Anyone Can Be 007. That's Basic James Bond Lore.
This week, Lashana Lynch confirmed rumors that her character, Nomi, has the title 007 in the next James Bond movie, No Time to Die. She's not taking the role of Bond, only his famous double-o moniker. Giving a performer of color such a storied title is a major advancement for not only the franchise, but also the film industry as a whole. It means the characters on the screen better reflect the world in which we live. Plus, it makes the Bond franchise more interesting.
A small minority of fans don't see it that way. Since writing about the news on Thursday morning, trolls have bombarded my Twitter feed, insisting Lynch holding the title 007 is another example of Hollywood trying to "woke-ify" beloved movie franchises. This subsection of fans argue 007 was never intended to be anything other than a white man. The writers of No Time to Die, they say, are attempting to rewrite what Ian Fleming imagined in his books.
That argument is patently wrong.
In the first Bond book, 1953's Casino Royale, Fleming describes what it means for Britain's iconic super spy to hold the distinction of 007: "you've had to kill some chap in cold blood in the course of some job." Through dozens more Bond books, and twenty-five movies, Fleming and other writers have given more clarity to the meaning of the double-0 moniker.
Here's the basic description of what double 0 status means, according to the James Bond fan wiki: "00 agents are elite special operatives of MI6 who have a discretionary 'license to kill' in the field in order to complete their mission."
In Fleming's books, there are only five double 0 agents: 006, 007, 008, 009, and 0011. Two of them are named: 007 is Bond, of course, and, in Moonraker, there's mention of agent 008 as a guy named Bill. In You Only Live Twice, Bond is briefly moved to another branch where he's given the designation 7777, but eventually returns as 007. This switch implies that no one replaces Bond as 007 during his time away, although Fleming doesn't make this clear.
The double 0 title is fleshed out further in subsequent non-Fleming books and film adaptations. Bond, for instance, is not the only 007 in official franchise canon. In Anthony Horowitz's 2018 novel Forever and a Day, which is a prequel to Casino Royale, Bond takes on his title after an unnamed 007 agent is killed. It's also clear in other books that double-0 agents aren't exclusively men. In Sebastian Faulks's 2008 Bond novel, Devil May Care, Scarlett Papava is recruited as the new 004 after the person holding that title dies.
Given this well-established Bond lore, it makes sense that Lynch's character can take up 007. In the Bond universe, if Bond is killed or retires, he could be replaced by another agent. And, according to leaked plot details from No Time to Die, Lynch's character, Nomi, becomes 007 while Bond is in exile in Jamaica, which tracks with the precedent set in the expanded novels.
In other words, to say Lynch cannot be 007 is to misunderstand the history of Bond.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.