To What Extent Do Bond Films Follow A Standard Formula To Deliver Pleasure? Illustrate Your Answer By Comparing One Early & One Late Bond Film.
Within this essay I will include a brief description of Bond films and will lead to how Bond films deliver pleasure, it will then use the examples of the early film Dr. No and the more recent Bond film Goldeneye to express the methods used for pleasure deliverance.
James Bond can be seen a s a popular hero a form of cultural phenomenon, Bond is said to be:
(Bennett & Woollacott, 1987: 11)
It is very difficult to think of a similar character who has been continuously popular and to the same level over the same period of time, Bond is seen as if he was a real person .
Bond films can be said to follow a certain formula which relates to each novel and ultimately each film, there is a stock formula . In each film there is a concept of a plot, the regular and repeatable factors which reoccur these include the locations, events and characters; the plot which is a designated sequence of events which occur but not necessarily in the same order and the narrative, is the way the plot and story are used to tell the story in a different way (Bennett & Woollacott, 1987) . This all leads to the concept of the ‘Bond Phenomenon’, the films open with the traditional theme and logo which includes the credits with silhouettes of naked women, there is then the briefing of Bond for the mission, a flirt with Miss Moneypenny, the gadgets from Q, the trip to an exotic location; the long awaited ‘Bond, James Bond’ a game of skill, the meeting with the girl and combat with the bad guy. Bond eventually over comes the girl and the bad guy and the film concludes with ‘James Bond will return in...’.
Above was a basic description of the formula Eco (1981) looks into this with more detail, he states that the Bond formula is a variant in the typical traditional fairy tale, he believes that in the novels and subsequently in the films that there are nine moves which occur but not necessarily in the same order:
A - M gives a task to Bond.
B - The villain appears to Bond.
C - Bond gives first check to villain or vice versa.
D - ‘The girl’ shows herself to Bond.
E - Bond posses the girl or begins her seduction.
F - Villain captures Bond then the girl or at the same time.
G - The villain tortures Bond and sometimes the girl.
H - Bond beats the villain, killing him or his representatives.
I - Bond possesses the girl whom he then losses, she either leaves him or is killed.
The whole factor of the Bond formula is to attract an international audience, various lines are added to attract American audiences; also within the films countries such as Russia cannot be constantly put down especially as they want to sell the film to them.
The formulas are both similar, the predictability of the films is one part of the success and popularity of the Bond films, other factors which add to the pleasure of Bond films are; the high tech gadgets which are given to Bond by Q which show British ingenuity and seem to be vital for the assignment, these are present in each Bond film but have developed into a major feature in the more recent films, the gadgets also relates to the idea of boys and their toys and are often seen as jokes in the films, they can open up contradictions in the images of patriotism, professionalism and sexuality (Barker & Beezer 1992).
Bond films generally open with a spectacular stunt which in some cases can be seen as completely unbelievable but still Bond has the ability to achieve the impossible, also through out the whole film there are various stunts with amazing explosions and up to date special effects, which are often located at exotic places or countries.
Eco (1981) suggests that there are five levels of analysis they are values, where Bond represents Englishness; a sense of fair play and sophistication for example the English cars and the scenes of London, play where the film is predictable and is seen to be played as a game and following a formula, Manichean ideologies where there is a two fold view of the world such as good and bad there is no in between or fuzziness, montage where contrasts are included to convey meanings and the fifth level is literary techniques where all of the characters are basic which starts the plot quickly so all characters and villains are identified quickly.
Through out Bond films there are also binaries, these are used to convey beliefs whether political or ideological, some of these are Bond vs M, Bond vs the villain, the free world vs USSR, loyalty vs disloyalty and Bond vs women just to name a few. Bond vs women is a commonly discussed part of Bond films, the girls are usually scantily clad and are in some way sexually abnormal, for example Pussy Galore is seen to be a lesbian and Honey Rider a virgin, they are all expressed as being sexually available to Bond who then restores then to normality by seducing them.
The Bond girls names are also sexually hinted such as Honey Rider, Pussy Galore, Plenty O’Toole and Goodhead.
The Bond girls are said to free the male sexuality, they also are said to make the films popular with women because of their ‘liberated sexuality’ especially when the films first were released in the 1960s, they offered a sense of sexual desire without the fear of marriage or punishment, a form of escape from domesticity. This sexual freedom in the progressive ‘New Wave’ films of the same time where sexuality for reasons other than procreation offers the audience a comparative freedom and could be a reason why the films are so popular with men and women. (Bennett & Woollacott 1987). Following on from the Bond girls is the Phallic code which has been related Freudian opinions of Bond which can be a conscious or unconscious form of pleasure, the guns are seen as phallic symbols and various remarks are made about the gun that Bond uses (Baretta) and its size! These factors are supposed to relate to and appeal to our desires. Also relating to the phallus is the way that Bond is always tortured in some way of phallic castration, such as the lasers, circular saw or Dr. No’s metal claw all aimed at Bonds groin; these show ‘eroticisation’ of the torture scenes with Bond’s genitals being the potential victim! With the Freudian ‘male gaze’ Bond has developed into a figure of social acceptance whilst at the same time rejecting marriage, domestic sexuality and in some ways introduced a form of liberated masculinity. (Barker & Beezer 1992).
