Sorry, But #JamesBond is a Wanker…

Why I Quit James Bond | GQ – As Bond and J.W. Pepper continue their pursuit, the whole movie is suddenly a giant question mark. What is J.W. Pepper even doing here? He’s not in the book. James Bond met him in Live and Let Die during a speedboat chase through the bayou. At least that’s the kind of place you’d expect to find a cartoonishly inept Louisiana sheriff like him. In The Man With the Golden Gun, we’re supposed to believe J.W. Pepper went to Thailand on vacation and then a British secret agent commandeered his car for a high-speed car chase. And not just any British secret agent. The same British secret agent he met during another high-speed chase a couple of months earlier on the other side of the world. And not just any high-speed chase—a high-speed chase with a man who owns a solid-gold firearm and his French dwarf butler. I never thought James Bond films were cinéma vérité, but I’d also never stopped to think how dumb all this was.


Suddenly, all of it’s dumb. Every James Bond film, I realize, follows the same transparent formula: car chase, opening credits, MI6, Moneypenny, M, gadgets, car, exotic location, casino, woman, villain, car chase, gadgets, the woman from before dies, he has sex with another woman, the villain explains his or her plan, a countdown is stopped, a secret lair is destroyed, pun.

And how weird is it that there are literally dozens of instances of Bond being overtly racist or abusive to women?

New James Bond novel is homage to Ian Fleming, without racism, sexism or bad plotting | The Times & The Sunday Times – Ian Fleming was both racist and sexist and an anti-Semite whose plots were often simple, the author of the latest James Bond book has said.

William Boyd, who has written a new Bond novel called Solo — an extract of which appears in today’s Times Magazine — said that he had a huge admiration for Fleming’s creation, but he had avoided copying the late author’s style.

The writer, who is best known for literary fiction such as Any Human Heart, also spoke of his tussles with the Fleming estate, which authorised him to write the spy’s latest adventure.

The Quantum of Racist | TIME.com – It’s common knowledge that Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy thrillers were hardly politically correct. They were packed with outdated, but probably deeply-felt, sexism, racism, and, yes, even homophobia. (Not to mention the relentlessly kick-ass sadism.) Those who haven’t opened the books in a while may assume that Fleming’s old-timey notions lurked in the subtext of the novels. But a recent re-read of Goldfinger revealed the hate-speech was hilariously explicit.

Much of the racialist invective is reserved for Koreans, particular poor old Odd-Job. As a reward for showing off his karate skills, bad guy Auric Goldfinger gives Odd-Job a special treat:

Ian Fleming on Jamaica and Race Relations | Artistic Licence Renewed – When Fleming wrote this, the Caribbean was a far more exotic and remote place. At first Fleming seems to have taken his own advice about laying off booze in the tropics, though by the early 60s he’d descended into alcoholism. Was he complimenting himself when he praised the Scots for being naturally patient and sober, wonderful colonisers, and possessing hardy and absorbing inner lives?

Though non-Bondian, this article carries several characteristic themes familiar from the novels: German-bashing, accidie (Fleming’s favorite sin), and the eccentric wonders of flora and fauna (the “zing of crickets” is a phrase reused five years later in Dr. No).

Lastly, we come to what might grab modern readers’ attention most–the racial attitudes. On one hand, Fleming preaches a message of embracing racial/cultural differences and tries to calm his white readers’ fears about black sexuality. But his praise of blacks (“they are loyal to good employers and sober and honest”) is also somewhat backhanded (“unless sorely tempted, but when they fall they fall heavily and far”).

And then we get sentences like “without patience you cannot live and work with coloured people,” followed by undeniably racist observations such as

Slightly Shaken: James Bond’s Legacy Of Racism – PAPERMAG – As Lindner notes, there’s an obvious “Manifest Destiny-esque” attitude to the entire Bond brand; one that capitalizes on the idea of the “imperial policeman” loner as a means of reaffirming “Britain’s place in a post-colonial world.” He needs India, Jamaica, Africa, Hong Kong to “act out the role of his destiny,” with the actual people and places just serving as props to this mission.

According to Lindner, racism is used to justify England’s continued colonial relevance to these “lesser” nations, the continual reinforcement of white superiority as a “but they still need us” justification; which was symptomatic of 1950s England, which had to grapple with its newfound “second-rate power status” in the midst of the Cold War.

It’s an attitude that’s rooted in author Ian Fleming’s outright racist (not mention misogynistic and homophobic) prose that relies heavily on one-dimensional stereotypes, i.e. that cat-eating Korean line in Goldfinger, which also happened to be followed by a pleasant “lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy” comment. Or the entirety of his Bond short story collection For Your Eyes Only, which has descriptions of Cuban women as monkeys in dresses and of the men as killers “firing machines with their monkey hands.”

Idris Elba As A Post-Racial James Bond? Not So Fast | Ravishly | Media Company – Bond As White Imperialist

As Cynthia Baron has argued, Bond has always been a British imperial fantasy; he’s an avatar of suave, sophisticated Britishness, swooping sophisticatedly about the barbaric former colonies, dispensing order and death to bad, swarthy men and sex to exotic women in about equal proportions.

The novels could be shockingly explicit in their racism. In Goldfinger, for example, there’s this lovely passage:

“Bond intended to stay alive on his own terms. Those terms included putting Odd-Job or any other Korean firmly in place, which in Bond’s estimation was lower than apes in the mammalian hierarchy.”

The films are generally a little more subtle—but only a little. Baron writes that the first Bond movie, Dr. No (1962), opens with three black men in Jamaica murdering a rich white dude; the natives are restless, and James Bond will pacify them. Foreign, non-white villains are a staple of the series, as Samantha Petersen of California State University points out—from General Chang of Tomorrow Never Dies and Emilio Largo of Never Say Never Again to Dr. Kananga of Live and Let Die and General Medrano of Quantum of Solace.

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One comment

  1. Reblogged this on A Black Writer in Berlin and commented:
    I never liked James Bond–not even as a kid–and upon further scrutiny of what Bond was supposedly fighting against (for instance, two villains named “Blofeld” and “Goldfinger” among others) confirmed my suspicions against this little fucker. Something about some suave WASP gallivanting around the world throwing money at poor wogs (like he did in India) and shooting down allegedly “dangerous” orientals at the bidding of Her Majesty’s Secret Service always rubbed me the wrong way.

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