can’t think of a single reason why the alpha-male, womanising character can’t be played by a black actor in films to come! It’s about time the films moved with the times in terms of the diversity of the actors on-screen – and not as an uber-conscious effort to include a few non-white actors in the films here and there either. The casting of the films should be a mirror image of modern day, multicultural Britain, in the same way that the older films provide us with an exciting, albeit glamourised, glimpse into life throughout the decades.
I think there should doubtlessly be a far greater representation of women in cinema. So far as Bond is concerned, the ubiquitous glamour and sex symbol of the ‘Bond Girl’ – which has become as synonymous with the film franchise as the infamous ‘Bond, James Bond’ gag itself – really doesn’t fulfil the kind of female representation that I would hope for. Naomi Harris’ characterization of Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall, the first film to actually give the character a first name, appeared to address that problem to begin with. Harris’ casting was not only a win for female representation in the classic film series, but for black representation in cinema as well. But even the quick-witted Moneypenny, the latest victim of Bond’s seductive charms, quickly fell to the male gaze of the camera in scenes which make for pretty uncomfortable viewing (note how many scenes she can be seen longingly lingering over Bond’s every word).
“Gender-swapping roles shouldn’t be a highly self-conscious switch to tick an imagined diversity box
I’m always gunning for more female-centric spy and action films. But while gender-swapping casting has certainly worked well in the case of the reboot of the male-centric Ocean’s franchise in Ocean’s 8 and a female Doctor in Doctor Who, we shouldn’t have to turn male characters into female ones. Gender-swapping roles shouldn’t be a highly self-conscious switch to tick an imagined diversity box on film producer’s agendas and, as a clever marketing strategy, to appease liberal audiences. If there ever was to be a female James Bond, I fear that’s all they could ever be. A female James Bond, a James Bond with breasts in other words.
I’m sure any actress who filled the boots of Daniel Craig as a “Jane Bond” would bring a unique characterisation to the role and that the film would make for good viewing. But wouldn’t it be so much better if more actresses were given their own roles to their own merit? Moving forward, let’s simply push for a far greater representation of women in film, both in front of the camera and behind them and let’s create more female characters with brilliant stories to go with them.