Skyfall: a feminist lament

Tonight The Man dragged me to see Skyfall; having worked on my lecture since 07:30 this morning, I summoned the dregs of enthusiasm and feigned joy.

The joy became real however, once the motorbikes took over from the opening scenes and it proved to be the perfect Sunday evening diversion.

Javier Bardem affords a superbly nuanced Bond villain and could be watched alone for the entire duration of the film.

A regular scene stealer, then (and as anticipated).

As we entered the cold darkness of the town, the chatter turned to the women in the film and a sneaking weariness crept in, for it seems the Bond movies are taking more than just an vehicular step back in time.

At this point, I must warn you that here be spoilers, so read no further if you have not seen the movie yet.

In the past decade the Bond girls have taken their share of the action – the customary sex-simper-die formula of the 1960s-1980s was replaced by gun-toting, all-fighting savvy women who could hold their own against not only Bond’s charms, but multiple weapon-wielding foes, too.

They had a purpose, be it as spies, professionals or renegades; no arm furniture for them!

The paragon was of course M, gender switching in 1995 from the male (Bernard Lee, Robert Brown) to the female (Judi Dench).

Skyfall has broken with this new tradition of placing women on a par with men; rather, just as M is being ‘transitioned’ to ‘voluntary retirement,’ so too are the female characters being readied for pasture.

While Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is initially seen in the field, by the end of the movie she favours the desk outside M’s office.

The token Bond girl, Séverine (Bérénice Marlohe) has lamentably little time on screen, providing a plot bridge to convey Bond from a bar to an abandoned island, via a steamy shower before an untimely death.

Yet M is the real tragedy: when hints are not being made about age and retirement, her professional confidence leads her to be condemned as a ‘bitch’ by both Bond and Silva.

Within moments of M’s demise, the new M steps forward in the form of Ralph Fiennes and so the cycle is completed from gender balanced Bond movies to the ‘boy’s own’ world of guns, gadgetry and women on the periphery.

It was a bleak undertone for a fabulous movie and I shall be curious to see how subsequent movies pan out.

Sadly, it fits too well with the current trend of reversing the empowered female roles that emerged during the mid-1990s; but maybe, just maybe, the female presence will resurrect as many times as Bond did in Skyfall.

4 comments on “Skyfall: a feminist lament

  1. ladylavinia1932
    October 29, 2012

    [“While Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is initially seen in the field, by the end of the movie she favours the desk outside M’s office.”]

    WHAT THE FUCK??? She goes from field agent to secretary?

    • Layla
      October 29, 2012

      It’s one of the points only time will tell; it ended that way, but she was wonderful in the field role. Unorthodox, but great.

  2. Alex
    November 15, 2012

    Thank god! I thought that it was just me. Everyone kept saying “This is such a feminist James Bond” all the time.

    • Layla
      November 15, 2012

      Good Lord. We must know the same people – someone wrote that on Facebook the other day and I all but squealed in contestation. It’s the opposite, for God’s sake >.<

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This entry was posted on October 28, 2012 by in Pop culture, Womyn and tagged , , .
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