So, I saw Skyfall. It was a James Bond movie, in all the ways that count. I mean, there’s really not a lot else to say about it other than that it was all classic Bond, intentionally so. There was Q, beautifully played by Ben Whishaw. Moneypenny made an appearance, as did M. The old gang, doing it old school style.
And that was one of the major plot points in the film, the importance of the old ways even in a world that seems to be getting more and more transparent. I mean, even the head of the CIA can’t pull off an affair these days. But, as the film rightly pointed out, while some things are indeed becoming more transparent, much of the world is becoming more opaque. There is more to fear from the shadows now, as individuals and personal agendas are now more capable than ever of bringing nations to a halt.
The film, good though it was and enjoyable though I found it to be, was a veneration of the old school Bond films, an intentional classic and a return to the old ways.
Which, of course, means blatant misogyny and sexism in the workplace, coupled with some incredibly disturbing implications about sex and sexuality. Oh Bond, how I’ve missed you so.
SPOILERS from here on out for Skyfall.
We open the film with Bond and an unnamed for most of the film woman (Naomi Harris, later revealed to be Moneypenny) racing through the streets of somewhere in hot pursuit of a man with a hard drive. It’s a pretty standard Bond chase scene, where Bond does inexplicable parkour with a motorcycle, and Moneypenny follows him in a Jeep.
Somehow he and the bad guy end up wrestling on the top of a train while Moneypenny sets up a sniper rifle and gets ready to take down the bad guy. She tells M back in London that she doesn’t have a clean shot. M tells her to fire anyway. Moneypenny misses and hits Bond. Credit sequence starts.
By now we are approximately five minutes into the film and already we have met a female agent and dismissed her ability to do fieldwork. For the rest of the film, whenever it is mentioned that Moneypenny is or could be out in the field, James makes a disparaging comment about how much he’s afraid he’s going to get shot again. In fact, his “death” is the reason she gets suspended, and his derogatory comments, we are to understand, influenced her decision not to return to the field ever.
This is five freaking minutes into the movie.
Now, I love Moneypenny. I thought she was sassy, fun, and a cool addition to the cast. I also liked the way that they implied that she was in a position to someday take over for M. That was a nice touch. But I hate the way that her story seems to be primarily written by people other than her, usually Bond. I hate the way that he determines her future with his careless actions. She took a shot that she was ordered to take despite making the issues with it abundantly clear, and as a result, she is suspended? That’s just bad management.
But the real crux of women issues in this film definitely lies with Severin, the damaged victim of sex trafficking that James “seduces” so that they will be brought to Silva, and Severin will be killed.
What I hate here is that the narrative actually supports Bond’s actions here. But when you look at them objectively, they’re horrifying. First, he meets with a woman he suspects is being mistreated. He finds out that she’s the victim of sex trafficking, and assumes that she “was asking for it” when she went with her current owner. Severin makes no such claim.
Then, when she offers to help him take down her master, Bond doesn’t reveal himself to be on the boat and in her suite until well after the boat is sailing, meaning that when he comes up to her in the shower, she has no way of knowing that this is Bond and that he’s going to help her.
He starts feeling her up well before she can see his face, and then, when she turns around, he kisses her before she has an option to object.
That is rape. That is straight up rape. There was no consent given or taken, and no indication that he was doing anything other than taking advantage of a woman who, not two hours before, admitted to having been a victim of sex trafficking.
This guy is supposed to be our hero?
There’s more in the film that I found cause to hate: from Silva’s advances on Bond, only meant to show how despicable and morally loose he was; to that random woman that Bond seems to barely even notice despite having enthusiastically banged in the previous scene (the one on the beach); to the weird Oedipal thing going through the whole movie; to that shaving scene. I mean, ugh. It was exhausting.
All of these things are bad, and all of them speak volumes about the character of our hero, but what bothers me more is that these actions are supported and condoned by the narrative. We’re supposed to think that Bond is a hero because he misses when he shoots at the woman he’s supposed to be protecting. Then he waits until after she’s beaten and dead before he quips, “Waste of a good scotch,” and actually kills everyone. He could have done that anytime, we’re supposed to understand. He just waited until the girl was dead.
I hate that Bond is our hero, and I really hate that we’re supposed to see him as the epitome of masculinity. If James Bond is the ultimate man, what does that say about how we view women?
I’m not trying to bring down the James Bond franchise. They’re fun movies, and worth a nice watch with some popcorn and Junior Mints. But I want us to look at this critically. When we praise Bond, when we idolize him, what are we really looking up to? A rapist whose massive intimacy issues nearly bring down a country? Why the hell would you want that in a hero?
And, more importantly, why aren’t we more pissed off about it?
|Side note: Ben Whishaw is dreamy and snarky as Q. Perfect casting.|