Daniel Craig made huge and outraged headlines when he stated that James Bond was a misogynist in a recent interview. Now I could go on and on about how his statement proves that an actor clearly doesn’t need to understand the character they are playing as long as the script and director are good, because he clearly does not understand his own character’s psychology and motiviations, but I won’t.
Instead let’s talk about SPECTRE, the latest in Craig’s Bond oeuvre, and why it is a film that makes Craig’s statements (especially while doing interviews for this film) completely ridiculous.
Theatrically speaking this year, for me, has been the year of the spy. I have been looking forward to this 4th Bond film since I walked out of the theater after seeing Skyfall. I probably built up the film a little too much in my mind, which is why I was slightly let down when it wasn’t, in my opinion, as good as Skyfall…but I’ll leave the movie reviewing up to other people.
For those that haven’t seen it, there are spoilers ahead.
Let’s first establish what a misogynist is. According to Webster’s they are “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”
Before we even get into SPECTRE (or even Craig’s Bond) we know that’s not true. Let’s consider one of my favorite non-Craig versions of James Bond. In GoldenEye we have a Bond played by Pierce Brosnan who both respects and gets along with women, even if he is also an incurable flirt. Brosnan’s Bond has a slightly prickly relationship with Judi Dench’s “M” in GoldenEye, but he is far from despising her. His relationship with Natalya is one of equals for the most part and she is an intricate part of destroying the GoldenEye weapon as well. I also don’t see any sign that Bond has anything less than respect (of the “oh crap, she might kill me” variety) for Xenia Onatopp.
So it’s not that previous Bonds all had bad relationships with women. Maybe some incarnations have had this problem, but it’s hardly a necessary part of the character either. Also, despite popular belief, Bond isn’t as much as a slut as you think. Over the course of 24 films since 1963, Bond has slept with an average of 2.3 women per film.
The thing about SPECTRE is that, of all the Bond films Craig has starred in, this is actually the least misogynistic. First of all, in this film he is much less prone to using women to get information and when he does sleep with them to get information he actually bother’s to make sure they don’t get killed for helping him (The Craig era Bond has cut a rather more deadly path through his Bond Girls than previous versions actually, every woman that slept with him in the first two films ended up dead), rather than walking off and leaving them to be strangled in a hammock (Casino Royale) or drowned in oil (Quantum of Solace) or getting them shot in the head by a crazy person (Skyfall, though honestly I don’t blame him for this, he clearly had no way to stop that situation). Though I would like to establish that, regardless of what Craig believes, Bond’s treatment of women has more to do with his own lack of selfworth than it has to do with his opinion of women.
This is the first Craig film since Casino Royale where Bond has an actual relationship with a woman that he considers more important than his job (and, spoilers, this one isn’t betraying him…probably…and doesn’t die) and, aside from one brief (and awkwardly paced) round of sex with the widow of the man he killed, he only sleeps with that one woman in this movie.
Dr. Madeline Snow, Bond’s current love interest, is someone whose opinion he seems to value and respect. He doesn’t sleep with her to get information, he respects her space, sees her as an equal, and certainly isn’t intimidated or bothered by the fact that she saves his life (more than once) which is not how a misogynist would react. He values her enough, like Vesper, to leave his job in order to be with her. That’s not a first for a version of Bond (he has been married before, it’s canon) either. Bond is also willing to risk his life to save her long after her usefulness to him as run out, which is most certainly not the actions of a man who “dislikes or despises” women.
But the really important detail about SPECTRE is the driving force behind the movie’s plot. Like Brosnan, Craig’s version of Bond has a prickly, but very fond (almost familial in Skyfall), relationship with M (the Judi Dench version, not Malory). He respects her, wants to protect her, and he feels he failed at that because of her death at Skyfall.
M is the driving force for Bond in this film, no one else. He is willing to put his career, and his life, on the line in order to carry out her last, fairly cryptic, wishes. His entire motivation in this film is his love and respect for his former boss.
In short there is simply no way that Bond, were he truly a misogynist, would behave the way that he does in SPECTRE (or any of the other Craig films, and most other Bond films, to be perfectly honest).
Craig’s comments just don’t hold water and I don’t understand how someone could be so ignorant about the character that they are playing, yet still play it so well. I fear that will remain a mystery to me forever.