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

More

The best possible gifts for when flowers aren’t going to cut it

17 unusual and thoughtful gifts for when the s**t hits the fan

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

“The real reason we should all be upset about Uber”

Grow up: your bank balance really isn’t what’s at stake here

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

There's a huge sherbet fountain coming to London - and it's free

Bompas & Parr are planning a weird, wonderful and nostalgia-filled event

by Helen Brown
22 Sep 2017

Rick and Morty creator responds to sexist trolling of female writers

The show hired four women. Cue cries of “Worst. Episodes. Evah.”

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

Everything you need to know about Uber being banned in London

The taxi firm has had its license revoked by TfL

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

The new Baileys flavour you’ll want to drink well beyond Halloween

Perfect autumn cocktails ahead

by Amy Swales
22 Sep 2017

This unexpected town has been voted the best place to work in the UK

We didn’t see this one coming

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

Harry Potter fans, this epic Hogwarts goblet is actually magical

It's perfect for Butterbeer (or prosecco)

by Megan Murray
22 Sep 2017

The hidden meanings behind the nation’s most popular baby names

Prepare for lots of girls’ names ending in ‘a’

by Moya Crockett
22 Sep 2017

This teacher is determined to help girls feel comfortable with periods

“If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of menstruation, you shouldn’t read on…”

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017