Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

As Spectre hits our screens, we ask: can a feminist ever really enjoy a James Bond film?

craig_gun.jpg
driving_naomie.jpg
lovely_ben.jpg
craig_pecs.jpg

Secret agent James Bond is known for his banter, one-night stands and chauvinistic attitude to the women around him. Having watched 2012 Bond flick SkyfallEmerald Street editor Anna Fielding asks if a feminist can ever enjoy a Bond film.

Skyfall is the 23rd film in the Bond series and opens in a classic 007 fashion with a huge action-packed set piece. There are motorbikes crashing through windows and chasing over rooftops, fights on top of trains, a bit with a JCB. Female agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris, puts her foot down and slams a four-wheel drive through Istanbul, a teeming mega-city of 13.5 million people. Unsurprisingly she loses a wing mirror. Then another one. There’s an opportunity for a joke there. You imagine all the previous Bonds raising one eyebrow in anticipation. But it doesn’t happen, it’s just not there. Daniel Craig’s Bond does not make a crack about women drivers. Not so classically 007 after all.

Historically the Bond franchise has always implied that a women’s place is in the bedroom. James is a serial shagger and comes across as either a cheeseball or an oaf when it comes to seduction. A significant amount of his sexual partners end up dead. On the one occasion he marries (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) his wife also dies. Those who live are rarely seen again, unless they’re evil double agents. They also have demeaning names like Honey Rider, Pussy Galore or Octopussy. However much you may have enjoyed the action and the camp and the cunning gadgets, the feminist part of you always cringed and knew there wasn’t really a permanent place for you in the Bond universe. Men can fantasise about being 007, but Moneypenny’s secretarial role just isn’t so appealing.

For the very first time Bond's main lady is a mentor not a lover.

Then something changed and Bond got a female boss. M, the head of secret intelligence service MI6, was played by Judi Dench in 1995’s GoldenEye. At that point Stella Rimington had been the real-life director of MI5 for three years. Rimington retired from service a year after GoldenEye, but Dench’s M carried straight on. She’s still in place in Skyfall and her story is the central one. For the very first time Bond’s main lady is a mentor, not a lover. The M character has always been grouchy and in Dench’s hands this does take a slightly maternal air. “Where the bloody hell have you been?” she snaps as her agent returns from the dead, the light catching on her matched set of grey pearls. The motherly aspects don’t override any sense of her as a ruthless professional though. Bond only ever refers to her as ma’am, whereas Javier Bardem’s fantastically eccentric villain Raoul Silva freely uses Mummy and makes a patronising joke about her height. We’re rooting for Bond and so, in Skyfall, we have respect for M.

Director Sam Mendes may as well have sounded a klaxon at the start of the scene and shouted 'Hetro ladies! Choose your poison!

The implausible sexiness of the Bond girls is often mentioned too (“Oh come on,” you shout at the screen. “How many nuclear physicists look like that?”), but isn’t it equally ridiculous to assume beautiful women are stupid? In the Bond universe almost everyone is good-looking. It’s a lovely, glossy fantasy: the locations are luxurious, the technology is sleek, and the bar for human attractiveness is higher. There’s a scene in Skyfall where Bond meets the latest person to fill the boffin-y Q role. Daniel Craig sits side-by-side with Ben Whishaw, playing Q. Craig is muscled, blond and rumpled: a man of action. Whishaw has dark hair flopping over one eye, horn-rimmed glasses and a deliciously-shaped mouth: a boy with brains. Director Sam Mendes may as well have sounded a klaxon at the start of the scene and shouted “Hetro ladies! Choose your poison!” Compare this with any of the adaptations of John Le Carre’s spy books, where some are good-looking and some are not. A friend who worked in the Foreign Office said you could spot the spooks as they always scanned meeting rooms for exits and never introduced themselves with a job title, but that outside of the FCO building it was tougher. They cultivated an air of averageness. Real spies are professionals when it comes to blending in. Bond himself is glamorous and unreal, so why should we expect dowdy practicality from the women?

The Bond universe has moved on in many ways (finding Q so attractive was a bit of a surprise), so go and see Skyfall. There’s action and camp and cunning gadgets, but no jokes about women drivers.

Related

hero.jpg

Bond women through the ages

615x330_hyde_skyfall_v2.jpg

Win tickets to the world premiere of Skyfall

bodyform-hero.jpg

Bodyform tell the truth about periods

Comments

More

The iconic house from Mrs. Doubtfire is on the market

...for the cool price of $4.5million by Harriet Hall

29 Sep 2016

Hilarious illustrations show the struggle of our twenties is real

We've all been there by Sarah Biddlecombe

29 Sep 2016

Here’s what your zodiac sign says about your career

It's time to take a look at your professional horoscope... by Kayleigh Dray

29 Sep 2016

Taking the pill may increase likelihood of depression

According to a major new study by Harriet Hall

29 Sep 2016

The 20 sexist words that women in Britain want banned

From hormonal to bossy by Kayleigh Dray

29 Sep 2016

Sign us up: the world’s 13 most unusual university courses

One US university is now offering a course based on Beyoncé’s Lemonade...

29 Sep 2016

You should only shave your legs late at night, according to experts

That is, of course, only if you want to shave at all by Kayleigh Dray

29 Sep 2016

Woman run over by man on moped after ignoring catcalls

“He took a weapon and he used it…” by Kayleigh Dray

29 Sep 2016

Tea in a spray can is now a thing, as if 2016 hasn’t been bleak enough

The apocalypse is nigh. by Moya Crockett

29 Sep 2016

Disney’s The Lion King is getting a live-action makeover

There’s gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware… by Kayleigh Dray

28 Sep 2016