Scars, deformities and disabilities - the future of Bond villains/characters

edited April 12 in Bond 26 & Beyond Posts: 327
During the Craig era I've noticed there's been more of a tendency to have villains with some sort of outward scar or deformity. Of course, the Bond films have always had this to some extent (Pleasance's eye scar in YOLT, Largo's eyepatch in TB, Trevelyan's scars in GE to name a few) but it seems as if the trend has been emphasised during the past three films. Silva of course hid the effects of the cyanide on his face but it was still there/a direct part of his motivations, Blofeld in SP attained the Pleasance eye scar (kind of like Bond 'brought out' his inner evil by injuring him) and of course Safin had visible scars, and not unlike Silva the reason for them plays a direct part in his plan. Even Le Chiffre had a glass eye and scar.

Interestingly, having re-read a few of the Fleming novels recently, I was struck at how few of the villains had scars, disabilities or deformities. The obvious one is Drax, although I always got the sense that his distinctive traits were more his odd teeth, his hair/beard and the fact that he looks and acts like a caricature of an Englishman. Most of them are either simply ugly, overweight or have odd looking features. Largo in TB is even depicted as being handsome. When things like scars and eyepatches are given to characters it's usually to the Bond allies (Strangways, Leiter, even Bond himself with his scar. To a lesser extent there's also Honey with her broken nose). Most of the time these injuries are put down to being from the war or from a past mission or something.

Now, the world today is different to Fleming's post WW2 era. Scars and these sorts of outward injuries are perhaps less common and aren't seen as much as when young men were returning from war. That said, I've noticed a bit of commentary about this aspect of villains in modern Bond films and my questions are these: should future Bond villains subvert this current trend and do something different, how should they do this and could we even perhaps have a future Bond ally/Bond girl with some sort of visible scar or disability that's not depicted as villainous or making said character 'ugly'? Perhaps it's time to give Bond the facial scar from the novels?

Comments

  • QBranchQBranch Always have an escape plan. Mine is watching James Bond films.
    Posts: 12,036
    Camille had a scar on her back. Given to her by Medrano.
  • edited April 12 Posts: 327
    QBranch wrote: »
    Camille had a scar on her back. Given to her by Medrano.

    A pretty rare example for a Bond girl in the films, but true. Again, Honey outright had a broken nose in the novel which was immediately visible.
  • VenutiusVenutius Yorkshire
    Posts: 1,046
    Good job Ursula wasn't a method actor.
  • CharmianBondCharmianBond Pett Bottom, Kent
    Posts: 101
    Like you said I this is one of the few areas where Fleming is (slightly) more progressive than the movies that still persist with this trope when they really should know better, if only because the heroes have disabilities as well as the villains. Part of why this trope is so problematic is because it's so one-sided that villains are given disabilities and in turn disabled people are seen as villainous.

    It's part of the reason I like Quantum so much because the evil of Greene comes from the fact that he's a repugnant person doing horrible things, and Camille does have those scars but they're never remarked upon (although that's probably an unintentional side-effect of the editing rather than a deliberate choice because I only realise last year she had them once Andrew Ellard pointed it out).

    And there's a lot of cultural ableism to unpack because it has been used as this shorthand for villainy for so long that a lot of us, myself included, have this notion of disability provides a clear visual contrast between hero and villain because it's so engrained in media. I don't know what the solution is and I'd happy cede the floor to someone more qualified to talk about this from experience, but at the bare minimum I think that it has to force us to work harder to make good villains without having to use disability as a crutch.
  • Posts: 327
    Like you said I this is one of the few areas where Fleming is (slightly) more progressive than the movies that still persist with this trope when they really should know better, if only because the heroes have disabilities as well as the villains. Part of why this trope is so problematic is because it's so one-sided that villains are given disabilities and in turn disabled people are seen as villainous.

    It's part of the reason I like Quantum so much because the evil of Greene comes from the fact that he's a repugnant person doing horrible things, and Camille does have those scars but they're never remarked upon (although that's probably an unintentional side-effect of the editing rather than a deliberate choice because I only realise last year she had them once Andrew Ellard pointed it out).

