James Bond is a sexist, misogynist dinosaur

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture
James Bond is a sexist, misogynist dinosaur

Skyfall a great romp but a gender bust … not to mention the faint aroma of homophobia

I’ll fess up at the outset: as a white hetero guy, the new Bond flick Skyfall is a great yarn.  It hits all the right Bond notes: great soundtrack including, of course, Adele’s terrific theme song. It is chock-a-block with edge-of-seat thrills combined with well paced character and plot building sequences. And there are some really exciting stunts, including in the opening sequence a motorcycle chase on the ceramic tile rooftops over the grand bazar in Istanbaul.  And, of course, the ever dapper Bond in his suits with his suave demeanor who serves up an excellent cool-as-a-cuke and patriotically loyal agent. Yes indeed, this one works. Audiences are thrilled, the critics are a-swoon. But here’s what’s missing from the latest Bon(d)-fete: even a baseline of gender intelligence.  Worse, there is the lingering smell of homophobia in the superbly acted supervillain (played by Javier Bardem). The villain is creepy, funny, psychotic – everything you could ask for, but whose characterization as evil is unnecessarily rooted in homoeroticism.

Here’s some of the tally.  Except for Dame Judy Dench, the ladies were bed toys, nursemaids, sex slaves, targets, and – even where there was one bright hope for something a little different, a partner in the field and a woman who could not only keep up with Bond but who could save him in a pinch, [plot spoiler alert] unfortunately she is also the agent who accidentally shoots Bond, who serves in part as his agency mistress, and by the end of the film has traded in her gun for a typewriter.  Added to this is a moral hierarchy that is white through and through (Judy Dench, Ralph Fiennes, an assortment of white MPs, white computer geek), and a villainy that isn’t white – Bardem’s supervillain, prostitutes and gangsters. Moneypenny (played by Naomie Harris) seems to be adding a little diversity to the Empire in the opening sequences, but quickly fades to the background, and only returns prominently to the storyline near the end in her secretarial role.

Am I asking too much from a Hollywood blockbuster? After all, the gender and sexual political state of other recent films in the romp-genre isn’t exactly inspirational (think The Avengers, the Sherlock Holmes franchise, Ironman, Star Trek, etc.).   It’s hard not to expect the worst, even when a film is great fun, like Skyfall.

[The following column by London Times journo Giles Coren was refused by his editors for the vaguely-bullshit-seeming reason that "there's already too much Bond out there." So his wife published it on her cooking blog (although the gender politics of that interaction also seems a bit fishy). Anyway:]

Bond, villain

There is a moment in the new James Bond film so vile, sexist and sad that it made me feel physically sick. If you have not seen the film and fear a spoiler, then look away now. Or cancel your tickets and do something less horrible instead. Like pull all your fingernails out.
In short, there is a young woman in this film whom Bond correctly identifies (in his smug, smart-arse way) as a sex-worker who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child by human traffickers. She is now a brutalised and unwilling gangster’s moll. She gives no sign of being sexually interested in Bond, merely of being incredibly scared and unhappy. So he creeps uninvited into her hotel shower cubicle later that night, like Jimmy Savile, and silently screws her because he is bored. 

That is vile enough. And totally out of keeping, I’d have thought, with Daniel Craig’s Bond. But it gets much worse when she is later tied up with a glass of whisky on her head in a hilarious William Tell spoof, and shot dead in a game devised by the baddie. We knew already knew the baddie was bad, so there was no plot developing element here. It was merely disgusting, exploitative, 1970s-style death-porn (like when Roger Moore torpedoed the beautiful girl in the helicopter in The Spy Who Loved Me and then joked about it – a scene from which it has taken me 35 years to recover). 

The ‘new’ Bond’s immediate response to the killing of a tragic, abused, indentured slave woman is to say, “waste of good scotch” (this must be the ‘humour’ Daniel Craig said he was keen to put back into the role) and then kill everyone. He could have done it three minutes before and saved her. But that wouldn’t have been as funny, I guess. 

That Macallan (the whisky brand on her head) presumably paid to be involved in the scene, as part of the film’s much-touted product placement programme, is utterly baffling to me.

 

Issues Pages: 
6079_Smith_W

And then there's this:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-do-bond-villains-need-fa...

Not that the literary James Bond isn't dated as well, but at least he worked a desk job 50 weeks of the year, had financial troubles, and wound up in hospital for a spell after being beaten or parboiled.

