I don’t want James Bond to be a woman, just a changed man - Christa Ackroyd

Well, this last week I have done two things I haven’t done for the last couple of years.

Daniel Craig playing James Bond for the final time in the new Bond film No Time To Die. (PA)

I have flown in a plane armed with more pieces of paper than I could fit in my handbag. Tests for this, forms for that, prebooked lateral flow documentation for my return, oh and a suitcase full of face masks (at least here in Portugal the majority of people are still wearing them).

So was it worth it? Absobloominlutely. Sunshine and sardines, how I have missed you.

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Just two days before we had enjoyed our first foray to the cinema without social distancing, where I sat for three hours leaning as far away as I possibly could from the stranger in the seat next to me to see, of course, the new Bond film, what else?

I got used to it and it was good to be back in the new, slightly nervous, old world. As for the film, it did not disappoint, although I am going to be honest I don’t normally relish a Bond movie. I don’t do cars. I don’t do gadgets, I don’t do sexism and I don’t really do James Bond. But this one was different. And not just because we had waited so long to see it.

Having been advised by some radio film critic to wait until after the end credits we did so with just two people who had obviously heard the same broadcast.

No spoilers from me when I tell you don’t bother. After ten minutes of interminable names who I am sure all did a great job came the message ‘James Bond will be back’. Of course he will ... it’s too lucrative a franchise to kill off. But will he become a she? That is the big question.

Before I tell you what I think should happen I am reminded of the furore when Daniel Craig first got the part. A ‘Blonde Bond’ screamed the headlines 16 years ago but compared to the hoo-ha over whether 007 should change sex, the colour of his hair seems inconsequential in 2021.

So where do I sit on this modern day dilemma. Go on, have a guess?

Wrong. James Bond should be a man, played by a man because he was written for a man by Ian Fleming. (That surprised you, didn’t it?)

And before you start quoting Jodie Whittaker’s impressive Doctor Who, that is a completely different part. The good doctor can metamorphose into whoever he or she chooses. That’s science fiction for you. But Bond is a man. And what is so wrong with that?

Do I want our fair share of the cake and the choice to eat it as we choose? Totally. But do I want total female domination and the obliteration of anything male in the process, absolutely not. I want, no I demand, the best of both worlds. But that does not mean the emasculation of the human race.

I like doors opened for me not because I am a woman and certainly not because I am a diva, but because I would do it for others regardless of sex or indeed age because I was brought up to have good manners.

I also don’t see how that contradicts in any way my demand for equal pay and equal opportunities for the sisterhood. But changing the sex of a well written, well loved character for a film will not achieve that. Nor will it make the world a better place for women. I don’t hate men. I just expect the same respect.

And that has nothing to do with erasing one gender and replacing it with another even in the world of films.

In many ways this latest Bond movie is already a seismic shift in its portrayal of women. Phoebe Waller Bridge has helped make great changes in the Bond we once knew. There are no skimpy clad maidens emerging from the sea or falling into 007’s arms at the drop of a hat. There is certainly no sleeping with the enemy. This is a new Bond and all the better for it.

The women Bond meets are not there simply as eye candy and they are certainly not just his sidekick. They are as the Americans might say ‘kick ass women’. And this James Bond is anything other than smug when it comes to relationships with them. In other words 007 has finally been dragged into the 21st century. And that’s what I expect to see continue in his next reinvention.

As Dame Joan Collins’ Hollywood diary, which came out this week, concluded, real change on our screens both, large and small, will only happen when there are more good roles for women, especially women over 40. If we are to kick out sexism we must also kick out ageism, too.

Strong women exist. Let us celebrate them. But that doesn’t mean eradicating characters like Bond, they just need bringing up to date.

There is no need for a female Bond, just as there is no need for another (yawn) female Hamlet as portrayed again this week in the Young Vic’s trendy production.

What we do need are writers to sharpen their pencils and write new and exciting strong roles for women.

It is already starting to happen, as the brilliant Frances McDormand can attest. But why not go one step further and scrap the Best female and Best male categories altogether at the Oscars et al? Best Actor would do just fine.

One final point, could the new Bond be black? Of course he could. That does not defeat my argument. It would be an inconsequential piece of casting in a world which by now I hope is becoming increasingly colour blind.

But Bond is Bond is Bond. And James Bond is male and that shouldn’t change.

As long as he continues with his new found respect for the women he works alongside then we will all just do just fine. Would that the real world was mellowing so beautifully.