Splitting a part of the SKYFALL plothole conversation for further discussion here…
This is necessarily a wide field given the fact Bond’s creator was born in 1908 (brought up following customs and values of the 19th century) and the films started in 1962, a time when Hollywood still routinely used scenes of men spanking women as part of the ‘romantic comedy’ template.
Nearly sixty years have passed and several generations of fans have grown up with Bond, no doubt with vastly varying attitudes towards his general philosophy and treatment of women - also because a significant part of that fanbase happens to be actual real women. I suspect their insights would add significant depth to the topic here.
However, I can only speak from my personal perspective: I discovered Bond in the 70s via TSWLM when I was ten. My interest for love films was back then not terribly developed, so I was relieved to find out the bed scenes didn’t take away too much time from all the BANG, BOOM and ZING of the action. The aspirational element for me was the Lotus toy and a cap gun looking like Bond’s.
Later on I discovered the books, a vastly different world - and yet eerily close, intertwined at odd
angles. And for me the aspirational angle of the written word was more alluring than that of the big screen. As a kid, what could you take away from the films? Some dialogue, some cool ideas for playing. But from the books you took away a whole world, a worldview, a longing for travel and adventure.
The films started a fire, otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about Bond over 40 years later. But the fire itself largely burned on the pages, on the scent and smoke and sweat of a casino and Berlin, Zimmerstrasse and the black sands of the beach at Crab Key. And what I took away from them was decidedly more than some brand label - best avoided - or car or timepiece I don’t need anyway.*
To finally come to the core of the topic, Bond’s attitude towards women and how it influenced my own: it will not surprise anybody to learn that Moore’s - or Connery’s - interaction with women wasn’t at all a promising template for a juvenile boy in the 70s and early 80s. You could wear black polo neck jumpers and imagine yourself to be magnetic and sophisticated as much as you wanted, it didn’t help you with the ladies, nor with the girls my age.
So I did what we all did in my generation. Well, most of us who had the good fortune not to suffer from delusions of grandeur and misguided sense of entitlement: we grew up, we grew out of a juvenile comic book worldview and made our own, authentic experiences and learned as much from our girlfriends and wives as we did from our peers. This doesn’t mean we couldn’t still enjoy the Bond fantasy. We just knew it was - and is - just that, a fantasy. Maybe there our generation was luckier than laters ones, I cannot say for sure.
What I think will definitely have changed is, in my time Bond was an early hero with an interest in sex, so he naturally shaped much of our early imagination in this regard. This is almost certainly no longer the case for a huge number of young people today. Sexuality and gender roles are either addressed at school - or they are not and YouCorn.pom is doing the job for youngsters. Personally, I would prefer school to educate teenagers.
Is Bond A.D. 2020 going to be a role model, a moral authority even? I think that train has long since departed. And this is not a Bond thing but a wider trend of our age: heroes in general are no longer an unquestionable authority, even if this uncomfortable truth hasn’t been acknowledged by everybody yet. Even comic book heroes are allowed their darker, less heroic sides. This need not be something bad as it allows audiences - real people - to aspire to something other than merchandise and bling-bling.
*I suspect that the aspirational factor of Bond, or any other franchise for that matter, is overrated today. These vehicles serve to sell stuff, yes. But they all do now. And the stuff they sell this summer must clear the shelves before October because by then there will be other vehicles selling new stuff. So the core meaning of ‘aspiration’, to hope to achieve something, is no longer valid here. People just buy stuff, they achieve nothing.
The subculture of Bond props and clothes and gimmicks is today a market catering to a very particular clientele, largely consisting of people pursuing their hobbyhorse with the zest and passion of the seasoned collector. You will find a wide variety of possible items to collect, from posters and books to cloths and props. But this largely remains a hobby for a niche target group, say dentists or lawyers willing to pay for an exclusive pair of desert boots that wears down the first time they drive their Porsche to their carpeted private practice. It’s a bit of fun chasing ‘Bond moments’ - but that’s really all it is, tiny slices of escapism for people willing to pay for it.