After waiting for what felt like ages, and what was actually a few days, on Wednesday, I saw the new Bond film. And if you’ve seen it, I’m not going to be telling you anything you don’t know when I say it was cool, funny, dark, hot (Daniel Craig rocking the country casuals look in Scotland? Oh yes please. You work that Barbour jacket), and had possibly one of the best film villains since Heath Ledger’s Joker. Javier Bardem, you hero. Oh, and Q is quite frankly adorable. I know that’s an adjective the boys will be shuddering at, but he just is.
A couple of days later, an article by Giles Coren caught my eye. Turned down by The Times, he felt so strongly about the piece that he got his wife to post it on her own blog. I’m giving you the link, in case you’re, you know, really bored. (And as you’re here, what other assumption am I supposed to make?)
I’m all for a bit of quibbling over whether something is sexist or not. I’m all for strong female characters in films and books, and whatnot. And I don’t really know what people think of Giles Coren – though a former university lecturer did call him a twat during a seminar on language in the media. But I have to disagree with him on this one. Giles, I’m sorry, I do.
Yes, you’re right – the first girl does meet a nasty end. But a) it’s no good berating Bond for being “smug” and “smart-arse” – he’s Bond, it’s what he does; and b) I would say it’s a bit much to say she shows no sign of being interested in him. They seemed to be eye-fucking the living daylights out of each other for at least a little while. The fact that she’s killed so thoughtlessly is there to showcase the villain’s unhingedness (totally a real word), not take a sweeping anti-women stance.
It’s also true that M dies. We can take this as a statement about how the entire franchise views women as disposable background creatures – or we can be sensible, and say “Well, we’ve had the same M for ages, maybe it’s time for a shake-up. And who knows? Maybe Judi Dench wants to put her feet up for a bit”. Furthermore, killing a key character in a film or TV series gives that actor a significant responsibility – I’m not sure it’s that easy to die convincingly and movingly on camera, unless you’re the dog in Marley and Me.
As to the Miss Moneypenny thing, well, yes, but does anyone want to go back through Ian Fleming’s entire body of work and re-write it from a feminist perspective? Admittedly, saying “Well, chill out Coren, it’s just how Bond is” isn’t exactly good debating technique, but it’s not a documentary. I’d put good money on MI6 having a strict equal opportunities policy. The Bond franchise isn’t claiming to make deep and meaningful gender-political statements. You want to start taking issue with sexism in films/TV programmes/video games, go ahead. There are plenty of opportunities out there.
Feminism’s been having a moment over the last year or so, I think. It’s realised how to get everyone involved – it’s getting a bit cooler, and more relevant. Here in the UK, we have Caitlin Moran spilling the gory details on womanhood and just generally being awesome, and over in the US, we have Lena Dunham writing, directing and starring in “Girls” – the sitcom that’s not afraid to say that your early twenties are often a bit shit and, you know, not exactly Friends. (I’m still undecided on it though – I had such high hopes for it but so far, I think the weakest character has been Dunham’s Hannah. She’s just a little bit too passive. Time will tell, I guess.)
Tina Fey is having wonderful moments like this:
So maybe Mr Coren is getting on the bandwagon. Bigging up women is what all the cool kids are doing now, so maybe he’s trying to get in there. But he’s missing the point. Or picking the wrong battle. I also have to add, while I remember, this:
Call me crazy, but I’m fairly sure that 0.09-0.16 is in there for the girls and the gay guys.
Yes, Bond might be a bit sexist from time to time, but the first Bond novel was written in 1952. That kind of thing was still OK then. Say the word “feminism” to the average kid on the street and they’re still probably going to think of boring, humourless, man-hating women. A lot of people still roll their eyes and go “Not this shit again” when the subject of feminism comes up. And part of the reason people do that is because of this nitpicky kind of behaviour. So, with all due respect to Giles Coren, he should back off for a bit. When we want his help, we’ll ask. We’re allowed to fight our own battles now, has no-one told him?
Just one for you tonight: