The Changing Representation of Hegemonic Masculinity in Recent James Bond Films

A Case Study on Casino Royale

Term Paper, 2020

16 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. Background knowledge: Hegemonic masculinity, gender performativity and James Bond formula

3. Definitions and premises

4. Main chapter
4.1 Summary: Casino Royale
4.2 Case Study: Casino Royale

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Even though Casino Royale (2006) is not a Hollywood film, I decided to choose it as my main source for analyzing masculinity in film. As the analytical approach of Hollywood films does not differ from the one used for British films and as Casino Royale was also produced in western society, the underlying values and norms do not differ to a great extent. Thus, using Casino Royale as the main source, will offer as much output as a Hollywood film would.

A major reason for choosing Casino Royale was that the James Bond film series is one of the most influential ones, the world has ever seen. The series, starting with Dr. No, which was released in 1962, compiles 25 films from which Spectre (2015) is the most recent one. Due to the series’ longevity, it has reached and influenced several generations and even though Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, did not want to convey any meaning or political standpoint, his works and their adaptions caused several debates and controversies (cf. Fleming 14). One of the films’ most criticized aspects is their toxic representation of masculinity and the males’ attitude towards women.

An example for that is a video showing some of James Bond’s most inappropriate moments, that reached over nine million views on social media, indicating that the issue is highly controversial.1 The video shows scenes from several James Bond films e.g. Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) or For Your Eyes Only (1981). One of the most striking incidents happens in a scene from Goldfinger. Sean Connery’s Bond introduces Dink, a masseuse, to Felix, a CIA agent. Bond tells Felix “say hello to Dink” and then tells Dink “say goodbye to Felix”. The scene ends with Bond telling Dink that now “man talk” and slapping her backside while pushing her away (Hamilton: 1964).

Scenes like that are a reason to claim that James Bond films portray toxic masculinities, which inspire and influence its audience, young and old. As the just mentioned films are from the 60s and 80s, the question this paper will try to answer is whether more recent Bond films such as Casino Royale, still contain masculinities which define themselves through sexist or violent attitudes towards women and if those masculinities can be classed as hegemonic ones. That question is highly interesting because, as Julian Dörr from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung says, Bond’s role is a mirror of society and its masculinity (cf. Dörr: 2018). Thus, this paper will show that recent James Bond films such as Casino Royale portray different, less toxic and less sexist representations of masculinity because changes in society and the promotion of emancipation have also influenced western film making. In order to check if that thesis can be proofed, the general construction of James Bond’s masculinity will be analyzed and deconstructed. This will be done by following certain premises which will be explained in chapter 3.

2. Background knowledge: Hegemonic masculinity, gender performativity and James Bond formula

There has always been superiority and subordination in society, but only since Antonio Gramsci analyzed the social hierarchy of classes, this natural phenomenon has been transferred to other disciplines, e.g. the study of masculinities. In classes, as well as in masculinities, there is always one variety which takes on the dominant position and suppresses the others. In the case of masculinity, Raewyn Connell, a well-known scholar in this field, calls that variety hegemonic masculinity (cf. Connell 77). Hegemonic masculinity subsumes all the values, norms and attitudes a man should allegedly strive for.

To strengthen the dominant position, these values are being frequently reproduced in institutions such as media or politics. They “[…] all serve the project of male dominance through their capacity to promote and validate the ideologies underpinning hegemonic masculinity” (Whitehead 91). Two of these promoters are western action films or series. They perform “[…] a set of repeated acts […]” which are said to represent masculine norms and therefore stabilize the hegemonic masculinity. (Butler 45) Butler, different to the general assumption that “[t]rue masculinity is almost always […] proceed[ed] from men’s bodies [or] to be inherent in a male body” (Whitehead 45), argues that only through performance, which she calls gender performativity, gender is constructed (Butler XV).

This also happens in the James Bond film series. Bond performs certain actions which are in accordance with the societal assumptions of what is said to be masculine. Due to these repeated performances, hegemonic masculinity can suppress and marginalize woman or other varieties of masculinity, such as homosexual ones. The paradoxical part of this marginalization is that “[…] not many men actually meet the normative standards” of hegemonic masculinity but still accept it as the goal to strive for (Connell 79).

