This week, actress Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) spoke to Bazaar UK about the online abuse she received after being cast in the new James Bond movie No Time To Die. “I am one Black woman — if it were another Black woman cast in the role, it would have been the same conversation, she would have got the same attacks, the same abuse,” she said, adding that it caused her to delete social media and speak to no one but her family for a week. 

Why was she trolled?

In April, news leaked that Lynch would be playing the new 007, sparking backlash from internet trolls who were furious that a woman would be taking over the role from Daniel Craig. Past 007s have all been played by men, including Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and the late Sean Connery

The internet’s assumption was only partially correct – 007 is just one of the many designations for MI6 agents in that universe, and with Craig’s Bond having retired to Jamaica at the beginning of the film, Lynch takes over until he returns, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She isn’t playing Bond himself.  The same report quoted Lynch as saying she would reply to trolls, usually saying something nice in return. “Then they’ve been like, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you so much!’ But it’s an interesting test because it reminds them that they definitely wouldn’t say that to someone’s face,” she said. The actress will still be the first Black woman to ever hold the 007 designation in the film, set for release in April 2021. 

This isn’t the first instance of backlash

Male-dominated franchises that begin putting women front and centre run the risk of alienating sections of the fandom resistant to change, history shows. Take Doctor Who, which cast Jodie Whittaker as the titular doctor in 2017 after 50 years of the role being played by (white) men including David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. The online backlash started even before the new season aired, with comments like: “Time LORD. I repeat the Doctor is a time LORD. Not a time LADY.” and “You might as well just cancel the show.” It’s worth noting that the character is a thousand-year-old time-travelling alien with two hearts, but turning it into a woman is what pushed it into the realm of disbelief for these fans. Still, initial episodes showed a 47% growth in viewership, rejuvenating the long-running show.

Paul Feig’s 2016 gender-swapped version of 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters, starring Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon, met with similar hostility. Its  trailer, which swiftly became one of the most disliked in YouTube history, currently has 1.1 million dislikes. Sony Pictures began deleting offensive comments, though some like, “When are people going to learn that women aren’t funny?” still remain. “I just don’t know why people are so afraid of women. It’s fascinating to me,” McCarthy told Yahoo Entertainment in an interview two years later. “If a movie 35 years later is ‘ruining your childhood,’ don’t blame us — you’ve got your own issues.”

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