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Lashana Lynch will reportedly be the new 007. But she probably won’t be the next James Bond.

Casting rumors aside, the Bond franchise still has a long way to go before it’s meaningfully diverse.

“Bond 25” Film Launch at GoldenEye, Jamaica
Lashana Lynch steps into the role of 007 for the upcoming Bond 25 film.
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Until now, there’s been no shortage of rumors and speculation about Bond 25, the mysterious upcoming installment in the 55-year-old James Bond franchise. We can now add another rumor to the pile, this one about a different exciting choice to wear the mantle of 007: Captain Marvel’s Lashana Lynch.

The rumor comes from an anonymous source quoted in the Daily Mail. According to the Mail’s source, in director Cary Fukunaga’s 2020 film, Lynch takes over the role of 007 after Daniel Craig’s James Bond goes into retirement. Lynch had previously been confirmed as part of the cast but was said to be playing a character named “Nomi”; it seems as if that moniker is an alias, along with the famous spy title.

Lynch assuming the role of 007 in Bond 25 doesn’t mean she’s a true replacement for the historically white male lead, however. The Daily Mail reports that Craig also remains a major part of the story — his Bond rapidly comes out of retirement during the film in order to face off against Rami Malek’s villain.

In other words, even if the rumor is true — while the popular UK tabloid is known for playing fast and loose with facts, major outlets have carried the report as all but confirmed — and Lynch is the new 007, she’s not the action hero of the new film. That’s still Craig’s Bond. To be blunt, even if giving a woman of color the venerated title sounds great in theory, in execution, it seems like it may be a bald-faced attempt to address the optics of Bond’s typically homogeneous casting without actually letting Lynch take over the role of 007. The rumor mill has yet to spoil whether Lynch’s character survives to the end of the film, but the gossip emphasizes that rather than being placed in the center of the action, she’s also framed as a love interest for Bond.

Lynch’s part may well be scant, but another woman has joined Bond 25 in a powerful role, this one behind the scenes. The newest writer to join the screenwriting team is Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Astonishingly, Waller-Bridge is only the second credited woman screenwriter in nearly 60 years of James Bond films; the first was longtime film veteran Johanna Harwood, who doctored the screenplays for 1962’s Dr. No and 1963’s From Russia With Love and received co-writing credits for both films (over the objections of her male co-writer). Waller-Bridge told Deadline in May that James Bond “is absolutely relevant now” but that the franchise “has just got to grow.”

Accordingly, per the Daily Mail’s source, the new film sees Bond, a perennial womanizer, dealing with the implications of the #MeToo movement and having to deal with rejection. And in what sounds like a typical piece of Daily Mail satire, the anonymous source supposedly stated that “Bond girls” are now to be addressed as “Bond women.”

The report’s hint of condescension aside, a screenplay by Phoebe Waller-Bridge is no joke. And while Lynch’s take on 007 may not be the meaty, historic role the title usually means, many people on social media have been overjoyed at the casting rumor.

Lynch’s casting as Bond is a significant win for representation on multiple levels. As important as it is that she’s a woman, it’s equally important that she’s black. One thing that’s always made the viral fan-casting of Idris Elba in the role so appealing (and impossible to squelch) is that introducing Elba as the face of Bond would make it clear that the role of the metrosexual world-traveling sophisticate isn’t just the purview of the white British men who’ve played the role until now. It can, and perhaps should, very well be a black man just as easily.

The comments from fans who point out the series’ colonizing worldview underscore just how significant it is that the Bond franchise is moving, however slowly, toward a more progressive framework. Once a frequently self-parodic narrative where Bond formulaically conquered exotic paradises using a combo of sexual prowess and high-tech spy gadgets, in recent years the series has subverted itself, exploring Bond’s alcoholism, his shaky mental health, and his problematic attitude toward women.

The increasing diversification of the cast and crew is another way to shake up the series’ longest-standing tropes. With a female co-writer, an Asian American director, an Egyptian American villain, and a black woman as the new 007, not only will Bond 25 be the franchise’s most inclusive installment — it’s also already the most interesting.

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