Let’s recap some stuff I’ve said about myself here: I’m a feminist, a pacifist, and in some ways a socialist. I generally want people to get along without demeaning each other or resorting to violence. So why am I such a big James Bond fan? The easy answer is that it’s entertainment. But there’s more to it than simple escapism. I find myself reacting to the suave yet dangerous nature of the character. I find the fight scenes exciting. I find myself wishing I could be that debonaire with women. Yet if I tried using Bond’s lines on women not only would I get slapped I would feel guilty as well.
I suppose I’m referring more to the Sean Connery films than the others. There’s something primal about his portrayal of Bond. There’s also something a lot more misogynistic and a generally irritating. If I was to meet that guy in real life I’d want to smack him as well. I could try excusing the attitudes toward people as representative of the times but that’s not what I’m addressing today. When Bond gives a line like “Wait until you get to my teeth” in Thunderball I find myself laughing and in a way cheering–not loudly but inwardly, as if some part of me connects and admires the tenacity of the character.
The violence as well also gets me excited when watching the films. Even if I didn’t focus on the violence of some of the car chases the stunts are fun to watch. But there’s a satisfaction watching the bad guys’ cars blowing up, skiers getting shot off of a cliff, or in case, a motorcyclist smashing through a shop window (from “For Your Eyes Only”). I oppose violence to animals but when Bond fights sharks I root for him to win. In real life I would be appalled at such behavior amongst humans. But when watching it in movies I can let these feelings go and go along for the ride.
I won’t dwell too much on the social aspects of the movies. Aside from the sexism (which has gotten better of the years) there isn’t too much concern with race or class. The books that the movies are based on, however, aren’t as clean-cut. If I remember correctly “You Only Live Twice” tends to be a little racist towards the Japanese, while “Goldfinger” implies that lesbians aren’t exactly savory characters–an element that was removed when turned into the movie. In these cases I was offended when reading the books, but again, I can overlook them when I remember the time in which they were written.
So what is it that stirs up these feelings within me when watching these movies? I can’t quite say, but I will say this: I am a firm believer that violence in movies does not encourage violence in real life. Rather, the fantasy has more of a deterrent effect. This is even more the case in video games when people can actually have a hand in the violence on the screen themselves. James Bond is a character that represents elements that while I don’t really have on the surface, deep down I wish I did. There’s the element of escape in the films. Watching these violent and sexist elements trigger something primal within me. As much as we like to think that we’re developed as a civilisation we’re still humans. Maybe it is psychological and not biological but there are things there within me that get riled up.
This doesn’t just work with Bond movies but they have a perfect formula for achieving all of the above. As far as movies go I can’t say that any one Bond film is in my all time top ten. As a whole, though, they’re exciting and fun and I can let my social inhibitions go for about two hours or so at a time. Maybe I wish I was James Bond, but I know that in real life I couldn’t live with myself if I was.