Saturday, November 22, 2008

James Bond as Pantywaist

This week on Poliwood, there's a great discussion of the feminization of men in film and our culture. They make intriguing comparisons between the male and female roles throughout the history of film. Their next episode will discuss the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, but I wanted to post about it here and now.

I like Daniel Craig as James Bond. He's as masculine as they come. I liked Casino Royale up until the torture scene and then it totally fell apart for me. I hate Quentin Tarantino films and it felt like a great Bond movie devolved into some trashy slaughterhouse flick.

Having said that, the Poliwood theme of celluloid androgyny is alive and well even in the recent Bond movies. I love Judi Dench as an actress; I hate her as M. She gives the feeling that Bond can be as manly as he wants, but in the end all of his skills are subordinated to a woman. Since he is so completely over the top with testosterone, she, by inference, becomes an utterly controlling dominatrix and he becomes her submissive victim.

The films have always been colored with a conflict between M and Bond. He's running off doing what he thinks is right and M is trying to exert some kind of control over him. I thought the best of these was the Timothy Dalton movie, License to Kill. That conflict between M (played by Robert Brown) and Bond had no sexual overtones. It was a classic dramatic component.

In modern movies, however, such men are essentially sick and need to be either controlled or cured. The theme of the Bond movies with Judi Dench as M has been that Bond is outside of acceptable behavior, he's a necessary evil that, properly controlled by a woman, serves the needs of the state.


How different is this from the traditional male roles in film? Check out this, the end of The Maltese Falcon, and try to imagine it being shown in a theater today. Try, if you can, to see even a modern James Bond character, the man who personifies masculinity, doing this while under the control of a female M.

In recent Bond movies, the James Bond character has sent female villains to jail or their graves. But in the end, he comes back to be judged and controlled by the dominatrix. In the case of Sam Spade and other movies from that era, he is judged by his own innate sense of what it means to be a man. No dominatrixes need apply.


Kelly the little black dog said...

Humm. My first reaction is to think you're projecting a bit too much, but I've been watching a few of the classic bond moves on Comcast (diamonds are forever, her Majesty secret service, from Russia with love) and Sean Connery's Bond is certainly a lot harder than the later Bonds.

I just can't remember the recent films well enough. They just blur together. I can remember all the Connery and Moore films. Its strange that. I'll have to watch some of them again and see what strikes me.

Foxfier said...

Modern movies seem to parody masculinity-- I think, Kelly, that's why the older ones had harder Bonds, even when there wasn't torture.

Anonymous said...

I can go along with you to a point. A masculine man is as he should be. But women bring a civilizing influence that is needed for society.

Anonymous said...

Huh. Really. So, any really "manly man" who takes orders from a woman is some sicko submitting to a dominatrix? I bet Sir Francis Drake, and the rest of the guys who built the British Empire for Elizabeth I, would have been *fascinated* to hear that.

Maybe that's not what you *meant*, but it sure comes across that way.

Ohioan@Heart said...

I tend to disagree with the dominatrix theme, but I completely agree that men have been "demasculinized" (is that a word?) in film. But not just in film, everywhere in society.

As exhibit one I give you my youngest son's 2nd grade class. He would bring home, every night, a "yellow card" or a "red card" indicating that he had shown poor or flat out bad behavior in class that day.

Not once in while, not usually, every freaking day. Then came the first parent-teacher conferences. We started by asking what he'd been doing, specifically, and how we could help to get him to behave. As the discussion ran, the teacher said, quite matter of factly, that 'all the boys are on behavior cards, none of the girls are'.

At this point I saw that look in my wife's eyes that told me to be quiet and let her handle it. Long story short, my wife suggested that the teacher 1) didn't know how to handle boys, and that 2) 7 year old boys are not girls with penises (that last is as close as I can come to a direct quote).

But that is exactly what society is trying to do to boys. The only boys that can be anything other than "girly" are the "outlaws". This is not the message we should be sending to our sons.

K T Cat said...

So for those of you who disagree with me, why did the M character get remade as a woman?

B-Daddy said...

You seem to have hit a nerve.

Rose said...

I agree with you, KT.


Anonymous said...

Dear KT Cat:

Well said. And I loved the lady who said “boys are not just girls with penises.” She hit the nail on the head concerning public education in the US. I am now 16 years into the field of education teens, and there is much nonsense about how to handle males. The practice is to drug them with bogus medication to ‘treat’ bogus ‘diseases’ such as ADHD and ADD. Here is Oklahoma we treat them as males---lots of physicality, competition and such. Our lessons would not meet with approval with the PC crowd---not that anyone here gives a damn about that flotsam.

Sam Spade was a man. Philip Marlowe likewise---see The Big Sleep for confirmation. You might read some of the writings at for a similar take on your thoughts on James Bond and the cultural shift to less-than-manly men.

Foxfier said...

Like to give a review-- the above is a good, related blog, not a random spamming.

Elaborates on a lot of the themes in this post, too.