This can be linked to Mulvey (1981) who discusses the scopophillic instinct where people gain pleasure from looking at another person as an erotic object such as them being in a vulnerable position or state of undress, this not only for male pleasure.
Both Freudian and Mulveys (1981) ideas can be linked to Barthes (1977) who states that there are hidden pleasurable meanings in some of the signs which are demonstrated in the film, another form of pleasure is available to the audience; this called ‘jouissance’.
Bond films also follow a imperialism code, where in all cases the villains are conspiring to threaten the peace and the security of the ‘free world’ which is represents as Britain or the US, where every time Britain is superior to the other nations. Bond competes with Russia majority of the time and outwits them despite them having a superior organisation, he competes against SMERSH, which is a Soviet organisation and SPECTRE which is concerned with international threat of some form. The west is seen as having freedom and individualism where as the comparison country has bureaucratic rigidity (Bennett & Woollacott 1987).
The villains in all Bond films also seem to have some form of physical defect or disability such as Dr. No has claws for hands due to an accident with chemicals.
A main part of all Bond films which is considered pleasurable is intertextuality, this where there is a system of references to other texts within a single text; an example of this is in The Spy Who Loved Me, the villain is called Jaws and has metal teeth this is in relation to the film Jaws which was released at the same time, also Pussy Galore played by Honor Blackman is related to the Avengers along with Roger Moore’s association with The Saint. People seem to enjoy relating actors or subject to other things they know
This intertextuality in films has been considered a reason for women’s pleasure in Bond films, they are said to find romance , this is in association with the pleasure found in women’s fiction, a form of romantic fiction which is linked with the females identity and their appearance (Bennett & Woollacott 1987). Romance is particularly important in structuring women’s response to Bond, this may be the form of escapism and fantasy which is expressed and played on in the films.
It is more complex then males identifying with male heroes and women identifying with heroines, personal and external fantasies of the fiction need to be identified. Amis (1965) has stated that male readers including himself want to ‘be Bond’, males want to have the popularity, charm and irresistibility from women that Bond has, he has the gadgets and excitement that every man would surely want.
All of the Bond films after the credits finish with: James Bond will return ....., this is to add suspense and is the first part of promotion for the future coming Bond film.
All of these factors together add to the pleasures which are gained from watching Bond films, these factors will now be related to two different Bond films, Dr. No and Goldeneye. Dr. No was the very first Bond film and was made into a film in 1962, it does not open with the now familiar Bond shooting at a black background and red dribbling down the screen, but is a prime example of the Bond formula which has previously been mentioned.
It begins with part B - Strangways and his assistant Mary Trueblood being killed.
A - M assigns Bond to his mission.
B - there is a tarantula left in Bonds bed.
C - Bond making his first check to the villains,.
D - Miss Honey Rider then appears to Bond on the beach at Crab Key.
B - Honey Riders canoe is destroyed and Bond takes her under his wing.
F - both are captured and are taken to Dr. No’s headquarters.
G - both are subjected to torture.
Dr. No is then killed through a variety of stunts and clever escape techniques.
E - Bond and Honey Rider are stranded in a boat.
I - film ends, Bond is destined to lose Honey Rider as later in The Man With The Golden Gun that she marries and has two children.
Along with the Bond formula is the predictability in Bond film such as when Bond is shot at he never gets injured or killed; it can also be guaranteed that if a difficult stunt need to be done to escape Bond will always achieve it with very little effort. An example of this in the film is when Bond is being chased in his car and a crane is blocking the road, Bond manages to fit underneath the crane and the henchmen following end up falling off the side of the cliff.
Other pleasures which are experienced by watching Bond films are the unconscious pleasures such as the phallic code, once again there is the threat of castration by Dr. No’s claws for hands (a disabled villain), there is also Bonds change of gun to a PPK, his previous gun was referred to as a ladies gun and that he should change it for a larger and more powerful masculine gun, this gun change could also be related to M wanting to protect Bond in a fatherly figure kind of way.
There is little gadgetry in Dr. No this may be relating to the year that it was made and at that time there wasn’t a great deal of high tech gadgetry around, this was compensated by clever but simple techniques such as leaving talcum powder across his brief case dial and placing a hair across doors to see if anyone had entered the room or Bond, Honey and Quarrel using reeds to breath at Crab Key.
The Bond girl in this film also had a sexually related or phallic name, Honey Rider, as already stated she was considered to be a virgin and sexually confused, Bond then took her under his wing and transformed her back to normality sexually once he had slept with her. Along with Honey Rider Bond also has his way with Miss Taro who is sexually available to Bond.
