James Bond image of masculinity is toxic, MP claims

‘We are contributing to an ideal that a real man is fearless and emotionless’

Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love

Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love

 

James Bond and Steven Seagal’s characters create an image of masculinity which can be “toxic” for vulnerable men, an equalities minister in the UK has said.

Caroline Dinenage told MPs this week that men with mental health issues are particularly at risk by portrayals in the media of characters who are “self-contained, aggressive, disconnected and always walking alone”.

The Tory frontbencher also said telling boys to be brave in circumstances where a girl would be comforted also contributes to this belief that a “real man is fearless and emotionless”.

Hollywood actor Seagal achieved fame in action films including Under Siege, while fictional secret service agent Bond has thrived in books and in films since his creation in the 1950s.

Speaking during a debate about International Men’s Day, Ms Dinenage said: “Every time a little boy is told to zip up his man suit, to be brave in circumstances where a girl would be cuddled or comforted we’re contributing to an ideal that a real man is fearless and emotionless.

“And I think that these messages can be particularly toxic.

“While we know most men mediate this sort of version of masculinity that they see in characters in the media, such as James Bond and Steven Seagal — who are self-contained, aggressive, disconnected and always walking alone — most men treat this version of masculinity with intelligence and resilience.

“I think there are risks, particularly for those who are vulnerable or isolated and these messages can be particularly toxic for men suffering mental health issues.

“We’ve heard a lot today about male suicide, and our national suicide prevention strategy highlights men as a high risk group for what is perhaps the ultimate expression of despair, disconnection and aggression turned inwards.

“I’m very encouraged by the work of the Department of Health with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance to identify innovative projects and target mental wellbeing and suicide prevention at men — projects such as the Men’s Sheds movement.”

PA