FOR a minute there it seemed like we might really have somersaulted into an upside-down version of the world as we know it. Not in the Stranger Things world where a 15-year-old girl is the troubled superhero that 1980s America desperately needs. But in the real, grown up world, where only men in suits can save the day and women might provide some practical assistance, just as long as they don’t look any less pretty and poised while doing so. The world of Bond. James Bond.

When the rumour mill let slip that Lashana Lynch, a black woman – who happens to be black, and also a woman, and also black – would be the “new 007”, many casual viewers and diehard fans were jolted awake (one way or another) by this slightly misleading revelation.

“The new James Bond is going to be a black woman!? The same woman who played Carol Danvers’ girlfriend in Captain Marvel?” (I watched the movie, don’t argue).

Well, not exactly. As it turns out, Lynch will reportedly play another MI6 agent who has been assigned the codename 007, following the retirement of James Bond. Cut to: the inevitable return of Daniel Craig’s Bond, who will remain the central focus of the film.

There is nothing to suggest that a woman might take over the leading role in the franchise after Craig’s departure (executive producer Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian last year that Bond will “probably stay as a male”).

But the fact that the mere suggestion is enough to get the men of the internet gasping and clutching their ... pearls, is a greater sign of the resistance to change among that particular demographic than any genuine controversy.

It seems we are meant to believe that, while including a cheeky nod to the idea that a woman might take over from James Bond is risky and groundbreaking, to genuinely replace a man with a woman would be cataclysmic.

This view might be comforting to nostalgic fans who would rather Bond stayed grounded in the world of the 1960s from whence he came, but the reality is that films and TV series centred around women are not only firmly in the mainstream, they are taking the lead in every way it counts.

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Earlier this year, Marvel’s first ever woman-led film, Captain Marvel, was subject to a negative “review bomb” by trolls on Rotten Tomatoes before it had even been released. Despite this, the movie grossed over one billion dollars worldwide, once again underlining the irrelevance of sad, misogynistic men. It is, in many ways, amazing that we still have to have these conversations in 2019, but the saddest part about it is the extent to which producers appear to use the outcry of a minority as a shield for their own regressive outlook.

Often the excuse is offered that audiences determine which films or series do well and which don’t (and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with who has the money pouring in to their projects and who doesn’t).

This, of course, is a fallacy, as people can hardly choose to watch something that doesn’t exist. The fact is that people are watching and celebrating diverse, women-led productions more than ever before.

New James Bond co-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge will know this better than anyone, as both of her recent creations, Killing Eve and Fleabag, have been enormously successful with viewers and critics alike.

Meanwhile, on the soapier end of the spectrum, Sandra Oh’s (Killing Eve) former showrunner Shonda Rhymes has been leading the way on diverse representation in TV for years, all while enjoying some of the highest viewing figures in the US for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder.

When Gentleman Jack, based on the diaries of 1830s English landowner and lesbian Anne Lister, debuted in the UK in May, it received the BBC’s highest viewing figures for the first episode of a new drama this year, with 6.6 million. It ended its run with 6.1m viewers.

The National: Captain Marvel was a huge box office successCaptain Marvel was a huge box office success

Sophie Rundle, who plays Anne Walker in the series, recently said that what she looks for in a role is that “it gives a female character something interesting to do”. This is the low bar which women actors have had to content themselves but, as a viewer, there has been a discernible improvement in the range of roles for women, even within the last few years.

Funnily enough, it’s not so hard to imagine a modern-day Anne Lister replacing James Bond as an equally woman-obsessed, aggressive, power-hungry narcissist (with a heart of gold, of course). I may be biased because I am personally in love with Suranne Jones, but seriously: who wouldn’t watch that?

Some critics of Lashana Lynch’s reported role as 007 have suggested that the news is proof that the Bond films are losing their rebellious spirit in a bid to become “politically correct”. The implication is that by virtue of being a woman – and presumably even more so as a woman of colour – a character loses their ability to be complex, flawed, or just downright badass. Apparently, women are not people; they are merely props that can be used to gain “woke points”.

Clearly the people making this argument have not been watching any of the range of incredible, women-centred TV shows sweeping recent awards seasons, such as Waller-Bridge’s offerings, Russian Doll, Sharp Objects, Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and Dead to Me. Come to think of it, just about every good TV show out right now is about three-dimensional women (a far better denominator than ‘strong women’) doing “something interesting”, as Sophie Rundle would have it. This selection of high-quality TV demonstrates the obvious: women are equally capable of being morally ambiguous, and, like all good fictional characters, they are all the more interesting when they are.

The paradox in all of this is that critics of diversity in film and TV can never quite decide whether including more women, LGBT characters and people of colour is a ploy to play it safe or a ploy to be edgy.

Perhaps it’s just a ploy to create good storytelling that strives for originality rather than simply regurgitating the same-old plots and characters. And the writers and directors who are doing just that are reaping the rewards.

Perhaps it’s time for producers to stop behaving as though women are a niche group or as though men are not capable of doing what women have done for decades by watching films which don’t primary revolve around people of their own gender.

The writing’s on the wall: people of all genders can empathise with and be entertained by women – and minorities – when they’re given the chance. More power to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who will be only the second woman to be credited as a writer in the Bond films’ 25-film history, working alongside four male writers. I hope that she can offer something different and surprising with the new film; but I’m not entirely convinced.

When you consider that seven different actors have already played James Bond, the idea that it’s beyond the pale that someone of a different gender might do it now is all a bit silly. But perhaps what we should really be saying is that we don’t need Bond, or 007, anyway: we’ve already got better things to do, and more’s the pity for you if you’d rather miss out on the action.

In 2019, is James Bond actually rebellious at all? It seems to me that if anything is playing it safe in a world that has moved on to more interesting, exciting and challenging things, it’s the Bond franchise.

Gripping on like a scared child to the remnants of a chauvinist, white, male-dominated era gone by isn’t edgy, or triggering, or snowflake-melting, or whatever the men of the dark corners of Twitter or Hollywood boardrooms might imagine. It’s just boring.