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Don’t Gender Swap My Heroes

 

Jane Bond? Indiana Jane?

Various creative executives, from Steven Spielberg to Barbara Broccoli have at least welcomed the idea of gender swapping the iconic action adventure heroes from male to female. Whether that was just playing “what if” with interviewers or reflects genuine interest in the idea isn’t clear. Both Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford have committed to return for the next installment in each franchise, so any such departure is some ways down the road.

This discussion isn’t happening in a vacuum. Amidst the #metoo moment, many critics are questioning whether the character of James Bond – womanizer, callous killer, heavy drinker, tool of imperialism – is sustainable in the current climate. Some have called for an outright end to the series.

Indiana Jones doesn’t quite carry the same baggage, but he’s a figure of his time (the 1930s) and not exactly the perfect Beta male role model. Given the chance, I’m sure many of the critics of 007’s misogyny would like to see Indy neutered as well.

Let me be clear, any fundamental change to either character, in the guise of adapting to changing times, is a betrayal and an artistic surrender to faddish, shifting mores. This goes beyond changing from Roger Moore in a leisure suit to Daniel Craig in a turtleneck; style, settings, and even tone to some degree can change but the fundamental character of James Bond cannot.

Without the edge that his womanizing, drinking, and ruthlessness provides, 007 would be every unmemorable action hero that has followed in his wake. He would be Napoleon Solo or Simon Templar or Remington Steele. Character flaws, even unpleasant ones, make for better characters. Some of the best moments in the Daniel Craig series have played on the downside of his misogyny.

Yes, we can do away with the rapeyness of Goldfinger and the brainless stick figures like Christmas Jones or Chew Mee. I think the Bond series has gradually improved the qualities of the Bond girls, making many of them capable foils or immune to the magic penis syndrome. No one could have accused Judy Dench’s M of failing to stand up to 007.

So, then, why not do a Jane Bond or 005 movie with a female lead who embodies those same qualities – bed hopper, callous killer, heavy drinker, tool of imperialism – armed with a Walther PPK and wearing knockout outfits? It might be interesting for a side track, but would it be sustainable over the long run? Would men identify with her as much as they did Bond? Unlikely. Bond is male wish fulfillment personified and that really is the whole point of the series.

And as far as a female Indiana Jones hasn’t that already been done? Lara Croft, anybody?

Go ahead and make a 005 movie with a female lead, I don’t care. But be creative and make her something different from 007, something authentically female, rather than a weak copy of a male character.

Just don’t you dare take James Bond – flaws and all – away from us.

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