James Bond has always represented a specific type of straight, white, male power fantasy, one that predictably lends itself to certain sexist representations. However, the author of the new James Bond novel Anthony Horowitz says he edited out a lot of sexism from the original drafts because his wife was "quite angry" about it. So was Horowitz's draft unintentionally particularly sexist, or was it usual James Bond fair that Horowitz wife reacted to? Both are possible, but one thing is very clear: the importance of having female editors.
Horowitz's new Bond novel was commissioned by the Flemming Estate, and the book, Trigger Mortis, was released earlier this month. In an interview with Radio Times, Horowitz said one of the hardest things was reconciling the classic Bond with modern times. For instance, Ian Flemming's original Bond smoked 30 cigarettes a day, a habit that might seem fairly shocking to modern audiences. But Horowitz, as a long time Bond fan, also clearly finds it important to stay true to the character, as is evident by his dislike of movies that depict Bond as more "fallible" and questioning himself more.
Which of course means that the character's womanizing ways pose a particular type of problem.
“My wife Jill Green, who is the producer of Foyle’s War, read the first draft and was quite angry about some of the language and some of the words I used and the descriptions,” Horowitz told Radio Times on Sunday. “And she was right as she always is and I had to cut back and cut back. I had to really bring it back over the line again. Bond’s whole attitude to women… although it’s part of his character it doesn’t really play very well these days.”
So it seems even the classics can evolve.
Trying to update historical characters in ways that both stays true to their fundamental identity while also making sure modern audiences want to root for not against them is a challenge, and that's especially true with a character like Bond. James Bond represents a particular kind of fantasy, one of the straight, white man who can do the impossible, can attract the most beautiful women, can move through the world with an effortless grace and never look anything but cool. And despite calls to, say, cast a black actor as Bond, the famous spy's status as a specifically white, male fantasy remains intact. Which of course lends itself to a very sexist view of the world — if history has taught us anything, it's that when straight, white masculinity is positioned as the ideal, everyone else tends to be cast in unflattering lights. And indeed, the prejudices in Ian Flemming's version of Bond were never subtle.
Can Bond the character be preserved while making the power fantasy less exclusionary? Well, it seems certain people are willing to try — with the right push, of course. Really, if this episode demonstrates anything, it's that having women behind the scenes, helping in the creation of various media, is a key part of making representation better.