The Incredible Sexism of James Bond

I’ve been watching a few of the old James Bond movies since they’ve been on ITV recently. A few weeks ago I watched ‘Live and Let Die’ which was the first outing for Roger Moore, and originally aired in 1973, my birth year!

Besides being surprised that I didn’t remember most of it (I thought I’d seen enough Bond in my childhood to have these committed to memory!) I was pretty shocked at the incredible sexism of the movie.

This movie is a further example of just how sexist representations of women in the media were 50 years ago, there are other examples outline here.

I know that ‘classic Bond’ is well known for its dismal portrayal of women as nothing more than one dimensional sex-objects, but Live and Let Die must be a low-point for female representation.

Besides Miss Money-Penny there are only two other ‘significant’ female characters in the movie – both of whom James has sex with, and both of whom are rescued by James, although one of them dies.

Rosie Carver – a hapless double agent who Bond beds just before she dies

We’re introduced to Rosie Carver when Bond arrives in The Caribbean. She’s been assigned to help him, but she’s useless, being scared of snakes and not really having a clue what’s going on.

She resists his advances on their first night, but later on, when they’re approaching Tenanga’s Caribbean island hideaway, they pause for lunch and have sex (I know, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.)

Afterwards, Bond reveals that he knows she’s working for Tenanga and has been tasked with drawing him into a trap – she looks shocked and says ‘why tell me now after what we’ve just done’ – to which James replies something like ‘well I certainly wouldn’t have told you before’, or something like that.

She runs away and dies shortly afterwards – I guess now James has ‘had a go’ she’s not much use anymore anyway.

Solitaire – a virgin victim of slavery who Bond rapes

Solitaire (Jane Seymour) is a psychic medium being held captive by the main villain of the film – Tenaka, an opium dealer. Tenaka uses here psychic powers to help him make decisions about how to run his criminal empire – she’s a virgin, crucial to her having her psychic powers.

The first contact James has with her, when he falls into Tenaka’s Lair in the basement of a restaurant in New Orleans, he gets her to to do him a Tarot card reading, and the ‘lovers card’ is revealed, ‘that’s us’ he quips.

Fast Forward to later in the movie, when Solitaire is back on the isolated Caribbean Island which is Tenaka’s main base, James hanglides onto the island and sneaks into her chambers to enact a rescue, but not before manipulating her into having sex with him.

He gets her to choose a Tarot card, she picks ‘the lovers’ (note the paper-thin sub-plot) and they go and have sex – but a ‘cheeky’ camera shot reveals that James had stacked the entire Tarot deck with nothing but that one card.

So what we have here is James manipulating a virgin victim of modern slavery into having sex with him, I think that’s technically rape of a vulnerable adult, given that Bond deliberately used her beliefs against her to manipulate her into having sex with him, I don’t think we can call this informed consent.

Of course she wakes up wanting more, now sexually addicted to James. And of course all the while they’re in bed, they could have been escaping!

NB – Jane Seymour was 21-22 when the film was shot, Roger Moore was in his late 30s.

Relevance to A-level sociology

I know this example is almost 50 years old now, but it’s a particularly pertinent one to show just how bad sexual-stereotyping was in the early 1970s – Live or Let Die actually made a joke out Bond raping a vulnerable teenager held in slavery, as well as turning into part of his ‘masculine identity’.

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