The other day, I tried an Impossible Burger, a plant-based concoction that’s meant to taste like a hamburger and did, sort of.
Then I went online to read about it (note to self: next time try this first) and found that it’s basically a way to deliver the same heart-stopping saturated fats we find in red meat, only through a plant pipeline.
Surely, a plant-based coronary is just as bad as any other, although the jokes may be worse (somebody call a yambulance!).
Anyway, all of this had me thinking of the recent news that in the upcoming Bond film, James has retired and the MI6 has given his 007 designation to a character played by Lashana Lynch, who is a fine actor, and British, and also a woman, and black.
This is wonderful news for Lashana Lynch. It’s a big payday, and certainly takes the wheezing, retro, relic-of-the-’60s franchise in a new direction, and makes the Bond films inclusive in a new way — Lynch isn’t singing over the opening credits, or playing Moneypenny, or hopping into bed with 007. She is 007.
So the martini glass ceiling has been shattered, and that could be fun, unless this turns out to be the cinematic equivalent of an Impossible Burger -- a new way of giving us the same tiresome Bond clichés in a slightly different package.
And when I say tiresome, that’s not the disgruntled ranting of a seething Bond purist, some guy who threw a tantrum when they cast Pierce Brosnan in the role, because even then he knew, somehow, that Brosnan was better suited to singing ABBA duets with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia!
No, I mean that even James Bond is sick of James Bond. Daniel Craig, who has played the character since 2006′s Casino Royale, so loathes the character that, in a 2015 interview, he said he’d rather slash his wrists than play Bond again. This from an actor who was in Cowboys & Aliens, which many people would rather slash their wrists than watch.
The guy they originally hired to direct the latest Bond, Danny Boyle, left early on, after disputes over the screenplay, and the best name producers could come up with for the new film, so far, is … Bond 25. OK, I get it, that’s probably a working title, but if it isn’t, it’s the worst name for a movie. Except, of course, for Quantum of Solace.
So you understand why Craig may be ready to move on. The job has become increasingly ornamental — “In this scene, Dan, you emerge from the Mediterranean wearing a Speedo” — and in recent years it’s become clear that his main job is to sell Rolex watches and fancy cars to people who can’t stand to watch golf.
Bond has become a brand platform, and a cynic would guess that the move to feminize 007 is less feminist than capitalist. How much money can you really make, using Bond as an icon, selling Brioni formal wear to millennial men whose idea of dressing up is to match their flip-flops with their knit caps? Even the richest among them wear hoodies.
A stylish female 007 might be a forum — a la the Met Gala — to present glamour gear to a more receptive audience. Seen in those terms, you wonder whether this is giant leap forward for women. But the role may be problematic in other ways. Bond, more so than just about any enduring male movie character, is a sex symbol. So this won’t be a role that reduces a woman to an object — it’s a role that may require it.
Also, this is treacherous territory in the Me Too era. While there is no reason why a woman can’t be lusty as Bond, and as blasé about it post hook-up, there is something potentially weird about a woman who’s expected, like Bond, to have sex as part of her job — the Jennifer Lawrence spy drama Red Sparrow wrestled with this, and was pinned early in round one.
I’m reminded of something Jodie Foster told me during a conversation about the best way for women to make substantial progress in the film industry as actresses, directors, writers, and producers. Foster said women should invent new stories for themselves. The last thing women need, she said, was to perform female versions of “some weird male iconography.”
I don’t wish to speak on behalf of Ms. Foster, but I’m pretty sure she would diagnose the Bond films as suffering from a severe case of WMI.
Here’s the thing about the film industry, though: It’s an industry. There are artistic and cultural issues to consider, but there are also labor issues in play. Every character is a role, and every role is a job. And as Hollywood grows ever more dependent on remakes and existing properties — Lynch’s previous high-profile job was playing second fiddle to Captain Marvel — the number of plum jobs available to actors gets narrower. So, it’s only fair to broaden access to Little Mermaids and 007s.
And who knows? Maybe Bond 25 will be smart, sexy, thrilling, and fit Lynch like an Armani dress. The script — which has five (!) credited writers, including Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) — being punched up by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star and showrunner of the BBC/Amazon hit Fleabag, and writer of the lauded first season of Killing Eve. The lead in Fleabag is a woman described as (among other things) “sexually voracious,” and Eve is about a British intelligence officer (Sandra Oh) on the trail of an international assassin (Jodie Comer). Those can all be bundled into Bond, and remain ferociously female.