Here are some thoughts on the new James Bond movie:
a) Quantum of Solace is a stupid name
b) It is not acceptable in the year 2008 to be putting out movies which portray women as goods, sexual objects, brainless bimbos at worst, and helpless damsels in distress at best. The landscape of this movie was profoundly male, populated by alpha males posturing for each other, swaggering, pursuing their conquests (sexual and otherwise) and their power plays with a sense of absolute entitlement. All of which has its appeal and, more to the point, is sort of what you sign up for when you go to see a James Bond film. The whole franchise is built upon the reinforcement of the figure of Bond, an effortlessly debonnairre, yet powerful figure, who always comes out on top and always gets the girl(s). Yet, after 50 odd years (since Ian Fleming penned the first James Bond novel in 1952), the conceit feels not only threadbare but inexcusably, insultingly outdated. Sure, Bond has evolved–he drives a different car, is more muscular and rougher around the edges, and is privy to the aid of an array of higher tech gadgets, not to mention plenty of new special effects. But even as Bond movies continue to push the envelope visually and effectually, Bond’s women, the so-called “Bond girls” and the other women who enter and exit Bond’s orbit remain in many ways static. Their dresses grow shorter and their skin tanner, but their purposes within the stories and their treatment by the men around them remains shockingly unchanged. If anything, the misogyny has become more glaring, particularly as it grows increasingly out of step with acceptable roles for women in modern culture.
This is the year 2008, the year a woman almost became the Democratic nominee for President, the year a Harvard educated lawyer became the future First Lady. We have a female Speaker of the House and across so many sectors of society, women are making incredible strides. Yet, in Bond’s world, all the women are bronzed and skimpily clad and presented as objects to be beheld, possessed, used, and, just in case the masculinity of the male characters is in doubt, belittled and trivialized, rendered powerless. So, I have to sit, a captive audience, as the women in the movie deliver drinks or merely walk by in slow motion, allowing the men around them to “consume” them, visually and sexually. I have to sit there as a man on the screen tells his much younger bikini-clad wife dismissively to “go work on [her] tan” so that he and Bond can talk man to man. Even the latest incarnation of the “Bond girl” (of course they couldn’t be Bond women, could they?), played by Olga Kurylenko, though she is herself a special agent, like Bond on a mission of revenge, is constantly having to be rescued by Bond when the chips are down. Only Judy Dench escapes this mold, liberated , I suppose, by her advanced age which renders her threat to Bond’s masculinity greatly diminished and gives her immunity from the sexual objectifying gaze. Perhaps my unwillingness to forgive the film may be at least slightly attributable to my total lack of attraction to Daniel Craig. But I like to think that even if he looked like Colin Firth, the whole movie would be diminished for me by its antiquated and downright sadistic portrayals of women. After 22 Bond films, I have to wonder– isn’t anyone at the very least getting a little bored with the same old tired stereotypes, formulas, and assumptions the franchise continues to re-present?