Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest

When I was small, I loved James Bond. I wanted to be James Bond. I watched the films, I read the books and I even went through a phase of wearing a black bow-tie, which is perhaps a little odd for an eight year old girl.

When I realised that I wasn't actually going to grow up to be a man (an illusion I had been under for some time), I looked to the women in the Bond films. Well, I say women, but these are Bond Girls, and are referred to as girls throughout the films. Perhaps because they behave like girls, like the girliest of girlie girls, even when they were supposed to be spies themselves or scientists or in other roles where you'd think they would need an ounce of common sense. Thus I went right off James Bond.

But watching Casino Royale last night (which is pretty good by the way), it occurs to me that there may still be a role in the world of Bond that I can still aspire to.

Let me just check the list now. I guess I need...

1. A name which sounds exotic, sinsiter or has the word gold somewhere in it. Well that's sorted; I am the Goldfish. I'm sure Shirley Bassey could sing a song about me over a graphic sequence involving naked ladies and revolvers for the opening titles.

2. Facial disfigurement, suggesting vanity is at the heart of my megalomania. Well, I have acne and while this isn't much to complain about, it is often a relatively minor disfigurement that marks the villain out. One gets the impression that, should any wealthy man wake up and notice a half decent zit on his nose, his soul would turn instantly to darkness.

3. An emasculating physical impairment rendering one unable to take Bond on in hand-to-hand combat. Yeah, I've got one of those. When you met Mr Le Shifty, the baddie in Casino Royale, you knew not to trust him because he had asthma.

4. An imposingly proportioned sidekick, who says little, has some martial arts training and preferably some sort of violent gimmick. Yup. Not sure about the gimmick though.

5. A hi-tech secret lair. Well, we have a wireless Internet connection and I'm sure I could quite happily conduct a life of super-villainy from this location and nobody would suspect a thing. I even have a mobile phone somewhere, but it doesn't have a SIM card.

6. At least one beautiful female lover with a saucy-sounding name who is prepared to betray me at the drop of a double-entendre. Hmm, I’ll have to work on that. The head of Scarborough Council is called Eileen Bosomworth, which I always considered a great name for a Bond Girl. As is Virginia Bottomley, come to think of it.

7. A deep-seated ambition to take over the world, destroy the world and/ or make a lot more money than I'll ever need. That's true actually. I know I go on a lot about liberty and equality, but really I'd much rather people just did what I told them. I'm sure the world would be a better place for it.

8. A good imagination for slow and elaborate ways with which I might dispose of my nemesis, preferably involving animals.
I reckon I can manage this. I could cover James Bond in peanut butter and set the squirrels on him. Oh dear, now I've got a mental picture of Daniel Craig covered in peanut butter. And squirrels. Oh dear.

9. A small army of anonymous henchmen prepared to give their lives for my cause despite the fact that none of them can hit a moving target, their supplied weapons jam frequently, and they often go to their deaths in a vaguely comical manner.
Now that might be a problem; I am currently rather short of henchmen. I wonder if I could recruit people through a reality television programme? My Queer Eye is how you know I'm a Bad Guy, or Celebrity Death Island. (There was Trigger Happy TV of course, but I actually quite liked that one).

Given that all stereotypes are necessarily misinformative and therefore undesirable, this has to be one of the least offensive commonplace representations of disability in film and fiction. These are chippy crips; rich and powerful, often geniuses, in fact. Okay, so there is the small matter of them being evil and dangerous, but at least they are being taken seriously. Better that than being sacharine tragic heroes or else simply absent from the picture altogether.

Of course, it's not just the Bond movies and when I think of it, there aren't many Bond villains with significant mobility impairments - although mean wheelies are a staple in action and spy movies. And I don't really get it. What is it about physical impairment which is shorthand for angelic victimhood in one context but deadly menace in another? Or is it simply the idea of power in the hands of those who are usually powerless - in the same way that wealthy and suceessful women are so frequently cast as super-bitches?

Amazingly enough, I couldn't find a list of disabled characters in Bond movies anywhere on-line. So I shall attempt to compile one - please add to it if you can think of any more. I will include those with facial scarring, but not Scaramanga's third nipple. I realise there are scars and scars; only some would result in social disability.

