The name’s Bond…Jane Bond. That name may make some readers cringe. A female bond? James Bond is the white man’s cool, womanizing hero. He belongs to the male world. What would happen to masculinity everywhere if we took that away?
It’s an outrage similar to that of the reaction to Charlize Theron as the one-armed heroine of last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and not the titular male character. But the internet has recently been pushing for a lady Bond, proposing that actresses like Priyanka Chopra (of Bollywood and Quantico fame) have the chops. And how much would the character really change if a woman was cast as the infamous spy? It indicates how much we attribute behaviours to particular genders —why can’t a woman kick ass, casually pick up men (or women), brood over her dark past, and look hot while drinking a martini. Shaken, not stirred, of course.
My personal favourite contender for the role (and I’m not alone on this one) is a familiar face who is already pushing gender norms in another crime thriller, this time on the small screen. Gillian Anderson’s role as detective superintendent Stella Gibson in The Fall is one of the most three-dimensional and empowering characters on TV.
In a genre with a history of glamourizing violence against women, The Fall’s women are unquestionably in charge, and never victimized by the show. While the women are often victimized within the show (as in real life), they’re given a champion that refuses to strip them of their complexities. Stella Gibson, in her hunt for the killer, never falls into the trope of becoming emotionally compromised because she’s too involved in her work. She calmly and efficiently takes charge when a shooting happens at the station, while the men involved lose their cool, and when she does become emotional it’s not because of something dark in her past; she’s simply made an error in judgement that put someone in danger. This trope is further rejected when Gibson and the killer finally meet in the interrogation room; while he tries to psychoanalyze her, Gibson lets him finish and simply continues her questioning, instead of letting it affect her.
Anderson’s character breaks typical gender roles for women on TV at every turn. In her position as the boss of the investigation, her gender is a non-issue when it comes to obedience from her subordinates, but not because she suppresses her feminine side (her silk blouses are my new obsession); to command respect, as Anderson’s character shows us, a woman shouldn’t have to act in a typically masculine manner.
“She’s a woman in a distinctly male world, but she will not let you forget that she is more adept than every man on the squad put together.”
-Madeline Davies, Jezebel
She also intentionally draws attention to her perspective as a woman when she tells a colleague to leave the word “innocent” out of a statement about the victims. She asks, “What if he kills a prostitute next? Or a woman walking home drunk? The media loves to divide women into virgins and vamps, angels or whores. Let’s not encourage them.”
Still Anderson’s character rejects gender roles with her unapologetic sexual power. She picks her sexual partners with utter confidence and assumes they will understand they are welcome in her bedroom by her consent for one night only — Gibson refers to it as a Sweet Night, referencing the Mosuo people in China, a matrilineal society where sex occurs mostly through the custom of the secret nocturnal visit. Nor does the show examine the effect of the job on Gibson’s social or family life. She copes with her stress in healthy ways, including her daily swim. Again, this skips entirely over tiresome clichés of powerful women and their struggles at home.
At first glance the show appears to argue Gibson and the killer are two sides of the same coin, but we soon see the difference is that the killer is using power and violence to exert his authority in an already male-dominated world, whereas Gibson tries to exert authority in this same world by actively rejecting the natural order of things and playing the game by her own rules, generating fear and anger from the men around her.
Ultimately, The Fall is a chilling look into the disturbed mind of a man who slides down the slippery slope from simple objectification of women to dark sexual fantasies, and finally, murder. Instead of a suspenseful whodunnit, we know who the killer is from the very first episode, and with extreme discomfort we watch the duality of his actions as a loving father by day, and torturer and strangler of women by night. In fact, the show gives an interesting critique of misogyny and masculinity, making a controversial yet compelling case for why serial killers like him are not monsters, but in fact all too human, and all too familiar. The show is populated by male characters few steps away from the actions of the killer: we see an abusive husband, and a former lover of Gibson who turns up drunk and demanding sex, despite her objections. Gibson finds the killer repellent, and uses this paraphrase of a Margaret Atwood quote to shut down a colleague who suggests she might find the killer sexually alluring:
“A woman, I forget who, once asked a male friend why men felt threatened by women. He replied that they were afraid that women might laugh at them. When she asked a group of women why women felt threatened by men, they said, ‘We’re afraid they might kill us.’”
After watching The Fall, it’s hard not to see Anderson as the next female Bond. Besides, is it really possible for a female Bond to be worse than Roger Moore?
You can watch the first two seasons of The Fall on Canadian Netflix. The third and final season began filming in January and is expected to air later this year. You can also catch Anderson making headlines for her critically acclaimed performance as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, now in its last week’s run on Broadway.
For more on a different Bond, see Black Bond
For more from this guest blogger, see a great list of YA books for summer reading.