Yesterday’s big news in the entertainment world was the revelation that James Bond is being retired. Not Daniel Craig, who succeeded Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan in the role, but James Bond himself. The MI6 agent with the double-oh designation that grants a license to kill.

His 007 code is being handed off to a new character, to be played by British actress Lashana Lynch, recently seen as USAF pilot Captain Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel. This revelation ends a lot of speculation as to who would be the next James Bond. The answer is… nobody. After 57 years of movies, the character is being put out to pasture, and by early reports, not in a graceful manner.

There is no dearth of action films led by strong female protagonist coming out of Hollywood in recent years. Here’s a partial list: Atomic Blonde, Salt, Hanna, Colombiana, Lucy, Haywire, Kill Bill, Aeon Flux, Lara Croft, Charlies Angels (x3), Ultraviolet, Underworld (x5), Elektra, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Alien (x4), Resident Evil (x6), Hunger Games (x4), Star Wars (x4).

Television has done its part, with Buffy, Nikita, Sydney Bristow, Starbuck, Max Guevara, Xena, Jessica Jones, Supergirl, and Blindspot’s Jane Doe among the many women kicking ass and taking names, and that’s before I get into ensemble shows and non-action shows boasting strong, affirming, and well-developed female characters.

Animated films are also awash in strong female leads. We have Moana, Elsa, Rapunzel, Belle, Mulan, Merida, Pocahotas, Esmeralda, Mononoke, and Lilo, just to name a few.

I have enjoyed many of these movies and shows, even though they sometimes strain credulity even within the context of wham-bang action (there are realities of physical size and strength that are routinely ignored). And, I’ve enjoyed the Bond films, the Transporter movies, the Mission Impossible movies, the John Wicks, and many other action films and television shows with male leads. It is indeed a golden age of visual entertainment, with so much content out there that it’s impossible to keep up with it all, and more appearing every day.

Sadly, the bountiful supply of strong women seems to be deemed insufficient. In yet another example of “we must elevate ours by tearing down others,” the New York Post has reported that the next James Bond movie, iteration #25, will see the white Scotsman hand off his 007 code to a black woman, and not in a collegial fashion. There’s long been buzz about wanting to inject some identity politics into the Bond franchise, with Daniel Craig leaving the role after this installment, but, based on what the Post is reporting, the iconography itself is to be burned down. “Bond, of course, is sexually attracted to the new female 007 and tries his usual seduction tricks, but is baffled when they don’t work on a brilliant, young black woman who basically rolls her eyes at him and has no interest in jumping into his bed.” They’re hoping to “modernize the franchise criticized by many as being too dated and sexist,” and they’re looking to make a “Bond for the modern era who will appeal to a younger generation while sticking true to what we all expect in a Bond film.”

This is my turn to eye-roll. Yes, the character was a womanizer, and a seducer, both for personal satisfaction and as an element of his spy-craft. So what? We hear no complaints about spy-craft seduction in any of those female-lead action movies, or about those characters embracing their sexuality, but when it’s a man seducing a woman to get her to spill secrets, or just because, it’s “dated and sexist.” If the complaint were about the vacuity of those women, I’d agree, but the fact is that there have been countless strong women in Bond movies, and not just of recent vintage. Even the exploitiveness of Ursula Andress’s beach bikini scene in 1962’s Dr. No was offset with her diving knife and self-confident carriage. In fact, an honest survey finds that many Bond women are strong, independent, and formidable counterparts to 007. There were plenty of vapid bimbos, but who do we remember more? Tiffany Case and Plenty O’Toole, or Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, Diana Rigg’s Tracy di Vincenzo and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore?

Bond movies offered strong female characters from their inception in the 1960s, at the vanguard of the sexual revolution, the equal rights movement, and the societal shift in attitudes toward women. To deem the movies “dated and sexist” is to ignore all this, in favor of a pap and lazy narrative that relies on tearing down a straw-man caricature in order to make some sort of “woke” social point.

This reported “popcorn-dropping moment” would rely on the continued destruction of normal, positive, and consensual interactions between men and women, the perpetuation of the “toxic masculinity” argument, and the increasingly tiresome trope that genders can only improve their lot by tearing each other down. There’s no reason for it, other than as a comeuppance and woke declaration that the James Bond character is an old nag of a horse that deserves the ignominy of the glue factory. Why not simply have a proper, professional hand-off, with the older Bond handing passing the code onto a new agent, with mutual respect and commonality of purpose? Why must old Bond be rebuffed and mocked, instead of being given acknowledgment and respect for a lifetime of service to the Crown?

Movies are a business, and producers are under no obligation to do anything other than what they think will make money. And, I’m presuming, they expect that intersectionality will sell. It’s their money, it’s their risk, and if they believe they can maximize their box office with culturally divisive pandering and and a confrontational, destructive treatment of an iconic character, that’s their business decision. But, it’s likely that, if this reported plot line materializes, I’ll feel disinclined to part with the cost of a movie ticket, and I suspect that at least a few other potential customers will feel the same. Based on this first report, it feels as if they’re attempting to give Bond “payback” for his decades of being, well, Bond. That’s nothing more than self-aggrandizing disrespect to countless millions of fans of the character and the franchise. Not everything needs to be a social justice statement, and I question the wisdom of alienating a significant chunk of your traditional audience just to satisfy some (never satisfied) social scolds.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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