Michelle

Why are the gender politics around a woman publishing her husband's feminism-informed movie review on her cooking blog fishy?  I think it's a great idea when something won't get published by the mainstream press.

Do you mean it's problematic for a woman to have a cooking blog?  Or to publish something her husband wrote?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I'm tired of Bond and  I wish someone would just shoot the prick and get it over with.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Nice find, Winston. An interesting point I hadn't considered.

Michelle wrote:
Why are the gender politics around a woman publishing her husband's feminism-informed movie review on her cooking blog fishy?

I'm sure it was just a matter of convenience for them, but I was just thinking that taking time from your cooking blog to publish your husband's Very Important Column about a dick flick seemed a bit screwy. Just that they're both just about pop culture, but her husband's *needed* to be seen--I doubt, for example, that her husband would ever publish a recipe post of hers in his Times column. She seemed to even sense the impropriety of it by making the disclaimer that this wouldn't be a "regular thing." Anyway, it was just a thought.

lagatta

Do you think that if they had made the computer nerd South or East Asian, then they would be accused of stereotyping? I find it almost odd that such a character need be white, in contemporary London.

(spoiler alert)

Shit, they killed off Judy Dench's M - who was a saving grace of recent Bonds.

I love Adele's voice and her song, though.

David Young

As long as movie producers know that there will be an audience for films such as Skyfall, they will continue to make them.

Should The Hunger Games have been made into a movie, where we see children killing each other?  It was made because a producer thought there was an audience that would pay to see it.

The fact is, the entertainment industry doesn't care about Political Correctness; it cares the most about making money.

 

Michelle

So what?  What are you telling us that we didn't already know?  Clearly the fact that movies are filled with misogyny and people are seeing them illustrates your point.

So what is your point?  People should stop pointing out the misogyny when they see it?

Michelle

Catchfire wrote:

I'm sure it was just a matter of convenience for them, but I was just thinking that taking time from your cooking blog to publish your husband's Very Important Column about a dick flick seemed a bit screwy. Just that they're both just about pop culture, but her husband's *needed* to be seen--I doubt, for example, that her husband would ever publish a recipe post of hers in his Times column. She seemed to even sense the impropriety of it by making the disclaimer that this wouldn't be a "regular thing." Anyway, it was just a thought.

1. It's her personal blog, not one she writes for a media employer.  So she is free to post whatever she likes in her blog.  He would not be free to post an off-topic recipe in his Times column because it wouldn't get past his editors.  Just as, if she had a recipe column in a mainstream newspaper, she also would not be allowed by her editors to post her husband's column there one week.  However, if he had his own personal movie review blog, and she made an unbelievable recipe for dinner the night before, then yes, I can imagine that he might share that, especially if his blog format was like hers, where he also mentions the occasional thing out of his everyday family life in his posts.

2. Maybe she felt her husband's column needed to be seen because it was a feminist take on a "dick flick" by a man whose opinion she respects.  Maybe she thought that her audience would be interested (assuming, as I am, that perhaps many in her target audience are women - or heck, even not assuming that, maybe she thought it would be interesting to both women AND men to read).

3. When you have your own personal blog, there is no limit to the number of posts you can make to it.  So her husband's doesn't have to "take time" or space away from her own posts.  She's posting it because she is sharing her opinion with her audience that it is worth reading.  She might also have appreciated the break from posting for a day.  Or even the "scoop" of being the only place his review was published when people are used to finding it behind a paywall on a mainstream news site.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yes, the uneven power dynamic between Coren's Important Column (on a movie) and Walker's unimportant blog (on cooking) is instutionalized. Does that make a difference? And as for the "no limit" argument, the same could be said about babble--yet we certainly notice space getting taken up, even though there's potentially an infinite amount. On that point, I bet Coren's entry breaks the blog's record for most views by a couple dozen thousand. I guess we disagree about this, though. I can live with that.

I'd rather talk about the much more troubling fact that Bond is, allegedly, more misogynist than ever (and just as homophobic) and yet is getting credit for being less sexist because of the "strong female character" red herring.

@lagatta and the white computer nerd -- this was recently brought up with regards to the tv series The Walking Dead. Among other things, the opening scene, in which the white hero is chased by a mob of zombies, contains virtually no black people--depsite the fact that it takes place in urban Atlanta. You can already see the difficulty the handwringing writers would have faced: risk stereotyping the baddies as black, mindless monsters, or erase race altogether by making the population unrealistically white.

