James Bond and Britain’s Changing Society

Posted on August 6, 2011

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“Bond, James Bond”:  First said by James Bond…

With the 23rd James Bond movie going into production later this year I have decided to take a retrospective look at how 007 has developed throughout the last half-century.

Many men have played Bond and each reincarnation brought about its own unique changes, each reshuffle of the cast bringing about a decrease in the severity of offensiveness.

The blatant racism and sexism of the earlier films slowly faded until the reverse was true. The recent films tried so hard to be politically correct that it strained the story to some point, the newer films casted Judi Dench as M (head of MI6). This was a massive shift in the series’ attitude towards women as they were often (mostly) seen as sex objects and vessels for quirky puns. Pussy Galore anyone?

A woman in charge of MI6? Whodathunkit?

Anyway we need to start somewhere, here we go…

Doctor No, the first Bond film was released in 1962 and was a box office hit. It featured a fresh-faced Sean Connery portraying Ian Fleming’s Bond. The rugged, Scottish man was described as perfect for the role by the author and later books were based upon his character. The film was based on the book which was later based on the film. Weird.

We all know Bond is a womanising, gambling, alcoholic, state-sanctioned murderer. In the 60’s such men were role-models: nowadays we are supposed to treat such men as monsters. Bond is seen as a necessary evil. For all the sleaziness, humping and his chevalier attitude, Bond has saved the world about 23 times. That’s a decent record by anyone’s standards.

But we don’t care about any of that. I am just providing some background information before I delve into the amusing bits.

All the characters in the film were so stereotypical of the era. Today the casting could be called xenophobic or hateful but you have to remember, the film wasn’t released today, almost 50 years ago attitudes were different.

Here is some of the back-up cast, they are all uniquely amazing… or terrible.

Bond Girl A.K.A Honey Ryder. Played by Ursula Andress.

She is a woman who searches for sea shells on the very island her father disappeared from. Which is pretty ballsy. Not as vulnerable as she sounds though, that big military knife on her bikini belt looks pretty dangerous.

After the film was released Ursula Andress was hailed as a sex symbol. Probably because she was the sexiest woman on the planet… Ironically Ursula already appears to already have a Bond-girl name, even more-so if you switch the first letter of both her first and second name, you get the name Arsula Undress, with a name like that it is no wonder she is a sex symbol. After the film’s release Ursula’s amazing figure caused bikini sales to treble, in fact, the bikini she wore in that scene auctioned for £35,000 in 2001. Wouldn’t want to see her in it now right enough… or would I?

[Google consulted: She is 75, let’s just say she is no longer a sex symbol and leave it at that]

One of the first things Honey Ryder tells Bond is that she was once raped and that she killed the man who done it. This shows that she is a strongly independent female, not like the helpless heroines who frequently got tied to railway-lines that Hollywood usually prefers. Bond shockingly disregarded Honey’s heart-felt rape story though and probably thought something along the lines of:

“Ye should’nae’av wore such a shexy bikini then…”

It may be the case that he cared nothing for her rape… or perhaps he was shocked, or even scared. Let’s look at it from this perspective. Bond was taking a short nap on a beach then he woke up to see a beautiful woman approaching him, nearly naked, with a hunting knife on her belt. She then told him she once killed a man who raped her.

Did Bond wake up with an erection and feel the need to hide it before he spoke incase she thought he was a potential rapist? No, probably not, I love Bond as much as the next person, so much so that I would try to excuse his horrific behavior but let’s be honest, he wasn’t even listening to her, was he?

Well here is that iconic scene where the woman in question emerges from the water. It is still very amazing and has been voted 1st in the Greatest Sexiest Moments.

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[The ladies arguably got a similar scene around 40 years later with Daniel Craig’s swim suit scene in Casino Royale… I will let you the reader decide that one]

 Black side-kick A.K.A Quarrel. Played by John Kitzmiller.

Quarrel was a loyal yet cowardly tour guide. He took Bond and Honey back to Dr No’s island and was burned alive by a flame-thrower disguised as a dragon. No one blinks twice as Quarrel’s corpse burns. Bond and Honey get captured and get treated to first class service in the super-villain’s lair. Quite unfair.

There is a sickening scene where Bond tells Quarrel to retrieve his shoes. Quarell was a feckin’ tour guide hired by MI6 to help save the world. Where is the respect? Is he getting paid for shoe-retrieval? Is it on Quarrel’s Curriculum Vitae?

John Kitzmiller the actor who played Quarrel was a WWII veteran, he was part of the Italian invasion force.  He faced real bullets, real danger, real fire-breathing dragons (maybe not) . In the final credits of the film John’s name is incorrectly spelled as “John Kitzmuller”. As one of the main characters surely his name would have been spelled correctly. Naturally black people did not get great roles in films, racism may have been the motivation for this “accident” or maybe not. Even though Quarrel was rather cowardly, died in a pitiful manner by flame-thrower/dragon, he was still a hero, even more so as black people were more often portrayed as dim-witted alcoholics. Not gun-totting heroes fighting super villains. Whilst the treatment of Quarrel was distasteful, the very inclusion of a black man into the film was a brave move and paved the way for films to come.

