Goodbye

It took a lot of thought (plus a half finished follow up to my fanfic series that would have involved the last three 007’s plus my AU) but I’m done. Bond and I are no longer an item. There will undoubtedly be some issues as to who gets the music collection and plants, but in the main this is an amicable split. In the end, let’s be honest, this is all about the money, and the fact that when you own a phenomena, that is never something a sane person screws with.

I’m fine with the split. The next best thing debuted last night on BBC1 (review to follow) so I’m off to shack up with Doctor Who instead. I used to furiously stan the male version anyway (there is fanfic), so a woman in this role is never, EVER going to be frightening. Despite all the assurances in the article above that women are very well taken care of on Bond sets, placing Ms Broccoli clearly in the Good Guys camp, there is a principle at play here that is never about to alter. The elephant remains untouched in the room.

There is no interest in a future that won’t consider THAT portion of the ultimate pillar of toxic masculinity as intractable.

The interview with Broccoli is interesting in the lengths it takes to explain how Mr Craig’s interpretation is no longer the Bond of old, that elements that typically became part of the persona for so long (and became progressively more denigrated) have been largely removed. However, and this has always bothered me since I was a child, the way these things is now effectively ignored and dismissed has become frankly embarrassing.

Bond is the lecherous family member everybody puts up with ‘coz he’s rich and attractive. Blokes wish they were him. Women like to lust after him because you know, he’s clearly really good in bed because why else would all these women fall in love with him, flirt continuously and be happy that they were one of his harem when he buggers off? The assertion at the end of SPECTRE, riding into the sunset with the woman half his age, is clearly that he shags her until England needs him again and off we go, with nobody remember the bad bits of any of the movies before.

That might have worked a decade ago, but it won’t now.

Sure, lots of people might not know what a Blockbuster was in the Captain Marvel trailer, but everybody gets her relevance in the MCU. This is a company unafraid to stick women front and centre, that is happy to admit it’s fucked up royally with representation and is fixing its house without even a second ask. For 007, men still matter more because they are the executives in the companies whose high-finance, aspiration-based products are advertised on screen. Bond is a reminder of what it might be like to be that cool, when cool means money on top and girls on tap.

When Bond finally stops making money, THEN we know the tide is finally turning, and it occurs to me that if I don’t buy the DVD or the cinema ticket this time, that’s how things change.¬†If I walk away from this relationship because finally, toxic is not attractive, we might get somewhere. Casino Royale remains my favourite film in the canon, but the¬† bandwagon will not make any money out of me for this, however awesome the final product might be.

Sometimes, you have to be the change.

Another Way to Die

Yes I KNOW I’m supposed to be writing poetry, and as it happens I have been, quite well all told. However, this happened Tuesday night and ever since my brain’s been looking for a release, because I think the game might be up.

You see, if you gave me a straight choice between what I feel Bond 25 will be like without Boyle’s attempts to modernise and The Spy Who Dumped Me (which even borrows from the Casino Royale titles in it’s initial trailer) yes, I’ll take the ladies who are killing it, plus Gillian Anderson as what Jane Bond would look like when promoted to M status. Honestly, unless you reinvent the franchise Eon, I am really done, and the last best hope for that just left the table citing that most dangerous of generic excuses, ‘creative differences.’ I might forgive the company for being protective of their brand, were it not for the ‘official’ statement on their website:

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SERIOUSLY, THAT’S IT?

You’re a massive multimillion dollar production company, this is the age of digital communication and THAT IS THE BEST YOU CAN DO? Boyle walks away, and you won’t even discuss the reasons? Why even bother with the post, honestly, this is just making you look… well, intractable. Old fashioned. INCAPABLE OF CHANGE.¬†Maybe I should be impressed that some people clearly don’t feel the need to even grace us with explanations via digital media because they are above such actions but honestly, nope. This is not good enough, and I think you probably know this.

What happens next, of course, is now anybody’s guess, but I’ll be amazed if they start filming when they said they would. Daniel Craig’s due to become a dad in several months regardless, and there’s a part of me that can see his missus pushing quite hard for time with their new son/daughter over reinforcing some pretty brutally outdated gender stereotypes. So, do I pop down the Bookies and stick fifty knicker on him giving up the job and Idris Elba getting shoed in? I doubt we’re even close to that level of change… but there’s a better than average chance Craig made his last Bond movie with Spectre.

