One conservative website rang in the new year with a bang—if by “a bang,” you mean rampant, virulent transphobia.
On Monday, the politics and policy website Washington Examiner ran an op-ed warning that casting a transgender actor as James Bond would be the end of masculinity as we know it. In a column which feels as if it were crafted by a sentient content robot, contributor Nicole Russell claims the idea is “outlandish, absurd, and truly a bad omen for the role of masculinity in entertainment and even real life.”
“Transgender people represent half a percentage point or less of the United States population,” Russell claimed. “It isn’t a mainstream trend in real life and thus, has no need to earn representation in film.”
The pearl-clutching screed (which will not be linked to here) was penned in response to Colette actor Dominic West’s call for a trans actor to replace Daniel Craig. The actor has said the next Bond film will be his last. West suggested Hannah Winterbourne, the wife of U.K.-based trans actor Jake Graf, to fill Bond’s shoes.
West remarked that having someone like Winterbourne, the “highest-ranking transgender soldier” in the British armed forces, play the part would be “brilliant.”
“She’s a beautiful blonde girl who could be Bond, yes,” he told the Sunday Times. “That’s actually a brilliant idea. They should have a transgender Bond because there are a lot of transgender people in the army. They’d be ideal because they can do everything.”
“That’s a great idea!” he added. “A transgender Bond.”
Trans actors, activists, and advocates applauded his comments on Twitter. Comedian Ian Harvie claimed that having a transgender man play Bond would be a “major triumph.” Harvie, a stand-up comic who appeared on Transparent, said it would allow trans men to be “seen as men, legitimate and worthy of casting in this role.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, actor Scott Turner Schofield added that “the impact it would have on culture… cannot be underestimated.”
A recent GLAAD survey showed that transgender people remain extremely underrepresented in media—from television to film. In 2017, there were just 26 trans characters across all TV platforms (i.e., streaming, cable, and broadcast). That number was actually a record high, and many of the characters were regulars on FX’s Pose.
Russell, though, insists a trans James Bond would be an “affront to masculinity.”
“To allow a person who has eschewed manhood so much she chooses to live as a woman to embody the role of this archetypal character is an affront to masculinity, both the good and bad,” she claims. “Society has enough of that, in real life, with the onslaught of transgender norms in schools, now bombarding the court system with their tales of marginalized woe.”
“It certainly doesn’t need that in James Bond,” Russell concludes.
Elsewhere, Russell swings all over the place. She also sets her sights on “cranky feminists” who take issue with 007’s “womanizing ways.”
The next part is a real doozy. The writer compares the long-running character to toasting with champagne during a celebration: “an over-the-top representation of something good.”
“Bond embodies the best in alpha males and also some of the worst,” she states. “He is a renaissance man who wants, ultimately, to protect the things he loves: his woman and his country. With equal parts brain and brawn, Bond epitomizes what men can be, even though he also falters in his weaknesses.”
If you think she writes with the turgid grace of a Republican political operative, you’re right. Her byline contains the none-too-surprising revelation that she’s a wonk from Michele Bachmann’s home state of Minnesota.
An on-brand take published the same day as the Bond piece bemoans the “failure” of progressive feminism in the year of #MeToo and the “Blue Wave.”
Not shy about cribbing from her own work, Russell sneaks in one last jab about a trans 007.
“The summer of feminism’s discontent brought nothing more than aimless drivel,” she writes, “grasping for any anecdote to keep a narrative that’s always listless from gaining any steady speed: They complained about a wage gap among Uber drivers and even an idea of a female or transgender James Bond.”
All that throwing trans people under the bus got her exactly one retweet on her timeline.
Lest she take any solace in that lone pity tweet, it was from a Channing Tatum bot account.