Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall Ending

What is so wrong with the ending of 'Skyfall'?

N.B. There will be spoilers.

Plenty has been written - and there is plenty to write - about the representation of women in Bond movies, including the latest offering.

I went to see it expecting to simply clench my teeth and put up with the typical bikini-clad posturing and sex scenes. I was not disappointed. 

But that is not my biggest beef with Bond.

At the end of the movie, there is a re-ordering into the new status quo. M is no longer Judi Dench, and Moneypenny is back behind the desk.

The movie starts with M being a female character, unafraid to make a difficult decision, and not allowing sentiment to cloud her judgement. The character who later transpires as Moneypenny is driving Bond, and shoots him when instructed to. In other words, the women are calling the shots. Bond is, in fact, reliant upon them for practical (Moneypenny) and emotional (M) support. Without those women he would not be as strong and capable. Whilst he is the action man, Moneypenny is the person who shoots him down, even if she doesn't kill him, and M commands that the shot be taken. He may be the one jumping onto the train, but the women have the power of life and death over him. Moneypenny is a field agent, just like 007, and M is the woman in charge.

By the end of the movie, M has died, to be replaced by Ralph Fiennes, and Moneypenny is behind the desk, where every good secretary belongs.

I have heard many critics comment on how good it feels to see a 'return to form' for Bond. Yes, there are many iconic scenes and objects within the movie, but I cannot help but wonder if in fact, the critics are actually more satisfied that there is a return to masculine dominance. The final scenes of the movie did make me reminisce about the 'old style Bond', but then I realised that the women, just as much as the bad guy, had been vanquished. In fact, looking at named characters, there were 2 female deaths and one demotion, compared to one male death. If you want to do a full body count, there were the usual nameless stooges who died by the dozen, and, yes, they were all male (as far as we could tell), but almost 100% of the female cast were killed, whereas a far lower % of male actors met the same fate.

And that begs another question - why are so few of the 'baddies' female? The Bond franchise has used females as key antagonists; but if we are to accept that women are just as capable of being on the wrong side as men, why are so few of the fighting thugs female? In real life, there are women involved in active combat, but in the world of Bond, very few women slip out of their heels and into a fight scene.I know all about the suspension of disbelief, but the depiction of women is inconsistent even within the Bond movies. In a world where fighting muscle can be easily bought, why wouldn't women sign up for some gun-toting employment? The casual way in which so many men fill the screen, acting as bodyguards and soldiers of fortune, once again emphasises that this is a man's world, and only a few women will be allowed in.

The introduction of Judi Dench as 'M' seemed a nod in the right direction, even if the producers had chosen almost the only female English actor that Americans could name. Now that she has gone, there will not be a single female who is in any way Bond's equal, let alone his superior. Moneypenny may be able to banter, even to resist his charm, but we all know that really she wants him. There will undoubtedly be the usual two or three willing helpers and bed mates, maybe even an arch villain who is as able to seduce as Bond is. I'm sure that she could put up a good fight, but in the end, Bond will prevail. And that's really what the problem is. In the world of 007, there is no room for a successful, dominant female.

Whether we loathe him or love him, 007 will always be a male agent.

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