Bond Girl Power
While there’s a lot a feminist critique of Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond flick, could cover, such as the other-ing of the voiceless “ethnic” communities/Bond’s sense of entitlement to their culture and resources, Judy Dench’s role as M, or the current, very real political turbulence in Bolivia (FYI? George Bush is still our president), this post mainly focuses on the use of the rape-revenge themes and surprise, surprise, the objectification of women found in the movie.
And yes, there are spoilers.
Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is the Bond girl de jour, who at first glance appears to be sleeping her way up the chain-of-command behind a planned Bolivian coup. She openly admits to using sex as a means to an ends, and she isn’t ashamed of it. We soon find out that Camille is out to kill General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio), who years earlier murdered her father, raped her mother and sister, and burned down her home when she was a child. When Bond (Daniel Craig) initially “rescues” her from what he perceived to be a damsel-in-distress situation with Medrano, Camille is rightfully pissed, seeing as she had “waited her whole life to get that close” to her adversary.
Once Bond apologizes for being such a dipshit Prince Charming, he acts as her ally for seeking vengeance, but leaves the killing (and driving!) up to her. Camille eventually comes face to face with her family’s assailant in flame-ridden room somewhere in a desert compound. The two struggle: Medrano attempting to assault her, Camille placing more than a few below-the-belt shots, and ultimately fulfilling her vengeance. Not bad for a Bond girl! (btdubs, Bitch readers: I definitely appreciated Camille more having previewed Tammy Oler’s excellent feature on the rape-revenge film, which will appear in our winter issue, no. 42! Also stay tuned for Tammy’s upcoming film-centered guest blogging!)
But despite all the feel-good castration, Camille’s empowering scene is over fast, and as the compound continues to burn, she retracts into the little girl she described to Bond several scenes earlier. Defeated, Camille becomes a trembling mess of a heroine, mumbling unintelligibly and reduced from the ass-kicking, nut-swacking woman from a few moments before to one wandering, fear-filled eye . It’s up to Bond to come to her rescue (this time warranted) and he does, in an awkwardly long, father-like embrace.
Besides failing the Bechdel test recently mentioned on Racialicious, the women of Quantum were also discredited in the camera’s treatment of their bodies. It’s not exactly breaking news that the Bond franchise hasn’t been at the forefront of progressive feminist cinema, but this film’s objectification of its heroines, although subtle at times, was particularly disturbing as it focused not just on the passive female form, but the unconscious female form.
Yep, the camera doesn’t just show how beautiful these women are, but how much more beautiful they are when they don’t know you’re watching. Camille is knocked unconscious early on, and the camera takes it sweet time to linger on her legs and disheveled skirt as Bond whisks her away in a motor boat. Once ashore he indifferently passes her body off to a steward saying she was “seasick” (I bet that got laughs in your theater like it did in mine.).
Mathis’ swimsuit-clad wife is treated similarly, as her sunbathing, unconcerned body is kept in the corner of the screen, you know, in case the audience gets bored listening to the men talk about their important spy stories. When Fields is discovered murdered, the camera creepily revisits her distressing oil-covered corpse. Even after the scene concludes and M and Bond have finished conversing, it insists on one last look at her nude, anonymous body.
I found one of the most disturbing moments towards the end of the film at the desert compound where the current Bolivian leader signs over his country. Because the audience needs more reason to believe that General Medrano is a totally bad guy, he follows the nameless maid to a room and begins to sexually assault her. Just before he can rape her, Camille breaks in to collect her due. This should be an awesome girl avenger feat, and it is plot-wise, but as the Medrano leaves the maid, still vulnerable on the bed, to confront Camille, the camera remains, lingering on the prone maid and her splayed legs, allowing ample time (and little choice) for the viewer to stare up her dress. It’s a gross feeling: the viewer finishes, visually, what the Medrano could not—an intrusive violation.
I thought the film also glossed over sexual violence against women. Camille explains to Bond that the Medrano “did awful things” to her mother and sister, but doesn’t utter the word “rape.” And to revisit Fields’ body—she was naked, folks! Not just murdered out of the blue and delivered to Bond’s doorstep soaked in crude oil, but naked—implying, but not investigating, a so-much-more-sinister demise to the Consulate representative.
I haven’t seen the prequel, Casino Royale (or many Bond films for that matter), so I don’t know how it compares. But overall I found Camille’s character to be pretty alright for the most part—sexually empowered and seeking revenge on her own terms. Anyone else see the movie or want to weigh in?
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