Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

(snip)
The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

New questions about Bond films to pass the time

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

It has been a little over a year since the last James Bond film, SPECTRE, wrapped up principal photography. We don’t know when this particular hiatus will end, so here are some new questions to pass the time by.

Misogynist, really? Matt Damon is out promoting his fourth Bourne film, this one simply titled Jason Bourne. He evidently decided to dust off some old taking points.

According to a post by the Parent Herald website (summarizing quotes that originated with the Toronto Sun), Damon referred to 007 thusly: “He’s a misogynist, he swills martinis and kills people and cracks jokes about it.”

What do you “dusted off”? In 2009, he gave an interview to The Miami Herald where he mentioned Bond. The original link has been destroyed, but we did a summary at the time. “Bond is an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.” The Huffington Post summarized the same interview in 2009.

What’s wrong with that? The definition of misogynist is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” (emphasis added). A synonym is “woman hater.”

Does the Bond franchise object to that? No. M (Judi Dench) in 1995’s GoldenEye calls bond a misogynist to his face. More recently, 007 actor Daniel Craig, in a 2015 interview, said this of Bond: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist.” Referring to recent Bond films, he said: “(W)e’ve surrounded him with very strong women who have no problem putting him in his place.”

Does that mean the Bond franchise agrees with Matt Damon? Who knows? Long-time fans might argue with the misogynist characterization is incorrect and that male chauvinism, “male prejudice against women; the belief that men are superior in terms of ability, intelligence, etc.,” is more accurate.

Still, if those who supervise the 007 franchise don’t object to the term misogynist (and having your Bond actor use that term in interviews would seem to apply), perhaps fans shouldn’t. There is a school of thought within fandom that fans shouldn’t question those who run the franchise.