As they say, watch this space.

All Time High

Since the #MeToo Movement emerged in Hollywood (and beyond) the knives have been out for Ian Fleming’s secret agent. It is no surprise, on reflection: if you wanted a genre that had male dominance stamped all over it, here it is. Despite various attempts to shift emphasis (and a distinct move away completely from women as objects that began with the Casino Royale reboot in 2006) Mr Craig’s shower entrance in Skyfall gets an entirely understandable mention in that montage. What might once have been considered sexually charged gains a different hue when consent isn’t obvious, or indeed bothered with.

The people who make Bond quite obviously know they have a problem. A look at the @007 Twitter feed or the Official Website make this all too apparent: nothing controversial, a real emphasis away from the sexual and overly misogynist aspects of the movies, with shift towards what could be considered a more family-friendly outlook. To that end, I can now buy a Funko 007. There’s a 10p Coin of the Realm in a Bond stylee. At the weekend, a friend quite gleefully linked me a tweet which would appear to suggest the iconic DB5 is soon making a debut in brick format.

Those of you concerned that Danny Boyle’s gonna stuff up Bond 25 should bear in mind that there’s a lot at stake here besides the transfer of 007’s License to Kill. The world does need heroes, of that there is no doubt, but it is clearly time to ensure that diversity and respect get a fairer hearing than was previously the case. If the push into less controversial territory in terms of merchandising (and a new installation in the Alps in a location where SPECTRE was filmed that ignores all those scantily clad ladies completely) it’s a fair shout that you’ll be fixating on plot far more than has normally been the case.

The tabloids are full of casting rumours, we know when it starts shooting. Bond 25 has a lot to live up to, quite apart from public expectation. The groundwork already being done already suggests the direction that we’re heading may be distinctly different to those trodden before. Time will tell.


PS: I’ve written my own take on the current 007 and how there could be the means to introduce a female into the iconic slot on the MI6 roster. It seems like a good idea to shove some self-promotion in here…

 

You Know My Name

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Took a day off all forms of writing yesterday, because occasionally even I like to not worry about output. Then I went with Mr Alt to the Royal Albert Hall and watched Casino Royale¬†scored by a full orchestra (plus David¬†Arnold on guitar) and was in the same place (briefly) as Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. I continue to maintain that this is the best Bond movie ever made.¬†After 11 years it stands up incredibly well to scrutiny, which is more than you can say for many of its predecessors. A long (bar based) conversation was had over the merits of 50 plus years of the Franchise, agreement that most of the ‘best’ movies are undoubtedly products of the age in which they were made. This movie is dated by its electronics, as has been the case for decades. That Sony Vaio laptop…¬†plus so many mobile phones. Ah, nostalgia.

However, as a writer, the progression and eventual denouement of this movie are the most satisfying of any that precede it, and that really matters.¬†You’re also given motivation for a series of four movies that follow and, like it or not, that ‘story’ ends at the end of SPECTRE, which makes the task of tacking on a fifth movie even more problematic. When you know the reason Craig finally said yes¬†to the role (having initially turned it down) was on the strength of this script, one¬†has to think doing one more is going to be a mistake for everyone involved.

The feeling refuses to go away: it isn’t just historical precedent at play here either. Diamonds are Forever, View to a Kill and Die Another Day are hardly stellar examples of the franchise, and all three just showed up the need to change the current actor with the designation to someone younger.¬†The script for Bond 25 frankly has to be so good that it could win an Oscar, or else this landmark film will end up just being remembered as the last one that an actor made who should have quit whilst everybody was ahead.¬†Whatever happens, however, this is where Craig was undoubtedly best as Bond: raw, malleable and ultimately¬†prepared to die for his Country.