Different to other film series, James Bond films especially foster the reproduction of hegemonic structures. Every Bond film, to a greater or lesser extent, follows the same sequences, called ‘Bond Formula’ (Berger 120-121). Mostly, the first sequence shows M, the chief of the MI6, giving Bond a task. After having received the task, Bond has an encounter with the villain and starts trying to kill him/her2. In the meantime, he always meets a girl to stress his masculine attitudes through contrasting them with the feminine ones. According to Connell, without that contrast, even outside of film, masculinity would not exist (cf. Connell 68). The following sequences are about Bond or the girl being captured and tortured. After that, Bond kills the villain, finally seduces the girl and mostly loses her afterwards. Due to the repeated contrast of Bond and the villain, Bond’s attributes are glorified and his behavior is easily perceived as normal. Therefore, the internal structure, the so called ‘Bond Formula’ and the opposing attributes and beliefs of Bond and the villain3, consolidate hegemonic structures by normalizing them.

3. Definitions and premises

When analyzing certain aspects of a film, it is always useful to establish working definitions. It helps researchers to set their focus and to not drift off from the initial topic. Even though clearly defining your research subject is very helpful, in the case of masculinity in film it is quite hard to break it down to one definition. Firstly because “different societies and cultures throughout history have constructed their own distinct types of masculinity” (Tan, Shaw, Cheng, Ko Kim 238). These types of masculinities consist of sets of attributes which are used to characterize a typical man. Secondly, cultural beliefs, including norms, values and attitudes, have always been undergoing change. Due to that, the assumption of what exactly constitutes masculinity, is also changing. Therefore, it is not possible to compile an overall definition which includes every type of masculinity.

As it is still essential to define what is meant when talking about masculinity, I have chosen to follow Patricia Sexton’s conception of masculine norms. For her, “male norms stress values such as courage, inner direction, certain forms of aggression, autonomy, mastery, technological skill, group solidarity, adventure and considerable amounts of toughness in mind and body” (qtd. in Donaldson 644). Because these aspects of masculinity are in large parts socially accepted in western society, and Casino Royale was also filmed and mostly watched in this society, Sexton’s conception of masculine norms can be applied. Furthermore, her definition comprises norms which are, according to Connell, necessary to gain a hegemonic position.

To analyze the filmic representation of masculinity in Casino Royale, I decided to limit my research to four different sites of masculinity. All four sides contain information about how masculinity is shown and constructed within film and enable a clearer understanding of what is said to be masculine. These sides are derived from Pat Kirkham’s and Janet Thumin’s book “You Tarzan: Masculinity, Movies and Men” and are called “the body, action, the external world and the internal world” (Kirkham & Thumin 11). “The body” refers to the character’s physical appearance and how it is presented to the audience. Besides that, the actor’s own persona also becomes part of the analysis. “The action” concentrates on visual depictions of ‘masculine’ activities such as fights, sporting competitions or aggressive outbursts, mainly it looks at “the male body in action” and does not just approach him as an object (Kirkham & Thumin 11-12). “The external world” focusses on the interplay between male characters and institutions or women within the film. Additionally, it is concerned with the interaction between those male characters itself and with the question whether they implement “patriarchal order[s]” or not. Lastly, “the internal world” is referring to the characters thoughts, emotions and inner feelings. It is interested in whether they show emotions which differ from Sexton’s conception of male norms or if their behavior is in accordance with these patterns. Different to the other sides of filmic masculinity, “the internal world” requires more interpretation to achieve satisfactory results because thoughts and feelings are often covert and need to be inferred (Kirkham & Thumin 11-12)

Having in mind the definition of masculinity I will use (see pp. 4) and knowing about the classification of filmic masculinity, the main chapter will now, after a short summary of the film, analyze several scenes and screenshots of Casino Royale. Conclusively, the paper’s initial research question, whether James Bond’s masculinity still is as toxic as in earlier movies, will be answered.

