brava_67 / Flickr
brava_67 / Flickr

Does the world need more James Bond?

James Bond, a character crafted by the imagination of Ian Fleming, is not only one of the most recognisable literary characters but is also an icon of British culture and identity. Through fourteen novels and nine short stories, as well as a movie franchise that has grossed over $7 billion, the heroic exploits of Mr Bond are the stuff of legend. As James Bond is such an iconic character it is unsurprising that he continues to be reimagined whether it be through film or on paper. It has recently been announced that James Bond’s next adventure will be in a prequel novel written by Anthony Horowitz set to be released on May 31st. Forever and a Day will incorporate original material from Ian Fleming, imagining Bond’s first mission following the mysterious death of the previous 007.

Attention has been turned toward the James Bond saga with questions being raised about its appropriateness…

Despite the overwhelming popularity and success of the saga it has not escaped criticism, with James Bond being labelled a misogynist and leading many to question whether the same James Bond should continually be resurrected.

We are all aware of the recent revelations about individuals such as Harvey Weinstein kick-starting campaigns like the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements which enforce a zero-tolerance attitude to sexual harassment. In such a climate, attention has been turned toward the James Bond saga with questions being raised about its appropriateness, especially the film saga detailing Sean Connery and Roger Moore’s exploits as 007. From Bond’s unreciprocated advances towards women to openly sexist comments, there are a plethora of questionable instances included in some of the most recent adaptations.   

The criticism which both the books and the films have received are justified, as their presentation of women as merely one-dimensional objects of sexual pleasure is a dangerous message to send to such a wide audience. With respect to the work of Fleming, who created the character in the 1950s, some consideration should be given to understand the culture in which the author was writing. Like any artistic piece it is a product of its time and to an extent the misogynistic tone of the Bond novels reflects a contemporary popular attitude.

It is imperative Anthony Horowitz recognises these changes and gives the world a new Bond…

Whilst this could to an extent excuse Fleming, this courtesy does not extend to the more recent adaptations which have received similar criticism. The 2012 film Skyfall serves as an example of this, with Daniel Craig’s Bond entering the shower of Sévérine uninvited. This is more problematic as attitudes towards women have changed fairly significantly since Fleming’s original books were published. In light of the recent conversation opening about sexual harassment in combination with the development in attitudes towards women, I believe it is imperative Anthony Horowitz recognises these changes and gives the world a new Bond; one that is more appropriate for its 21st century audience.

There is the contention that changing Bond’s interactions with women is taking away one of the character’s key and most famous characteristics. While this is a valid concern to raise, I think there is far too often a fear of change, when change can clearly be positive. We have seen how other iconic British characters like Doctor Who have adapted, so there is evidently space for James Bond to evolve. Treating women with more respect and equality would not impact the reading or viewing experience of Bond and the secret agent would continue to be enjoyed by millions around the world, especially given the numerous other key character traits that are unique to Bond.

As a society, we are reaching a point of intolerance towards inequality which is long overdue. This inequality takes many forms and one of the most dangerous is through the medium of books and films due to their accessibility and popularity. As such, it was only a matter of time before the 007 saga would be targeted and made unwelcome. The significance of Bond as a national icon justifies its resurrection but this does not mean the same misogynistic character should continue to be portrayed over sixty years after it was first created. I hope to be pleasantly surprised when I read Horowitz’s imagining of Bond on May 31st.  

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