My feeling we should have stopped at Skyfall continues to persist, even more so having seen Casino¬†for the first time on the big screen: I only ever got that on video as 2006 was the point in my life where depression consumed everything.¬†I’ve often wondered if that mental attitude clouded my judgement of just how good Craig’s inaugural outing was. Last night confirms just how strong, brilliant and quintessentially¬†Bond the whole experience was. If I am going to remember anything from the tenure of this actor, it will be his first movie and the third. Everything else will be consigned to space marked as ‘acceptable filler’ and I’ll wait to see which British actor is given the nod to replace him. Of course, I’d like an actress or a non-white male to take the role, but there’s as much a chance of that as me getting to write a Bond script.

This version of Bond undoubtedly has run his course. Time for a change.

Coming Around Again

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This is the blog post about Bond 25 that needs to be made, as the announcement popped up yesterday from Eon’s @007 Twitter feed confirming something is in pre-production. Booking a weekend in November 2019 might seem a bit previous, but considering what we’ve seen coming out of Comic Con over the last weekend, it makes perfect sense. This is to prepare the US market for a film which, one presumes, is going to have to be pretty damn special to follow SPECTRE, which effectively drew a line in the sand for everybody involved. If I believe the Internet, Daniel Craig has no soul and is doing two more films. I’m REALLY hoping he is finished with the role as was clearly the case at the end of Bond 24.

As was also true of Dr Who, this is a franchise in desperate need of a reboot.

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The chances of getting a woman in this job however are slim to non-existent. The canon doesn’t support it, and despite the likes of Gillian Anderson saying they’d play Jane Bond, I doubt the majority of the world will want to know. I can’t see Barbara Broccoli allowing her father’s legacy to be redefined in this way anyway: her love of Craig as Bond had as much to do initially with his physical appearance as it was about any ability to act. Bond is supposed to do something at a brain stem level to women that makes his behaviour somehow acceptable. Men just want to pretend they can get away with treating the opposite sex that badly whilst remaining insouciantly cool. Really, like it or not, this role goes to a man, because no woman could ever be that sociopathic and get away with being believable.

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Of course, nothing is stopping the next Bond being Iris Elba, or Dev Patel, except an awful lot of historical baggage. When reduced to only looking at white, heterosexual men, the field gets pretty samey. That’s the problem, all told. Everybody’s of a certain look, or a particular style, and then you’re comparing Tom Hiddleston to Craig or Tom Hardy to Roger Moore, which I’m sure neither would thank you for. Bond, like it or not, is a poisoned chalice: when you die as an actor, I’d argue what you don’t want is to have your family hear your media obituary contain the line ‘best known for his role as 007’ at any point. Anything and everything else you ever did as a professional is effectively sacrificed to commercialism, and that will hurt.

However, even though I’d like a minority interest Bond above white male, there’s probably a compelling argument at present to get Tom Hardy into the Aston Martin. If I believe the rumours that Christopher Nolan is interested in directing, Hardy’s a good fit (Bane in Batman, key role in Dunkirk) and clearly they’d work well together. The problem is, where you go when the criminal organization created solely to engineer your demise seems positively childish compared with the man running the US Government. The enemy remains crime families, sure, but honestly, truthfully, how the fuck are you going to create a believable plot for a Bond movie that’s not been done to death already? SPECTRE only worked as it rebooted the one villain we’ve not seen for decades because, of all things, a legal battle that prevented Eon from mentioning Blofeld existed.

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Whoever they get to play Bond, whether we keep going forward or its rebooted again, is being made to live in a world which his misogyny, plus treatment of the opposite sex has become frankly unacceptable. However sensitive and caring you make the man, he’s still a fucking dinosaur. It is going to take a monumental effort to produce anything based around current canon that won’t look outdated and ridiculous, or that doesn’t involve killing Madeline Swann before the opening title sequence, a la OHMSS. I tried to re-write the canon, but that only worked by making 007 part of an effective unit and one could argue as soon as you take away the ability for Bond to work alone, he’s not Bond any more anyway. Needless to say, I don’t envy the script team one iota. If they pull this off they really are miracle workers.

Until there are details and confirmation of who has the keys to the Aston Martin, all bets are off. Only with more details can we speculate on what happens next. I just hope and pray that the days of a Moonraker style film (with some ridiculous terrorist/cybercrime plot a la Mission Impossible) is not what everybody has to look forward to.

Please Please PLEASE let Bond 25 be a reboot.

