When the first and most iconic Bond, James Bond, died on October 31st, most published tributes to Sean Connery discreetly danced around his public assertions that abusing women was “acceptable.” For this famous secret agent, he represented the fantasy of so many men who could only dream of summoning glamorous women with the mere raise of an eyebrow, and of the countless women who yearned to be as beautiful and sought-after as a glamorous ‘Bond girl.’

Perhaps that is why so many had chosen not to only forget but also forgive this iconic hero’s misogynistic statements as mere folly or ‘locker room talk,’ choosing to instead accept, unwaveringly, Connery’s explanation years later that, “They were taken the wrong way.”

Similarly, as our country prepares for the inauguration of its new US President next month, Joe Biden Jr., we are also left to grapple with the significant increase in the number of votes Donald Trump received in this year’s election (over 10 million more than in 2016), even after witnessing his numerous public displays of demeaning, insulting and crude behavior toward women over the past four years. Political pundits, elected Democrats and a majority of American citizens, alike, are trying to understand how Trump’s abhorrent behavior did not result in an electoral landslide against his reelection bid. I suspect that we may only need to compare the many reactions to Sean Connery’s death, which occurred just four days before this year’s Presidential election, to arrive at a viable conclusion.

For those who have forgotten, whether willfully or not, here’s a brief reminder of some of Connery’s quotes. In his 1965 interview with Playboy, he said, “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman.” In a 1987 interview with Barbara Walters, he elaborated: “I haven’t changed my opinion…I think it’s absolutely right.” And in a 1993 interview with Vanity Fair, he not only reasserted his approval, but projected all blame onto the victim: “That’s what they’re looking for, the ultimate confrontation—they want a smack.” 

Yet, upon Connery’s death, much of the mainstream media all but ignored these statements, echoed by a number of celebrity Twitter reactions honoring his life not only onscreen, but off:

Hugh Jackman @RealHughJackman: “I grew up idolizing #SeanConnery. A legend on screen, and off. Rest In Peace.”

Charles V Payne @cvpayne: “So sad to hear the news of the passing of Sean Connery. It may not be pc {politically correct} but he personified a man’s man.”

Stephen King @StephenKing: “Sean Connery in his first starring role, as a washed-up boxer. He was a fine actor and by most accounts a good guy.”

Honored as “a man’s man,” and “a good guy,” these tributes excused Connery’s admitted violence toward women. But these reactions are not atypical, which is what brings me back to where I began, comparing Sean Connery’s death to Donald Trump’s life.  

One need only compare 007’s heralded success in the film Goldfinger, where he forcibly holds down and kisses the chauvinistically named Pussy Galore in a barn, to the even more memorable ‘Grab Them By The Pussy,’ video where Trump brags about his ability to do what he wants to women because he is “famous.” It seems that there must be something wondrous about a man who is able to charm his way out of every entanglement, without ever getting caught…if he’s a white man, that is. It is therefore not a surprise that a majority of white voters voted for Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Despite the one obvious difference (007 being a man of fiction and Trump not), the same ultramasculine cravings hold true, where charm and fantasy distort reality, and where abuse and violence become acceptable because, well, who wants to defame a hero who has the gall and the gadgets to represent the guilty pleasures of so many men, which includes disposing of women at a moment’s notice.

But it doesn’t stop there. These fantastical men also fit the model of the imagined masculine heroic archetype, which too many fathers believe is necessary for the gender development of their young sons. And, as for some women, the appeal of these abusive men is perhaps best explained by Edward Hogan, author of ‘Exceeding the Thresold – Why Women Prefer Bad Boys: “Male dominance, the overarching quality encompassing the physical attractiveness and possession of resources that defines a bad boy, has been linked to higher perceived attractiveness and appeal.”

But what happens when the powerful presentation of a real-life person built on excessive indulgence blurs the lines between true vs. false, fantasy vs. reality, fact vs. fiction? 

Answer: It can amass a cult-like following who choose to remain blind to that person’s true failings, even at the expense of their own livelihoods and the safety of their loved ones.

Just as “in four decades of James Bond films … women are depicted enjoying rape,” 007 remains a cultural icon, Trump’s supporters are continuing to willfully ignore the 26 accusations of “unwanted sexual contact” and 43 instances of “inappropriate behavior,” as well as one accusation of the felony crime of rape. Here, just as in many of the James Bond films, these women are excused, discarded and, even, mocked.

Further, even if a wave of destruction follows them leaving devastation in their wake, much like the Coronavirus that has thus far killed over 300,000 Americans due, in large part, to Trump’s ineptitude, their fans believe that it must be for the greater good, because he is a representation of their fantastical fulfillment

And if there is still any doubt, one need only watch what Trump, himself, did during the recent G7 meeting where world leaders gathered to discuss issues of international importance, when he excused himself to tweet out birthday wishes to Sean Connery. And, only a few days later when, upon learning of Connery’s death, he tweeted: “Sean was a great actor and an even greater man.” 

Perhaps that is why, now that Trump will be leaving the White House on January 20, 2021, I feel that I, too, am finally leaving, after four terrifying years, of what can only be described as an abusive relationship.

Lori Sokol, PhD., is the Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Women’s eNews. She is also the author of She Is Me: How Women Will Save The World (She Writes Press, 2020)