“The internet,” as a collective consciousness of wishes and trends, cannot decide whom it wants to be the next James Bond. Idris Elba appeared to be the early frontrunner. Then the internet fell in love with Tom Hiddleston. Now, it seems, people are clamoring for Gillian Anderson, who’d be the first female James Bond since the film franchise began in 1962.
Anderson, best known for playing Scully in The X-Files, added to the intrigue when she tweeted a picture of herself photoshopped into a 007 poster, implying she’d be game to take on the role:
The poster has now been retweeted over 12,000 times. Clearly, there is real excitement over the prospect of a woman playing the iconic secret agent.
But should there be? There’s no doubt that Anderson, or any one of a vast number of talented actresses, would kill it as “Jane Bond.” Fundamentally, there’s no reason why traditionally male roles cannot be given to females—in fact, it happens all the time, and it’s usually more than successful. But Hollywood should aspire to do better than “Jane Bond.”
James Bond is a tired, clichéd, ridiculous character. There’s a reason that Daniel Craig, who has played Bond in four films, said he’d rather “slash his wrists” than continue with the role. What would it say about the movie industry if it were to force an actress to play some female version of Bond, rather than develop a new and more interesting character?
The traditionally macho tenets of the character—douchiness, chauvinism, unbridled arrogance to the point of stupidity—could conceivably be adapted to better fit a female. But that seems like a needless exercise, and one that’s far less imaginative than creating a new bad-ass action heroine that isn’t bogged down by the same tropes that have arguably turned Bond into a parody of itself.
There are female 00 agents in the expanded Bond universe. If there must be another Bond film, the next one should focus on one of these agents. Don’t make a female Bond. Make an agent better and cooler than Bond, one with her own personality and backstory—one with a chance to become just as celebrated in her own right. It would be an excellent opportunity to continue the beloved blockbuster franchise without completely wearing out its welcome.
Hollywood has tried making improvements in gender diversity in recent years. There are more mainstream female leading roles than ever before (some of which were originally intended for men). It’s been a pretty good few years for action heroines, specifically, with Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario, Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games trilogy, among others.
It’s not enough. A University of Southern California study found that only 30% of speaking roles across thousands of films from 2007 to 2014 were female. Just 21 of the top 100 films from 2014 featured a female lead. In 2007, 20% of characters on screen in action movies were female. That improved by less than 2% over the next seven years.
Nothing should hold an actress back from playing “Jane Bond” if she wants to. But “Jane Bond” would just be—pardon the pun—a specter of real progress. If the next James Bond is a woman, it will suggest that Hollywood is interested only in keeping up appearances of diversity, instead of actually writing and funding new action roles for women.