4. Main chapter

4.1 Summary: Casino Royale

At the beginning of Casino Royale, we are introduced to the film’s main villain, Le Chiffre. He is a banker for terrorists and invests their money on the stock market. In Madagascar, Bond is chasing Mollaka, a bomber, to a fictional embassy. Against his orders, he kills the bomber and destroys parts of the embassy. Back in London, M removes Bond from the mission. Nevertheless, he finds out that Mollaka’s client lives in Nassau and follows him there. In the meantime, his client, Alex Dimitrios, hired another bomber to destroy a newly developed plane. Bond stops the bomb strike in the last nick of time, causing Le Chiffre to lose all his money. Trying to win back his money, he desperately sets up a poker tournament. This tournament is infiltrated by Bond who thinks that defeating Le Chiffre will help the MI6 to win him as an informant. While being at the tournament, Bond is accompanied by Vesper, a British Treasury agent.

After several twists and turns, Bond wins the tournament and gets captured and tortured by Le Chiffre who still needs his money. Mr. White, representative of an international terror network, kills Le Chiffre and helps Bond to escape from his captivity. He and Vesper recover from the events in a seaside resort and plan their shared future. Bond, not knowing that Vesper is being blackmailed to steal Bond’s, or rather the MI6’s money, even resigns from his job. After finding out that Vesper has betrayed him, he follows her to the handoff in Venice. In the cause of the handoff Vesper drowns and Mr. White walks away with the money. At the end of the film, Bond shoots Mr. White in the leg and introduces himself with saying “The name’s Bond. James Bond” (Campbell: 2006).

4.2 Case Study: Casino Royale

As mentioned in chapter 3, the analysis of James Bond’s masculinity in Casino Royale will be divided into four categories. Since each category alone offers enough scenes and screenshots for the whole term paper, I need to focus on one or two examples per category.

While analyzing these categories, I will focus on the “literary design”4, the “visual design”5 and the “cinematography”6. These formal elements of film are, according to Benshoff and Griffin, three of the five most important aspects. Editing and sound design, the two missing aspects, will not be analyzed because they are not that relevant for constructing Bond’s masculinity (Benshoff & Griffin 4-5). Besides analyzing the screenshot itself, my analysis will go beyond that. The screenshot will mostly be used to symbolize the whole scene. In order to compare certain realizations of masculinity inside the film, I will also talk about other scenes which I will not symbolize through a screenshot.

4.2.1 The Body

In Casino Royale, Bond’s masculinity is very dependent on Daniel Craig’s body. Different to other films, in which Bond’s body was not much more than average, in Casino Royale he is much leaner and more muscular. His physical appearance helps Bond to maintain his hegemonic position because in recent years, “[…] the ideal male appearance emphasizes the importance of a highly muscular physique” (Milestone & Meyer 119-121). Screenshot 1, taken when Le Chiffre tortures Bond, offers us the best impression of his body.


1 “Inappropriate Moments in James Bond Movies” <> Web. 24.02.20

2 Mostly the villain is male. Still, there are some exceptions, e.g. in From Russia With Love (Young: 1963) the villain is a lesbian.

3 E.g. Ideals/Power, Duty/Ideology, Innocence/Perversion, Loyalty/Disloyalty (Berger 1992: 121)

4 The literary design includes aspects such as the action, the story or dialogues

5 The visual design includes aspects such as costumes, lighting or color

6 The cinematography includes aspects such as the choice of lenses, camera angle or camera movement

Excerpt out of 16 pages


The Changing Representation of Hegemonic Masculinity in Recent James Bond Films
A Case Study on Casino Royale
University of Bremen  (Faculty 10 - Languages and Literary Studies)
Analyzing Hollywood Cinema
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
James Bond, James Bond: Casino Royale, James Bond 007, Masculinity, Hegemony, Hegemonic Masulinity, film
Quote paper
Nico Röhrs (Author), 2020, The Changing Representation of Hegemonic Masculinity in Recent James Bond Films, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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