This Woman’s Work

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Last weekend, I watched the last episode of the current season of Dr Who. I didn’t mean to, it just happened, and even though the whole season’s only been absorbed via synopsis, I stayed to the end and was rather glad that happened. The last 45 seconds was so far out of left field as to be a genuine surprise: I won’t spoil it as this is still relatively recent, but fans have a very interesting situation at play, knowing at the end of the Christmas Special we’ll see another regeneration. However, I’m sticking to the assertion that unless the show’s creators break the mould so firmly it is indistinguishable from what has come before, my time with the franchise remains pretty much done.

Then on Wednesday, I read this in the Guardian:

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Okay then, so is this really a possibility? Phoebe has been in a number of critically acclaimed drama series but is hardly a household name. That gives her solid credentials off the bat (in fact I am reminded of David Tennant coming from Casanova to the TARDIS) and now I’ve done some research, yes she’d be absolutely perfect. Reminded that Mr Capaldi used the f-word as Malcolm Tucker more than a few times, Ms Waller-Bridge using the c-word in Fleabag seems almost acceptable as part of the entrance exam. The problem, of course, is that BBC3 hit comedy is going to be filming a second season in November this year which might put her off the radar in terms of availability… but hang on, why am I even considering that this woman could be the Doctor?

At some point, one of these so very British, male-dominated bastions has to be stormed.

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If you’ve paid any modicum of attention to my writing journey, you’ll know I’ve had a go at redefining the 00 Section in my own way. That sea change is probably even further off long term than Who is, lets be honest, but the fact that actors of colour and race are considered and summarily dismissed shows that hey, at least in that regard I’m not alone in wanting change. The problem, undoubtedly, is the notion of canon and traditionalism: Who and Bond remain very much a product of the ages they were created in. That age, for many people, is not to be disturbed or altered in any way, shape or form. For 007, the notion of insouciant masculinity as attractive clearly still rings true, but sadly the form that now takes is becoming less and less palatable. Only when that is deemed unacceptable by mainstream media, then perhaps the wind will change. Don’t hold you hopes out, though.

With a rapidly ageing population, many of whom are resistant to change (and if the Brexit vote is any indicator very much against anyone trying to make them European) the suggestion that you could have a Bond who didn’t sleep with anyone unless it was absolutely necessary and maybe cared more about teamwork than working alone is going to be met with very short shrift. In fact, when I hear many men talking about a female Bond it is in the context of simply changing this misogynist man into a sociopathic woman. That’s not actually an improvement, fellas, it simply gives you a whole new wank fantasy.¬† Real, developmental change involves you thinking outside of the bedroom, or outside the TARDIS, depending on your point of view.

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Dr Who used to be a fairly asexual affair until the Moffat bloke got involved. Now sexuality is an issue, that makes the woman/man lead role shift even more awkward for the Who people. Except, watching the last episode of Capaldi’s Doctor, and the two Masters effectively flirting with themselves? There was so much potential subtext to be read into that episode: countless references to how women and men do things differently, that sexuality is largely irrelevant in just about anything once you gain the ability to look past the people involved. Honestly, of the two bastions of Britishness, Who seems the one more likely to crack first.

Now I have to hope it will come sooner than later.

For Your Eyes Only

It doesn’t seem like a year since Spectre was released: to be honest, it’s more like several years. 2016, as many people will attest, has not been kind.¬†Losing Bowie at the start for me was only the start of a series of body blows, which culminated in the fucking travesty of Brexit in June. However, four months on, the shift of my country and the US towards a worrying variety of ‘conservatism’ could already be having some interesting ramifications, most notably in reference to Mr Craig’s (potential) ex-employment. [*] When I suggested writing this blog post a while ago it generated a fair bit of interest, and the more I consider the possibilities the stronger becomes the belief I could actually end up thanking THAT potential US presidential candidate for what he’s done to the World in the last ten months.

Could Donald Trump be responsible for redefining the Bond franchise?

