In these kinds of films, Clover argues, the woman is initially portrayed as being in danger, a narrative in tune with the cultural stereotypes about women as weak, disempowered, and endangered. Think of Sarah Connor in the first Terminator film, Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, or of Lisbeth Salander sexually assaulted in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

But then, Clover argues, in the second half of these films, the tables are turned. Suddenly, the weak, vulnerable woman seizes the knife/axe/improbably large gun, and overcomes the alien/android/serial killer/whoever. The empowerment fantasy is more intense and more complete because it starts as a disempowerment fantasy.

Women are allowed on screen to be more vulnerable than men. For example, there’s a scene in Kill Bill where the Bride is reduced to wailing and begging as Bill shoots her in the head. She’s totally bereft and defeated. But her emotional loss and the totality of her disempowerment only makes her more fearsome when she wakes from her coma and begins slaughtering her way towards vengeance. The further down you are, the more satisfying it is when you slice up 200 ninjas.

James Bond, on the other hand, never loses his cool. Even when he’s having his genitals tortured in Casino Royale, he still laughs defiantly. This means the empowerment fantasy always lacks a certain dynamism. Bond starts at the top and stays at the top, running through the same Bond formula as ever, year after year, always debonnaire and unflappable, always—kind of dull. Maybe there’s a Bond scene as gritty, heart-breaking, and ultimately triumphant as the scene at the end of Terminator II with Linda Hamilton cocking her shotgun with her one good arm and driving the evil terminator towards the molten pit. But I sure don’t remember it.

In keeping with old-fashioned standards of masculinity, guys are supposed to always remain in control. But (big reveal!) the vast majority of men, the vast majority of the time, are not. We feel disempowered, overwhelmed, endangered—all the emotions that the rules of cinema don’t allow Bond to display.

But women action heroes have access to a wider palate of emotions. Although women onscreen are often given smaller, more stereotypical, less nuanced roles than men, in action films, they can shine. When they’re given lead roles, they often have more latitude, range, and development than men would.

It seems unlikely that the Bond executives would tinker with their tried and true—not to mention lucrative—formula. The films are consistent money-earners, and last year’s bloated, tedious Spectre showed just how unimaginative and hidebound the creative forces behind the franchise are.

But if they did choose Gillian Anderson, film history suggests we might finally get a Bond who is vulnerable, scrappy, and determined, with harder-won victories. That’s way more cool. Jane Bond would give the franchise a chance to create a better empowerment fantasy—for people of every gender.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.