Spectre is a fantastic film – it’s not as good as Skyfall, but it comes somewhere close. Craig, Waltz et al are superb, and that opening scene is one of the best ever put on film. Its treatment of women, however, is severely problematic.
Of course, that’s always been part and parcel of Bond movies. ‘Bond girls’ have always served as window dressing, with a seemingly endless conveyor belt of beautiful women throwing themselves at Bond, just to re-iterate how irresistible the suave secret agent really is.
It’s even addressed in a key plot point in this new film: Christoph Waltz’s sinister bad-guy, Blofeld, leverages Bond’s famed womanizing (and the tragic fates of most of these women) against him. And Bond himself is meant to be sexist, as Craig said in an interview with Esquire a few months ago (it’s, arguably, one of the reasons that Craig doesn’t want to return to the character after Spectre).
Craig went on to say that this Bond film isn’t as sexist and misogynistic as the rest – that, finally, they’ve developed actual roles for the women in the film, and have managed to move them into something more than window-dressing.
Sadly, Craig’s faith is misplaced. Many outlets have touted the casting of the 51-year-old Monica Bellucci as one of the two Bond girls in the film as a new turn for the franchise, with a more age-appropriate woman to be subjected to Bond’s attention.
Sad, then, that her role in the film is limited to an approximate ten minutes (during which time – spoiler alert – Bond manages to exploit her emotional vulnerability) before she is quickly cast aside in favour of a younger model, the superb Léa Seydoux.
The filmmakers should at least be praised for Seydoux’s character. They’ve clearly attempted to give her some more agency, to make her a character in herself – she fights back, she makes her own decisions, she’s almost on a level playing field with Bond. But she only interacts with men, and she exists mostly to be rescued and lusted after by Bond. That’s her singular role.
It’s a theme that extends to the other women in the series, too. They don’t interact with each other, and are all defined by their relationship to Bond. Moneypenny (who, at least, is shown as having her own boyfriend) is of course subject to copious amounts of sexual harassment. And with the loss of the inimitable Judi Dench, the franchise’s epicentre of female power – and the only one who could hope to compete with Bond – has been ripped out.
For a blockbuster film to fail the Bechdel test in 2015 is criminal, but they’ve at least made some steps in the right direction. Hopefully, in future Bonds, women can play an even greater role.
Image: MGM/Allstar/Sony Pictures