Colin Salmon plays "Robinson" a MI6 agent

Jeffrey Wright plays CIA agent "Felix"

In Live and Let Die, several films later, due to the unfair portrayal of the character, Quarrel’s son, Quarrel Jr makes an appearance to ferry and assist Bond around the Caribbean. He was everything his father should have been and a vital part of the cast.

It is almost as if they tried to amend the mistakes the made with Quarrel originally without compromising the story of timeline of previous films.

Black actors in the franchise are treated much better nowadays, and that’s an improvement, it’s hard to enjoy Bond’s antics when he is sending his black allies for his shoes… They also don’t get killed by silly dragon cars anymore.

Evil villain A.K.A Dr No or Doctor Julius No. Played by Joseph Wiseman.

The child of a German missionary and a Chinese girl, young Julius rose through the criminal ranks until he stole $1,000,000 from the Tongs, an evil organisation, and fled. In due course they found him and chopped off his hands. Naturally they were replaced with bad-ass metal hands.

Guess what happened next. He went to university and gained his doctorate. After being a gangster he became a student… I wouldn’t make eye contact with him if he entered my union… Next he ripped off more folks, badda bing badda boom, he acquired an evil lair in the Caribbean, piles of corpses, a massive aquarium and a hairy, Scottish assassin baying for his blood.

In the 1950’s there were few countries more hated than Germany and China. One for perpetrating two world wars, the other for being the part of the communist menace.

Dr No was both. A cold yet ingenious utilitarian leader, (arguably a Chinese leader).

And a lunatic hell-bent on world domination, (arguably a German trait).

He was a culmination of two “ultimate evils”. However he was not only a Chinese/German stereotype, he was also disabled.

He had metal hands, remember? In the end his downfall was his disability…

As we know, people with metal prosthetic hands cannot grip wet metal poles in order to stop a fall into a pool of boiling, irradiated water. It happens all too often as well.

And that’s not the only disabled person Bond killed.

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Blofeld, is arguably the greatest ever Bond villain, yet another iconic character, killed in such a pathetic way too. Bond has a bit of a habit for killing the disabled. Scaramanga from The Man with The Golden Gun had a third nipple. Is that a disability?

Anyway my point is Bond has changed. He is no longer the sexist, lunatic people reckon he is. Money-penny, Bond’s secretary, who longed for him throughout the whole series after a plethora of embarrassing attempts at flirtation, finally got what she was after in Die Another Day (undoubtedly one of the worse Bond films).

During an underwhelming yet amusing scene in which James and Money-penny embrace then start to have sex, Q (the gadget maker) walks into a room interrupting Moneypenny. It turns out she was wearing virtual reality goggles and the whole scene was a fake. If you ask me, I reckon she was playing with herself.

Playing with yourself is OK though, nothing wrong with that I suppose, it is just Moneypenny spent so much of her time deriding Bond, calling him a cunning linguist (pussy-licker) and laughing at his sexual conquests. Perhaps if she was less insulting he may have taken her to dinner, married her and had kids with her… she is probably one of the few females he is yet to sleep with anyway. She just falls short of calling him a slut, it is all very cringe worthy and perhaps he is a slut. It doesn’t correct her hypocritical attitude though does it.

We don’t care if Bond’s a slut, if anyone was in his position, I am sure they would also succumb to the beauties Bond has bedded, he is just a victim of consequence. We shouldn’t pity him, we should envy him.

"Don't cry, I will be back, just need some fags from the shop..."

It is unlikely he broke any the Bond girls hearts, he hadn’t pimped them out, he hasn’t really treated them particularly badly. For goodness sake, there would be no earth for him to shag them on if he wasn’t saving it every other day.

Give him a break people.

Do you know what, I respect Bond as the drinking, gambling, mass murdering, lunatic, man-whore he is. So what if as a child some weird teacher told me Bond would probably have syphilis from all the people he has bedded. So what if he has more bastard children trekking the earth than Genghis Khan (the man who raped and pillaged his way through Asia and Europe). So what if his penis is probably a lump a black charcoal.

He is James Bond. James Bond. Does that mean nothing?

Nowadays the films are rife with equality, which has both negative and positive connotations. Bond is a charming, high-class guy but he can’t be politically correct. Don’t correct Bond, we like him as he is. If you change him anymore there is a danger that he becomes something else. No one ever declared Bond perfect, he shouldn’t be. So what if he is sexist? He kills people. He is a murderer and people are moaning about sexism. He has probably killed around 1000 people, how many females has he been sexist towards, like 12 or something?

Did Bond change Britain or did Britain change Bond? Who cares? If Bond becomes much more politically correct and righteous we may one day wake up to him selling cookies outside a supermarket, or god forbid he may even NEGOTIATE with the villains. Nonetheless if this does happen many of us will happily turn to the likes of Austin Powers for our sexist, spy films.

"Yeah Baby!"

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