I love the James Bond films. This weekend, I finished the fourth in the series—Thunderball (1965)—in my latest rewatch.
I acknowledge, however, that most of the films in this franchise are filled with offensive and derogatory content, including racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. There are too many of these scenes. I don’t love these films during those scenes. I don’t forgive the films these scenes.
Some people make the argument about such content that back then “it was a different time.” They argue we cannot hold anyone from that time responsible for content that offends our modern sensibilities. This argument extends into the present: The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, and Generation X cannot be held responsible for holding outdated ideas because they don’t know any better. How are older generations supposed to keep up with the barrage of “new rules” based on identity, inclusion, and justice?
Just today, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during the news conference in which he announced his resignation after sexual assault allegations: “There are generational and cultural shifts [about humor, touching, and other conduct] that I just didn’t fully appreciate – and I should have.”
Few things infuriate me as much as these arguments and statements, and I only have to point to the James Bond films starting with the first one in 1962 to show how these arguments are false and these statements insincere. In nearly every scene where James Bond sexually and physically harasses and assaults women, the screenplay, editing, directing, and acting damn well make sure the audience understands that the woman is outraged, angry, and hurt, before making it crystal clear that James Bond could care less about women’s thoughts and feelings.
The filmmakers damn well knew women didn’t approve of men’s worst behaviors, even in the 1960s, and they crafted their hero James Bond to mock, undermine, abuse, and bed lesbians, feminists, and any other woman who tried to resist him and point out his inappropriate behavior. One woman who was able to keep up with his salacious “wit”—Miss Moneypenny—was condemned to forever be in unrequited love with him. The others—including the Countess Tracy di Vicenzo and Vesper Lynd—died violently.
The filmmakers knew damn well what they were doing and knew damn well why they were doing it.
Feminism didn’t suddenly appear fully-formed in the 1970s. The hard work for the equality of women in the 1970s through today followed the hard work by previous generations of women and their allies who had even fewer resources. Women of the 1960s, of the 1950s, of eras before and going back centuries and millennia, pointed out and fought how they were treated by men. They fought against inappropriate behavior, harassment, assault, and wrote about these, spoke about these, marched and made art about these, a new generation building on the work of the women in the previous generation.
This is the history of humanity.
“It was another time”!? It is all the same time, the same time in which women and other oppressed people continue to point out abuse, mistreatment, inequality, and the lack of justice. For men or anyone else to excuse their own or others’ terrible behaviors by claiming they were not aware of how much things have changed is to admit they are either willfully ignorant or lying.
Either one makes them unfit for their positions of power.
Good riddance to Cuomo and everyone else who think so little of women and other oppressed people.