No Time to Cry, 007

The Controversy Over 007 being a Woman is Insane

No Time to Die (2021) is a beautiful joke on those who don’t fully grasp the Bond universe. The very idea that 007 could be a woman, if only for a moment, had faces turning red, fists pounding desks, and smoke erupting from the ears of unstable men, young and old, around the world. The online abuse and misogyny were, as one may expect, both crude and intense.

Woke Another Day, The Spy Who Loved Men, The World Has Never Gone Mad Enough is what the internet incels could have been saying instead of their insipid insults.

But they lack imagination.

Oh, that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, how funny her script polish was, catching out the butthurt men, with their butts hanging out—and talking out of them too. They didn’t know her crafty writer’s ways from Crashing, Fleabag, and Killing Eve.

Bravo. Bravo.

Why don’t we change Batman into Batwoman or Superman into Superwoman or Thor into a woman? What about Mr. Spock? Why don’t we change Wonder Woman into Wonder Man?

I have seen every one of the above suggestions on social media, from men bitching about being emasculated by a potential casting change for a movie role. It’s as if their manhood would become less functional if 007 were to be a woman—their anemic erection tied to the fate of a stiff vodka martini.

However, the arguments above are not precisely the mic drops those sad and flustered men were hoping for.   

This kind of stuff happens all the time in comic books. They are constantly rebooting and creating alternate timelines and universes. Their stories are repeated like a child’s favorite bedtime story but always told slightly differently by a fun and creative narrator, making the child love it all the more for its comforting familiarity but startling novelty. This is a key to relevance.

For every male superhero, there is a female version.

For example, the first version of Superwoman appeared in 1943, and there have been several others since. The Batwoman featured in DC comic books for the first time in 1956. Meanwhile, at Marvel Comics, the Norse thunder god Thor was a woman as far back as 1962. Thor’s power resides in the hammer Mjolnir, so whoever is worthy of wielding it is worthy of being Thor. And that hammer doesn’t mess around. Asgard’s golden boy has even been a frog. Comic books just don’t care.

Ssshh! Listen, this is going to be hilarious, so those little boys getting apoplectic about a woman being 007 are going to lose their minds when they realize that next year the god of thunder in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be portrayed by Natalie Portman in Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

Mr. Spock? Well, how about Star Trek: Enterprise (2002-2005) and that hot Vulcan science officer? No, she’s not named Spock. Her name is T’Pol, and she holds the same position on the ship. Only, historically speaking, she did it first.

I love this one, though. Check out this 9/30/21 tweet from the UK’s angriest and most entitled television presenter, the Gammon King himself, Piers Morgan;

James Bond is about the last real man standing in Hollywood and if the woke warriors dare make him a woman I’m going to campaign for Wonder Woman to be a man.

Wonder Woman? I’ll partially give this one to Piers for crying foul as Wonder Woman is an Amazon, and they don’t have men in their culture. But, wait, the first comic book appearance of a Wonder Man was in 1963.

Wonder Man, aka Dane of Elysium, is from Earth-11—an alternate reverse-world in the DC Comics multiverse where the Amazons are men—he’s the male alternate of Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman.

Fantasy is not #Woke

Comic book and science fiction culture has always created fantasies for men and women and explored alternate timelines, histories, and perceived realities. Further, as the timeline above demonstrates, this all started long before the woke cult was born.

Ultimately, deep dives into these fantasies are fun and can result in dressing up at a Comic-Con and even some superb hotel after-parties. And if you go as Superwoman or Wonder Man, you’re in a long tradition of having fun with fiction.

On the other hand, if a militant Trekker wanted to spoil it for everyone and get all woke about it, they’d demand the world outside of the Con greet them by their Klingon name and accept their Klingon identity.

That kind of thing, however, is not happening. See the difference?

James Bond is not always the same

There are two distinct timelines or alternate universes in the James Bond movie canon.

The first timeline runs from Dr. No (1962) through to Die Another Day (2002). The second timeline reboots with Casino Royale (2006) and ends with No Time to Die.

A remake of Thunderball (1965), also starring Sean Connery, i.e., Never Say Never Again (1983), is not considered canon due to not being made by Eon Productions, and neither is the spoof Casino Royale (1967) with David Niven as an older Sir James Bond. 

How can we believe all these guys are in the same timeline?

Seriously, when you look at the first timeline starting from Connery, it is clear that James Bond doesn’t exactly make sense, and it was already beginning to become ridiculous. In order to become more than their many copycats, Bond movies became ever bigger parodies of themselves. However, in that process, they also became a genre of their own.

How did James Bond go from being Scottish to Australian, back to Scottish, to English, to Welsh, and then to Irish? Why do his hair and eyes change color?

Why didn’t anyone notice that James Bond had been in the same job for more than forty years?

How does he stay about the same age, but those around him get older?

Isn’t it strange that the delightful Miss Moneypenny played by Lois Maxwell from Sean Connery’s first outing in Dr. No, during George Lazenby’s temp job in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and through to Roger Moore’s final curtain in A View to a Kill (1985) never noticed his face change?

