My Problematic Fandom: James Bond

Is there a fandom you’re a part of, but you recognize it’s problematic. This could include reading a book series from an author who’s sexist in real life or watching a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein. It’s a franchise that you love, but recognize that the franchise has it’s moments. This fandom for me has always been the James Bond movies.

Living Daylights.jpeg

Bond, James Bond. 

Growing up, me and my mom would watch movies together. My mom loves watching action movies which is where she showed me the James Bond movies. I remember Goldeneye being my first Bond movie and seeing Pierce Brosnan bring his suave sexiness to James Bond. After watching all the Bond movies, I have decided Timothy Dalton is my favorite despite the fact he only made two Bond movies. After re-watching both of his films, I recognized many statements made by Bond in how they demean the women he’s involved with. I think it’s important when watching this problematic content, that we recognize why it’ problematic and remind ourselves where the character of James Bond comes from.

James Bond is based off of spy novels written by Ian Fleming in the 1950’s. Fleming is someone who has always looked at women as existing for his pleasure versus women being actual human beings capable of being as strong as men. Fleming also hates lesbians which can be seen through the Goldfinger novel. I haven’t read Goldfinger, but I listen to the Generation Bond podcast where host, Jeremy Stromberg, talks about how Fleming wrote the character “Pussy Galore” as a lesbian and when Bond seduces her, it states how Pussy hates men because she was molested by her father as a child. WTF. That’s so icky. I tried to read Live and Let Die, but I had to stop because of the blatant racism in the book. Chances are I won’t read any more Fleming novels because of this.

Now I know what you may be thinking, it was the 1950’s, of course everyone would have some racial and homophobic beliefs. Except I believe that’s a broad generalization. I may not have lived in the 1950’s, but I don’t believe every single person was a racist or homophobic person. My point is I don’t think we can excuse Ian Fleming’s writing because it was the 1950’s.

Despite knowing what I know about the James Bond franchise, I still enjoy watching the films. I do plan on seeing Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie being released in 2020. Part of the reason I like the Bond movies is all of the world traveling. The beautiful locations I probably will never see in my lifetime.

It’s important when consuming problematic media, to recognize what about it is problematic and why it’s not acceptable today. I’m curious to see if anyone else has this “problematic” fandom and why you still watch or read it. Let me know in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “My Problematic Fandom: James Bond

  1. I’ve never read any of the original novels so I can’t comment on them, but it was definitely hard growing up loving the films and then getting to a point where I realised how many issues there were with them. I think the important thing is that we do recognise them as being a product of their time, but don’t excuse them for it.

    Despite how women are treated in the films I always found the Bond Girls to be an inspiration. They may have been designed to look sexy and sleep with Bond, but they also kicked ass too! I remember dressing up as a Bond girl for Halloween and having a man at my church sneer at me and laugh. I was only 13/14 and didn’t realise what people, especially men, thought of Bond Girls at that point. The fact that this man who had watched me grow up reacted like that made me feel sick (and still does to this day). Unsurprisingly we all later found out that he was having an affair with the young woman in the church band with him, and it was all extremely scandalous.

    Like

    • Wow that’s some drama! I do agree with your statement regarding Bond women. I re-watched License to Kill and the Bond girl, Pam Bouvier, always stuck up for herself. For example there’s one sequence where she is supposed to pose as Bond’s secretary and she responds with, “your secretary?? Why can’t you be my secretary?” So that was fun to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha yes I remember that scene! There’s a lot of little moments like that where they give so much sass back to Bond. Moneypenny for example has always been like that with Bond. Even in the early films when it looks like she’s just flirting and accepting his praise, there’s that twinkle in her eye where she’s not taking him seriously and knows who has the real power in their relationship.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you. I hate it when my Dad says “Oh but it was acceptable then.” Er, not by black and/or gay people! I briefly liked Tin Tin books in the early 80’s, until I got to about eight and realised they were upsettingly racist, even though teachers told me ‘it’s was just a cartoon.’ Timothy Dalton is my fave Bond. Who’s yours hon?

