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James Bond is a sexist, misogynist dinosaur

Catchfire
Online
Joined: Apr 16 2003

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.

 


Comments

6079_Smith_W
Online
Joined: Jun 10 2010

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
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Joined: May 10 2001

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
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

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


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

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
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Joined: Apr 17 2002
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.

Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

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.


David Young
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Joined: Dec 9 2007

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
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Joined: May 10 2001

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?


Catchfire
Online
Joined: Apr 16 2003

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
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Joined: Nov 28 2001
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
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Joined: May 24 2012

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
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

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
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Joined: Nov 28 2001

My 11 year old daughter would find it despicable.  


ryanw
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Joined: May 24 2012

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


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

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


ryanw
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Joined: May 24 2012

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
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

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
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Joined: Dec 13 2005

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


Catchfire
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

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
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

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


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

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
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Joined: Jul 22 2005

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
Online
Joined: Jun 10 2010

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
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Joined: Dec 21 2008
Bond is a creature of the system he serves, and the world he confronts in it's service.

Serviam6
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Joined: Nov 7 2012

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
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Joined: Dec 21 2008
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
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Joined: Nov 7 2012

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
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Joined: May 24 2012

octane and steroids have unintended consequences from long term exposure

mmhmm


Michelle
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Joined: May 10 2001

You're boring me now, Sven.  Night.


Maysie
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Joined: Apr 21 2005

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?


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