James Bond films always offer an engaging way to access global learning activities in the classroom. Many of these issues are appropriate for secondary aged students, but we have also included a few ideas for primary level.
Bond is controversial and divides opinion. Many students may see James Bond as a xenophobic lothario with a licence to kill and a stock of cheesy one-liners. To others he is the consummate British hero; brave and nonchalant, saving the world in well-tailored suits. Whatever their view of Bond nearly everyone has heard of him.
According to Variety, over half of the people in the world have seen a Bond film and Bond has made more than £5 billion in worldwide sales. Bond escorted Her Majesty the Queen to the London Olympics. Love him or loathe him, it is safe to say that 007 is iconic and bound up with British identity.
- An engaging cross-curricular theme
- Will also support SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) elements of the curriculum
- Media Studies
- Also supports SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) elements of the curriculum
Topics covered here
- People and places
- Good and evil
007 could be an interesting starting point for many conversations about gender.
Questions for discussion:
- Could you imagine Sean Connery or Roger Moore dressing up as a woman to promote International Woman’s Day?
- What do more modern Bond films say about the role of men and women in British society, and how it has changed?
The writer and broadcaster Bidisha is one of the Bondophobes. Here’s what she has to say about Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond):
“Ian Fleming hates women and I don’t buy into anything to do with that… The Bond films are generally sexist. I don’t like anything that descends from a sewer of misogyny.” (Source: BBC News)
Are the Bond films generally sexist? Is this something that you could discuss further with your students?
Ian Fleming based his secret agent on some of the people he had worked with when he had been an intelligence officer in the Second World War. Bond novels became very popular and from the early 1960s until today, films of his exploits have been seen by millions of people. Bond has a licence to kill – he is authorised to end the life of anyone that the secret service deems a threat to the security of the country or on many occasions, the world. Ian Fleming died in 1964 but Bond lives on.
Following the Second World War, from which Britain emerged victorious, Britain was seen as one of the few nations vested with responsibility for global security. The cold war era, with the (then) USSR and USA pitched in an icy stand-off was the world which James Bond emerged into. Fleming wanted to write escapist novels in the post-war era, when luxury was hard to come by. But in modern Bond films both the issues covered and the society observing them are very different. For example, Quantum of Solace (2008) references contemporary global issues such as oil, water and corruption.
One thing which has remained consistent throughout, however, is Bond’s licence to kill. This is a stimulating and engaging issue for secondary students to debate in the classroom. It could be linked to discussions about the international arms trade, humanitarian law, peace and conflict and the role of the UN.
- Is it acceptable to kill an individual for the ‘national good?’
- What do you think about the use of guns?
- What do we know about the role of the ‘secret services’ today in the international arena?
The Guardian website has a useful James Bond bodycount which may help with research!
In one of his works on Bond, Kingsley Amis said that it seemed that no Englishman could be found doing wrong. All villains were foreign. And there is something more about the Bond bad guys. They always have a dodgy eye, a medical condition or an unusual scar to really hammer home their evil outcast status.
Their foreignness chimes with the line of interpretation that sees the Bond novels and films as a reassertion of Britishness in a world where Britain was losing its empire and struggling to find a new role. Professor James Chapman, of Leicester University and author of Licence to Thrill, a Cultural History of the James Bond Films believes, “It’s not racial superiority, it’s cultural superiority.”
A higher ability GCSE English student or A level English Literature student could certainly engage with these debates through reading one of Ian Fleming’s novels. They could explore some of the themes below:
- What does it mean to be xenophobic, and how can this be seen in the Bond novels?
- How are the ‘baddies’ represented in Bond?
- What does it mean to be British in society today? What did it mean to be British in some of the Bond novels?
Bond offers a great hook for working on some simple global learning activities with KS1 and KS2 students. It could definitely work as a weekly or half-termly cross curricular theme.
Where does Bond visit? Students could research and locate the four places below and share their research with their peers.
Jamaica – Dr No (1969): Famous scenes were shot in Jamaica for the first Bond film. Dr No’s base was at the Kaiser Terminal cruise port and Jamaica’s beaches were also featured. The author Ian Fleming himself was based in Jamaica at his Goldeneye Estate, where he wrote all his Bond books.
The Bahamas – Casino Royale (2006): James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) strides out of the sea in his trunks in Casino Royale. This was filmed at Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The island’s luxurious resort features heavily in the early scenes of the film.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Moonraker (1979): Jaws is one of Bond’s lethal enemies in Moonraker. James Bond is attacked by Jaws atop the cable car going to the top of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic feature: Sugarloaf Mountain.
Istanbul, Turkey – Skyfall (2012): The newest Bond film is Skyfall, and many scenes are shot in Istanbul, including Sultanahmet square and the Hagia Sophia mosque museum. It’s been reported that there is an exciting motorcycle chase through the colourful bazaars of the city.
A quick activity for students – Where is this famous Bond location (pictured right)?
(Nail Island in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand from ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ )
What does it mean to be a hero? Who is your hero? Find out about international heroes, and compare and contrast with James Bond.
Good and evil
Link with RE. What is good and evil? How do the Bond films portray good and evil?
Bullying and intercultural understanding
Was Bond ever bullied? Is he a bully himself? Was he ever misunderstood by strangers?
James Bond music and sound clips
- James Bond music on Wikipedia
- James Bond Multimedia – sound clips
- BBC Bitesize – GCSE Music: the ‘Leitmotif’ in Goldfinger
James Bond style
James Bond Geography ideas
British Red Cross
- Justice and Fairness – and international humanitarian law
- Alfa bravo charlie – the international spelling alphabet
Tom Palmer – children’s author
The photo at the top of the page is by Bikerock on flickr.com and used under a Creative Commons licence.