Violence against women in western culture

This has been one of those weeks when Winchester’s cinema management deems a new release to be of such pressing importance that both of our Screens should be devoted to its delights. Fine, if the poorly reviewed Quantum of Solace is what you want to see.

I’ve become wise to this over the years and, before Screen 2 was smothered in blanket Bond, I slipped in to see the excellent French film, I’ve loved you so long. To pass the time through 10 minutes of ads wholly dedicated to an assortment of Bond merchandise, I fantasised that OneWorld had become so mega-rich that we could be one of those sponsor companies whose products are glimpsed at pivotal moments in the movie.

As Bond fiddles with the latest mobile internet gadget, which OneWorld Guide would be given that magical half second of screen-time?

Now, we know from the original books that it would be a mistake to presume that Bond does not study for his assignments. Before tackling the mind games of Miss Solitaire in Live and Let Die, he takes care to read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s The Traveller’s Tree, the MI6 recommended reading about Haiti. To bring this country’s unfortunate problems forward into the 21st century, our Haiti Guide would be useful, albeit without quite the same obsession with voodoo.

Bond would doubtless refer to the North Korea Guide to check out his old friend Kim Jong Il, whose current illness was perhaps brought on by the spiteful lampooning he received in Die Another Day – a real stab in the back given the Dear Leader’s passionate interest in collecting Bond films.

What hope for a glimpse of the Gender Guide in our screen slot? This may be a step too far, as from the earliest books to the most recent films, Bond has struggled to present a credible position on gender issues. There is a disturbing passage in the Goldfinger text when Bond lambasts gender equality as a source of confusion for women. He convinces himself that homosexuality is “….a direct consequence of giving votes to women…. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere….”

We lose our precious Screen 2 for this!

Of course the modern character has abandoned such thoughts along with smoking, cold showers and referring to “niggers”. Also airbrushed are the darkest shadows of the character which the books betray, the hint of pleasure from hurting women. In Casino Royale, Bond contemplates a potential conquest of Vesper Lynd with the “sweet tang of rape”.

Without wishing to take popular entertainment too seriously, something leaves me slightly uneasy about this. Our Country Guides are increasingly reporting the pressures on developing countries to get their act together to counter domestic violence. There’s a consistent pattern of denial of a problem which is widespread.

Could there be any parallel with the habit of denial of unpleasant truths within western popular culture? I just hope that that this doesn’t turn out to be another case of development imperialism, the advocacy of change in other cultures before our own are fixed.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK