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.