007 debate: when and how can women lead movie franchises?

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Daniel Craig recently addressed the debate on whether a woman could lead the Bond franchise. When speaking to Radio Times, the Bond actor said: “Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?”

Franchise producer, Barbara Broccoli, concurred saying: “I believe we should be creating new characters for women – strong female characters…I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”

It got me thinking, could we have an equally iconic movie role made for a woman?

Looking into the history of James Bond, since the incarnation in 1953 in Ian Fleming’s novels, the titular role has been played by a man which was further solidified in the following film adaptations. Given that the source material that the multi-million-dollar franchise is based upon states that the title role is to be played by a man I have to agree with both Craigs’ and Broccoli’s comments.

Too long women have had to fit into a world view according to what men dictate, this is not to say that just because a franchise is written with a male main role that it makes it narrow-minded, but this is just to say that why are women limited to only take up space after a man has solidified it is, ok?

I would love to have more internationally recognised roles played by women. However, two of the most pivotal roles in cinema and tv history originated in the 1950s and 1960s when sexism was rife. Therefore, I think we have a decade or two to go before we get a solidified iconic female role.

The two franchises I am referring to are the aforementioned James Bond and the television show Doctor Who.

Both emerged in the early 60s (on the screen) and thus female leads were out of the question then. The 60s were a time where the housewife narrative was being pushed and so depicting a woman as the lead in action-based media was not going to happen.

Of course, Doctor Who did recently cast Jodie Whittaker as the lead role (with many being disappointed with this decision) but Whittaker’s season 12 getting an audience score of 16% on rotten tomatoes. Although I would argue the poor score is down to the writing and not Whittaker.

Perhaps reflecting Craigs’ and Broccoli’s point that forcing a woman into a male role is not the answer for more inclusion.

Iconic female roles that I can think of in the current film and tv realm would be Fleabag (from the show of the same name), Villanelle from Killing Eve and Princess Leia from the Star Wars franchise. Neither hold the same pop culture significance as male-dominated franchises like Doctor Who or James Bond.

This is simply because female lead roles have not had the same time and spotlight that male-led franchises are given. If women are to be written and given new acclaimed roles, I would argue that it’s going to take decades to get there. There simply isn’t the history behind franchises yet.

Doctor Who and James Bond are so well established that generations old and new love them, whereas a franchise with the history and longevity of these with a woman at the helm has simply not been established yet.

I’m willing to wait and let women take up their own space as I’m sick of only being allowed into a space after men have carved it out for us. It’s time for world adored franchises to be written with women as the lead and not the ‘Bond girl’.

Featured Image credit: https://www.vulture.com/article/best-james-bond-movies-ranked-worst-best.html

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