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Albert R. Broccoli’s Eon Productions began producing film adaptations to Ian Fleming’s Spy Novels in 1962, and have developed 23 different films featuring the fictional British spy James Bond over the course of fifty years. Having since adapted all of Flemings works, the series is the highest grossing film franchise of all time, and the second longest running as well.1 Over these fifty years, as Western (American and European) sexual identity changed, Eon production’s adaptation of Fleming’s Bond mirrored the developing societal norms. Events such as the sexual revolution in the 60’s, the swinger scene in the 70’s and the beginnings of thirdwave feminism in the 80’s are all reflected in the Bond films of those eras. Western perspectives on sexuality and feminism would come to redefine not only 007, but the ladies of the franchise as well.
Through the 60’s and early 70’s, Broccoli’s adaptations of James Bond and his ladies were representations of the ideals perpetuated by the sexual revolution. The character of Bond was created by Fleming in 1953, around the same time America’s sexual revolution was blossoming. Fleming’s novels depicted an iconic “modern man” of someone with refined taste, recreational sexuality and romantic disinterest.2 1953 also saw the establishment of Playboy Magazine, and just as Hefner raised playmates from cheesy centerfolds to cultural icons of the
"9 of the Longest Running Film Franchises." Dailyfill, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. <http://dailyfill.com/9-ofthe-longest-running-film-franchises-39452>. 2 Bond Girls. Prod. Robert Chipman. Escape to the Movies. The Escapist, 16 Feb. 2010. Web.
50’s and 60’s, Fleming and Broccoli raised women into staples of the Bond franchise. The ladies 007 encountered were considered idealizations of the liberated woman; proud of their sexuality and aware of its control over man. We see this archetype in Dr. No3 with the resourceful Honey Ryder who rescues Bond in her canoe. In Thunderball4 we see Domino who kills the supervillain Largo, saving Bond in the process. In Live and Let Die5, Rosie Carver fails to assassinate Bond, but not before seducing 007 and getting dangerously close to doing so. Like the femme fatale of the late 50’s and early 60’s noir films, Bond girls were seductive, deadly and critical to the hero’s success. We especially see this archetype with Miss Taro in Dr. No. “Miss Taro introduces the notion of combative sexuality to the Bond films; Bond dislikes, distrusts, and sleeps with her. But Miss Taro sleeps with Bond only reluctantly, to keep him at her house, and their physical encounter is not a part of what makes her evil." 6 The early Broccoli films depict a confident Bond flirting with confident women, both of whom are critical to stopping the villain and saving the world. Bond and his girls were fictional manifestations of the ideals perpetuated by the sexual revolution of the 60’s.
Contrast the West’s perception of casual sex in the era of love to the late 70’s / early 80’s and suddenly Bond’s carefree sexuality becomes the butt of a joke. By the mid 70’s the Bond movie formula had been established; combine suave action hero with unconventional gadgets and seductive women. As freedom in the 60’s turned to anarchy in the 70’s, the things that made James Bond so iconic began to slip out of western favor. Tasteful free-love turned
Dr. No. Dir. Terence Young. 1962. Thunderball. Dir. Terence Young. 1965. 5 Live and Let Die. Dir. Guy Hamilton. 1973. 6 Lipp, Deborah. "Erotic Evil: Bond Films and the Femme Fatale." Her Majesty's Secret Servant. N.p., 2008. Web.
into the lowbrow swinger scene, and the manifestation of the modern man looked increasingly like the fantasies of an adolescent boy. We see this particularly in the adaptation of Moonraker7; Fleming’s novel ends with Bond and CIA agent Gala Brand redirecting the Moonraker spacecraft into the sea, killing the Nazi Drax, and with Brand leaving 007 for her fiancé. The movie ends with Bond going into outer space to kill the Eugenicist Drax, before sleeping with the astronaut Holly GoodHead in zero-gravity. 8 Written mostly to cash in on the space craze caused by the recently released Star Wars, Moonraker was campy, goofy, and fully formulaic. According to Film Critic David Demoss, “...for me, Moonraker goes right off the rails, abandoning any pretensions of being an intelligent spy-fi thriller. With Moonraker, the series officially Godwins itself.”9 The Bond movie formula had unintentionally turned into self-parody in the late 70’s. Moonraker, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy all had campier tones than previous forays of the series. Like Bond of the time, 70’s sexuality was a perversion of 1960’s romantic idealism. The “Modern Man” had become Austin Powers.
