Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sex, Skyfall and Sociopathy

I caught Skyfall last weekend and posted this mini-review on my Facebook wall:

In some ways, it's excellent. Javier Bardem is unsurprisingly phenomenal. The music is very good, sometimes excellent. In other ways, it's predictably silly (the dialogue and action sequences are often well-crafted, but sometimes ridiculous). The plot is very sophisticated and convincing, and it works as an exploration of Bond himself, even though there are some pretty big holes. Nothing devastating, though. What bothers me, surprisingly, is Bond's relationship with women. Bond has always been promiscuous, but in this one he seems capable of very sincere and passionate intimacy, but without any emotional attachment at all. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I was seriously offended by the way the film depicted his relationship with women. Again, I know he's always slept around, but was it always this bad? (Maybe you need to see the film to answer that question.) Anyway, that point aside, it's probably one of the best Bond films ever, with well-handled nods to the past as well as bridges to the future.
My thoughts and opinion haven't changed, though it might help if I put my review into perspective: I went into the film with low expectations.  If you go in expecting the best Bond ever--and some reviews I've seen are setting it up as such--you might be disappointed.  Still, if you are even a mild Bond fan, you should definitely see it.  And do yourself a favor:  don't read the reviews.  I don't know why, but so many reviewers think that film reviews are competitions to see who can cleverly reference, or outright spoil, as many plot points as possible without looking like a total jerk.  Skyfall does not bank on its ability to surprise you.  There are no great secrets hiding inside.  However, it is the kind of movie that benefits from a relative lack of audience expectations, as far as plot goes, anyway.  With that in mind, you might want to stop reading this post until after you've seen the movie.  I won't give away any plot points, but what I say can affect your plot expectations.

So about the sex . . . Maybe it's because previous Bonds have been rather two-dimensional, so the rampant promiscuity did not so much define a character as adorn the iconic Bond persona.  In retrospect, James Bond wasn't a character at all before the Daniel Craig movies.  Craig's Bond has depth, which is one reason why the recent movies have been so refreshing.  Yet, after giving him romantic complexities in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the Bond of Skyfall shows no inclinations of romantic involvement with or emotional investment in any of the women he beds.  At one point in the film, Bond's lack of caring is startlingly disturbing.

Bond films have always objectified women, but this is worse.  I think it's because Bond has depth now.  His relationships with women therefore have to make sense as personal relationships, and I'm not sure that they do--unless we are to think of Bond as suffering from a form of sociopathy.  If that is the case, it is something that I hope gets worked out in the next Bond film.  I doubt it will, though, because it would be very hard, if not impossible, to rescue Bond from this dilemma without abandoning the casually promiscuous Bond image that producers think audiences want.  Unfortunately, if they don't work this out, the franchise might have to face very serious accusations of normalizing sociopathic attitudes towards women and sexuality.

Upon reflection, it occurs to me that my observations here might seem silly.  Of course James Bond films are open to such accusations.  They always have been.  Of course James Bond is a sociopath.  He always has been.  Okay.  But, again, it seems worse now.  Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it--perhaps because now I'm a dad with two daughters--but I don't think it's just me.