But even Moneypenny got in on the act and started changing faces alongside Bond. First, Caroline Bliss for Timothy Dalton’s two adventures and then Samantha Bond for Pierce Brosnan’s five movies.

The consistency of the Q branch maintained the illusion of the first five Bonds all being the same person living in the same timeline but with a magically changing face.

For example, except for Live and Let Die (1973), Desmond Llewelyn played Q beginning with From Russia With Love (1963) until his death at 85 years old, just weeks after the premiere of The World is Not Enough (1999), his 17th Bond movie.

In his last movie appearance as Q, Desmond Llewelyn introduces 007 to his replacement, R, played by Monty Python alum John Cleese.

R is promoted and returns as Q for Brosnan’s last movie, Die Another Day. During their exchange, Pierce Brosnan takes a fond moment to play with the jetpack the original Q had given to him during Thunderball when he used to be Sean Connery.

Do you see? It was all getting out of hand. Was James Bond secretly Doctor Who?

Actually, no, I shouldn’t open up that can of worms. I can smell the gammon cooking all over England.

007 has always been James Bond! We can’t have Bond, Jane Bond!

Sean Connery plays James Bond the first time we see 007 on our movie screens in Dr. No, and he’s a dick. He smacks around women and has a penchant for aggressively forcing himself on them sexually. Some say that Bond was a man of his time. He wasn’t. He was a specific kind of man—a hired killer, an alcoholic, and not very nice.

Connery, however, seems fine with Bond slapping women, telling Playboy in November of 1965;

I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman, although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man … If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it.

Sure, Bond is cool, sophisticated, and has impeccable taste. However, it is uncomfortable watching those early movies nowadays—he has no more regard for the “Bond Girls” than he does for the safety of Q’s gadgets. I think in the mainstream media, we are no longer immune from the effects of seeing women as toys, or shields, or slabs of meat to be punched by our supposed superheroes—that’s not cool anymore.

And those are not the “real men” that most people are teaching their sons to be.

But that’s for another day.

Connery had put in five outings as Bond; he was getting expensive, the franchise was wondering about reaching the end of the sixties, and the producers needed new blood and a new direction.

Of course, if 007 were to turn in his license to kill, it would be for this wonderful lady. Tracy was played by a sixties fashion icon and cult television star; she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts [RADA] and had a lifetime of theatrical success. From various roles in the swinging sixties with the Royal Shakespeare Company [RSC] through to playing the notorious Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady on Broadway in 2018, she earned the honor of being made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for a lifetime of services to drama.

She was the sixties’ poster icon, Mrs. Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969). And later, it’s almost embarrassing to say (it’s four) how many Emmy nominations she received for her role as the Queen of Thorns and the Dowager Lady of Highgarden, Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones (2011-2019). And she was the maybe too sweet, Mrs. Gillyflower in a spooky Doctor Who story called The Crimson Horror alongside the eleventh doctor, Matt Smith.

She is the late Dame Diana Rigg. And her role as Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [OHMSS], alongside the one-movie-Bond that is George Lazenby, is the emotional glue of the first 007 timeline.

When people picture the OBV—Original Bond Villain—they probably think of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The bald guy with the cat. He is so evil and so iconic that he was satirized in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Well, he is certainly not playing in OHMSS, but Kojak is playing him—that’s Telly Savalas.

If that isn’t crazy enough, to switch things up, Eon Productions cast the unknown Australian model, George Lazenby, as 007. Contrary to the popular opinion of those who haven’t seen the movie, Lazenby had classical looks. He was believable in action and had the comic timing down pretty well. Importantly, I believe he made Bond a human being. I thought Bond had found someone to trust. That he had fallen in love with Tracy and turned in his 00 status to quit the service.

Without Bond meeting Tracy, most of us couldn’t relate to him. And in the long term, he would turn us off as a character. Nothing was making him different from the psychopaths he pursued. Yes, 007 acted out of duty, but he had no depth, no soul, no humanity.

Therefore, I genuinely believe in the importance of George Lazenby and his legacy to the world of 007. He was responsible for no less than the ongoing existence of the James Bond franchise in the 21st century.

At the end of OHMSS, we experience the joy of a human James Bond, free from death and mayhem. Then, in real-time with Bond, we unexpectedly witness and experience the heartbreaking death of Tracy at the hands of Blofeld’s men.

It is in the moment of Tracy’s demise, with his true love in his arms, that we watch a man broken, tearful, and in utter denial. We witness him experience a psychological death as we, his audience, listen to Louis Armstrong sing, We Have All the Time in the World.

This experience relieves Commander Bond from the cartoon version of what a man is supposed to be. It undoes the caricature of masculinity indoctrinated into him by the English private school system, the Royal Navy, and MI6, and finally unboxes a real man called James.

After the death of Tracy, and as Bond never wholly gave up his 00 status, he went back to work. We catch up with him at the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever (1971), with Connery officially back in the lead for one last time.

Although he never mentions her by name, and we certainly never see him cry again, the pre-credits sequence has Bond hunting down and killing Blofeld (or at least a not-look-a-like of him) in what we can only assume is an attempt at vengeance for the death of his wife.

