Monday, 16 November 2015

10 Offensive Quotes from Ian Fleming’s James Bond Novels

Guest Article by Pete Swan

With a new James Bond film, Spectre (2015), upon us[i] and with Daniel Craig rumoured to be leaving the series before long,[ii] James Bond is taking centre stage of the world’s showbiz media once again. The Bond film franchise has seen many changes over the last fifty odd years. For example, James Bond no longer smokes; he no longer sits in Jacuzzis with bevies of women all young enough to be his daughter. The last seven Bond films saw Judi Dench play a female ‘M’, Bond’s boss at MI6.[iii] The character ‘Miss Moneypenny’ has also now been changed to the more dignified ‘Eve Moneypenny’ and is currently played by the black actress, Naomi Harris.[iv] In another departure, a gay actor named Ben Whishaw now plays a much younger and tech-savvy version of Q than did the old stalwart Desmond Llewelyn (who appeared in 17 Bond films between 1963 and 1999) or his successor in the role of Q, John Cleese. This year [2015] we even saw the black actor, Idris Elba, put forward as a candidate to play the next James Bond.[v]

James Bond has been part of our popular culture now for so long that we can trace back to his roots and use his earliest narratives to ask ourselves how far we have really come as a society. We would of course nowadays consider racism or homophobia distasteful in a modern Bond film even if it came from the mouth of one of the villains and the sexism in Bond films is now no worse than across the film industry as a whole. Whatever you think of the newest Bond films, here are ten quotes from the original James Bond novels, which were written by Ian Fleming between 1953 and his death in 1964, that the current generation will (thankfully) never have to see up on the silver screen. One should note when reading these quotes, by way of mitigating circumstances,  that Ian Fleming was born in 1908 and the times in which he was writing (the 1950s and early 1960s) were very different to our own, where political correctness is now very much the order of the day. 

1.       ‘Blithering Women’ - Casino Royale (1953)

The Context: Bond is racing to rescue his companion Vesper Lynd who has been kidnapped by the novel’s villain, Le Chiffre.

The Quote: “These blithering women who thought they could do a man’s work. Why the hell couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men’s work to the men.” (Page 97)

2.      ‘How to fight Negroes’ - Live and Let Die (1954)

The Context: Bond has been captured in Harlem, New York and is planning an escape from his guard, Tee Hee Johnson. 

The Quote: “He stumbled again, trying to measure exactly the Negro’s position behind him. He remembered Leiter’s injunction: ‘Shins, groin, stomach, throat. Hit ’em anywhere else and you’ll just break your hand.’
‘Shut yo mouf,’ said the negro, but he pulled Bond’s hand an inch or two down his back.” (Page 72)

3.      ‘All women long to be a cave’ - From Russia with Love (1957)

The Context: Bond has travelled to Turkey to meet a Soviet defector and is speaking to Darko Kerim, the head of the British service’s station in Turkey.

The Quote: “My father was the sort of man women can’t resist. All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man’s shoulder and taken into a cave and raped. That was his way with them. My father was a great fisherman and his fame was spread all over the Black Sea. He went after the sword-fish. They are difficult to catch and hard to fight and he would always outdo all others after these fish. Women like their men to be heroes.” (Page 129)

4.      ‘Chigroes’ - Dr. No (1958)

The Context: Bond has travelled to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of an MI6 employee and is speaking to Pleydell-Smith, the Colonial Secretary of the island, over lunch.

The Quote: “’It’s like this’. He began his antics with the pipe. ‘The Jamaican is a kindly lazy man with the virtues and vices of a child. He lives on a very rich island but he doesn’t get rich from it. He doesn’t know how to and he’s too lazy...” “Finally there are the Chinese, solid, compact, discreet- the most powerful clique in Jamaica. They’ve got the bakeries and the laundries and the best food stores. They keep to themselves and keep their strain pure.’ Pleydell-Smith laughed. ‘Not that they don’t take the black girls when they want them. You can see the result all over Kingston – Chigroes – Chinese Negroes and Negresses. The Chigroes are a tough, forgotten race. They look down on the Negroes and the Chinese look down on them. One day they may become a nuisance. They’ve got some of the intelligence of the Chinese and most of the vices of the black man. The police have a lot of trouble with them.’” (Page 51)

5.      ‘Koreans are lower than apes’ – Goldfinger (1959)

The Context: Bond has been captured by Goldfinger and his sidekick Oddjob and is plotting his escape.

