When it comes to action heroes and espionage, no name is more recognizable than “Bond, James Bond.” And from what I’ve been able to gather, the majority view is that Sean Connery is the best bond. I can see the merit in this argument; in addition to being the first, he has the classy manner, suave poise, and killer instinct that made Bond so cool. Besides, he’s up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger for best delivery of action hero one-liners. But there are some habits of Connery’s Bond that we shouldn’t pick up, chief among them being his treatment of women. Let’s face it; he’s kind of a jerk.
Think about it…
In Dr. No, Bond discovers that he’s being lured into a trap by Miss Taro and her boss. After escaping once, he decides to turn the tables on them by walking into the trap again. Clever, sure, but while he is visiting Miss Taro, he takes advantage of her boss’s orders to keep 007 busy and sleeps with her, acting as though he trusts her and cares about her. In the end, however, Bond tricks her into police custody, leaving her in the back of a car with only a grin and a one-liner. I know she was trying to set him up for death, but that’s just cold.
Later, in Thunderball, Fiona Volpe and her henchmen are hunting down a wounded Bond, and the villainess finally traps him on the dance floor. One of the goons tries to shoot Bond, but 007 spins around so that the bullet strikes Fiona instead, killing her. Again, the woman was trying to kill him, but there’s something about using her as a human shield that makes this moment seem especially jerk-ish.
In You Only Live Twice, Bond goes undercover as an unconvincing Japanese man. To complete the cover, he has to take on a wife. Even though the union is only temporary and for show, he still balks at the idea of “marrying” a woman he deems unattractive. You can see the distaste in his face as he is introduced to women who might be his pseudo-bride and the relief when he meets his real “wife.” Clearly, Bond cares more about the woman’s outer appearance than about who she is.
It gets worse, though. In From Russia with Love, Bond attempts to help Tatiana, a lovely Russian blonde who claims she is defecting. But when Bond has reason to believe she is working for the bad guys, he interrogates her … by brutally slapping her around a train compartment. Ultimately, he discovers they are both pawns in SPECTRE’s game, so all that violence didn’t help him at all. Remind me why we’re supposed to be rooting for a hero who doesn’t even know that good guys never hit a woman?
So far, all these incidents have been part of the job: go undercover, interrogate suspects, and defeat the villains. Most of this, therefore, would be overlookable. There is one sin, though, that I can’t let slide, and it goes back to Thunderball. James Bond is receiving treatment from Patricia Fearing, a beautiful therapist who clearly shows that she has no interest in Bond except as a patient. That doesn’t keep 007 from sexually harassing her, stealing a kiss to her great disgust. But when Patricia thinks she is responsible for an accident that almost kills Bond (she isn’t responsible, and Bond knows it), she begs him not to tell her superiors. Bond says yes, conditionally … and then he pulls her into the showers. This one act of blackmailing sex, completely outside of the spy job, was so shocking and so despicable to me when I first saw it that it continues to color my view of Bond, James Bond to this day.
Yes, I know James has done some really nice things for women as well. Yes, I know other Bonds had their moments of cruelty to women. But as the song says, “Nobody Does It Better.” Or in this case, worse.
Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice are owned by MGM Studios.