Thursday, 1 November 2012

A reply to Giles Corran

I'm posting this here as I don't want to lose it.  It's a response by me to a blog by Giles Corran on Skyfall (here -  I agree with a lot of the post, but had a couple of issues with it.  I don't know if this will get through moderation there, but I hope that it does, if not, its here for everyone to enjoy.

I like this article, and enjoyed the questions that it brings to me regarding the film.  I don't have answers to all of your points, but I do have points regarding two of them.  This means my reply contains slightly more spoilers than your article, so some people may not want to read it.  Just a (I hope) helpful warning to those that haven't yet seen it.

"1) Judi Dench’s ‘M’ dies, and is replaced by a man;"

'M' dying is interesting, as part of the film, I don't think that this is a problem.  I really liked Judi Dench as 'M', and am sad that she has left.  However nor do I have a huge problem with the new 'M' being male.  What sort of a mess would we be in if we could couldn't change the sex of someone in a job?  It might have been more interesting to see more candidates for the role, but I'm not sure that this is realistic in terms of the amount that the film can show.  
As such I'm not certain that a charge of sexism can be leveled here, but I do appreciate having to consider it, which I wouldn't have done so much otherwise.

"3) The pretty girl who manages to remain chaste despite Bond’s ‘charms’ is rewarded at the end with a job as his secretary."

I also have to take this one up.  Sadly Giles, you've made a fundamental factual error.  Moneypenny is not Bond's secretary.  This is an important point.  She never has been in any of the films.  She is the private personal secretary to the head of MI6, which is hardly a lowly post.  
Sadly secretaries are now often underrated. Proper secretarial trained people are extremely highly skilled and trained, and the post of personal private secretary of MI6 is not just going to be given to just anyone.  
Moneypenny is shown throughout the film as being highly capable, Bond's attitude to her might not be great (the constant ribbing starts to grate a little after a while) but that's Bond, and doesn't make the whole film sexist.  I'd also like to point out that I don't feel that the job was given as a 'reward' for her actions during the film.  In fact, it's explicitly stated that she's been seconded to cover the transition period between the service heads changing, during her suspension from field service having shot Bond (a shot that she was unhappy about taking and was pushed into by 'M').  This implies to me that she has a wide ranging knowledge of the organisation as a whole, a skill that would by highly valued be someone such as the new 'M' who has just started with the service.
Once again, I'm not sure that the (factually incorrect) point you've made is so much a sexist point, as a failing to appreciate the skills of properly trained secretarial staff.

I'm not going to disagree that the film is in some ways sexist. To an extent I expect it in a Bond film, and would be far more surprised if it wasn't.  I was however fairly pleasantly surprised by how little there was.  I find it interesting that other far more mainstream writers have agreed with me (see for one).

Over the last few weeks, I've been watching the stories coming out of the Everyday Sexism project (see for more details on that).  Many of these fill me with horror, some of them make me question things that I see day to day, and some of them make me question where boundaries are and where they should be.  I'm flagging it here as I hope that both of you find it as interesting and challenging as I have.

Thank you for putting this article into the public domain, and allowing us to comment on it, and thank you to Esther, for letting Giles post this here.  I would like to say once again how much I enjoyed it (and the comments after it too).

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