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Lashana Lynch, a Black woman, will reportedly take over James Bond’s code name of 007 in the next Bond movie. While this is a good step forward for representation on screen, is it enough?
News broke a couple of days ago that the next 007 will be played by Lashana Lynch, who was recently seen as fighter pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel. An anonymous source who spoke to the Daily Mail, said, that in the (as yet untitled) upcoming Bond movie, “‘There is a pivotal scene at the start of the film where M says ‘Come in 007’, and in walks Lashana who is black, beautiful and a woman.” While this rumour has not been confirmed officially, there hasn’t been any denial either.
The announcement received mixed reactions. While many who feel that all their favourite franchises are being “ruined” by this call for representation on screen, were obviously upset, the news was welcomed with excitement by those who wanted the franchise to become more diverse.
It is important to note however, that Lashana Lynch is only taking over the Bond code name of 007. Daniel Craig will still be playing James Bond. It will be interesting to see if Lashana is treated in the movie as the one who will take on Bond’s mantle, or she will simply be playing a sidekick/love interest to him, like women in earlier movies have. Referring to these women, the source added that, the phrase ‘Bond girls’ will no longer be used, “We were all told that from now on they are to be addressed as ‘Bond women’.”
Considering that the character of Bond has historically been one who “uses” women, and that women in Bond films have usually there only to further Bond’s storyline, one wonders how different Lashana’s role will be. According to the source, “This is 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. There are spectacular chase sequences and fights, and Bond is still Bond but he’s having to learn to deal with the world of #MeToo.” The source also added, “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. Well, certainly not at the beginning.”
Aisha Gani writes, in her essay, about Representation as a Feminist Act (which in turn is included in the collection of essays titled, Can We All Be Feminists?), “representation can sometimes look like a check-the-box exercise – a Band-Aid that masks the lack of structural change in feminism and elsewhere – and why it can look disingenuous. Like a show with one character of color in the background, who has little agency or speaking parts but is good for the optics. We want to speak for ourselves, and do for ourselves without the burden of having to justify our existence or success, and without being a tool for anything else. That is real agency.”
It remains to be seen if Lashana Lynch’s 007 will have any real agency, but we can approach it with cautious optimism because of the involvement of writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge who is known for writing feminist characters in shows like Killing Eve and Fleabag (which she has received 11 Emmy nominations this year). Waller-Bridge is only the second credited woman screenwriter in nearly 60 years of James Bond films.
Hollywood and other western media are slowly waking up to the need for representation and diversity on screen. For every Scarlett Johannson who defended herself against criticism for playing marginalized people by saying that she should be allowed to play, “any person, or any tree, or any animal,” simply because she is an actor, there is a Halle Bailey, who represents those faces who have long been underrepresented on screen.
One wonders when these lessons will trickle down into the Indian movie and TV industry. Article 15 has been receiving criticism for its “savarna saviour” narrative, and problematic representation. Films like Gully Boy, Udta Punjab and Super 30 have received criticism for using “brownface” i.e. using fair actors play characters who have a darker skin tone. And these are some of the better, more progressive movies.
I for one would love to see a female Don say, “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, namumkin hai!” (It is not just difficult, but impossible to catch Don!), movies with Dalit characters who have real agency, and Muslim characters who have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. Hopefully that day will come soon.
Image source: a still from Captain Marvel
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