    Like

  3. I think it’s good that you can recognize that something is bad but still appreciate it for what it is or your connection to it. Everything is problematic in one way or another. The first thing that comes to mind for me (thought it isn’t a fandom of mine) is the movie musical Grease. We all dig the style and it’s got really great music, but the moral of the story is change yourself so a boy will like you, which is very very wrong, but we all accepted it. My grade seven teacher showed us that movie in class, I remember.
    I think a lot of older things are like that, and James Bond is no exception. Even some lines in popular not-so-old shows like Friends can be seen as problematic by today’s standards. But from what I hear, the next Bond movie will make some changes and strive to correct some of those wrongs and be more of a reflection of our current time, so good on them.

    Like

  4. I remember you wrote about your love for the Bond fandom on your own post of my Fictional Characters tag. I totally get where you’re coming from how politically incorrect the series can be. Also what woman has a name like Pussy Galore? I try not to let my political views interfere with my ability to enjoy something, but there’s still a certain limit.

    Now I know to steer clear of Ian Fleming’s work because what you’ve described crosses the line for me. I strongly value we women being strong in movies and books and I know some lesbians. To have them constantly portrayed as sex objects and damsels in distress upsets me, especially the latter. Sometimes I want to ask you, I know you seem to recognize the problem with the series but you watch the movies anyway because you like the lush travel destinations, so how do you not let the misogyny bother you when you’re watching a Bond film?

    Ah, the many things we tend to notice when we rewatch movies from our childhood as adults. I remember rewatching the Indiana Jones films which I first saw when I was in 6th grade and then I saw things in them that I didn’t see before.

    Like

    • Did you know Pussy Galore was actually from the Ian Fleming Goldfinger novel? Isn’t that messed up. Yep. . . I will probably never read anymore of Ian Fleming’s work.

      I think part of the reason why I still watch the Bond movies is because of all the memories I have of them. My mom introduced me to the movies and it was a way we bonded through watching them together. When I watch the movies on my own, I find that these memories come back in my head.

      The other thing I will say, is when I re-watch them, I find I remember some of the Bond women sticking up for themselves more. Like in License to Kill for example, Pam Bouvier is one of the Bond women and she constantly stands up to Bond and I think that’s empowering almost. Being able to stand up to someone who is that blatant with their sexist remarks. I think that takes some balls.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think what I meant to ask is that is such a objectifying name for a woman.

        Ah that’s understandable. I have only seen Casino Royale and Skyfall so I can’t really say much on that regard

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting take. I do like the film series from the lore movies onwards but certainly can argue they are ‘of their time’ which of course is a very easy way to excuse certain actions or behaviours. I grew up watching the Moore films and found them fun and light hearted, in today’s world, a little uneasy how he pressures a greater many of the supporting female characters into bed. By the Dalton era did feel it was shifting slightly and glad you picked out License to Kill as an example of strong female characterisation.

    Even if the ending was slightly dubious there were quite a few lines and moments in that film where you do feel largely the characters are on parity and certainly she holds her own. I can’t say Famke Janssen did much for the sisterhood in Goldeneye but to each their own.

    Like

    • The Moore films. . . some of them aren’t terrible and then others are pretty mediocre. It’s interesting because Timothy Dalton did want his take on the Bond character to be more by the Ian Fleming books than the other Bond actors which I found to be interesting.

      License to Kill was one I cited where Pam Bouvier is a pilot and she saves Bond’s ass numerous times and eventually he ends up with her which I think is sweet.

      Famke Janssen is not my favorite Bond girl. . . lol

      Like

  6. I relate a lot to what you’re saying about James Bond and the era that it’s from.
    As a Classic Hollywood fan, I love films from the 1930s-1950s, and sometimes I come across films where women are regarded as the inferior character among many other issues. I recognize that something I love doesn’t match my ideals of storytelling/characters/representation. I try to be mindful of the fact that it is from an era where gender inequality/racism/etc. was as much of the norm now as it was then. Sometimes I feel like when we as a fandom whole say no to something because its problematic, we’re censoring it and not trying to understand why that thing is wrong to have been created or why it could be different. It’s okay to be self-aware of why something is problematic and choose to enjoy or be disappointed by different aspects of it. And it’s okay to reach a limit and just cut that fandom off from our lives too.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s