Alex Boucher and James Bachelor are hosts of Bond and Beyond. They have explored the Bond film franchise from a multitude of perspectives: music, design, acting, cinematography, and direction. As they have come closer to completing an analysis of each individual film, Alex and James have moved “beyond” to look at the films in a broader context. It is an unprecedented level of depth for establish Bond fans and new followers alike.
The films comprising the James Bond franchise are estimated to have generated £3.9 million for every minute filmed. Beginning in 1962, the Bond collection of films has enjoyed some of the widest viewership and largest profits in the movie industry. Some have suggested that half of the world has seen a James Bond movie.
The recurrent Bond themes are not subtle. The films present consistent messages about masculinity, good, and evil.
The pervasive characteristics of the Bond villains teach viewers who to fear and who are allies may be.
“Why have you disobeyed my strictest rule and come in daylight?” asks the disembodied voice of Dr. Julius No. Quivering, Professor Dent says, “I came to warn you.”
“Warn me?” questions Dr. No.
His voice is clipped, robotic, and vaguely foreign. Professor Dent’s fear cues the viewer to be particularly frightened by the disembodied voice of the enemy.
Dr. No, the villain in the first of the “classic” Bond films, set the archetype for the majority of future villains. The villains typically display the following three properties:
- Foreign: particularly predominantly German or Russian
- Disabled or otherwise exceptional of figure
- Sexually ambiguous or homosexual
These tropes were not innovative. Hitchcock’s antagonists often met these criteria. Alex Sebastian in Notorious is German with a slightly fey demeanor, and a deep attachment to his mother. Phillip Vandamm and Leonard in North by Northwest as well as Brandon Shaw and David Kentley in Rope are gay couples and principal antagonists. Edward and Lucy Drayton in The Man Who Knew Too Much are presumably British in origin, but they have devoted their allegiance to an unnamed foreign power.
Phillip and Leonard confront Eve and Roger in North by Northwest
Hitchcock’s films are certainly more studied, and are analyzed in the context of cinema as art. The Hitchcock films are also more varied in their themes and settings. The 007 collection of films are more homogeneous in themes and plot-lines. They are thus viewed more as an entertainment than art. Television stations count upon Bond films for wide viewership and advertising dollars. Serial television presentations—“Bond Weeks”—are common in many countries.
I have limited discussion to the first 14 Bond films, which are arguably distinct from the rest of the franchise. These films include those with James Bond portrayed by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore.
The Foreign Enemy
Ian Fleming deliberately wrote Bond enemies to be foreign when he wrote the James Bond novels. During the 1950s and 60s, British colonies were seeking independence from colonial rule. Fleming’s novels would provide a reassurance that, “liberation of our colonies may have gone too fast… we still climb Everest and beat plenty of the world at plenty of sports and win plenty of Nobel prizes.”
In the cases of Donald “Red” Grant (From Russia with Love) and Pussy Galore (Goldfinger) the enemies are British but with questionable loyalty, and thus even more dangerous than an ostensible outsider.
The most significant example of foreignness of the enemy is perhaps Diamonds are Forever. Ernst Stavro Blofeld conceals his regular voice with a form of dialect-altering machine, which gives him a Texan accent. Although actor Charles Gray does not use a foreign accent as the “real” Blofeld, his name is certainly neither British nor American. The implicit message is: the enemy is foreign even if he does not sound like it.
The particular ethnicities of the villains reflect 1950s post-war sensibilities. The greatest number of classic Bond enemies are of German extraction. Even if the principal villain of the film is not German, there are German henchmen and hench-women. For example, in For Your Eyes Only, the primary villain is Greek: Aristotle Kristatos. But two of Kristatos’ co-conspirators are from the German Democratic Republic (Erich Kriegler and Jacoba Brink).
There are two exceptions in the first 14 films: Live and Let Die, in which Dr. Kananga as his coworkers are from the French Caribbean. This was followed by The Man with the Golden Gun, in which the enemy, Mr. Scaramanga, is presumably Macanese.
Bond himself makes only a few attempts to misrepresent himself as foreign or alien. In You Only Live Twice he “becomes” Japanese with cosmetic changes, but his voice is still that of 007. He pretends to have poor English grammar posing as a Dutchman in Diamonds are Forever, but his appearance, pronunciation, and dialect are still very much James Bond. His other alisases, such as Mr. Fisher, Roger Sterling, St. John Smythe all speak without a foreign accent.
Bond is always British, even when in disguise.
The Disfigured Enemy
Disfigurement and disability can suggest that concealment: a prosthetic limb can imply artifice: a failed attempt to blend in. The Bond villains range from limb prostheses to nervous and mental disabilities obesity. Dr. No again set the prototype. In the novel, Julius No has lost his hands in a radiation accident. In the film, his gloved hands tell the story of his disability without dialogue. Standing next to a portrait of Napoleon II, the film implies that Dr. No. is struggling to compensate for physical inferiority.