The Quote: “Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Oddjob and any other Korean firmly in his place, which, in Bond’s estimation, was rather lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.” (Page 175)

6.      ‘Japanese women; insipid slaves’ - 'Quantum of Solace' (1960)

The Context: Bond is at a dinner party and is making small talk with the host.

The Quote: “’It would be fine to have a pretty girl always tucking you up and bringing you drinks and hot meals and asking if you had everything you wanted. And they’re always smiling and wanting to please. If I don’t marry an air hostess, there’ll be nothing for it but marry a Japanese. They seem to have the right ideas too.’ Bond had no intention of marrying anyone. If he did, it would certainly not be an insipid slave.” (Page 62)

7.      ‘The girl who drove like a man’ - Thunderball (1961)

The Context: Bond is in the Bahamas and is following Domino Vitali, the girlfriend of the main villain, SPECTRE No. 1, Emilio Largo.

The Quote: “Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class. In general Bond regarded them as a mild hazard and he always gave them plenty of road and was ready for the unpredictable. Four women in a car he regarded as the highest danger potential, and two women as nearly as lethal. Women together cannot keep silent in a car, and when women talk they have to look into each other’s faces. An exchange of words is not enough. They have to see the other person’s expression, perhaps in order to read behind the other’s words or to analyse the reaction to their own. So two women in the front seat of a car constantly distract each other’s attention from the road ahead and four women are more than doubly dangerous, for the driver has to hear, and see, not only what her companion is saying but also, for women are like that, what the two behind are talking about.

But this girl drove like a man. She was entirely focused on the road ahead and on what was going on in her driving mirror, an accessory rarely used by women except for making up their faces. And, equally rare in a woman, she took a man’s pleasure in the feel of her machine, in the timing of her gear changes, and the use of her brakes.” (Page 100)

[James Bond Film Link: Compare this with, say, the scene where Roger Moore as Bond makes a series of sexist comments on “women drivers” to Barbara Bach’s Major Anya Amasova (Agent XXX) in the tenth Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)]

8.      ‘Homosexuality; the stubborn disability’ - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)

The Context: Bond is being briefed about Hypnosis as it is suspected that the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is using it to brainwash women in his mountain layer in Switzerland.

The Quote: “Now, there is plenty of medical evidence of the efficacy of hypnosis. There are well-authenticated cases of the successful treatment by these means of such stubborn disabilities as warts, certain types of asthma, bed-wetting, stammering and even alcoholism, drug-taking , and homosexual tendencies” (Page 172)

9.      ‘The Japanese; a violent people without a violent language’ - You Only live Twice (1964)

The Context: Bond has been told that there are no swear words in Japanese by the head of the Japanese secret service, Tiger Tanaka.

The Quote: “Well I’m... I mean, well I’m astonished. A violent people without a violent language! I must write a learned paper on this. No wonder you have nothing left but to commit suicide when you fail an exam, or cut your girlfriend’s head off when she annoys you.’
Tiger laughed. ‘We generally push them under trams or trains.’ (Page 77)

10.  ‘Gay men can’t whistle’ - The Man With The Golden Gun (1965)

The Context: M is reading a file about Francisco Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin suspected of killing MI6 agents.

The Quote: “’I have also noted, from a “profile” of this man in Time magazine, one fact which supports my thesis that Scaramanga may be sexually abnormal. In listing his accomplishments, Time notes, but does not comment upon, the fact that this man cannot whistle. Now it may only be myth, and it is certainly not medical science, but there is a popular theory that a man who cannot whistle has homosexual tendencies. (At this point, the reader may care to experiment and, from his self-knowledge, help to prove or disprove this item of folklore! – C.C.)’ (M. hadn’t whistled since he was a boy. Unconsciously his mouth pursed and a clear note was emitted. He uttered an impatient “tchah!” and continued with his reading.)’ (Page 27)


TBB Article No. 23.
© Pete Swan, 2015. 

Guest Author Pete Swan lives in Bristol and studied War History and Propaganda at Swansea University. Pete's interest in James Bond is an extension of his interest in popular culture and the history of the Cold War. Most of his free time is spent in pubs and books. 

A big "thank you" goes out to Pete Swan for this article! - The Bondologist Blog.  


  1. I remember quite a long piece of snobbery where Bond encounters some ordinary people and rants about 'vulgar names like Len' and suchlike, but I've never been able to find it. Any help?

  2. I've found it in Thunderball. 'Names like Ron and Len and Pearl and Ethel'. But I would have thought Ethel was very old-fashioned by 1961, the time Thunderball came out.