Once, not so long ago, I had another blog (in Hebrew). It was (mainly) about cinema and its intersections with politics. Its name? “Yifat, Rotem Yifat“. The address started with a “00Yifat”. All of course alluding to the most famous “undercover” spy in the world, James Bond. The thing is that I am not that big of a fan of 007. Yes, I have seen all the films, most of them more than once; as I child I imagined myself going to adventures with the assistance of Q’s gadgets. But at the end of the day, it is nothing more than another cinematic franchise, just being one before the phrase was invented. It’s a brand, and a well-known one, so I decided to carry along. Now that the “official” 24th film is in cinemas (and won’t be part of the analysis. I didn’t want to be the weirdo taking notes in the theater), this is a good chance to look into what makes 007.
Though the “series” (rarely is there continuity between the films, the current Bond – Daniel Craig – being an exception) includes more than 20 features which span over more than 50 years, performed, directed and written by several people, the films are practically the same with small variants and adapts to the political and cinematic zeitgeist. Yet we bear our allegiance due to simple recurring elements: opening credit sequence, the way he takes his vodka-martini, megalomaniac villains, gadgets etc. Each can be the focus of a statistical analysis. I decided to focus on the “Bond Girls”.This is one of the more controversial elements in the films (racism is another). From today’s perspective, some of Bond’s past moves would be considered rape or at least coerced sex. Probably his license includes more than just “Kill”. Even the term “Bond Girl” is offensive, twice: degrading women to girls, and denying their independence by subjecting them to be Bond.
When analyzing the female characters two issues arise: first, “Bond Girl” is attributed to one main female character in the film. But 007 got his reputation not by having a new girl every film (that is something George Costanza can pull) but from having several romantic affairs in one film. Some are brief and are only fillers and some are substantial that affect his life beyond a specific film. In this analysis, we will consider all.
A second issue is to understand who Bond has “sex” with. I write “sex” because due to the films’ rating, we almost never see the act itself. In order to determine if Bond slept with someone, you need to infer from the after-scene what happened, and as Monty Python taught us, I might be mistaken.
Spread the Love
Many Bond films either open with a romantic setting (and sometimes followed by the woman trying to kill Bond) or end with Bond and a lady friend secluded, away from M’s eyes. As we can see, A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights have both. Also, in most films, the sex scenes are at least 60% runtime into the film (an average Bond film is 2 hours long). It’s interesting to group films by the this structure and see what else they have in common (success, number of deaths, etc.). This might help better understand the changes in Bond films over the years.
It’s Not the Age, It’s How You Roll
I promise you, in Hebrew that header sounds better, but the meaning is incorporated in almost every Bond film: 007 is so cool, he can sweep any woman of her feet, even if she is 28 years younger than he is.
I believe these figures aren’t exceptional, and can be found across other Hollywood films, where a woman over 40 is rare like a Bond villain without a physical deformity. The Roger Moore data is easy to explain: though the average age of women in his films is the second highest (29.5), the average age difference in his films is significantly higher. The reason is Moore’s age: when he replaced Sean Connery as Bond the two were about the same age, and he was replaced by Timothy Dalton at age 57. The problem is that Connery started as the youngest Bond, and most Bond’s have a late start, but the age of the ladies remained as before; the gap will continue to stand.
This chart tries to depict what (if any) effect the number of partners has on the films’ acceptance with audience. Though there is no significant relation, it is prominent that the changes in the current 007 succeeds more than anybody in spite of “lack” of success in conquering women. It is important to mention that these films differ in many other attributes, and the sexual relationship is part of a shift the series has taken. In them Bond is more vulnerable, more human, and has less cool gadgets from Q. Its nothing that we are used to from Bond, but it works. As I said, Bond films tries to adapt to the cultural environment they come from.
Death Becomes Her
Scream made the rules of Slasher films clear to all: if you have sex – you will die. This is also true for Craig’s partners: in his 3 first films, whomever he had sex with didn’t survive to the end of the film (unlike with statistics, I did study logic, and I know that this doesn’t mean that 007 and M had sex, but it does make you wonder…). Again, this is part of the darkish Bond we have seen with him. Other Bonds have been deadly to their lovers as well, some even did the deed themselves.
Age is a major factor in life expectancy, but in Roger Moore’s case, it’s to his partners and not to him: on average a woman will die less than 8 minutes after sleeping with him. Connery has not only the quickest woman death but also the most iconic one. Lazenby is an exception, not only because he played Bond in only one film, but in that film, the dead woman was his wife. We might have also just found the reason why Dalton is considered by many to be the worst Bond – his partners never died.
Idris Elba? Emily Blunt!
Recently there has been some talk that it is time for a black Bond, specifically Idris Elba. From a racial prism, this will be a significant move. But if Elba will be part of the conventional Bond world, it means that age gap will only worsen, since Elba is already 43 years old. Though Elba is just one possibility (I am thinking of John Boyega – though might be too young – he can be even bigger than Ian McKellen or Harrison Ford), the entire discussion is flawed.
A real change will be to have a female Bond. The world of Bond already had strong and sophisticated female spies. In addition, we are seeing more and more franchises moving to an all-female cast. And most importantly, this won’t be a change for the sake of change or equality. It will be organic, as we are seeing more and more heroine action stars: Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Emily Blunt and others. The question is will the man they sleep with will also find their death.
*Quantum of Solace is not in the chart because it has only one sex scene