    And there's a lot of cultural ableism to unpack because it has been used as this shorthand for villainy for so long that a lot of us, myself included, have this notion of disability provides a clear visual contrast between hero and villain because it's so engrained in media. I don't know what the solution is and I'd happy cede the floor to someone more qualified to talk about this from experience, but at the bare minimum I think that it has to force us to work harder to make good villains without having to use disability as a crutch.

    Again, I think for Fleming it came from the fact that many young men returning from WW2 would have had scars and possibly eye patches, limps etc. Fleming wasn't exactly liberal in his writing sensibilities (again, most of the villains are foreign or asexual, and many are ugly/overweight).

    Without using terms like abelism or anything like that (I'm not 100% on how to use them or what they actually mean if I'm honest) the sense I get from a character like Silva in SF is that his disfigurement is used in a particular way. He has a backstory that we should in a sense find sympathetic - he was abandoned by M/the British Government and he has permanent injuries due to what was expected of him in the name of duty. The way the CGI makes him look, however, is consciously very ghoulish - it looks like he has a menacing smile, and his injuries are obviously horrific. Much like Blofeld's injuries in SP there's a sense that we're being showed the character's 'inner evil' and we're meant to be more horrified rather than necessarily feel sorry for him. That's how I've always viewed it anyway.

    Personally, I'd like to see a villain in the vein of Largo from the novel - a handsome man but a sinister psychopath. I'd kind of like to see them do something similar to a Honey Rider with a Bond girl too. Heck, even Bond's injuries in the novels/the scars on his body are pretty interesting in themselves. It'd just add something more fresh (I like much of the Craig era, but in many ways it feels like his last two films relied too heavily on the iconography/generic ideas of previous Bond films rather than always doing something new. I feel these sorts of things in terms of how villains are presented is an example of this).
  • CharmianBondCharmianBond Pett Bottom, Kent
    Posts: 101
    Yeah progressive was a poor word to choose and you're right the disabilities are as much a product of the post-war context as they are any kind of agenda, but the point I was trying to make is that the bar is so low that Bond having a scar is quite refreshing.

    It's a fine line though, like with Safin as well. His disfigurement is done to him by Spectre as a child, so he seems justified in his revenge but how that factors into the rest of his villainy is left more to the imagination. Which is why I think it's necessary to look at this as part of media as a whole because it's not specifically a Bond problem but one that permeates culture.

    I love the sound of that idea, I've not got to Thunderball the novel, but give me a sexy villain any day. We sort of had that with Logan Ash I feel but he had a comparatively minor role.
  • edited April 12 Posts: 327
    Yeah progressive was a poor word to choose and you're right the disabilities are as much a product of the post-war context as they are any kind of agenda, but the point I was trying to make is that the bar is so low that Bond having a scar is quite refreshing.

    It's a fine line though, like with Safin as well. His disfigurement is done to him by Spectre as a child, so he seems justified in his revenge but how that factors into the rest of his villainy is left more to the imagination. Which is why I think it's necessary to look at this as part of media as a whole because it's not specifically a Bond problem but one that permeates culture.

    I love the sound of that idea, I've not got to Thunderball the novel, but give me a sexy villain any day. We sort of had that with Logan Ash I feel but he had a comparatively minor role.

    Oh yes, it's a thing in a lot of films. It's much more rare that the heroes get this kind of outward injury or scar. One of the exceptions recently is Thor getting his eye cut out in Ragnarok. It'd be cool to see Bond perhaps attain the Fleming scar in Bond 26 in a similar fashion. Would be a nice nod to the novels at least.

    Largo's much more interesting in the novel than in the film. I won't spoil too much but there's also a lot in the beginning parts of that novel about Bond's own health - how he drinks too much, the fact that he has a number of scars on his body and even an injury to his shoulder that hasn't quite healed from a previous mission. We've sort of seen Bond with single injuries in films like SF or TWINE (FRWL to a lesser extent) but there's a sense that these are unusual and show Bond particularly vulnerable. In actual fact he's a secret agent whose job will mean he likely has a number of old injuries and scars on his body. The Batman films, including the recent one, tend to show this aspect of their protagonist a lot better (not that those films are immune from this sort of thing either - the Joker has gone from his bleached skin/smile in the comics/Burton film, to having facial scars in TDK, to having an outright genetic 'deformity' in the deleted scene of The Batman - seriously he looks like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly it's that extreme).
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