Monday, January 28, 2013

Skyfall: Heroism, and Women

Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

My wife and I hit the dollar theater the other night to see the latest installment of the 50 year old 007 franchise. What most intrigued me about the film was the fact that Roger Deakins shot it (and that the film redeemed the series from the waste of Quantum of Solace), and I was not disappointed. However, as I began to think more about the film and my adrenaline stopped pumping I began reflecting on how it could be used in teaching. What has the 007 series taught us? I realized that this film offers some great opportunities to discuss elements of media literacy such as cultural heros and their reflection of the society that supports them, as well has the depiction of women. This post is intended to be a launch pad to discussion rather than a dissemination of well-packaged wisdom.

Who is this "hero" and why do we like him?

Obviously Bond, James Bond. The problem, however, is what happens if you were required to explain to an alien population why Bond is such a great hero. Well lets see . . . he kills people, he drives cool cars, he has nifty gadgets, and he never smiles or cries. Oh and don't forget, he usually travels with, travels to, or travels over a woman wearing something people call a dress . . . though it never really could be properly defended as such.

This depiction of a hero offers students the chance to talk about what it means to have a hero, and support heros. Washington was a hero to the newborn United States, Lincoln to the repressed Negro, Kennedy to Catholics around the globe. Why? I think more importantly than just naming the why is reflection on questions such as: "Who are your heros? How does what they do influence how you think and act?" 

What can be learned about the ideal man or ideal woman?

Bérénice Marlohe in "Skyfall"
If you have seen Skyfall, then you know why the picture to the left is deeply ironic. Marlohe's character is one of three women in the film that Bond makes sexual moves on. Interestingly enough, he comes at the woman after expressing his desire to help her escape the man who purchased her from the sex trade as a young girl. How does Bond "help"? He has sex with her, allows her to be captured and beaten, and then shot. All he can say about it is, "That was a waste of perfectly good scotch."

So a question one might ask their students: How is Bond's treatment of this woman different than that of her "owner"? Does this image help or hurt the idea of sex trafficking?

The Bond Girl has been around since the first film of the franchise (Dr. No). Over the years the role and impact of the women in each 007 film has changed, reflecting a continuing evolution of the role of women. This article gives a great summary and perspective of Bond's "psychosexual complexity" and reveals that there is more to discuss here than just how 'cool' the movie was.

Beyond heroism, women, and the journey of heros in film and literature, other topics of discussion include Bond's relationship with Q (the evolving use and love of technology) as well as the rule of law and military crime.


  1. Greg,

    First off, love reading about any film-related posts on your site. FYI: Those will always get my readership :) You bring up a good many points and conversation starters here. I started to write a comment and it ended up being nearly post-worthy length of its own. I've been meaning to flesh out additional analysis on "Skyfall" as I'm in the middle of a Bond marathon and it was one of my favorite films of last year. I decided I'll respond to this article in that forthcoming analysis (which I can post a link to soon)... so thanks for the catalyst!


  2. Very good article. =)It's so true that sometimes society has a very "loose" definition of hero. This would also be a good way to introduce some ancient heroes like Heracles or Gilgamesh. Both of them displayed aggressive, cruel behavior that doesn't fit the usual definition of heroic, and yet they have stood through the ages. What makes a hero appeal to people? Does a hero have to be a good person? Some thought-provoking questions, indeed.