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.

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SPECTRE reviews: 2nd weekend edition

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Some additional SPECTRE reviews were published toward the end of last week. So here are some more review excerpts.

U.S. reviews will start appearing in the next few days, ahead of the official Nov. 6 opening. For the moment, the 24th James Bond film has a 77 percent rating at the ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE.

The newest excerpts follow. We’ve tried to keep plot details out but the spoiler adverse may want to avoid anyway.

GREGORY WAKEMAN, CINEMA BLEND: “At the top of Spectre’s crowning achievements is Daniel Craig, who with his fourth outing as 007 gives the most complete, beguiling yet still complex portrayal of the spy yet. Those of you looking for proof that the average-sized, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Daniel Craig is genuinely the definitive Bond will now forever be able to present Spectre as the definitive piece of evidence. Those of you who are still doubtful probably need to question all of your previous life decisions.”

RYAN GILBEY, NEW STATESMAN: “Should Craig play Bond again, he could scarcely push his minimalism any further. He is pared down to samurai essentials: striding and scowling, he is frugal even in violence, never throwing two punches where one will do. …But then the emphasis in Craig’s four outings has been on the psychological. Sam Mendes is not the only director to have been called back for multiple assignments in the (Craig era of the) series but he may be the first to have nurtured a theme over consecutive films. Skyfall was essentially a dysfunctional family drama where M betrayed one of her former spies (or sons). In Spectre there is more domestic scar tissue…. It’s a support group waiting to happen.”

DAVID LEIGH, THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER: “To cut a long story short, I enjoyed it a lot…Visually it is a joy to behold.

“However, while SPECTRE works well on a number of levels, it also fails on others. Although it contains some classic Bond elements, it is not a classic Bond movie. The screenplay appears to have been written around the action scenes and there is a sense of frantic racing from one set piece action scene to another.

“I did truly enjoy SPECTRE and can’t wait to see it again…However, it isn’t the kind of Bond film I want from EON Productions.

“And I still feel they have never made a classic James Bond film that wasn’t based closely on an Ian Fleming novel.”

ROB CARNEVALE, INDIE LONDON: “Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as 007 may just be the most complete Bond movie yet. Spectacular, stylish, dark but still amusing, Spectre is a thrilling entry that combines the best of Bond movies old and new.

“Returning director Sam Mendes has taken the best elements of the flawed but entertaining Skyfall and created a follow-up that delivers almost two and a half hours of show-stopping action and genuinely satisfying intrigue.”

DEBORAH ROSS, THE SPECTATOR: Spectre is the 24th film in the Bond franchise, the fourth starring Daniel Craig, the second directed by Sam Mendes, and the first at not much of anything. Nothing new to report, in other words. It probably delivers what the die-hard fans want, but it is not like Casino Royale or Skyfall (no one talks about Quantum of Solace, by the way, because it’s assumed everyone involved was drunk) as it doesn’t deliver to those of us who never liked Bond, but then discovered that we did. Where has Bond’s interior landscape gone? Where is his woundedness? Where is the emotional heft? Who might we actually care about here?”

LIAM DUNN, POPOPTIQ: “Enjoyment of Spectre really is a matter of perspective. A love of classic Bond and of Craig’s portrayal of the character will service audiences well here, but any hopes of a more fulfilling thematic experience will be dashed. Bond has come through the crucible of the 21st Century and has emerged as a more streamlined version of his older self. It’s great to see Craig finally having a bit of fun and the series playing to its strengths (gone are the woeful double entendres). Of course, like all Bond films it is overlong and perhaps suffers from one set piece too many, but if this is Craig’s swan song he should be happy to go out on this one. Mendes too has set the bar for whoever follows him, crafting what could possibly be the modern Bond film’s Goldfinger by installing the template that will be followed going forward. Not to say that Spectre is on par with that film, but it does finally put a lot of the elements in place that are quintessentially Bond; it’s brash, bombastic, silly and thoroughly entertaining.”