There has been a lot of talk in the news these past few months about who will be the next James Bond. Consider this: what if James Bond was an alias for a woman?
You might ask how can the world's greatest spy be a woman if he was introduced as a male character? Believe it or not, there is a fan theory which validates and encourages the existence of a woman 007. According the James Bond fan theory of continuity, the only logical way for the James Bond movies to make sense is if James Bond is not the name of an actual person, but a code name given to a new agent after the previous James Bond's death or retirement (Smokingcage). Assuming the fan theory is correct, there is no logical reason why James Bond could not be an alias for a female agent.
But what would a female James Bond even be like?
A McGill University professor has already done a lot of the legwork to answer that question. In her work, "Under the Skin: The Perils of Becoming Female", Dr. Ara Osterweil, how the film Under the Skin (2013) portrays a woman (technically an alien in a woman's body) rejecting traditional gender roles by taking on what modern society would likely consider as male roles. By applying professor Osterweil's research to James Bond, you can form an idea as to how a female Agent 007 would behave. Firstly, the nameless female in Under The Skin stalks the streets looking to literally rob men of their skin. By doing so, the protagonist reverses traditional scopophilia. In other words, she views men as something to hunt and conquer, the same way men may see women as objects to acquire. Secondly, as the woman is an alien and thus immune to social norms, she is unapologetic for her sexual appetite. She thus attacks the double standard that men are respected for their sexual endeavors whereas women are made to feel guilty for it (slut-shaming). Thirdly, the alien commits the ultimate crime to the female gender role: rejecting motherhood. In Under the Skin, the female lead notices a baby on the shores of a beach while the tide rises. As the child's parents are dead and there is no one else to be seen, it is implied that the infant will surely drown if the alien does not pick up the child, leaving it to drown without showing any remorse. The former is a drastic example, and is not to say that female James Bond would abandon a baby from inevitably drowning, but instead to show she does not need motherhood to feel that her life has been fulfilled.
Through Dr. Osterweil's research, you can see that a female James Bond would need to reverse traditional scopophilia, be unapologetic for her sexual desires, and have no interest in motherhood. However, there is just one missing characteristic which a female James Bond would need that is not examined in the professor's research, a strong capability with weapons. Weapons have long been symbols of male power. For instance, one cannot read Shakespeare without coming across the phallic imagery of swords. A more recent example would be how guns symbolize manliness in popular culture. The bigger the gun, the bigger the man (this particularly true when you think of 1980s cinema such as The A-Team). By being good with weapons, a woman symbolically takes on male power. (Besides, how can you have a James Bond who isn't good with a gun?) However, it is important to note that a female agent 007 should also not have the appearance of a playboy model as this would only further the mother or hooker stereotype of women in cinema. Many films such as Kill Bill or Electra do have female protagonists that are capable with weapons, but such characters do not empower women as their looks objectify them. A female James Bond could be good looking, but not overwhelmingly so as to alienate female audience members, and objectify her in the eyes of male audience members.
You now know that a female James Bond could canonically make sense, and you know what she would be like, but, other than her gender being a cool plot-twist, why does society need a female Agent 007? The reason is mirrored through the public's response the recent movie Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). As expressed by lead actress, Charlize Theron, the vast majority of movies portray women as essentially being either mothers or whores. However, Mad Max: Fury Road drastically attacks the stereotype by portraying a woman amputee as the leading hero. Theron views this change as a positive one. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with the Hollywood actress. According to The Independent, Aaron Clarey, a blogger on the website "Return of the Kings," declares the movie to be "feminist propaganda...a piece of American culture ruined and rewritten right in front of our very eyes" (Selby).
Clarey's intense reaction is exactly why society needs a female James Bond. In order for women to reach equality, people need to become accustomed to seeing women taking on traditional male roles. Literary critic Antonin Artaud stated in The Theatre and its Double, to elicit social change people must firstly be shown the world in a new light. For a change to happen, a population must first see that change is possible. As Artaud stated, this is a cruel process, people must be pushed out of their comfort zones (and they will not be happy about it). However painful it may be, it is a crucial process for social change.
If at all taken seriously, women's rights may be seen as old news due to today's most vocal groups being radical feminists and misandrists. It also seems that many women who identify as feminists complain continuously without offering solutions. Instead of purely focusing on what is wrong, why don't we focus on how thing could be right? As a society, we should seek a better way of achieving equality. Instead of shouting the need to smash the patriarchy, perhaps we should begin by showing women in a different light to elicit intelligent, mature conversation as to how we can make that vision a reality.
Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and its Double. New York: Grover Press, 1981.
Osterweil, Ara. "Under the Skin: The Perils of Becoming Female." Film Quarterly 67.4 (2014):
Selby, Jen. "Mad Max heroine Charlize Theron on female roles in Hollywood: 'You're either a
really good mother, or a really good hooker'." Independent 15 May 2015. Web.
Smokingcage. "James Bond is a Codename and Skyfall Proves it (Skyfall Spoilers)." March