Dr. No: A sexed up style

The character of James Bond was born into the literary world at a very particular time in Great Britain’s 20th century history. The first novel, Casino Royale, was published in 1953 when the country was experiencing its post-war slump. While its close ally the United States emerged stronger than before, both politically and economically, the opposite was true of Great Britain. Its ego was in tatters somewhat following the war. Not only did they receive a beating during the war, but there influence on the international stage was diminished to a certain degree. Say what you will about the potential benefits that can be reaped by newly independent states when their former colonial masters lose grip, the latter group still tends to get bummed out a bit. Ian Fleming gave British readers a hero they could call their own. The international success of the books were of course welcomed (interestingly, the American success hinged very much on President John F. Kennedy revealing that From Russia With Love was one of his favourite books), but the fact that he was an English hero meant a lot to many readers.

When a deal was struck between producers Cubby Broccoli, Harry Saltzman and the production company United Artists, it was agreed that many of the qualities from the books that made 007 who he was should be translated to the screen. Bond sleeps with a different leading female character in every novel, something the filmmakers certainly did not want to omit, but since there was no absolute guarantee their first film, Dr. No, would become a hit, it was important to make it abundantly clear that James Bond was a sex magnet right from the start. Some people are prudish about these matters while others a more liberal, but there is little doubt that the Bond of the novels, his nature and his sexual prowess, tapped into the fantasies of many male and female fans. Cruel good looks, incredible athletic abilities, never nervous in front of woman, etc. In fact, he often goes after the woman and the latter reciprocate on almost every occasion. Why? Cruel good looks, built up physique, confident…you can see how this little game is played. It’s a fantasy. Not everyone’s fantasy of course, but the fantasy of enough to support the old adage that ‘sex sells.’ Bond, especially in the early 1960s, was a great vehicle to give audiences what they wanted in a thriller: exotic locations, violence and sex. Bond’s British background coupled with his sexual confidence and promiscuity also flew in the face of the stereotypical view of the stuck up, prudish Englishman. Being British wasn’t just cool, it was pretty darn sexy.

The filmmakers increased the sex content in the film Dr. No when compared to Dr. No the book. This was accomplished in the most obvious way: more women for 007 to fool and tease around with. Not only does Bond get intimate with more women than in the book, he does so with more women than in most of the other films. And this is the first one!

Sylvia Trench

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Mrs. Trench is a bit of a mystery. She isn’t provided with much screen time so we never really know who she is exactly, so we can only assume certain aspects. The viewer meets her during Bond’s introductory scene at the casino in London. First of all, she’s very elegantly dressed and gambling money away by playing against Bond. Clearly, she likes living large and can afford to do so. She’s very confident about herself judging by her feminine swagger, and given how she jumps at the opportunity to spend the night with Bond, she’s single. Either that or she has one heck of an open relationship. She even enters his flat before 007 himself returns home in the hopes of surprising him, which she does very successfully. Wearing apparently nothing except his pyjama shirt, she’s one sexed up little kitten. Even though she has only 5 or 6 minutes of screen time, her presence is very telling of the sexual tension that 007 and his women exude. The first woman in the movie, and consequently the first Bond girl of the franchise, is lip smacking for Bond despite him having completely wasted her at the Chemin de Fer table. A clear message has been sent to the audience: women want Bond. Characters in the same vein as Sylvia would return throughout the series, women who find Bond irresistible and immediately go after him. They don’t present much of a challenge for Bond, and are therefore often the least interesting Bong girls, but they remind the viewer (as if they needed a reminder) that he can pretty much any woman he desires.

Ms. Taro

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Ms. Taro is another variety of Bond girl. She’s the kind who may actually be attracted to Bond physically, but who will not give in without a fight, mostly because she and 007 are worked for opposite sides. She acts as Professor Dent’s office secretary, although in actuality she is, like the professor, an enemy agent working for the nefarious Dr. No sent to trip up Bond in his assignment. From very early on Bond is suspicious of her presence, and when they meet up for a ‘date’ at her place, the viewer knows something is up. They’re basically enemy spies playing each other, or trying to out play each other, and while their game won’t end well for one of them, there’s always time for a quick shag before the knives come out. There’s a perverse nature about this behaviour. As one of the spies in this situation, your ultimate goal is to either stall or perhaps liquidate your opposite number, and yet you’re willing to offer them some temptation and some pleasure before stabbing them in the back. Send to them heaven before you send them to hell.

Honey Ryder

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Honey is the Bond girl of the film, therefore, it seems fairly obvious that 007 will win her over in the end. There have been Bond girls of all stripes, from computer scientists, nuclear physicists, thieves to spies. Some were steadfast in their independence, while others were more susceptible to Bond’s charm or relied more on his help. Honey is one of the few who possessed all those qualities. When she is unsure of Bond’s intentions, she displays a stern defensive posture. As has already been discussed in a previous article (Dr. No: style), she retells her murder of a landlord who had abused her some time ago. Upon discovering that 007 is in fact one of the ‘good guys’, she warms up to him, even looks for comfort with him once both are snared in Dr. No’s secret lair. She’s a great hybrid of the intrepid and resilient with a touch of vulnerability. Who doesn’t want a smart, free thinking woman who also wants the comfort of her partner? Despite her adventurous past and current vagabond lifestyle, there is evidently a softer side to her, which makes her appealing to any man with half a brain. 007 has more than half a brain though, make no mistake about it.

