Why James Bond May Be Over

The Arts

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We currently live in a world of virtue signalling, safe spaces and trigger warnings, in which jargon in the new illiteracy. While I applaud the more practical elements, like the long-overdue attempts to redress the gender balance and the dumping of racism and sexism in the US creative industries, many people fail to understand that you can’t simply use new jargon to blanket the nation’s ills.

I’m always asked about class and race attitudes in old books. Should such novels be censored or simply not be published? I think of course they should be published, but with a preface that states they are products of the time and reflect many of the prevailing social attitudes. Would I draw the line somewhere? Perhaps at Sexton Blake, trash prose written by a host of different authors, much of it breath-catchingly offensive.

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Which brings us, it seems, to Bond, James Bond (one of the best examples of diacope, the repetition of words for emphasis). In the novel of ‘Goldfinger, James Bond packs off his girlfriend to buy him a baguette and some wine, and generously adds, ‘get something for yourself’. I can’t remember whether he gives her a slap on the bottom as she goes, but he does in the film version.

A new generation of readers and viewers (well, let’s be honest, viewers) is taking issue with the sexism we always knew was inherent in Bond. But this is, frankly, shooting fish in a barrel.

What was Bond if not an avatar for 1950s male fantasies? Back then, few men ever got the chance to do anything that impacted upon anything else, so of course they enjoyed the impossible adventures of their surrogate heroes. James Bond didn’t really have to jump off an exploding building to achieve this sensation; he could simply have prepared a meal from scratch, because most men could no longer even manage to provide for themselves.

So, where does Bond go now? Should it be banned or dropped? How about the Carry On films? What will happen, of course, is that 007 will be rebranded and updated like Dr Who, because it’s simply too valuable to dump. In the same way that the BBC has announced that next yuletide’s big production will be…’A Christmas Carol’ – again – we provide for mainstream brand-loyal customers.

And now the fiction of the past will perhaps be provided with a nice piece of jargon that means ‘offensive to the modern world.’

13 comments on “Why James Bond May Be Over”

  1. Peter Tromans says:

    Bond, Gemma Bond?

  2. Steveb says:

    Dangerous to write “modern world“ when what you really mean is “modern uk and coastal us”

  3. Martin Tolley says:

    We can never learn from history, and do things differently today, unless we know what that history was. Bad things and attitudes in the past serve us as examples. Obliterating works in film or print just because they no longer fit with the current sensitivities of vocal groups is getting pretty close to thought policing.

  4. Brian Evans says:

    Well said Admin and Martin. They’ll be burning books next……

  5. Peter Tromans says:

    Concerning burning books, what does happen to books that disappear from library shelves due their becoming non-PC (or the library closing)? I hope they aren’t destroyed.

    Slapping bottoms is nothing compared with owning slaves. Shall we censor all texts written by slave owners? Wish they had done so back in the 1960s, it would have lightened the burden of my latin lessons.

  6. Brian Evans says:

    Peter, I buy some 2nd hand books on Amazon. Choose your subject, and some choices will be ex library. Same with ABE books.

    What is appalling is that some are only a couple of years old. My local, Southport, seems to suffer from the modern obsession with minimalism. An entire row of shelves have gone, only to be replaced with yet more chairs.

  7. Denise Treadwell says:

    I think things evolve, I always loved my uncle who was gay, forced to change his name to be with his lover, as his brother. Things evolve and change. I never loved the films it always seemed to me women were exploted, there is no resemblance to the books.

  8. Ken Mann says:

    Perhaps Bond will become a version of Adam Adamant or Captain America.

  9. Peter Dixon says:

    If the movies hadn’t happened at the right time Bond would be a semi-classic series of books placed in the Chandler league rather than Saint or Baron level. Its sad that few of the movies have anything to do with the novels, except Thunderball which was commissioned as a movie script before being adapted as a novel. It would be great to see someone like Netflix do a real bond series based in the 50’s and 60’s from the original novels.

    Sexton Blake, Bulldog Drummond and the astonishingly prolific Edgar Wallace showed a phenomenal dislike of the Evil Chinee, an attitude mostly summed up in Sax Rhomer’s Fu Manchu stories. Anti-Semitism was rife in popular fiction until the 1940’s. This stuff was a constant drip for over 50 years.

    The lone male Hero thing is as old as Greek mythology, and the ancient Greeks were fairly (or unfairly) misogynistic too.

    Bond, like Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and Frankenstein are peculiarly English characters who seem to be continually re-invented and have lives beyond their origins.

