01 November 2012 by

Skyfall: Is This The Most Feminist Bond Film Yet?

A beautiful sidekick who saves his life – but doesn’t shag him. A plot-line focussed around M, not the main man himself. What’s this? With the latest Bond movie Skyfall has the most famously misogynistic man in the movies gone… er, feminist? Well that’s certainly what critics are questioning after Skyfall director Sam Mendes packed his new release with powerful female role models alongside the usual gunfights and car chases. 

Daniel Craig’s Skyfall action is a clear departure from 50 years of macho Bond movies. Gone are the days where 007 may have bedded four women in a single movie (Roger Moore in A View To A Kill) or willingly pursued someone who tried to resist his charms (Pussy Galore tried to fight him off in Goldfinger). Looking back at that, is it any wonder that when Dame Judy Dench first appeared on screen as M in 1995’s Goldeneye, she calls Bond, ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur’.

In Skyfall, we see Bond return from hiding to track down the latest threat to both MI6 and M. His loyalty to Queen and country is as unfaltering as always but there is a real sense that he’s also driven to protect Dame Judi – the woman that knows him better than anyone, despite the fact he’s never stepped foot in her bedroom. Take note of the scene where M is being questioned by female MP – and all the men in the room sit silently impotent. It’s refreshing stuff.

'Bond girls have to reflect the modern woman, and the modern woman is very talented and very capable, they're leaders in their field, they can do anything,’ Naomie Harris has said of playing Skyfall MI5 field agent Eve. 'They are equals to men and we have to reflect that in the movies.'

But perhaps there’s also a more cynical reason for this new Bond Girl – commercial success. Since last year’s smash-hit Bridesmaids, Hollywood seems to have cottoned on to the fact that women really can sell movies. And the effects are being felt even in the action arena. ‘This shift in the position of women in the film is part of the reason why Skyfall has had the biggest ever Bond opening and is on course to outpace 2006's Casino Royale (with $586m) as the most successful Bond film of all time at the box office,’ agrees The Guardian’s Jane Martinson.

Of course, let’s not get too carried away. This is still Bond – and there are still the obligatory sexy shower scenes with the gorgeous but ill-fated Severine and a smouldering tension with co-worker Eve. But we do love that at the heart of Skyfall is 007’s emotional connection to M. And Judi Dench’s powerhouse performance – one that’s seen her tipped as picking up the first ever acting Oscar nomination for the 50-year-old Bond franchise. Bring. It. On.


Comments

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Kate Sang (Sat Nov 03 17:33:03 GMT 2012): This is such crap - the film destroys all the women role models and leaves us with a all male, all white world.
Hope Last (Sun Nov 04 23:43:47 GMT 2012): BOND, VILLAIN (The piece they tried to ban). There is a moment in the new James Bond film so vile, sexist and sad that it made me feel physically sick. If you have not seen the film and fear a spoiler, then look away now. Or cancel your tickets and do something less horrible instead. Like pull all your fingernails out.... and this is the reaction of a male reviewer! http://reciperifle.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bond-villain.html
Sian Arthur (Tue Nov 06 15:52:42 GMT 2012): Did the author of this OP actually watch the film? Spoilers ahead here, but Judi Dench as M gets progressively more vulnerable and small looking as the film progresses. She gives a beautiful recital of Tennyson's Ulyssses, which sounds like a call to arms, buts has to have Ralph Fiennes stand up for her against the scary politician. A woman in her position, with her experience should have been able to eviscerate an upstart minister with a few carefully chosen words. I didn't mind that M couldn't shoot a gun, as she was more of a Smiley than a Bond, but she was so ineffectual and diminished throughout. This out with the old guard, in with the new guard storyline could have been very moving, if she hadn't then been replaced by a man, Fiennes, with the other female agent Eve demoted from field agent to Fiennes' secretary - not even his sidekick, let alone the new M. And the poster below who linked to the blogged Giles Coren piece about the hideous mysogynistic murder of the 'moll' who barely even had a name let alone a part in the story is spot on. It was really unpleasant to watch. I've not been a Bond fan in the past but I've been somewhat drawn to the Daniel Craig movies, but they've now had three movies in a row where they have a female character who's only there to get killed in a gruesome and misogynistic way. What a waste of these actresses' talents. And what a demonstration of the filmmakers' view of women.
Zoe Webb (Thu Nov 08 11:59:36 GMT 2012): Err... I don't think the author saw the film; it was hugely sexist. Moneypenny was a mostly incompetent agent (there were even jokes about her driving) and no one gave a toss when Severine died. Giles Coren has even more complaints than I have! You should look up his piece.
Phil Askew (Thu Nov 08 12:23:36 GMT 2012): If you mean the jokes about the wing mirrors then that's not sexist, she *had* just lost one of her wing mirrors and then hit the other one. All they were saying is that she wasn't a brilliant field agent and happened to be a woman. The fact that she wasn't a good field agent made the connection to her being the traditional moneypenny character of M's receptionist (which is part of the original story so if you feel that's sexist complain to Ian flemming)
Talan Parnell (Thu Nov 08 12:49:09 GMT 2012): Not to mention M is portrayed as the strongest and most highly-valued member of the entire agency. Out of the audience at Severine's death were her murderers, who I strongly doubt would give a toss, and Bond, whereupon seeing her death suddenly re-found himself as the great secret agent that he is.
Zoe Webb (Thu Nov 08 13:08:29 GMT 2012): Wouldn't have said anything if I was the only one who thought so. I'd love it if that were seen as gender impartial, but surely you must know it won't be. And I never said anything against M, unlike everyone else who had a problem and thought she appeared weak. Attack someone else.
Phil Askew (Thu Nov 08 13:17:03 GMT 2012): I'm too afraid to attack somebody else, I argue with you because I know you. Angry feminists are scary.
Phil Askew (Thu Nov 08 13:18:00 GMT 2012): No disrespect meant. *hides*
Zoe Webb (Thu Nov 08 13:29:52 GMT 2012): Thank you for not meaning disrespect. Those 2 points I mentioned are the only things I disliked, I actually really enjoyed the rest of the film, sorry for neglecting to state as such.
Julie Evans (Sat Nov 10 23:24:08 GMT 2012): Thank you for this insight. I have never seen a Bond film, was toying on seeing this but after that review I am greatful I didnt buy into the masses and hype... Another sickening and sexist film was the The Sweeney which I did unfortunatly see. That was 2 hours of my life I will never get back along with 14 quid.
Lisa Lamb (Sun Nov 11 06:49:58 GMT 2012): Are you KIDDING? This film was incredibly sexist. The reviewer either hasn't seen it or is socially challenged. SPOILER ALERT: The female field agent is incompetent; there are jokes about her driving, FFS, and then she 'kills' Bond by accident because she's a crap shot, then decides her talents will best be used by becoming M's receptionist (WTF?). M gets weaker and weaker until she dies of a boo-boo that JB would barely cough at, only to be replaced by Ralph Fiennes (oh breathe a sigh of relief, a middle aged white man again). Bond shags a Turkish girl (obligatory nookie for no particular plot point) while he's 'dead', and then there's the gratuitously violent, misogynistic murder of the bond girl, Severine, but only after we know she was a child prostitute, just for an extra frisson. And as for the female MP who is questioning M? She is shrill, outraged, a caricature of herself while M cowers like a naughty schoolgirl, and the only respite we get is when Ralph Fiennes, the masterful male, interrupts the MP in a rude and condescending way because M is too much of a little lady to interrupt herself. The whole thing stinks and in a much more insidious way than the old Bond films did. Give me Sean Connery and his OTT shenanigans any day. Ugh