Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.
With the release of Spectre, the latest installment in the Bond franchise, on the immediate horizon, I thought it would be appropriate if we all sat down and had a little chat about dear old 007–specifically, about whether or not we should allow him to continue to exist.
Yes! You heard right! I, Nathan Liu, aspiring screenwriter and NYU TIsch student, believe that we should seriously consider discontinuing the James Bond franchise. Why, you ask? Two reasons, actually.
First of all, James Bond movies are highly sexist. Seriously! The way that women are treated and portrayed in these films is beyond shameful. Not only are the female characters often shown as stupid and incompetent, they are also forced to wear tight, skimpy–or in many cases, nonexistent–outfits. And as if all this isn’t bad enough, they’re also given degrading, highly sexualized names. Don’t believe me? Well then, why don’t I introduce you to such famed Bond girls as Octopussy, Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead, Chew Mee, Kissy Suzuki, and Mary Goodnight. Honestly, I don’t know how the hell these names got past the censors. But perhaps what is most troubling about the Bond franchise is that it promotes and showcases extreme violence towards women. During his 50 year tenure on the silver screen, Agent 007 has slapped women, punched women, choked them, drowned them and shot them. And for those of you who might be thinking, “oh, Nathan, you’re just being sensitive. It’s all make believe. These movies don’t actually promote gender-based-violence,” I’d like to point out that Sean Connery–the first actor to portray Bond–famously said in an interview with Playboy that “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman.” Come on, Hollywood! It’s 2015. In the world right now, there are 22 countries–including economic powerhouses like Germany, South Korea, and Brazil–that have female heads of state. Instead of shooting out all this sexist nonsense, can’t you put all your money and resources towards producing films that show women as the intelligent, capable, and formidable people that they really are?
The second, and perhaps greatest reason, that I believe the Bond franchise should be discontinued is that, from a narrative standpoint, they’re extremely formulaic, and have nothing new to offer us. Every Bond film is the same. Even diehard fans of the franchise agree. And in this day and age, where moviegoers constantly complain about how nothing is original anymore, and how we need to stop making sequels, remakes and reboots, I’m honestly kind of shocked that no one has demanded that we do away with this repetitive franchise. Now, you might make the argument that nothing is original–that since there are only a set number of stories in existence, it’s only natural that films will start to look similar as time goes by. But it’s different with the Bond pictures. These movies don’t just take elements from pre-existing stories and weave them into their narratives. They literally tell the same story every single time. If you don’t believe me, then take the formula I’m about to give you, apply it to any Bond film from any decade or director, and you’ll find that what I’m saying is true. For no matter the time period or the production company, if it’s a Bond film, it will possess all, or most, of the following tropes, and usually in this order.
First, there’s always a big opening action sequence. This usually takes the form of Bond infiltrating a villain’s lair, or chasing down a suspect in a crowded urban area. Amidst the chaos, something inevitably goes wrong. Maybe Bond gets caught. Maybe his partner gets killed. Either way, he somehow always manages to get out of the situation without a scratch. And though he might not realize it at the time, his actions in this seemingly isolated episode will, without fail, come back to haunt him later in the film.
Second, as soon as this action sequence is done, the opening credits roll. These credits showcase an original song, written by a pop star for the film, as well as several images of guns firing, and several more silhouettes of naked women dancing and/or swimming.
Third, after the song has ended, Bond meets up with M and gets an assignment. The two but heads over something–M calls Bond an arrogant bastard, Bond responds by saying “Yeah? So what?”–And, eventually, 007 is sent over to Q to get some gadgets. The gadgets themselves can vary in terms of size and complexity–ranging from something as big and ridiculous as an invisible car, to something as small and disappointing as a pistol–but what remains consistent throughout all these tech sessions is that Bond and Q always engage in a verbal joust of some kind.
Fourth, after receiving his assignment, Bond heads off to some exotic location where the villain is known to be hiding. There, the two meet for the first time, and we learn that the villain is actually quite hammy and over-the-top. In all likelihood, he’s a rich megalomaniac looking to increase his own wealth somehow. That’s what Goldfinger wanted to do in Goldfinger. That’s what Carver wanted to do in Tomorrow Never Dies. Either way, the villain will usually try to embarrass Bond the first time they meet, but, in so doing, he’ll just end up embarrassing himself. This, of course, pisses him off, and starts him down a path that will, hopefully, lead to Bond’s destruction.
Fifth, after confronting the villain, Bond comes across the first woman of the film. She’s usually the bad guy’s lover or assistant, so Bond sees in her a means by which to get closer to him. 007 seduces her, they have sex, and, without fail, she winds up dead the next day. It is at this point that the villain sends his men after Bond. There’s a big fight scene, a bunch of guys get killed, and Bond manages to get away. Around this time, the second woman of the film–who’s usually an agent from another country–emerges and helps Bond out.
And Sixth, after escaping from the villain, Bond receives information about where he’s hiding now, and heads off there–usually with the second female lead of the film by his side. They confront the villain, he monologues for a bit, and then Bond manages to kill him using some object in the background. The two heroes make out, and then the end credits roll.
Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve just experienced every film in the James Bond franchise! What absolute garbage! It’s not just that their formula has gotten old and stale–which it has–it’s also that this formula doesn’t even lend itself well to good storytelling. The fact that the films are so predictable removes all tension from them, and decreases audience interest in what’s happening. We know that Bond is going to get out okay, so we don’t care what happens to him in the meantime. In addition, certain tropes of the movies–like the fact that the climax always unfolds in isolated locations, such as islands, submarines and factories–serves to distance the audience from the action that’s taking place.
So, when you really stop to think about it, James Bond films are both highly misogynistic and extremely banal, two things that we in the modern West claim are unacceptable in contemporary cinema. And yet, no one bothers to criticize these movies for their flaws, and production companies continue, year after year, to make them. I don’t think this is right. I don’t think it’s fair for people to condemn movies–like those in the Transformers franchise–for being sexist and stupid, and yet, at the same time, to praise the James Bond films, which are just as idiotic and cruel towards women. If you ask me, both movie series should be discontinued. Now, I realize that, due to their popularity, there is little to no chance of this happening, but I still think that we should have a discussion about this, and share our views on the problems with certain franchises. Doing so could lead to a much higher quality of cinema, and I think we can all agree that such a thing is preferable.
If you agree, and would like to share your own thoughts on the Bond films, leave a comment below. If you think I’m wrong, and would like to tell me why, also leave a comment, and we’ll see where the discussion goes from there.