As Danny Boyle says his Bond girl will reflect the times, we imagine a few casting and character possibilities.
There are many things that look very different in a post-#MeToo world, and James Bond is one of them. Earlier this year, a video compilation of some of 007’s “most inappropriate moments” went viral, featuring clips of Sean Connery’s secret agent groping women, lunging at them, yanking off their clothes and even – in one shocking scene from 1964’s Goldfinger – forcing himself on a woman as she tries fight him off. The video also shows Daniel Craig as Bond in Skyfall, seducing a woman he knows is a traumatised former sex slave.
What is maddening about these interactions is not just Bond’s behaviour, but the way the ‘Bond girls’ are required to respond. Each woman turns to putty in the spy’s hands, even those who resisted him at first. Bond films have never been renowned for their feminism, but this central narrative – a narcissistic, violent, wealthy and powerful man pushing women’s sexual boundaries until they relent – feels particularly jarring in 2018.
In a conversation with reporters this week, Danny Boyle said that he knows the franchise’s depiction of women has to change. The director and screenwriter is working on a script for the 27th Bond film, and when asked if his ‘Bond girl’ would reflect the #MeToo era, he indicated that she would.
“You write in real time,” Boyle said. “You acknowledge the legacy of the world [of Bond] and you write in the world – but you also write in the modern world as well.”
So how would a Bond girl respond to the spy’s advances in the wake of #MeToo and Time’s Up? Below, we’ve made five suggestions for casting, character and plot.
Ridley plays Arabella Scythe, a new recruit in the British Secret Service’s technology-focused Q Division. (Q himself has recently been suspended after writing a blog post about why women are biologically unsuited to espionage careers.) Arabella is responsible for training spies in cybersecurity, and she is repelled by Bond, who keeps breathing down her neck, standing in her way when she tries to leave a room and saying things like “You don’t look much like a computer scientist to me” while winking.
After making some quiet enquiries among the other women in her department, Arabella discovers that 007 is known for being a creepy sexual predator. She takes contemporaneous notes of all her interactions with him, saves screenshots of all his inappropriate WhatsApp messages, and encourages other women to do the same. The group of women then go to HR to file formal complaints against Bond, who is promptly suspended, formally investigated and fired for sexual misconduct.
Kaling plays Nina Varma, an accomplished freelance translator who is hired to accompany Bond on a mission to Papau New Guinea, the most linguistically diverse country on the planet.
Nina quits in disgust when Bond persists in asking her to translate his sleazy pick-up lines. Once back in her hometown of Los Angeles, she writes a lengthy blog post (available in 40 languages) in which she describes her shock at the inherent misogyny of the British Secret Service and Bond specifically. The post goes viral and Bond is forced to resign.
Wright plays Jessica Hampton, an experienced CIA agent sent to work with Bond on a joint US-UK investigation into Russian election interference. While on a sleeper train through Ukraine, Jessica wakes at 2am to find Bond in her cabin, stroking her face and whispering about how he’s “always been attracted to mature women”.
Drawing on her extensive Krav Maga training, Jessica immediately knocks Bond to the ground and handcuffs him to her bunkbed, telling him: “I’m the same age as you, asshole.” She then goes to find the train guard, who agrees to throw him off at the next station, and emails her superiors to insist that Bond is formally removed from the case and replaced with a female agent.
After Jessica completes the Russia mission she leaves the CIA and sets up a mentoring service to provide legal advice and practical and emotional support for younger women working in the international intelligence industry. Bond is fired.
Newton plays Aurora Alves, a criminal psychologist who meets Bond when he turns up at her office in Rio de Janeiro to ask for help. He needs to understand what makes one of his Brazilian enemies tick, he says; could she create a psychological profile of the man?
She can, of course. When Bond invites Aurora to dinner to discuss her findings, she accepts, believing it to be a professional engagement – but as soon as she arrives at the restaurant, she realises that Bond is drunk and trying to seduce her. (“He’s so awful,” she texts a friend under the table. “I think he’s already had about three martinis. Can you call me in 10 minutes with a fake emergency?”)
When Bond lunges in for a kiss, Aurora whips out her pepper spray, maces him in the face and leaves the restaurant, taking her files with her. Bond’s mission collapses without her information, and he is fired.
Nyong’o plays Mercy Sterling, a steely investigative reporter who Bond meets in a bar in New York. Her outfit: cream shirt, tan slacks, battered rucksack, Doc Martens. Her attitude: tenacious, shrewd and extremely tired of male bulls**t.
Mercy ignores Bond’s lame attempts to strike up a conversation until he mentions his name. She’s heard of this guy: he’s a British spy, and rumours have been swirling for years about his shockingly reckless behaviour and harassment and abuse of women.
She agrees to accompany Bond on his next mission, and afterwards writes a damning 4,000-word investigation for The New Yorker in which she exposes the spy’s long history of sexual misconduct and the corruption and complicity of the individuals and institutions that have protected him. The British Secret Service is forced to launch a major public inquiry into how he could have behaved so badly for so long, and Mercy wins a Pulitzer.
Bond is fired.
Images: Getty Images