Content Warning for mentions of domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault as “seduction”, and general violence against women
One of the recurring themes in the James Bond franchise is that even when a woman is strong and powerful, all James Bond has to do is overpower her — maybe smack or shake her around a few times before seducing her to the side of the angels – and she’s his for the taking. While the Bond series is itself a violent one with Bond and the bad guys getting their fair share of lumps in, the series has this intense focus on women being hurt.
It happens in every other movie at the least.
There’s a woman who is either evil or confused about her role in the grand scheme of things. She either doesn’t give Bond the information he wants, or what she gives him isn’t good enough. Bond gets frustrated with this. He hits her or shakes her, sometimes both actions in the same scene. We get this long and lingering scene of the woman’s face with her features both startled and upset as she cries or begs for Bond to let her go because he’s hurting her. Inevitably, Bond gets what he wants and what he wants is usually both information and a seemingly willing woman spread out across a bed for him to taste.
From Sean Connery on down, James Bond is known for his violence. He’s known for fighting the good fight. Lesser known – or at least, less focused on – is the fact that a lot of Bond’s violence targets women. Even smaller amounts of focus go to the fact that a lot of Bond’s so-called “seductions” are really dubious consent or rolls in the sheet with women that either don’t want to be in his arms or feel as if they have to be with him for whatever reason.
And James Bond is supposed to be the good guy.
Because his violence against women is framed as being from the righteous side, James Bond never has to apologize and he never has to feel regret for any of it. The narrative validates his striking and “seducing” women because if he didn’t, then evil will triumph.
The thing is though, that Bond isn’t equal opportunity kind of guy.
He isn’t shaking down vulnerable boys/men and smacking them around for the good of queen and country. He’s not seducing men to get at their bosses. It’s just women that tactic is acceptable for. It’s pretty darn disgusting because for much of the James Bond franchise, women wind up being held up as objects for Bond to acquire and for the main villain to damage.
It’s only in recent ones (and really only if you squint) that there’s marked change from how women are treated. Even now, when you’re watching Daniel Craig’s James Bond interact with a woman, you’re on the edge of your seat and worried that you’re about to be saddled with another uncomfortable reminder that among other things, the James Bond franchise is mired in misogyny and patriarchal ideas about women and their “places”.
I’m looking forward to the future of course, and the hope that there’ll be a James Bond film where I can say honestly that 100% of the women are treated appropriately.
Right now though, Bond’s history of violence against women – and the fact that so much of it goes unmentioned in analysis of the character and franchise – is a huge focus on my mind. I think that whenever we talk about action heroes and James Bond as one of the film genres’ forefathers, we need to remember that the action hero gets a lot of slack that he uses to hurt women in very specific (and often sexualized) ways.