Ms. Moneypenny

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A character who only makes fleeting appearances in the Fleming novels, Ms. Moneypenny is a regular supporting character in the films, starting with Dr. No. Before anyone gets their boxers or panties in a knot, Ms. Moneypenny does not succumb to Bond’s charms, not entirely at least (how could she anyways? That would be a violation of government property). I’m not implying that that under different circumstances she would necessarily give in, although I do have my theory about that, but virtually all of their scenes together throughout the series are swimming with sexual tension and innuendos. Bond can’t resist flirting with Ms. Moneypenny. She’s intelligent, loyal and attractive in a classy kind of way and, most of all, he can’t have her. He takes great pleasure teasing around with her. Whether he expects or even wants to start something serious is another matter altogether, but Bond does use the barrier office rules to engage in ridiculously flirtatious banter, touching and even kissing. He’s safe behind that barrier despite bending it all the time. I don’t even think Bond and Ms. Moneypenny are afraid of the possibilities at this point in their ‘relationship.’ They know nothing will happen, not until one of them leaves the Service, but are adult enough to admit that they like each other’s…company let’s just say. Of all the women Bond shows interest towards in the series, his relationship with Moneypenny is the most satisfying and the most frustrating. The satisfaction comes from the fact that we see them together in almost every film, with very few exceptions. This is unlike with any of the other woman 007 succeeds in seducing, all of whom are gone as quickly as they came. But Moneypenny is always there, sitting outside M’s office, always teasing Bond is very suggestive ways. The frustration stems from the fact that their relationship never a point beyond teasing and pickup lines. What if?…What if?… That possibility left to the imagination of the viewer.

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Dr. No makes it obvious that sex is at the forefront of the Bond films. The protagonist sleeps with three very different women (a rich socialite who chases after him, a spy with whom he engages a game of deception and seduction, and the principal Bond girl du jour) and teases his boss’ secretary. If the latter gave in, that would make it four women in a single film. This is in 1962, not 2009… Producer Harry Saltzman has been quoted for saying that, as he watched Sean Connery walk across the street after his interview, the Scottish actor moved like a ‘big jungle cat.’ There’s something very telling about that comment in regards to the effect James Bond has on the other characters in his world and the audiences who cheer him on or fantasize about him. His sex appeal crosses tastes and styles, unlike many other cinematic heroes who have been lauded for their own kind of sex appeal. Indiana Jones can be called sexy, but that’s a completely different kind of sex appeal. He’s a bit dirty, a bit rough around the edges, a bit scruffy, etc. It’s a kind of sexiness. Bond, however, can display the rough and gritty ‘manly man’ qualities of an Indiana Jones or John McClain, but can become the classiest and most sophisticated man in the room only five minutes later. His British class (and snotty cockiness, let’s be honest) mixed with a wild side, a side that can thoroughly kick someone’s ass or a game of seduction with a beautiful woman. There’s nothing prude about this limy.

Male fans find 007 cool, while female fans find him yummy, but all this is just affection towards a piece of fiction. With the sheer quantity of woman the spy beds, without protection no less, he’s a pig who takes women just as easily as he leaves them. Vesper would deduce in Casino Royale (2006) that Bond views women as ‘disposable pleasures as opposed to meaningful pursuits. Whether or not she is spot on in that assessment of Bond’s attitude towards women is an intriguing question, but one that I’ll discuss another time. Suffice to say that Bond’s exploits are the fictional, cinematic representation of the erotic fantasies of many people. Any man, or woman for that matter, who in the real world tries to do what Bond does is flirting with danger. The emotional baggage often attached to sex, the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases associated with sexual promiscuity on such a scale, are both issues not to be taken lightly. In a strange way, that’s why the character of Bond works so well and why he has earned a legion of tremendously loyal fans. He doesn’t have to worry about any of those issues because they are essentially non-factors (for the most part) in his world. He exists where many of us would like to, if only maybe for a day or two. Acts of debauchery and considerable promiscuity go unpunished due to a complete lack of consequences. It’s a world that can only exist in our uninhibited imaginations where sexual pleasure is the special ‘du jour’, every jour. What that says about ourselves as people would make for a fascinating discussion. Are we eternally unsatisfied with what we have? Must we always have more, and more, and more? Why does temptation in the shape of another being arise when are involved in a relationship with someone we care for and already feel attracted to? Does sex really control us to such a high degree? I’m not at all equipped to answer those questions adequately, but suffice to say that when it comes to movie going audiences, sex sells and will for a long time to come.

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~ by edgarchaput on September 14, 2009.

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