MegB

It's almost impossible to find a mainstream movie or tv show that doesn't contain racial and gender stereotypes.

Boring, boring, boring. And relentlessly disappointing.

ryanw

I think certain liberties were taken to secure this movie its PG-13 rating. I can say with confidence that none of the content an average 13 year old today would find objectionable....

I guess it says alot for exploitation creep to now have the hero watch a prospective assassination take place for about 5 minutes while not interceding; it was akin to the shower scene in Psycho or the music score from a slasher chase. a far cry from the dozens of underlings who are shot, and spin off camera between the blink of an eye. 

Bardem didn't disappoint at least

Maysie Maysie's picture

ryanw wrote:
 

I can say with confidence that none of the content an average 13 year old today would find objectionable....

So an average 13 year old girl would not find the scene of the killing of the woman, described above, despicable? 

MegB

My 11 year old daughter would find it despicable.  

ryanw

I think certain liberties were taken to secure this movie its PG-13 rating.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I don't understand what you mean, ryanw. Can you elaborate?

ryanw

PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned – Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13. These films may contain sex references, up to four uses of explicit language, drug innuendo, strong crude/suggestive humor, mature/political themes, moderately long horror moments, and/or moderate action violence. There are usually no restrictions on non-sexual nudity. However, extreme bloodshed is rarely present.

http://www.gazillionmovies.com/MPAA/PG-13.htm  for comparison purposes, adam sandler films contain the same amount of inappropriate material

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yes, I know what a PG-13 rating is. Are you just saying that Skyfall should have received a more mature rating? It's hard to tell.

pookie

Nice (spoiler alert) lagatta.  Maybe you'd like to fix that.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Ask an Economist: Which Bond Villain Plan Would Have Worked (and Which Not)?

While the bad guy in Skyfall is obsessed primarily with revenge and humiliation, many of James Bond’s chief adversaries over the years have wanted something more simple and tangible: cash money. The Bond villain is often deranged and grandiose, sure, but he (or she) is also capable of hatching elaborate plans to increase their bottom line, often by secretly manipulating the world’s economic systems (sometimes with the aid of a clandestine nuclear weapon or two). So, could they have succeeded? If James Bond hadn’t foiled these plots, could these Bond villains have fulfilled their dreams of financial glory? We looked through their schemes, and asked Jean-Jacques Dethier, a development economist at the World Bank (and a lifelong Bond fan), what he thought.

Sven Sven's picture

I don’t know how a progressive critic can watch pretty much any popular film or television program without her head exploding.

Michelle

Easy.  You kind of "turn off" that part of your brain while watching.  You've heard of the "willing suspension of disbelief"?  Well, there is also the willing suspension of politics when consuming pop culture.

But doing so doesn't mean that we have to lay off all criticism whatsoever, always and forever.  I'll probably see Skyfall, and I might even enjoy much of it.  I just watched Casino Royale on the weekend and enjoyed it.  But there's also nothing wrong with deconstructing the problematic stuff in these movies, and perhaps even trying to figure out why we (who have been raised in a white supremacist, misogynist, rape culture) enjoy this kind of popular culture.

Sven Sven's picture

Michelle wrote:

Easy.  You kind of "turn off" that part of your brain while watching.  You've heard of the "willing suspension of disbelief"?  Well, there is also the willing suspension of politics when consuming pop culture.

How does a progressive who will "never shop" at a Walmart (because of its unfair labor practices, among its other misdeeds) simultaneously enjoy (and financially support) a misogynist film?

6079_Smith_W

Because we are human beings who are full of contradictions and get to choose what we do, Sven.

Geez, are you just playing devil's advocate, because you are the last person here I'd expect that argument from.

These guilty peasures are just another version of Grand Guignol, IMO. I remember when Julie Taymor's version of Titus Andronicus came out there was an article that talked about how some scholars refused to believe the play was written by Shakspeare because is is so gratuitous in it's gore. In fact he did write it, after the fashion of Italian slasher plays of the time, which aren't that different than the modern variety.

That said, I think Titus Andronicus has a lot more going for it beyond all the blood and guts and meat pies.

 

autoworker autoworker's picture

Bond is a creature of the system he serves, and the world he confronts in it's service.