There is also intertextuality with Dr. No, when Bond and the girl are captured and taken to Dr. No’s hideout there is a painting of the Duke of Wellington, at the time of the release of the film that painting was stolen from the National Gallery, a form of irony. This relates the film to reality and to actual events that are occurring in real life at the present time.
The imperialism in Dr. No is that he is a member of SPECTRE which is the Special Executive for Counter - intelligence, Terror, Revenge and Extortion which is also related to the Soviet Union and Bond is in a contest with them a demonstration of a binary, even though they are highly advanced Bond still manages to overcome them. (Bennett & Woollacott, 1987)
Within this film there is racism to the villain as he is disabled as stated all Bond villains seem to be defective in some way or are coloured, if they are not a villain and black they are usually a worker or servant below Bond.
In comparison Goldeneye will now be looked at, Goldeneye was made in 1995 and show the traditional formula such as the threats of global domination but this time by the Russian Mafia, it also has a lot more modern factors relating to it but still has the original Bond formula, which is demonstrated below. The film opens with a spectacular stunt sequence as Bond jumps off a dam with a type of bungee rope and lands on his feet,
B - the villain appears to Bond.
C - Bond sees villain as 006 is captured this shows Bond vs Russian Mafia, a binary. Bond then escapes and performs an almost unbelievable stunt as he rides a motorbike off a cliff after a plane and manages to land in the plane and steer it from danger, this scene may be seen as being over the top but pleasurable.
Opening sequence which is traditional, this is the beginning to the phallic code of the film as the girls are naked and are dancing over guns.
D - Bond meets the ‘girl’, they have a car race an image of a strong women trying to beat him at his own game, the car could be seen as the size of his ego!
D - Bond meets Onnatop at a card game.
A - Bond is given his mission by M.
D - Onnatop tries to crush Bond between her thighs in a steam room, a bizarre form of seduction.
E - Bond makes Onnatop take him to the opposition.
F - Bond is captured with Natalia another ‘girl’ who is a computer programmer.
D - they meet again trapped in a helicopter.
F - both are captured again.
F - both escape then Natalia is captured.
G - 006 then returns as a bad guy and asks Bond whether to save the girl or his country.
E - they escape and Bond posses the girl.
H - Bond beats the opposition.
I - Bond possesses Natalia.
The film concludes with the same credits and finishes with ‘James Bond will return...’.
Within this film there are a lot of pleasurable factors, the gadgets play a large part in the film, Q has a major role giving Bond ingenious gadgets which conveniently are needed later in the film, the imperialism factor is not against the Russians but this time the Russian Mafia, also relating this to nationalism 006 asks Bond to save him ‘for England’ even though he believes he was betrayed by the British government that is why he changed sides. Once again in the film there is a sexually hinted female name which is Onnatop, she along with Natalia are shown as strong women and intelligent, it has been said that Michael Apted wanted less sexism in the new films and to show stronger women having brains rather then beauty.
There are also various statements made which have double meanings such as James being a ‘cunning linguist’ and various innuendoes made to Bond from Miss Moneypenny. Another strong women demonstrated in Goldeneye is M who is now played by a women, she is strong and firm to Bond and does not fall for his charms.
There is only a small amount of intertextuality in Goldeneye, a reference could be made to the detective programme ‘Cracker’ as Robbie Coltrane plays Valentine in the film.
Overall Goldeneye has sign of almost all of the demonstrated pleasurable part of Bond films.
To make a comparison of the two films the years at which they were made need to be considered, Goldeneye has spectacular stunts and high tech gadgetry but at the time when Dr.No was made this kind of technology was not available but the gadgets and stunts in the film were equivalent to the year it was set in.
Both of the films contain some form of phallus, usually the girls names and the statements made about Bonds gun size, the difference is that in 1962 when Dr. No was filmed there were very different views on sexuality to what they are now even though at the year they were filmed they were still quite sexually liberated. The women in the more recent films are stronger women such as the female M, it has also been said that the last girl in bikini is in Goldeneye and the future Bond films are going to become more politically correct (1997. Ian Fleming [online] 007 News: Available from: http://www.ianfleming.news/articles/bond19bikinis.shtml [accessed on 06/10/99]
Overall in both films there is the demonstration of the Bond formula there are differences in the order but they still follow the same routine which delivers pleasure, they both contain the women with sexually hinted names and all of the women are all available to Bond. Both films contain binaries such as Bond vs Russia which involve the viewers so they can relate easier, they also both contain inter textualities such as the casino and car chase scenes in Goldeneye are present in Dr. No these both add to the predictability and for some people the pleasure of Bond films. Also the fact that for each film the audience is probably still wanting to be Bond and all the advantages that come with it, such as his irresistibility to women.
Semiotics also play a role in both films, in the way the film makers deliberately introduces pleasures and the pleasures the audience brings with them outside the film makers and the formula.
With all of these factors together and appealing to the many different types of people who watch Bond films there must be something which appeals to everyone to make them so popular with the public.
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