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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This strange love story reminds me of Princess Diana when she gave an interview about Prince Charles - "There were three of us in this marriage!”
This love was flawed and broken the way only we humans know how to break things with our ego, pride, insecurity and complexities!
Where do I even begin to tell the story of how deep a love can be, how it transcends time, place and people. Perhaps this is a story about how women are their own worst enemies. Either way it is a story that tells us how frail, fragile and fraught we are as humans and how much we hurt each other.
This love story began when I was two years old. Growing up in India in a culture that wove love stories like Laila Majnu, Heer Ranjha and the epic symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, into the very fabric of our existence, love was always an integral part of our lives.
One such love story was of a boy and a girl who were neighbours. The boy, an athlete, artist and a poet, found his muse in this shy, thoughtful and in her own way poetic girl, who seemed to worship the very ground he walked on. Her face could be found in all the paintings he created, and her name in every poem he wrote. The girl called him Sagar, which means ocean, symbolizing his all-encompassing love for her.
Everything thing was going well; their wedding date was being finalized, till the boy’s older brother who was a doctor in the same little town, got accepted into Stanford Medical School to do his MS.
Earlier my husband would say, 'Arey! What is there in making dal-roti? It's so simple.' After he had to cook everyday when I was ill, he has stopped saying that to me!
“Arey! What is there to do in making dal roti? Put a handful of lentils in the cooker and let it whistle and make two rotis. After all, how long will it take?” A handful of dal (lentils) and two rotis! This is the story of every woman and no one seems to understand.
Some time ago, after a shopping spree, my husband and I entered the house, exhausted. I had just about kept all the bags aside, when my husband said, “I am very hungry, can you make something.”
I looked at my husband in amazement and thought, ‘He had just had food, how did he get hungry again so soon?’
My husband, as if he had read my face, said, “Arey! You know that my stomach is not filled with outside food. Just make dal roti. What is there to do in making dal roti? Put a handful of lentils in the cooker and let it whistle and make two rotis. After all, how long will it take?”
‘Is this the way dal (lentils) and roti are made?’ The thought came to my mind. ‘After all, I also went along and now I am tired too.’ I was also getting angry at myself that after all, I had spoiled the habit of everyone in the house.
In this decade Bollywood has really woken up to centering stories around women. The result is a wide range of movies that cover nearly every aspect of women’s lives.
Over the past decade, Bollywood has woken up to the fact that women want to see themselves on screen. While some like Mission Mangal or Veere Di Wedding take a feminism lite approach, other movies, like Margarita With A Straw, or Lipstick Under My Burkha take a more nuanced and inclusive approach. Either way, we have lot more choice now, than we did earlier.
That doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Even some of the films listed below have some problematic aspects.
Where some movies do a great job of weeding out sexism, they sometimes still use casual racism or body shaming, usually to generate ‘humour’. Some others, while telling the stories of women, end up centering the man via a saviour narrative. There is still a tendency towards depicting vigilantism on screen –a valid expression on screen of how fed up we are with the callousness of law and order towards women’s safety –but perhaps something we should look deeper into, given recent events. Some resort to the stereotype that a strong women are ‘masculine’. The conversations around representation on screen have only just begun –so we still have young women playing the role of grandmothers etc..
These upcoming Hindi movies in 2019 (and a few that are already on the screen) promise to show us women as they are in the 'real world' - in a range of avatars. Check out our list, and make your plans!
These upcoming Hindi movies in 2019 (and a few that are already on the screen) promise to show us women as they are in the ‘real world’ – in a range of avatars. Check out our list, and make your plans!
“Nahin, mujhe chod ke mat jao, mai tumhare aage hath jodti hun”, (Don’t leave me!) this must’ve been said by at least a gazillion women in Hindi Movies on screen all through the 90s and sometimes even in the early 2000s. We’ve come a long way from there.
From the last few years, all our women onscreen have been rising to the occasion and celebrating life independently and how! From a woman who went on her honeymoon alone (Queen) to a daughter who wouldn’t budge for a man, prioritizing her father before anyone else (Piku) to a naïve simple housewife plunging ahead to take English classes to remind her family that she can achieve anything she wants to (English Vinglish). Last year too, we saw some terrific characters on screen, in Raazi, Andhadhun, Padmaavat, Hichki, Pari and more. We finally have iconic female characters now redeeming the terrible parts that they were confined to in the past.
While 2018 was exceptional, Hindi movies in 2019 look even more promising. Let’s take a look at the upcoming Hindi Movies in 2019 with strong female characters.