There’s no doubt in my mind that the recent casting of a woman in the role of Dr. Who was a welcome victory for diversity - a minor victory perhaps but these things all add up. However, I feel more ambivalent about the subsequent calls for a female 007 AKA ‘Jane Bond’. Why would you even want that? Merely for the sake of subverting a traditionally male archetype? If so we may as well demand a James Eyre for parity. Maybe it's just that I have a closer affinity to Bond as a character. I’ve enjoyed Dr. Who at various points in the past - the Tom Baker era and the often ignored Peter Cushing films in particular - but it’s not something I have a strong attachment to. Bond, on the other hand, is slightly different. I’m not wildly attached to the series but it’s definitely had a greater presence in my life, partly I suspect because my dad's a fan.
As a child of the late 70s/80s I was inevitably drawn to Roger Moore - the gadgets and the goofy charm suited my childish imagination. Then in later years I grew to appreciate that Sean Connery was of course the superior Bond. Goldfinger was seminal but I think Dr. No is my personal favourite; less camp and mannered than subsequent instalments, it's essentially a Boy's Own adventure yarn that strikes a nice balance between grounded espionage and escapist fantasy. The series eventually became a parody of itself, until the Daniel Craig era when Casino Royale and Skyfall recaptured former glories - the climax of the latter curiously signalling a nostalgic regression to the patriarchal milieu of the pre-Judi Dench era, with a male M once again ensconced at MI6 and Miss Monnypenny dutifully back behind her desk.
Apparently we’re due one more installment with Daniel Craig and then they’ll recast the role. I think it’s much more likely that they’ll cast a non-white male than a female, and I'm sure that’s entirely appropriate. Idris Elba would be a fine choice in theory but he’s clearly too old. He’ll be touching 50 years of age by then (Craig was 38 when he did Casino Royale) and they’ll want someone who can commit to what is a very physically demanding role for at least a decade. Oddly, given there’s more to ethnic diversity than black or white you rarely hear calls for a Bond of Asian descent. Popular culture is already blessed with a growing number of iconic black men, but an Asian 007 could be just the hero we need for these times - "The name’s Bond. Jamal Bond."
So why not a female Bond? Why not indeed. I actually find myself increasingly drawn to female-led stories. My favourite films of recent years include Lost in Translation, Mulholland Dr., Birth, Frances Ha, and Gravity; and it's been a good year or so for women on television with Girls, The Girlfriend Experience, Glow and I Love Dick, not to mention the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery. Inevitably, there are exceptions. The recent Ghostbusters reboot, while it had its moments, was not a good film but that's not because of the female cast, who did a fine job. If anyone is to blame it’s the director, Paul Feig. Likewise with The Force Awakens and Rogue One - both mediocre films in my opinion but not because they had female protagonists, but because they had mediocre (male) directors.
A few days before they announced Jodie Whittaker's casting in Dr. Who, though to far less fanfare, the producers of the Bond franchise announced that Blake Lively is set to star in a new espionage thriller. The premise sounds more like Jane Bourne to me but either way it seems that the Bond producers are looking to satisfy an apparent demand for a female super spy by creating a brand new franchise, rather than meddle with the current one and thus risk killing the golden goose. At least this way they don't have to worry about making her a sexist pig, I suppose.