The 80’s would endure a shift in feminist thinking and the spread of AIDS, which would present Bond’s sexuality as irresponsible and dangerous. Feminism, which had once heralded the likes of Playboy and Bond as sexual liberators began to see the works as oppressive. The rise of Margaret Thatcher in British politics and the emergence of third-wave feminism saw a decline in sex-positive support and resurging conservative values. 007, now a caricature of his former ideals and movies, seemed misogynistic and irresponsible sleeping with every woman
Moonraker. Dir. Lewis Gilbert. MGM Home Entertainment, 1979. The film adaptation of Moonraker is almost a self-parody of the franchise. With its goofy plot, gratuitous sexualization and inability to take itself seriously, Moonraker is perhaps the best satire of the franchise besides Mike Meyer’s Austin Powers or Leslie Nielsen’s The Naked Gun. 9 DeMoss, David. "Moonraker (1979)." And You Thought It Was Safe. N.p., 8 Aug. 2012. Web.
he encountered (without protection no less). Combined with the awkward stumble of actors playing Bond10 and the rise of countless other iconic action heroes stealing the spotlight, 007 seemed out of his element. After the critical disappointment of 1985’s A View to a Kill (considered the worst Bond film in the franchise)11, Eon Productions did away with the established Bond movie formula. 1987’s The Living Daylights12 starring Timothy Dalton did away with the campiness of the previous films, and showed a darker, more realistic James Bond. More importantly, it was the first and only Bond film to feature a single a single female lead. Maryam d'Abo played Kara Milovy, a cellist and KGB agent who is double crossed by her superiors. It is in The Living Daylights we discover the idealization of the empowered woman of the 80’s; Kara is strong, deadly, and suspicious of both Bond and her allies. She manages to not only seduce and drug Bond, but after being betrayed helps rescue 007 and help him finish the Job. At the conclusion of the movie, Bond returns to Milovy with a visa after her performance at the London Orchestra. Milovy is beautiful, dangerous, vigilant, and is as critical to 007’s survival as he is to hers. In addition, she is talented and cultured, demonstrating not just sexual appeal but refined taste as well. Furthermore, Bond returns to Milovy despite their separation, a behavior uncharacteristic of the renowned lady-killer. The reinvention of James Bond in the 80’s was necessary; casual sex was no longer refined or classy, and sleeping around had become outright dangerous. Bond was recast as more romantic, refined and realistic. The 80’s empowerment of woman and the reinvention of Bond spoke to Western audiences better than
007 was played by Sean Connery from 1962-1971, George Lazenby in 1969, Roger Moore from 1973-1983, Connery again in ’83, Moore again in ’85, Timothy Dalton from 1987-1989, and by Pierce Brosnan from 1995-2002 11 Ryan, Tim. "Total Recall : James Bond Countdown." Rotten Tomatoes, 18 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 The Living Daylights. Dir. John Glen. MGM Home Entertainment, 1987.
previous renditions of the series. It is why The Living Daylights was considered “…The best Bond ever.”13
“I think you are a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur,” the first female M says to 007 in 1995’s Goldeneye14. The line speaks to Bond’s origins, but it speaks them to an evolved character. James Bond was created as an idealization of the modern man of the 60’s, and has changed with the decades. Created in the 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s would each redefine bond in their image. The biggest shift in western culture in the mid-twentieth century came through feminism and sexuality. As a cultural icon, James Bond was reshaped, reinvented and recast to fit both Fleming’s origins and Broccoli’s adaptations. His behavior with woman changed with the franchise to appeal to western values. The sexual revolution made sex respectable, the outbreak of AIDS made sex dangerous, and the swinger scene made sex fun, but classless. As the western perceptions of sexuality and feminism changed, Bond and his girls evolved to fit the era.
Kempley, Rita. "The Living Daylights." Washington Post 31 July 1987: n. pag. Print. GoldenEye. Dir. Martin Campbell. MGM Home Entertainment, 1995.
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