Casino Royale

Rating:

I know very little about James Bond. When I was a kid, we used to watch a cartoon about James Bond, Jr. (his son, I presume?), and all I can recall is him saying “My name is Bond. James Bond. Junior.” So now, every time I hear Bond revealing his name to someone, I always want to add “Junior” afterward.

Other than that, my knowledge is minimal. I may have watched a full Bond movie — I know I’ve watched snippets — and I know which actors have played Bond, but as to the character himself, I only know the gist: dashing spy with cool gadgets does cool spy things and gets the girl. So, I never expected a whole lot of equality for the women in this novel, but the sexism and sometimes, outright misogyny, of this novel surprised me.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is entertaining. Fleming knows how to attract and keep a reader’s interest. But I could not help being disgusted by the sexist Bond.

Casino Royale coverNow, I haven’t seen the movie. I’m hoping they altered it somewhat for modern audiences. Rants like this do not endear our protagonist to the reader: “These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to me?”

Later, when Bond is falling for the female spy Vesper, he imagines that conquering her would always carry the “sweet tang of rape.” I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Some scholars see Fleming’s work as feminist and the Bond Girls as liberated women. I think I would have to read more of the books to see whether I buy that theory. Bond’s misogyny does seem to be “over the top,” perhaps to make a point. He is, after all, hoodwinked by the girl he assumed was incompetent.

That being said, I thought there were some interesting ruminations about the nature of good and evil, of patriotism and treason. Who determines who the “good guy” is, after all? Unfortunately, these anxieties get thrown by the wayside as Bond gets swept back into nationalistic fervor. This is, after all, a spy novel, and one can’t have a spy novel with philosophies about right and wrong. So, back to the formula: dashing spy with cool gadgets does cool spy things and gets the (simultaneously hyper-emotional and deceptive) girl.

 

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