Serviam6

I have not seen the movie yet but in the previews it looks like he is using a Walther PPK or something which while is a traditional Bond pistol it's much smaller and wimpier than the P99 he used in the last couple movies. (I'm biased of course)

autoworker autoworker's picture

Serviam6 wrote:

I have not seen the movie yet but in the previews it looks like he is using a Walther PPK or something which while is a traditional Bond pistol it's much smaller and wimpier than the P99 he used in the last couple movies. (I'm biased of course)

That's an interesting metaphor.

Serviam6

Yes I've found myself wondering why go to a larger gun for a few movies then switch back. What are the writers trying to tell us about Bond?

ryanw

octane and steroids have unintended consequences from long term exposure

mmhmm

Michelle

You're boring me now, Sven.  Night.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Sven wrote:

How does a progressive who will "never shop" at a Walmart (because of its unfair labor practices, among its other misdeeds) simultaneously enjoy (and financially support) a misogynist film?

How does a non-progressive whose combined family income is in the six-figures claim to decide what is and is not essential expenses for lower income folks?

6079_Smith_W

Maysie wrote:

How does a non-progressive whose combined family income is in the six-figures claim to decide what is and is not essential expenses for lower income folks?

Seeing as it is a relative term  anyway, and Sven using this occasion to wrap himself in it, you might get a bit more bang by calling him a progressive. Not everyone considers that other term derogatory, after all.

*grin*

 

Serviam6

I think we could settle this by Maysie acompaning me to see Skyfall.

Sven Sven's picture

Maysie wrote:

Sven wrote:

How does a progressive who will "never shop" at a Walmart (because of its unfair labor practices, among its other misdeeds) simultaneously enjoy (and financially support) a misogynist film?

How does a non-progressive whose combined family income is in the six-figures claim to decide what is and is not essential expenses for lower income folks?


What does your retort have to do with my question?

Precisely...nothing.

But, for the life of me, if a progressive is convinced that this Bond film is steeped in a hatred of women, then why on earth would such a person support a film like that financially by purchasing a ticket?

Maysie Maysie's picture

Serviam6 wrote:

I think we could settle this by Maysie acompaning me to see Skyfall.

I saw Casino Royale. That scene where he tries to defibrilate himself with the plug-in emergency defibrilator in the cigarette lighter outlet in his car? Classic.

Mostly I'm not an action-adventure watcher. My guilty pleasures go to Star Trek movies and rom coms. Yeah sometimes I cry. What's it to ya?

Serviam6

Maysie wrote:

Serviam6 wrote:

I think we could settle this by Maysie acompaning me to see Skyfall.

I saw Casino Royale. That scene where he tries to defibrilate himself with the plug-in emergency defibrilator in the cigarette lighter outlet in his car? Classic.

Mostly I'm not an action-adventure watcher. My guilty pleasures go to Star Trek movies and rom coms. Yeah sometimes I cry. What's it to ya?

 

It's only through the anonymity of the internet that I will admit to shedding tears while watching What dreams may come, the Notebook and even the kids movie up.   I got choked up in Toy Story 3 when it seemed like they were going to die and just yesterday my roomate was watching Men in Black 3 and the scene in the end left me with a lump in my throat.  You'll be fine Maysie, I won't judge!  I'm even a fan of the 'new' startrek so there's some common ground right there.

 

I've given myself an IV and an NPA but to defibrilate ones self? That's just wild.

Maysie Maysie's picture

This is the best thread drift ever.

Cool

6079_Smith_W

Sven wrote:

But, for the life of me, if a progressive is convinced that this Bond film is steeped in a hatred of women, then why on earth would such a person support a film like that financially by purchasing a ticket?

Maybe because people live by their own rules; not those that you or anyone else cooks up, and not everyone behaves like a stereotypical hard-line zealot in all things all the time.

This reminds me of the argument by anti religious people who accuse reformers of not being fundamentalist enough and not following the scriptural dogma to the letter.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Smith, don't feed the troll.

 

6079_Smith_W

Well..... he's a regular

Besides, as I said, I think some people who pose that question don't just do it to stir up shit, but actually believe it.

Sven Sven's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:
Besides, as I said, I think some people who pose that question don't just do it to stir up shit, but actually believe it.

Smith, you're right, it's an honest question.

