James Bond and Hope for American Misogyny

A few weeks ago, I saw the James Bond film Spectre, and it got me thinking on the franchise as a whole. The movies, which are one of the longest continually-running film series—and by some standards the highest grossing series—are extremely popular. Audiences’ love for the character has kept him alive all these years, and this reflects on our cultural tastes.

Over the course of five decades, six actors have played the titular British spy, codenamed “007.” And though the man has changed faces, the Aston Martins, guns, explosions, suavity, suits, alcohol, traveling, women, and misogyny have remained the same. If there’s anything we can count on James Bond for, it’s that he’ll save the world and sleep with the girl.

Misogyny is indeed rampant in the James Bond film series. In fact, when doing research for this post, I found a webpage that attempted to list with scientific objectivity all of Bond’s “sexual conquests.” The spy is known for his ability to take any woman to bed (including villains and psychopaths) and the frequency with which he does so. It is not uncommon for in a single Bond film for the spy to plow through upwards of three women before the end credits roll.

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The last series, which starred Pierce Brosnan (a lead I happen to like purely because he reminds me of Nintendo 64’s Goldeneye), exhibited exceptionally misogynistic tones over its four film run. For starters, check out the epitomizing scene in Die Another Day where Halle Berry emerges from the water. The series’s misogyny is clearest, though, in the character arc of Moneypenny (Samantha Bond). Miss Moneypenny is known as the only girl Bond doesn’t sleep with, but by the last installment in Brosnan’s run, the writers have added her to the list of many women who were unable to resist Bond’s charm.

However, a few years later, the franchise revamped with a new blond Bond. There is a glimmer of hope as we begin the Craig era.

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Casino Royale starts this era off right. It has gritty realness, an appreciation for the character, but it is not afraid to critique—not to mention, that Daniel Craig is the opposite of ugly. The movie revolves around the serious theme of making a man out of Bond—his achieving “00” status and the not-so-subtle scene in the chair where his masculinity is nearly beaten from him. And look at the love interest in the movie, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). She is character in her own right, strong, allowing herself to be saved but not dependent on Bond. Between the two of them, we find love—James Bond truly has someone.

But Vesper dies, Bond is left completely alone, and Quantum of Solace comes. Plenty could be said about this movie’s shortcomings, but what needs to be pointed out is that there is a continuation of Bond’s love for Vesper Lynd. He can’t really get over her. In fact, this is interestingly the only movie in which Bond does not bed his main female sidekick, Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko).

Then there is Skyfall—everyone’s favorite. In Skyfall, there is no real love interest. There is this strange relationship with Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) but it lasts for a few minutes and he is unfazed by her death. If anything, the romance in this film is for either nostalgia, himself, or maybe M (but in a completely nonsexual way). Again, it seems like Bond is undergoing some sort of change since the death of Vesper.

And now Spectre.

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The latest installment to the franchise is a strange one, indeed. There are some odd tone moments in the film (there were a lot of moments when you’ll wonder, why is the director shooting it like that? Why are we focusing on this?), but most of its oddity comes from how different it is from other Bond movies—particularly the praised Skyfall.

The story seemed out of place (some spoilers ahead, but not really) for a thousand different reasons, but namely because of the ending. Just before the credits roll, we see Bond walking away with the main love interest for the movie, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), and because he’s been talking about quitting this way of life, it is suggested that he settles down with the girl. Of course he won’t because sequels are inevitable, but doesn’t that seem odd?

The whole movie, we’ve been looking back at the previous three movies and seeing familiar faces. The movie looks at Vesper, and we are reminded of how much he loved her. And then Bond finds Dr. Swann; though she is damaged, she is strong—like Vesper. Bond gives up his sexual conquests for this girl, and he finds love.

My title is misleading: there is not much hope that America will repent of its misogyny in the near future. In fact, Spectre assumes Bond’s sexism as it brings in this redeeming character—but it’s nice to see someone make the effort. At least there are writers out there that may be aware of these problems, and they’re trying to tell a story that is different.

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One Comment

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  1. Or, there is this theory.

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