Bond and Honey arrive at dinner in Dr. No’s quarters
Ernst Blofeld in You Only Live Twice is ostensibly deformed by an eye condition combined with his diminutive figure. The tacit message: no matter how sinister and calculated he may be, he will always be physically smaller than James Bond, and his eye will forever be deformed.
In perhaps the most absurd form, Ernst Blofeld masquerades as Count Balthazar de Bleauchamp in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He claims to be a descendent of royalty, characterized by the absence of earlobes. Blofeld has seemingly normal ear anatomy in the film, but he calls attention to it as both a deformity and a symbol of his heritage.
Similarly, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, has a more curious than frightening deformity. He has polythelia (a third nipple). Although a common anatomic finding, the film uses the condition to represent the strange, foreign, or grotesque. 007 even attempts to disguise himself as Scaramanga with a cosmetic third nipple. After his attempt to disguise himself as Scaramanga, he rips off the prosthetic nipple, as if it were far to unsightly for his own body.
Professor Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me has a subtler disability. The backstory is never presented. His assistant, Naomi, cautions Bond and Major Anya Amasova, “Professor Stromberg prefers not to shake hands.” This could imply the germ phobia of an obsessive-compulsive disorder or a neuromuscular condition that prevents a handshake. Stromberg is able to use his hands, and they are not prostheses. The viewers see him operate the control panels that lead to the death of his assistant, and to the explosion that kills Dr. Bechmann and Professor Markovitz.
General Orlov in Octopussy does not have named disability, but his movements have a spasticity that is most commonly seen in Parkinson Disease. It can also be a feature of hypoparathyroidism, Huntington disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis.
Auric Goldfinger and Hugo Drax (Moonraker) are not necessarily disabled with a specific illness, but they appear to be in poor health: obese, with slower movement.
Their disability is relative to Bond’s athletic physique and quick movements.
The most complex of the disfigurements is not displayed on screen. Max Zorin (A View to a Kill) was a product of a Nazi experiment to inject pregnant women with large amounts of steroids to create intelligent by psychopathic children.
Secondary antagonists also have their share of physical disfigurement and disability:
- Oddjob (Goldfinger) and Sandor (The Spy Who Loved Me) are mute.
- Tee Hee (Live and Let Die) has a hook prosthesis in lieu of a hand.
- Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun) is a dwarf.
- It is unclear if Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) has metal teeth due to a disability or simply as a weapon. In either case, he is visually disfigured.
- Scarpine (A View to a Kill) has a large scar on his face.
The Enemy as Homosexual or Asexual
The sexual orientation of Bond enemies can range from unequivocally lesbian (Rosa Klebb,) to “camp” homosexual (Ernst Blofeld, Mr. Wint, and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever). Only three of the primary villains in the first 14 films even suggest heterosexual interest: Emilio Largo (Thunderball) presumably has an abusive sexual relationship with Domino, and Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun) may have some sort of relationship with Andrea Anders, but this is vague and off screen. The relationship between Max Zorin and May Day (A View to a Kill) is physical, but it is unclear if it is sexual or romantic.
Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd
The association between homosexuality and villains is most notable in the cases of Pussy Galore (Goldfinger) and Octopussy. In the novel of Goldfinger, Bond looks forward to Pussy Galore as a conquest: “the sexual challenge all beautiful lesbians have for men.” The film, produced in the era of tighter censorship, never defines Pussy as lesbian. Although she says she is “immune to [his] charms,” Bond rapes her, and the two end up alone in the tropics.
Pussy Galore is initially allied with the enemy, Goldfinger, but her allegiances change. As she becomes a part of the protagonist’s world, she becomes heterosexual.
Octopussy follows the same paradigm. We first meet Octopussy at her all-female island. Guards aside, the only man on the island is Prince Kamal Khan, who seems to take no interest in the population of attractive women around him. “Girls,” he scoffs, “they will keep the men occupied.” Initially disinterested, Octopussy falls for Bond, and embraces heterosexuality. Simultaneously, she breaks ties with Khan, thereby switching sides both in terms of her loyalty and her sexuality.
James and Tracy. He is disguised as Sir Hillary Bray
Bond himself uses homosexuality as a guise. Amid foreign territory in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond presents himself as Sir Hillary Bray Baronet, an effeminate and bookish historian. One of the guests at the Piz Gloria “clinic” comments, “But I think you do not like girls, Sir Hillary.”
Unlike the flexible sexuality of Octopussy and Pussy Galore, Bond’s attempt to cloak himself in homosexuality fails quickly. Unable to suppress his heterosexual urges, Bond sneaks into rooms at the clinic in order to have sex with the young women.
