The James Bond franchise has long been criticized for its title character’s sexism and misogyny. When 007 isn’t bedding every woman he meets — usually getting them killed in the process — he just shoos them away with an ass-slap before engaging in some “man talk.”
The latest film in the franchise, Skyfall, is truly regressive though.
At one point, Bond meets Sévérine, a beautiful woman he believes to be working for the villain, Raoul Silva. Bond soon learns that she is a former brothel worker and that she is not Silva’s employee but his captive, bought or stolen out of the brothels to serve him. She agrees to lead Bond to Silva on the promise that Bond will kill him and free her from a life of sexual slavery.
Later that night, Bond sneaks up on this victim of sex trafficking in the shower and fucks her. The whole scene is disgusting and feels like she is paying for her freedom by letting Bond have his way with her. Oh, and Bond almost immediately ends up getting her killed anyway (spoiler alert).
I’ll let Times writer Giles Coren explain, in a column he posted online after his paper refused to publish it:
In short, there is a young woman in this film whom Bond correctly identifies (in his smug, smart-arse way) as a sex-worker who was kidnapped and enslaved as a child by human traffickers. She is now a brutalised and unwilling gangster’s moll. She gives no sign of being sexually interested in Bond, merely of being incredibly scared and unhappy. So he creeps uninvited into her hotel shower cubicle later that night, like Jimmy Savile, and silently screws her because he is bored.
James Bond has sex with women; that much we expect. But with Sévérine, it reaches a level of exploitation that comes pretty close to rape.
If this represents the most feminist Bond film yet, maybe it’s time to abandon Bond films (and I say that as a fan of the series). For heaven’s sake, the most interesting and confident female character, field agent Eve, decides to become a secretary at the end of the film. A goddamn secretary!
Heather Genovese, a psychoanalyst who works with trauma victims, told Forbes that she worries people will mistake exploitation for seduction after seeing Skyfall.
“Sometimes victims of sexual abuse are so deeply in need of help and have such a strong wish for rescue that they get into situations where they are being abused and don’t even realize it,” she says. “Sometimes it’s simply because the dynamic is familiar to them. This can be why they are so vulnerable to being re-traumatized, and it is alarming for society to see such a thing without a clear understanding.”
Especially since James Bond is a male fantasy about what the pinnacle of manhood is, the fact that he essentially forces himself on a traumatized woman who asks him for help should be deeply unsettling.