List of Bond Villains with Physical Impairments

Dr No (Doctor No) - double arms amputee, has bionic metal prosthetics, good for cracking nuts.
Tee Hee Johnson (Live and Let Die) - lost his arm to a aligator, has fancy metal replacement.
Jaws (Various) - has metal teeth, presumably a result of a tragic dental accident. Is also of a considerable height.
Oddjob (Goldfinger) - is non-verbal.
Whisper (Live and Let Die) - uh, speech impediment, possible respiratory illness.
Blofeld (Various) - wheelchair-user, sometimes with a facial scar.
Le Chiffre (Casino Royal) - asthma and facial scar, including a damaged tearduct which would weep blood.
Emilio Largo (Thunderball) - wears an eyepatch.
Scarpine (A View to A Kill) - facial scar.
Alex Trevelyan (Golden Eye) - facial burns.
Max Zorin (Tomorrow Never Dies) - facial scar.
Zao (Die Another Day) - facial scarring involving bits of metal imbedded in his skin.
Elektra King (The World is Not Enough) - disfigured ear.
Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun) - dwarfism.
Renard (The World is Not Enough) - brain injury resulting in loss of taste, smell and experience of pain.
Mr Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies) - neurological condition which reverses the experiences of pain and pleasure.

[The Three Blind Mice (Doctor No) - Assassins who pretended to be blind.]


Mary said...

That's an impressive list! Regrettably I cannot assist as I have none of the Bond movies.

I have a theory that part of the Disabled Villain Thing might be AB people's experience of, say, a broken arm or leg. For a few weeks they get the pain, the anger, the sense of injustice, the being-patronised, the funny looks, the frustration of restricted ability, not to mention spending a lot of time when they would have been doing other things, being spent indoors thinking far too much.

Perhaps the evil and warped supervillain is just a writer's imaginary extension of what might happen to a person after years like that - neglecting the "getting over it/used to it" part of the process.

Timbo said...

Great post.

I love Nick Nack. I mean, what a classic character with a classic name.

And I actually AM Max Zorin. Airship and all.

BloggingMone said...

I have been watching all of the Bond movies and do have most of them on DVD, but this list is really impressive. It never occured to me that so many characters were disabled, a wider sense. I especially like that bloke with metal teeth.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the connection between evil and disability could be in the mind of Ian Fleming himself?

Apparently he did have some odd neuroses, one of which was a hatred of physicality in most of its manifestations; for example, he could not stand any reference to or evidence of bodily elimination.

Just a thought.

fluttertongue said...

Did you ever see unbreakable? Similar thing. I always wanted to grow up to be a man when I was young - I think because I knew I'd be taken more seriously in my very scientific or bug-related job.

Gone Fishing said...

Well amazingly enough I was also reading this today and thought Hmmm maybe its fits in here too
Have a read.

Sally said...

Re No. 9 - I am willing to bet we Blogging Crips are all willing henchman of the Goldfish.

I too as a young child thought I would grow up to be a man, which is odd as where I grew up I thought that meant working in the coal mines ! Which says a lot about the invisibility of females in society 50 (yes 50!) years ago. I was so so relieved when at 6 I realised I could be a shorthand-typist instead.

At the risk of being AWEFULLY politically incorrect, I once knew someone with a third nipple, and he turned out to be really evil, really.

I am now looking forward even more, to the DVD rental company posting Casino Royal in time for the weekend.

Disgruntled Ladye said...

I wanted to be James Bond. I watched the films, I read the books and I even went through a phase of wearing a black bow-tie, which is perhaps a little odd for an eight year old girl.

You weren't the only little girl like that. Though, I didn't wear a bow-tie, I had some neckties and wore them quite frequently.

You didn't mention M being played by Judy Dench recently. I remember my father being so upset that they cast a woman in that role (stupid chauvinist pig that he can be). I, on the other hand, was thrilled. At least there was one intelligent non-bimbo woman in the films!

For your viewing pleasure, every James Bond movie trailer is here.

Anonymous said...

A *very* silly theme tune for "Goldfish" (please, as the lady herself says, imagine Shirley Bassey)

The fastest fin on two wheels.
Her lair is fully DDA compliant.
She'll dazzle you with her sparkling wit; but if you cross her, watch out for that flash of gold.

Anonymous said...

DOH! Brainfog strikes again. I don't know why I often forget the front wheels on a chair.... Oh well, a better second line anyway:
The smartest fin in the bowl

n. said...

i would like to apply to be a henchperson. i cetainly "can't hit a moving target" (or usually even a stationary one). if my nightmares are at all accurate, i will probably "go to my death in a vaguely comical manner".
i have already been suspected of being a minion in neurodivergent circles, but i am hoping i could be a double-agent.

Anonymous said...

Also, Scaramanga has a 3rd nipple.
Regards, Gwen.