The most common theme, however, is asexuality. James Bond’s appetite for women and sex is overall insatiable. His enemies, however, seem indifferent. Clothed in unisex tunics, they are often oblivious to attractive women in their presence:
- No is never seen with Miss Taro, Sister Lily, or Sister Rose but Bond flirts with them. Dr. No is similarly unimpressed by Honey Ryder’s femininity and skimpy clothes.
- Goldfinger certainly has access to beautiful women: the Masterson sisters, Pussy Galore, Mei-Lei, but he barely glances at them.
- In You Only Live Twice the sexually provocative Helga Brandt speaks of her sexuality only in the context of henchman Mr. Osato, not with Ernst Blofeld.
- In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Blofeld pays little attention to the young women at his allergy clinic. Irma Bundt is arguably a bit more interested in them, but she too is asexual.
- Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me ignores his beautiful assistant, Naomi. He has no empathy for his unnamed secretary, who he sends to sharks to be eaten. Similarly, he pays much more attention to Bond than to his Soviet paramour, Anya Amasova.
- Hugo Drax (Moonraker) arranges for tea to be served to young women at his palace, and he employs Dr. Holly Goodhead. But Drax’s eyes never wander; he is never seen to show any attraction to the women in his presence.
Bond flirts casually with Sister Rose, Sister Lilly, and Honey
The notable exceptions are in Thunderball and possibly Live and Let Die. In the former, one can assume that Emilio Largo has a relationship with Domino, albeit non-consenual. In Live and Let Die, is it unclear if Dr. Kananga has sexual attraction to Solitaire.
In only one instance is an ally presented as obviously gay. Dikko Henderson is an MI6 operative in Tokyo. He speaks of the doorman at the Soviet Embassy, who provides him with vodka, “among certain other things.” Moreover, Henderson has a wooden leg, contradicting the pattern of disability as enemy. Henderson is murdered seconds later.
Psychological Theories and the Bond Villains
One can apply multiple theoretical orientations to the psychology of Bond villains. This is in terms of both the villain and the viewer.
In perhaps the simplest form, Freudians would view Bond villains as living by the “pleasure principle.” Unburdened by ethics or a superego, the villains eat, drink, and kill on a whim. The Bond villains fulfill fantasies of murdering one’s enemies without consequence. Living in lavish quarters the Bond villains can extinguish their enemies with the touch of a button. They indulge in elaborate banquets. Their uninhibited access to power and luxury appeal to a deviant side within us.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that Bond enemies have stunted development. The villains are solitary, lacking love, companionship, or even sex. Never surpassing the “love and belonging” ladder in Maslow’s hierarchy, the villains can never reach the human needs of self esteem and self actualization.
Followers of Carl Jung explore the notion of “healthy confrontation.” There is a psychological need for individuals to examine their “shadow selves.” Insight into hidden natures is a healthy form of development. The healthy unleashing of a shadow self is comparable to Bruce Wayne unleashing his inner Batman. The Bond villains never reach a level of self actualization. They exist only with malevolent traits, failing to integrate good and evil.
In the context of sexuality, Vito Russo described the appeal of stock “sissy” characters. This can be extrapolated to Bond villains who are either clearly homosexual or ambiguously so.
These characters give men a reassurance of their masculinity and women of their femininity by occupying the space between genders.
The viewer can then ally himself or herself with Bond rather than a villain. Recognizing one’s own scruples and self-control, the viewer can argue that he or she is more sophisticated than simple wish fulfillment. The viewer is superior to the Bond villain because he or she presumably has more meaningful social and romantic connections. He or she is more self-aware than a villain, recognizing a multi-dimensional personality. And he is assuredly masculine; she assuredly feminine because they are unlike the murky sexuality of the villains.
The Bond films can reinforce a xenophobia and homophobia, but the films themselves should not be impugned. They represent prevailing attitudes from their era of production. Astute viewers recognize that the foreign, disabled, and sexually ambiguous enemy was a means to assure viewers, “at least I am not like that.”
Self esteem is not much of a struggle for 007.
The films have evolved to some extent. Bond’s superior was a woman for many films; his personal assistant is black. In the most recent film, Skyfall, the antagonist, Silva, implies that Bond himself has had same-sex encounters. Disability and disfigurement remain unchanged. Silva makes a nauseating display of his deformed teeth. Le Chiffre (Casino Royale) suffers from uncontrolled asthma.
The Bond phenomenon will always be a source of impressive entertainment and increasingly spectacular cinematography. As the films have changed to suit modern audiences, the opportunity to explore Bond movies as social commentary expands. With astoundingly wide viewership around the world, Bond films serve as a mirror of how we view ourselves in the constructs of nationality, illness, and sexuality.
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