Nov 12, 2015

Shaken, Not Stirred: The Gay James Bond

I think I've only seen three James Bond movies all the way through: Diamonds are Forever (1972), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Casino Royale (2006). But I've seen many, many clips of pivotal scenes, plus countless pastiches, parodies, and imitations, on everything from The Flintstones to Family Guy.  

From his introduction in a series of novels by Ian Fleming (1953-64) through fifty years' worth of movies (1962-2012), Bond created the image of the suave, sophisticated spy that has been  imitated over and over, in tv series (I Spy, Get Smart, The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible)in movies (The Bourne Identity, True Lies, The Secret of Boyne Castle, Austin Powers); even in comics (Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine).

Bond comes from a generation before the Man-Mountains, when Swinging Bachelors ruled.  He rarely took off his shirt; the producers didn't expect anyone to be looking at his muscles. In the tradition of "everybody's fantasy," the producers expected all women but no men to swoon over him due to his cool savoir-faire, his tailored suits, fluency in French, knowledge of clarets, and hint of danger.

And all men but no women to admire him for his spy expertise, his ability to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, kill an enemy spy on the way down, and land unfazed, unruffled, and ready for sex.

For all his popularity, there is very little for gay men to like in James Bond.

1. Very brief, minimal beefcake shots, only when absolutely necessary -- a part of his chest might peek out over the top of the sheets -- and overwhelmed by endless shots of bikini-clad and nude women.  Sean Connery (left) was a former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe runner-up, yet we saw no underwear, no towels, almost nothng of his physique.  Current Bond Daniel Craig has been a little better, offering an occasional swimsuit shot.

2. Few homoromantic subtexts.  The Bond world is as completely divided into evil men and nice women as Karate Kid.  Every woman Bond meets wants to have sex with him. Some try to kill him also, but usually they have a change of heart and become allies.

And the most a man can feel for him, or for any man, is a sort of grudging admiration. More often they feel raw hatred.  Same-sex friendships do not exist.

3. Intense homophobia.  Fleming wrote his novels for "warm-blooded heterosexuals," and decried the ranks of the "unhappy sexual misfits."  The movies almost invariably pit the heterosexual Bond against gay-vague "sexual misfits" -- or not so gay-vague, as the transvestite Spectre agent in Thunderball, or the hand-holding Mr. Witt and Mr. Kidd in Diamonds are Forever.  Even Jauvier Bardem, the latest villain (in Skyfall), camps it up to ensure that we identify him as a detestable poof.

4. It's hard to find a gay-friendly actor in the corpus of Bond movies.  Sean Connery became irate when he heard that some commentators found a gay subtext in one of his movies.  Roger Moore (left) played a negative stereotype in Boat Trip (2002).  Current Bond Daniel is a little more gay-friendly, but even he became irate at the suggestion that the superspy like both sexes:  "James Bond is heterosexual.  There will never be a gay Bond, ever."

Speaking of violent objections, in 1999 there was a rumor that gay actor Rupert Everett would be the next Bond.  He quickly spoke up, stating that it would be impossible: "Bond fans would burn down MGM if the studios got a gay actor to play James Bond."

So, what's gay about the James Bond movies?

1. A remarkable preoccupation with Bond's sex organs, from the laser-beam in Goldfinger to the chain-thwacking in Casino Royale.  Heterosexuals have never spent so much time envisioning phalluses.

2. Wearing tailored suits, drinking fine wines. dining on  haute cuisine, conversing in Italian and French?  Metrosexual, to say the least.

3. The violent objections incited when you suggest that Bond might be gay -- or played by someone gay -- suggest that he meets a deep-seated desire in heterosexuals to postulate a gloriously gay-free world.  It's fun to discomfort them, to point out that there are gay people everywhere, even in the most homophobic of texts.  So take one of Bond's male allies - Willard Whyte in Diamonds are Forever, Milos Colombo in For Your Eyes Only, Damian Falco in Die Another Day -- it doesn't matter how tenuous the relationship is -- and let the slash fictions roll.