  10. Steveb says:

    Sexton Bkake was written by many different authors, inclding michael Moorcock, and I never noticed even any chinese characters.
    And I dont think Sax Rohmer was anti-chinese was he?
    Although I rate Flemings writing quite highly, surely Chandler isin another league?! A genuine genius.
    As for Dracula, he was Romanian written by an Irishman!
    Human being think in stereotypes so you can never escape it, just change them from time to time and place to place.

  11. John Griffin says:

    I have just sat on a bus going from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield. A young man of possibly AfroCaribbean descent had his music on very loud even when very politely requested to turn it down by several. It was of the rap genre, and largely consisted of a gentleman repeatedly using ‘the N-word’ as well as utilising ‘fucking’ as punctuation. The conundrum was whether he was culturally appropriating, since he was almost certainly third, or easily more, generation British (as were two of the objectors), and both the music and the admonitions were AfroAmerican.
    The problem with the antisemitic or racist attitudes in fiction earlier than, say, 1950s is that these noxious emissions ARE culturally appropriate. Antisemitism and casual racism was rife in British life (Christie has some ripe examples) and we need perhaps to be made aware in a foreword; however those likely to read such are also unlikely to be those with such attitudes today (I exclude the false flag of tarring anti-Israeli imperialist sentiment with racist allegations). I doubt Jayda Franzen of Britain First has even heard of Wallace or Drummond or any other ‘Golden Age’ author/character.
    So, yes read them, but be willing to put the book down or even in the bin if you find it too offensive.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    John, do people actually have to ask people to turn down their radios? That is one thing on our buses and skytrain – no one turns up radios. Conversations on phones, yes, but radios, no.
    How about the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, founded as a British naval base and the founding credited to Lord Cornwallis. There is a large and imposing statue of him which has just been taken down. They aren’t sure what to do with it because there is a strong feeling that to celebrate a man who put a price on any Mi’k mak scalp that was brought in is to set a bar in the way of any reconciliation with First Nations people of the area. I can understand slave owning in that period because it was part of the world’s mental heritage but to offer a reward for killing people as if they were pests is just horrendous. Someone suggested putting it in the corner of a museum with informative material posted beside it.

  13. Ian Luck says:

    James Bond, whether in print, or (I was about to say on celluloid) on film, makes far too much money to be hidden away. I love them all. Some of the attitudes seem deplorable, but were normal at the time of writing. One can take the books as historical documents, showing the thoughts and concerns of the well-heeled in the 1950’s, when they were written. I read ‘Goldfinger’ when I was eight or nine, during a severe bout of tonsillitis. Lots of it, mostly slang terms (I thought a ‘Dyke’ was something they had in Holland to keep the sea at bay, and it’s use in relation to Ms. Galore, puzzled me greatly), went right over my head. What didn’t go over my head was the story, right from the start, and I was hooked, stopping only to refer to my dictionary, and be puzzled or enlightened. I was fascinated by the prevalance of ‘stuff’. The descriptions of places, things, weapons, the loving description of food, thumbnail sketches of people – it’s sheer brilliance, and however outlandish, you get sucked in to believe it. Reading the Bond books, I had to read Fleming’s two non-fiction books, ‘Thrilling Cities’ and ‘The Diamond Smugglers’. Doing so, I noticed that a lot of the fact had got into the fiction, especially in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, the title of which, Fleming lifted from a De Beers advertisement, which famously read: ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ Fleming thought that this actually sounded a bit sinister, and altered it for his title. A lot of the detail in this book, is exactly the same as in ‘The Diamond Smugglers’. Snippets of ‘Thrilling Cities’ appear all through Bond’s books, too, and enrich the proceedings. Out of all the books, I find ‘Live And Let Die’ the hardest to excuse. The use of the ‘N’ word, even as a chapter heading, annoys me, even though my mind says: ‘It was written in the early 1950’s – let it go’ – I can’t. It’s almost inexcusable, especially when you consider that Fleming loved Jamaica, and presumably got on well with the people living there. The odd thing is that it’s obvious he loved the character of Quarrel, whom he describes almost lovingly, and brings back for ‘Doctor No’, and whose death is the impetus for Bond’s destruction of No. Whatever anyone thinks, the James Bond books are of their time. And are a damn good read. I’d also recommend Charlie Higson’s four ‘Young James Bond’ novels, which are considered canonical by EON productions – some parts of the last one were used in ‘Spectre’, which also used dialogue from ‘Colonel Sun’, the Bond novel written by Kingsley Amis, under a pseudonym, Robert Markham, and itself a good fun read.

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