When James Bond returned as Roger Moore, Tracy Bond came back to haunt him twice more. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1976), Bond was sent on a mission with the KGB’s most formidable spy, Major Anya Amasova, aka Agent XXX—demonstrating that in the world of James Bond, even 45 years ago, the best spies in the world could be women. However, it was in a line of dialogue that we discover Bond still has powerful feelings for Tracy.

Amasova:  Licensed to kill and has done so on numerous occasions. Many lady friends but married only once. Wife killed...
Bond: [interrupting] Alright, you’ve made you’re point.

Five years later, in For Your Eyes Only (1981), we open the movie with Bond, played by Roger Moore, bringing flowers to the grave of Tracy Bond.

Bond is picked up at the cemetery by helicopter, which is electronically sabotaged via remote control by a bald man in a gray jumpsuit, stroking a white cat while sitting in a wheelchair on top of a factory. He looks suspiciously like a character from a previous Bond movie. His name was Ernst Stavro Blofeld­—the villain from OHMSS and the man driving the car when Tracy was killed. [Note: Issues with intellectual property rights may or may not prohibit me from stating that as a fact, if it were indeed to be a fact]

After some helicopter stunt work, Bond gains control of the chopper picks up “Blofeld” and his wheelchair, and drops both down a two-hundred-foot industrial chimney.  

Finally, this was the vengeance Bond had been looking for.

After the wedding scene in License To Kill (1987) the new Mrs. Leiter asks Bond, played by Timothy Dalton, to catch the garter. He declines. Upon asking if she had said something to upset James, his friend Felix Leiter tells his wife not to worry about the slight social mistake; “He was married once. But it was a long time ago.”

Also, during this movie, Bond is revoked of his 00 status, and we have no idea if anyone is taking up his slack at the office during this period?

Reflecting on a new post-cold war reality, Goldeneye (1995) gave us another push toward some female equality. In real life, Dame Stella Rimington had been made the Director-General of MI5—the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency. Therefore, in the world of Bond, the top spy at MI6 would now be played by a woman. So, M was now Dame Judi Dench. Cool.

Most of the Brosnan era of Bond was a higher-budget version of Moore and Connery combined. It was jubilant; it was exciting. It was, however, cartoonish. The first, Goldeneye is the best of them all and in my top five Bond movies of all time.

The first timeline of James Bond took the character from being a brute who had been table trained to having the finesse his style would have us believe he possessed.

However, even for fans, maintaining a belief in a character who hadn’t changed for more than 40 years even though his love of Tracy moved us and humanized him was getting more difficult. And, sure, perhaps being teased by those familiar faces at the Q branch helped bring him down a peg or two, but it wasn’t doing enough.

It was all becoming tired. It all had to change. Along with those of his country, the character’s hopes and the dreams they represent must change or die.

The Reboot Saved Everything

The new timeline of the series, starting with Casino Royale, introduces the audience to a human but deadly Daniel Craig as James Bond. We are given realism, violence, humanity with Craig’s Bond. We had all the trappings of a Bond movie but repackaged for the 21st Century.

In a brutal cold opening, shot in harsh black and white, we witness Bond make his first and then second confirmed kill. He is still not a 00 agent. Therefore, even in this new timeline, Bond wasn’t always 007.

After being upgraded to 00. 7 status, Bond goes off on an adventure but falls in love with the jokingly named Vesper Lynd (cold war, used to have another half, split by a wall), and then his heartbreaks in this first movie as he can’t save her from death. Setting up Bond again for loneliness. She is the new Tracy Bond for the Daniel Craig timeline.

Quantum of Solace (2008) is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but to be honest, even though I’ve seen it several times, I can never remember what the heck it’s about. I remember there was a massive opera. That’s it.

In Skyfall (2012), we are introduced to a young Black woman, a brilliant field agent played by Naomi Harris. And if not cut out for the running and jumping and shooting full-time as she self-proclaims, she proves to be the perfect new Miss Moneypenny—finally giving more backstory and further depth to the guardian of M’s door.

At the end of Spectre (2015), we are left with the distinct impression that Bond, James Bond, is giving up the spy game. And, with that being the case, what did anyone think would happen to his job?

Spoilers below, but no spoilers really, nothing that wasn’t in trailers.

At the beginning of No Time to Die, we find James Bond has moved on.

He’s drinking it up at the local bar and enjoying his retirement. Meanwhile, we meet a 00 known only as Nomi—however, now that Bond is retired, we soon discover her new assignation is agent 007.

No Time to Die is an amazing final chapter in the Daniel Craig Bond timeline. Everything comes full circle. The only way any of this could come to a satisfying conclusion was right up there on the screen, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s action-packed as you would expect, it has all the Bond-isms and sequences that make 007 a genre of its own, and it has the emotional payoff that Daniel Craig’s Bond has allowed us to experience throughout his five-film arc.

We Have All the Time in The World

It is also worth noting that although this is the last Daniel Craig movie, he plays Commander Bond throughout. And, no. Nomi will not replace Bond as 007 in the next reboot of the franchise. We know this because, for no other reason, as always, the final credit reads;

James Bond will Return

It is a great movie. See it if you can, support your local movie theatres. Molloy