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The aim of this essay is to investigate the issues of ideology and hegemony in the James Bond franchise, with particular emphasis on the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace. Over the forty-four years the Bond films have been running the depictions of men and women in these films has developed and changed. Negative stereotypes were used in the first few Bond films to portray women, such as requiring a male rescue and being a sex object for a male audience. This was the ideology of the era, that women were less dominant than men. With movements such as Feminism these representations have been allowed to evolve into a more realistic depiction of women in the latest Bond films, especially Quantum of Solace. The portrayal of men is much more consistent throughout the Bond films, except a few changes that are made to Bond’s character in Quantum of Solace.
Ideology and hegemony exist in all the Bond films as they affect the way gender is represented. Ideologies form associations between types of power and the media. They are ideas that give an explanation of the social world. The ideas are usually seen as normal and expected but are frequently only biased and one sided (Branston and Stafford 2006,p.174). However, contrasting ideological views that contain different ideas can sometimes instigate battles within media texts (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.165).
In comparison, hegemony is a theory that is related to ideology and power. It shows how societies deal with power (Casey et al. 2008,p.142). An Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci believed that ruling groups in societies can use either strength and force or consent to keep their power (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.169). This was allowed due to their importance in society. Gramsci also believed that certain democracies across the world would find themselves fighting for control. In some cases they would rely on force whilst in others they try the subtle approach of persuasion to gain hegemony (Branston and Stafford 2006,p.177). Hegemony suggests that certain ideas become “common sense” or “natural” to people (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,pp.169-170),particularly those of the ruling class and so called the ‘dominant ideology’ (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.165). Marxists studied the differences between the working class and the industrial manufacturers who were all part of Capitalism, and believed your class determined your political views (Branston and Stafford 2006,pp.175-176). Marxists also believed that people in charge of production were able to distribute the ‘dominant ideas’ into a society. Therefore the working class could be led to believe that mistreatment was expected and ‘normal’ through dominant ideas and power relationships in the media (Branston and Stafford 2006,p.176).
Ideology and hegemony can affect how people are represented in the media. In the past there were striking differences between men and women. In recent times this has become less so, though still exists. This brings about the question as to whether or not the representation of gender in the media has changed over time due to the ideologies of eras changing as well. Sreberny and Van Zoonen defined gender ‘as a contested and relatively unstable discourse’ (2000,p.13), showing how representations of gender are frequently changing in the media.
The representations of James Bond throughout the Bond films have been quite similar: as a quick witted, physically strong man who is attractive and is able to use his charms to seduce many different women. Croteau and Hoynes believed that men would less likely be shown in the household, as this is usually the woman’s place. Instead, they would more likely be shown in highly regarded jobs (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.149). Bond films highlight this as Bond works as a secret agent for MI6 which shows his intelligence and authority in the workplace.
In Quantum of Solace, Bond still contains many of his conventional characteristics , for example, his physical strength. It is suggested that men are represented as being more dominant than women, whilst also shown as being involved in much more violence (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.149). This can be seen in Quantum of Solace as Bond is involved in many fight scenes, such as, when he attacks the bodyguards in the hotel lift. However, the representation of Bond develops in this film as we see a vulnerable side to Bond that isn’t present in the other Bond films. Many other men in Quantum of Solace are represented as powerful, for example, Dominic Greene owns his own company. Greene is portrayed as greedy and manipulative as he is storing water in order to sell it for extortionate prices. Mr White is another enemy who is portrayed as important and secretive as he is part of a top secret organisation, Quantum. These portrayals of men are stereotypical as they depict them as intelligent, powerful and authoritative.
There hasn’t been much change in the representations of males in the Bond films, other than in the latest two films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace we have seen a more realistic portrayal of men. Bond is shown to have fallen in love with the character Vesper and when she dies he is shown as emotional as he wants revenge. This vulnerable side to Bond is representative of men today, as strong men can still have sensitive sides. This shows how the ideologies of the past may be changing. Bond’s enemies have always been represented as powerful masterminds and so have not changed much since the films began.
