Lea Seydoux in Spectre

James Bond and women: the movies are an epic sexist fail

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

James Bond and women: the movies have made token efforts to improve the treatment of women in recent years, but it remains dismal.

One of my most popular ever blogs was called: Spectre: 5 reasons to miss it & 5 reasons you’ll see it 4/10.

A wise person commented thus:

James Bond and women: a useless portrayal

“We thought a sixth reason to hate the film might be the completely useless portrayal of all women. The number of perfectly coordinated outfit changes that the main Bond girl managed after leaving her workplace without any luggage was incredible. It also failed the Bechdel test.”

James Bond and Women

Lea Seydoux as Dr Madeleine Swann (Copyright: United Artists)

The casual sexism of most early Bond movies grates on many modern audiences, although some argue Skyfall was a notable exception.

A nod or two towards equality

Spectre (2015), too, has a nod or two towards equality.  The love interest, played by Lea Seydoux, is supposedly a doctor.  But she spends more time pouting (21 minutes – I may have made that figure up) than healing (0 minutes – I’m pretty sure about that one).  In one scene she actually rescues Bond by shooting top henchman Mr Hinx.  But obviously she fails to hit any part of Hinx that will seriously impair his villainousness.

But for most of the movie Spectre‘s gender politics remain as utterly predictable as the treatment of James Bond and Women since Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale.

Stereotypes are boring

You can debate how much this matters. Many people feel better seeing gender stereotypes reinforced, rather than challenged. But leaving aside the politics, stereotypes are boring – just like, tragically, far too much of boring boring Spectre.

An opportunity for originality and entertainment sacrificed for safety in a sea of sameness, if you ask me.

The Bechdel test

That Bechdel test, by the way, “asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man”.

The Bechdel test

“Dykes to Watch Out For (Bechdel test origin)” by Alison Bechdel. 

According to Wikipedia, it first appeared in 1985 in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For.  The test helps explore whether women are addressed in fiction in any depth – ie as human beings – or not.

Sounds a pretty good test to me, cf Simone de Beauvoir:

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”

Incidentally I was disappointed when one of my thrillers, Blood Summit, which initially got a great reception from Random House, was ultimately turned down because its action-packed female protagonist was, on reflection, “too much like a man”.

Discuss.

James Bond and women: Spectre

For: good to see Lea Seydoux at one point rescue Bond from imminent pulverisation.

Against: the rest of the time she is pouting helplessly.

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