But, you're probably also right: It's a matter of degree. If something is mildly sexist, like the Bond flick (IMO), then I can see someone going to the flick and enjoying it, despite the sexism. But, it someone actually considers the film misogynistic (literally, a film that projects hatred of women), that is a much, much stronger and caustic criticism of the film -- and, under those circumstances, I don't know how a person could financially support a film like that by purchasing a ticket.

ETA: After re-reading the recent posts in this thread, I wanted to say to Michelle that my Walmart-vs-Film comparison was not directed specifically at you, personally. But, when I re-read Post #22 again this morning, it very likely came across that way. The reference to "a progressive" was not a reference to you but, literally, to "a progressive" generally.

Michelle

And I answered your question.

Besides, who says I'm going to pay to see Skyfall?  ;)

jas

Catchfire wrote:
http://reciperifle.blogspot.sg/2012/11/bond-villain.html

The ‘new’ Bond’s immediate response to the killing of a tragic, abused, indentured slave woman is to say, “waste of good scotch” (this must be the ‘humour’ Daniel Craig said he was keen to put back into the role) and then kill everyone. He could have done it three minutes before and saved her. But that wouldn’t have been as funny, I guess.

That Macallan (the whisky brand on her head) presumably paid to be involved in the scene, as part of the film’s much-touted product placement programme, is utterly baffling to me.

Just for clarification: was she killed? I wasn't sure that was what happened. It seems out of character for Bond to not only dismiss a paramour so coldly, but to not try heroically to save her.  That's definitely what I was expecting in that scene. However, if she wasn't killed, it left a loose plot end that puzzled me. If she was killed, I agree this was inexcusable behaviour for a Bond of any era, and fans and moviegoers should loudly express their disapproval. How to do so?

Sucks that Dench is now gone. Maybe she wanted out?

jas

I recently saw another pop cultural product making light of human trafficking and sex slavery - an episode of Family Guy, which I think went tastelessly beyond even their usual boundary pushing. Anyone else see that?

jas

Apart from the opening sequence - which they are always trying to outdo from the previous - I didn't find Skyfall all that more exciting over other Bond films.

And did anyone else notice the shockingly bad edit in the scene where Bond and M have arrived at Skyfall? Like, amateur, easily fixable kind of bad edit. Like something you'd see in early motion pictures. Shocking in a contemporary, sleek Hollywood movie.

6079_Smith_W

Read the last few pages of "Casino Royale". His character is deliberately cold. Of course, he's dealing with someone who is not just a lover, but a traitor, and he specifically says that he has to compartmentalize things so that is all she is to him.

There's certainly enough gratuitous sexism in that character, but some of his behaviour actually does make sense. Seemse to me inappropriate chivalry would also be sexist, in its own way.

And speaking of compartmentalizing, Sven...

I'm sure there are some people who would go apeshit because some of us visit the National Post website. Also because some of us might actually watch or read things which are objectionable just so we know what we are talking about. And if I might happen to like trashy exploitation films, well that's for me to square with my own values, and I give the same response as I would to any of those others who tell me what I should and should not do.

 

 

jas

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Read the last few pages of "Casino Royale". His character is deliberately cold. Of course, he's dealing with someone who is not just a lover, but a traitor, and he specifically says that he has to compartmentalize things so that is all she is to him.

Yes, and we've seen that before in Bond films. But in this case, the Severine character was not a traitor, had not betrayed him. The whole setup of that plotline was that he was going in to meet the evil mastermind, and save her while doing so, which is a standard Bond plot formula.

Michelle

Maysie wrote:

This is the best thread drift ever.

Cool

Only 'cause you got asked out to the movies, you heartbreaker, you.  ;)

Maysie Maysie's picture

Michelle wrote:

Only 'cause you got asked out to the movies, you heartbreaker, you.  ;)

Well, duh of course.

Kiss

Sven Sven's picture

Michelle wrote:

Besides, who says I'm going to pay to see Skyfall?  ;)

The motorcycle chase scene in this flick is probably the best I've ever seen. As a biker, I have a keen appreciation for the stunt guys who performed it. It's hard to imagine more difficult riding conditions that can actually be ridden.

Other than that, the story was banal (more than usual for a Bond flick).

But, it provided the mindless escapism I was looking for...

Bacchus

jas wrote:

I recently saw another pop cultural product making light of human trafficking and sex slavery - an episode of Family Guy, which I think went tastelessly beyond even their usual boundary pushing. Anyone else see that?

 

Its a parody of the movie taken, in a sense

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