He’s fast and he’s cool
He’s from the school that loves and leaves ’em
A pity if it grieves ’em
Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’s not a fool. – Leslie Bricusse
Though few ignoramuses ever hesitate to open their mouths about subjects they know literally nothing about, it never ceases to amaze me when they do so in such a way as to openly reveal their ignorance to anyone with even the most cursory familiarity with the topic, especially when a few minutes of research would have given them the ability to sound as though they knew something about it. Case in point, this recent Forbes article about the new James Bond movie, Skyfall; the writer seems to be familiar with at least the most recent movies in the franchise, but not the books or the Sean Connery films. And the so-called “sex trafficking experts” he interviews wear their cluelessness like a badge of honor. The article contains a major spoiler, but it’s not necessary for me to repeat it in order to discuss the problem:
When it comes to his treatment of women, James Bond has never been a nice man…but in Skyfall…007 reaches a new level of not-niceness: having sex with and otherwise exploiting a captive victim of sexual trafficking. And it’s not at all charming to professional advocates for victims of…trafficking…Sexual hyper-aggressiveness and putting women in harm’s way are trademarks of the Bond franchise, of course. They’re a big part of why the protagonist is often decried as a misogynist and even a psychopath…But those elements are uniquely problematic when set in the context of a character who’s a victim of ongoing sexual violence and intimidation, say…experts [who have not] seen the film yet…
I’m not going to take the cheap shot of pointing out that it is, after all, just a movie; dramatic media do have the power to move and influence people as well as entertain them, so though the character and his adventures are fictional I don’t think it’s really fair to dismiss it as one might a bad cartoon. But it’s equally unfair to discuss Bond and his actions outside of his own fictional universe, which is the largest and least forgivable mistake these soi-disant “experts” make. It’s true that they are totally ignorant of the psychology of sex workers and the realities of our work, and that they subscribe to the dehumanizing dogma that a victimized woman is completely incapable of choice or agency forever after. But those factors are less important when talking about a fictional world because there may be some plot device in the film, some imaginary drug, secret brainwashing technique or science-fiction mind control device which does indeed turn the “trafficked” character into a pliable sex slave. I don’t know because I haven’t seen the picture…and neither have they! In other words, they have the amazing gall to criticize a film they have not even seen on the basis of what others have told them, and in doing so reveal a total unfamiliarity with the rest of the franchise. But though I haven’t seen this installment I am certainly familiar with the character and his history, the first two decades of the series and the contents of some of the novels, and that makes me more than qualified to completely trash this moronic article.
The writer reveals his lack of perspective from the very first sentence with the opening qualifier “when it comes to women”; he later states that some have referred to Bond as “misogynistic”. But anyone familiar with the books and early movies knows that this is rubbish; Bond’s amorality is in no way limited to women. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to label him a psychopath, but it’s clear that one of the things which makes him such a dangerous and effective agent is that he does not let anything get in the way of accomplishing his missions. Whether by nature or training, Bond is able to completely shed any sense of honor, ethics or human decency and does not let anyone – man, woman or beast – get in the way of his goal. After his run on Danger Man Patrick McGoohan was the most highly-paid television actor in the world, and he was invited to star in the very first Bond flick, Dr. No; he turned it down flat because he didn’t want to be typecast as someone so completely amoral.
The writer also refers to Bond as “sexually hyper-aggressive”, and while that’s certainly true it ignores another important part of the character’s mythos; he is supposed to have such “mojo” that no woman can resist him. Even this factor alone blows the “exploiting a captive victim” idiocy to teeny, tiny bits: if literally no woman can resist Bond, why should the “trafficked” character be any different? And if his sexual power is of such literal irresistibility that it can be considered coercive, surely that’s the case with every woman he beds; this renders moot the claim that this movie’s situation is “uniquely problematic” and returns us to the fact of Bond’s amorality. Furthermore, if these “experts” had seen any of the early films they’d know that he’s had sex with imprisoned, entrapped or desperate women on many occasions, and a strong argument could be made that Tatiana Romanova of From Russia With Love was a victim of “sex trafficking” because she was ordered to cross international boundaries and romance Bond by a criminal she believed to be her superior in the Russian spy agency (in other words, she was transported under false pretenses to have sex for someone else’s profit). In short, 007’s liaisons with women have never been politically correct, and calling the exploitation of a desperate woman “a new level of not-niceness” demonstrates that the writer is unfamiliar with the fact that in Goldfinger Bond “cured” Pussy Galore’s lesbianism by raping her.
But the most glaring factual and moral error of all lies in the fact that the “00” in Bond’s number means he has license to kill, a fact which I daresay even most culturally-literate people who have never seen even one of the movies are familiar. He is allowed to MURDER whenever he feels it’s necessary to his mission, yet the trafficking fanatics claim that seducing or even making sexual demands of a vulnerable woman is somehow a greater moral offense? This is nothing less than a return to the old Victorian concept that rape is a “fate worse than death”. And though I wish it were limited to women making asinine comments about movies, it permeates all of their rhetoric on sex work and rape (and is the primary reason the penalties for sex crimes are so wildly out of proportion to all other offenses). Every time someone acts as though rape were worse than murder, or refers to sex work as “women being bought and sold”, consider what is actually being said: that a woman’s entire self and value reside in her sexual “purity”, so to violate that is tantamount to destroying her and the sale of sexual services is equivalent to sale of her entire being. And that incredibly vile real-life doctrine is vastly more misogynistic than anything of which the fictional James Bond can credibly be accused.