Monday, September 20, 2021

One would be hard pressed to find a men’s magazine or blog (including this one) that has no mention of the sartorial distinction of Ian Fleming‘s super spy, Mr. James Bond.  With the 25th1 rendition of a Bond film imminent, 007 will be the topic of conversation once again, not just for his Tom Ford suits, but for his adventures and pursuits.  He’s been dealing with foreign governments, organizations, and “Bond Girls” on film for nearly six decades, and although the world is very different since Dr. No first hit theaters, Bond has not changed; he continues to operate as though we are in the 1950s of Ian Fleming’s world.

Dr. No, the Bond movie that started it all, was released in 1962: the Berlin Wall stood strong, and the Cold War reached near apocalyptic heights during the Cuban Missile Crisis; John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth; it was the beginning of the Vietnam War; James Meredith became the first Black student at the University of Mississippi; the apartheid government of South Africa arrested Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg (who would stay in prison for nearly three decades); JFK gave his famous “Moon” speech, and Marylin Monroe sang her breathy, nightclub version of “Happy Birthday” to the POTUS; Marylin Monroe died in 1962; that was also the year that Johnny Carson took the helm of the Tonight Show, eventually moving it to Los Angeles (where it would stay for nearly 42 years before returning to New York City); and West Side Story won “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards in the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

Today, there is no more Cold War or Berlin Wall; Americans are free to travel to Cuba; we’ve orbited the moon dozens of times; the United States has normalized relations with Vietnam; more than 3000 African American students attend Ole Miss; Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected president of South Africa; JFK would have been 101 years old this year, and Marilyn Monroe would be 92; there have been two hosts since Johnny Carson left the Tonight Show; the US had its first Black POTUS, and currently has an orange one.

The world is different now and 007 must be different if he2 is to survive.  The formidable opposition that comes to mind when I think of Bond, James Bond, in 2019 is not some foreign government like Russia, North Korea, or even the United States.

No.

It is the power of women and the progress since even Spectre was released in 2015 that’s his biggest adversary.  Sean Connery’s Bond3 set the standard with his disregard and contempt for women since Dr. No.  Daniel Craig, who has been portraying 007 since 2006, told TimeOut London around the time that Spectre was being released that he would rather slit his wrists than play James Bond again.  Then, a few weeks later, he elaborated in a Time Magazine interview.


Let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist.

Indeed.  Writer Benjamin Winterhalter explains it best:

And the core-defining characteristic of James Bond, the character’s psychological route to total apathy, is vicious misogyny, “a staggering fusion of primitive violence with Girls Gone Wild” that impels him to talk to “all attractive women as if they are hookers.” This evidently is a trait many men (and some women) find irresistibly compelling. To be a Bond Girl, thus, is to be treated as a sexual object, to be pressed to accept a status approaching chattel slavery at the hands of a master whose naughty quips will border on criminality—as the name implies.

https://daily.jstor.org/the-marketable-misogyny-of-james-bond/

Craig has since agreed to return for at least one more Bond movie ($150 million has a way of twisting your arm, I suppose), but he was not wrong: the fact remains that Bond is indeed a misogynist.  To illustrate the point, watch this video made after YouTuber FunwithGuru watched Spectre.  I must warn you: it’s very disturbing.

Let’s also consider the names of the “Bond Girls” over the years.  We just saw Dr. Goodhead in Moonraker, but I’m sure that the first one that came to mind was Pussy Galore.  Dr. No featured Honey Ryder, Goldfinger: Bonita.  You Only Live Twice had Kissy Suzuki, then there was Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds are Forever, and Bambi and Thumper were also part of that cast.  Mary Goodnight was in The Man with the Golden Gun, along with Chew Mee.  And of course, we can’t forget Octopussy in the eponymous movie.

And what of May Day and Jinx?  Both are names with ominous connotations of Black women.  That’s an entire article in and of itself.

In 24 (really, 26) productions of 007 films, almost every so-called “Bond Girl” either ends up in bed with 007 or dead . . . or both.

Miss Moneypenny, secretary to the head of the British Secret Service, has had a schoolgirl crush on Bond since 1962, and although she eventually makes it to the field as an agent in Skyfall, she doesn’t quite have what it takes as she has difficulty maneuvering her car while in pursuit and has a very poor aim with a rifle; she shoots Bond in an attempt to shoot the bad guy.  By Spectre, Moneypenny is back behind her desk waiting to flirt with Bond.

Then there is Judi Dench who was introduced to us as MI6 Chief, M, in 1995’s GoldenEye.  Finally, a strong female character in a position of power who is unphased by Bond’s “boyish charm” and who speaks the truth about Bond, James Bond:

I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms . . . [are] wasted on me.

In Skyfall, she orders Moneypenny to “take the shot” that strikes Bond.

Take the shot.
I can’t I may hit Bond.
Take the bloody shot!

Unfortunately, by the end of the Skyfall — SPOILER ALERT — Dench’s M character is dead and Bond, although presumed dead after being shot, is alive and well.

So here we are, approaching 2019 now, but we’ll likely be approaching 2020 by the time the film is released, and what is Bond to do?  Now that M is a man again (played by Ralph Fiennes in Spectre), will Bond have no one to keep him from raping, pillaging, and plundering?

I am left with no choice but to ponder the question, “What about me?”  Not because I behave as Bond does, absolutely not.  I am, however, a fan of the James Bond franchise and have seen every EON production of the 007 films . . . in order, I might add . . . multiple times.  I have been supporting Bond’s violence toward women for many years, although not specifically or intentionally, but certainly not innocently either.  I have been well aware of Bond’s sexist escapades for a long time (how could one not be) and have chosen to watch anyway: it smacks of complacency and having referenced Nelson Mandela earlier, I am reminded of another great South African, Bishop Desmond Tutu, who reminded us that to be complacent is to be complicit.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/desmond_tutu_106145

I have to vote with my dollar: stop watching, but there will be very little left to watch in Hollywood.  The problem is not Bond alone, it is Hollywood and the sexist culture that the #MeToo Movement has exposed at the expense of so many brave women.  The #MeToo Movement website reports that there have been close to eighteen million sexual assaults reported since Pierce Brosnan was James Bond.  How can Hollywood allow EON to portray Bond as Ian Fleming created him and face women like Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Aly Raisman, and the millions of others who have been victimized by Bond-type behavior? How can Daniel Craig continue that legacy?  How can Barbara Broccoli allow it?

Perhaps she will not.  She told the DailyMail.com in 2017 that anything is possible when choosing a successor to Craig.  There has been speculation since Craig announced his disdain for the role in 2015 that the next Agent 007 might be Black or a woman.

These films tend to reflect the times so we always try to push the envelope a little bit.  Anything is possible.

Bond movies have indeed been reflecting the times in their dreadful treatment of women; it is time for the British secret agent to stand up do the right thing because Time’s Up Now!

FOOTNOTES

  1. There were two movies, Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again, both starring Sean Connery, that were not part of the EON productions franchise.
  2. After Craig’s initial refusal to continue portraying 007, rumors abound about the next Bond; among them were rumors that 007 might be a played by a woman.
  3. James Bond is a creation of author Ian Fleming.  Sean Connery was the first actor to portray Bond on film.

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