The Daily Telegraph
It may (finally) be time for James Bond to die
‘Even if a two-year-old was playing Bond,” said Lashana Lynch, No Time to Die’s star, on Sunday, “everyone would flock to the cinema to see what this two-year-old’s gonna do – no?” Like so many of the rhetorical statements made by actors and celebrities – who have always existed in their own bubbles – this one hits a bum note.
No, I wouldn’t rush to the cinema to see a toddler 007. No, I do not know a single person who would – although, admittedly, the thought of a two-yearold MI6 agent in a bespoke Brioni tux asking for their milk to be “shaken not stirred” in its Peppa Pig sippy cup is intriguing. And, of course, the talented British actress playing the first female 007 in the forthcoming film – to be released on Sept 30 – isn’t expecting anyone to take her comments literally. At least I hope she’s not. Hard to tell nowadays.
The point that 33-year-old Lynch goes on to clarify is that “with Bond, it could be a man or woman. They could be white, black, Asian, mixed race. They could be young or old.” Yet even then, I find myself shaking my head – in annoyance, in exhaustion and in sadness, too. I’m more inclined to agree with the words of another famous figure, this time the bestselling author Lee Child, who has just declared Bond defunct. Obsolete. To use a Gen Z-ism: “Sooo ovah.”
The 66-year-old best known for his Jack Reacher thriller series made the comments in an interview on the very same day. When asked whether he regretted turning down the opportunity to write a continuation of the Bond series, like fellow author Sebastian Faulks, Child was adamant that such a project would have been “an uneconomic use of my time”.
There were several reasons for this, said Child, the most important being that Bond “is effectively a period piece”. Far better to kill off this outdated hero who “no longer has a place” in the world and was created as an “antidote to British imperial decline” and “a proxy to get a certain type of English person through a difficult time in the 1950s” than try to “figure out how to make the
Far better to kill off this outdated hero... than try to make him ‘relevant’ to our day
story relevant to the modern day”.
That word – “relevant” – is chilling on so many levels. And it’s everywhere. The word of the moment. There’s the narrow-mindedness of us scorning everything that is not “closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered at the current time” – as the dictionary definition dictates. And there’s the pomposity implicit in that scorn: the teenage-style wrinkling of the nose that we allow ourselves from our infinitely superior moral and ethical vantage point. Titian? Wasn’t he, like, a misogynist?
Shakespeare? Packed full of misogyny, racism, homophobia, classism, anti-semitism and misogynoir. Aladdin, Peter Pan, The Lady and the Tramp, Gone With the Wind? Culturally insensitive; deeply problematic. So let’s just chuck out everything and everyone that came before us, no matter how great.
Only here’s the sting in the “relevancy” tail. We can’t chuck it all out, because we’re no longer capable of coming up with anything as good. Because with fear the enemy of creativity that it is, and artists in every medium now living in terror not just of saying and doing the wrong thing but being judged retrospectively to boot, imaginations have flatlined. Which is why we choose to mine and bastardise great past works instead.
It’s why they re-recorded Frank Loesser’s “rapey” 1944 classic, Baby It’s Cold Outside – with the inspired lyrics “It’s your body and your choice” – instead of creating a “relevant” Christmas anthem of the same musical calibre, and why Snow White’s “non-consensual kiss” will be a grave cause for concern for Disney as it prepares to produce a new liveaction version next year. It’s why, as my colleague Melanie Mcdonagh rightly pointed out yesterday, “we have had the worst Dr Who ever in Jodie Whittaker”, and also why they should kill off Indiana Jones along with Bond, rather than stick a fedora on Phoebe Waller-bridge, who reportedly might take on the role for future instalments.
In a desperate attempt to stay “relevant” whole teams of writers, directors and sensitivity-readers will have agonised over the script for No Time to Die – even though, ironically, as Child says, now might be the perfect time for Bond to die. Let him fall on his defiantly un-woke sword. Because audiences can smell desperation and fear, and those are not enjoyable things to be around. So when Lynch proudly says that instead of “giving audiences what it thinks the audience wants [the industry is] actually giving the audience what they want to give the audience”, I would simply say this: RIP James Bond.