In comparison the representation of women in the Bond films has changed much more significantly over the years. This development of the Bond girls may have been instigated by the growth of Feminism. Feminism believed that men treated women as less superior to themselves (Casey et al. 2008, p.121). By the 1970s one of the main issues feminist’s believed was that many of the representations of women in the media were negative and based on stereotypes whilst also lacking in variety (Casey et al. 2008,p.122). The first Bond film, Dr No, made in 1962, supports this argument with the Bond girl, Honey Ryder. She played the damsel in distress saved by Bond and came across as very naive. She was easily seduced by Bond showing she was submissive and he was in power. In 1975, Laura Mulvey came up with the theory of the male gaze in which texts include women that are sexualised in order for them to appeal to men (Casey et al. 2008,p.122). Honey Ryder appealed to the male gaze as she appeared in skimpy clothes several times, including the iconic scene of her in her swimming costume. This iconic scene also relates to the fact Hole and Levine (1971:249) argued that feminists believed that some women in the media were trying to make men purchase products by becoming sex objects (Van Zoonen 1994,p.66). Due to the ideologies of this era men were seen as more dominant and in control. This meant that women frequently appeared in films, but often only in secondary, minor roles (Croteau and Hoynes 1997,p.147). This was no different for Honey Ryder, as the main protagonists of Dr No were Bond and his enemy Dr No and she played more of a minor role.
By 2002, when Die another Day was released the representation of the Bond girls had evolved. Die another Day’s Jinx was every bit Bond’s equal being one step ahead of him for the majority of the time. She was physically strong and killed several people which represented her as mentally strong. This shows how Feminism may have begun to have an impact on media as it shows a female who is almost equal to the main male protagonist, which would have been very unusual in films before this point. However, she was easily seduced by Bond showing she hadn’t become superior to Bond as he still had a certain control over her.
Over time film production has developed and with it female stereotypes were questioned, leading to an increase in variety of characters for women in film (Casey et al. 2008,p.124). This can be seen in Quantum of Solace as there are two Bond girls, Miss Fields, who is a conventional Bond girl and Camille who is more of a realistic representation of women today. Miss Fields is quick witted as she helps Bond on numerous occasions. Still, she is represented as vulnerable as she is easily seduced by Bond within a short time and she is killed by Bond’s enemies. However, Miss Fields is quite a realistic representation of women today as she works for MI6 which highlights how more women have jobs in highly respected work places now, than in the past. Camille is different to the other Bond girls. For instance, she is attractive but not perfect as she has burn scars on her back. She is also the first ever Bond girl to walk away from Bond without being seduced into bed by him. This suggests that women’s roles in film may be becoming more realistic as the majority of women aren’t perfect and many have the self control to reject men’s charms. However, Camille still possesses some of the Bond girl conventions as she needed saving by Bond in the fire. Both Bond girls in this film are very attractive and Liesbet van Zoonen argued that ‘Hollywood cinema has a long standing tradition of constructing women as a spectacle for voyeuristic pleasure’ (Van Zoonen 1994,p.87).This suggests that even though some ideologies have changed over time others haven’t and even though Camille has the imperfection of burns on her back she is still a very attractive lady and thus still appeals to the male gaze and the ‘voyeuristic pleasure’ of men.
Another interesting representation of women in Quantum of Solace is that of M. M is represented as a strong female who is very authoritative as she is Bond’s boss. She is intelligent as she works for MI6 and so is a powerful lady. However, she is also vulnerable as she is betrayed by one of her bodyguards. The growth of Feminism in the twenty-first century has gained so much for the representation of females in the media. That now even some women believe it isn’t essential as the representations have gained in variety and accuracy (Casey et al.2008, p.125). An important issue to note about M is the fact that for the first eleven Bond films M was in fact a man, until it changed to a woman, played by Dame Judi Dench. This choice may have been made to follow the ideologies of the time as women were becoming more involved and important in society and even in the workplace and so by this point it wasn’t unusual to have women in highly valued workplaces. Croteau and Hoynes argued that Feminism and people who fought for women’s rights put strain on the media. Therefore, making the media create more varied representations and roles of women in the media, whilst eradicating many of the negative stereotypes of women (1997 p.147).
Overall, ideology and hegemony are present in all the Bond films through the representation of gender. The portrayal of gender roles allows us to observe how the ideologies have changed over time. It is most likely that certain ideologies have been influenced by movements such as Feminism, for example due to the strain feminist groups put on the media, the roles and representations of women have become more diverse and a more accurate representation of women in society. The ideologies of gender in the Bond films have changed with the times. This is noticeable with characters such as M, at one point in time women wouldn’t have been associated with high earning jobs in the MI6. It is also shown with Bond as he becomes more vulnerable in Quantum of Solace, which is a more accurate representation of men in today’s society as they can be sensitive as well as strong. In the future Bond films, the representations of gender may continue to change to fit the ideologies of gender in society at that time.
Word count: 2000
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