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When Eon rebooted Bond in 2006 with Casino Royale a new narrative was born: fresh from gaining his License to Kill, 007 falls in love and watches first as that woman is revealed as a double agent before she dies, in a situation where Bond is unable to save her.¬†This defines all his actions in Quantum of Solace and, to a lesser extent Skyfall.¬†Only when he gets to fall in love again and disappear off into the sunset in SPECTRE¬†is some completion bought to the story, but there’s still a cost.¬†It’s not really Craig’s fault that he inherited shoes that had been discarded under so many beds, that Bond’s misogynistic and arrogant past was based in a decade where men could get away with being like this because that’s the way it had always been. Except that ‘attitude’ is still making news, as was demonstrated when the Washington Post got hold of a tape of Mr Trump treating woman as objects. I’ll admit that when I first saw the footage, realised that this behaviour’s really no different to early iterations of¬†Bond doing what was needed to get the job done.

He gets away with it however for several reasons: mostly because fiction gets a far better deal than reality, but probably because an English accent and being fantastic in bed still allows you to get away with murder, plus believing in truth really helps. ‘How can I compare Trump to Bond,’ I hear you ask, ‘it’s like apples and oranges’: however, both come from trees, and require seeds to grow.¬†Bond’s enduring appeal for a certain generation is that you get what you want as a secret agent, and in that regard as Trump seeing himself as a celebrity, the same remains¬†true. Except once the misogyny is obvious it becomes both all-consuming and inescapable in a world where your main competitor for President is a woman.¬†Once I’d considered the similarity I was forced to go back to SPECTRE in a new light, to see if I could redeem ‘new’ Bond in light of the revelation. This¬†007¬†is different to his predecessors, has undoubtedly ‘evolved,’ but the way the franchise is left knowing his history gives Eon a real problem moving forward.

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Bond’s relationship with Moneypenny becomes a metaphor of sorts in his redemptive process: she almost kills him, yet she remains his best friend, but that doesn’t stop him looking down her top in Skyfall or showing concern she has a boyfriend in SPECTRE.¬†He’ll still try his arm, and hope she’ll be there for him, but when the first decent female fit in terms of compatability comes along with Madeline Swann he drops everything, steals his company car and buggers off, presumably to spend the next year furiously fucking and not answering his mobile when the office calls. If you ascribe the theory that Bond has changed, he’ll already have handed in his notice and never comes back.¬†They can’t kill Swann again in the narrative as motivation because then it’s just Vesper Lynd all over again. Time might be a flat circle for some franchises, but with what Trump has now done to the popular consciousness in terms of highlighting casual sexism and control? It will be pretty hard to make this Bond’s modus operandi stand up as acceptable. Ironically, if the next 007 movie has to include Craig’s version of the agent, I’d suggest he marries Swann and they team them up in a Mr and Mrs Smith stylee, but already long term fans will cry fowl, because Bond works alone.

Except that doesn’t work in the modern world either. Only in the movies.

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Here’s the bigger issue: Bond’s ‘ethos’ only works if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Craig made a big deal in interviews for SPECTRE¬†that he’s aware of the limitations at play, that there’s only so much to be done if your central protagonist thinks as part of his job it’s acceptable just to sleep with someone to get what you want. Ironially when Mata Hari did that no-one considered it a sutable job for a woman, and yet female spies really are the better choice in so many situations when most of the people in power are men. However, this franchise; watch, car, suits are all selling to a group of people who really don’t need to be told this is the right way to live your life. ‘Men want to be Bond, woman want to sleep with him’ might be true for my generation (except for me, I’d be him and bed him) but the belief that you teach people this is acceptable human behaviour… it won’t work any more. The outcry in the press worldwide should be ample demonstration of the realisation that this is not the same World we live in. Times are changing.¬†This is not just about a hetrosexual bloke with a gun, and that is the bigger significance. The white man’s importance matters only in relation to bigger societal shifts:¬†claiming nothing can be changed, because canon says¬†is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Like it or not, Trump’s actions may have finally forced time to be called on Bond’s progress.

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Women can be secret agents, and better than their male counterparts. It is no longer about pandering to a certain generation’s desire to live out fantasies that simply do not mesh in the modern world. I’m still of the opinion that the best way the franchise has to survive is to go back to Dr No and start again, refilming the stories with ‘modern’ sensibilities. Killing off Judi Dench at the end of Skyfall really was the beginning of the end, as was putting Moneypenny back behind a desk because we’re back to the 1960’s and it is as if the last fifty years never happened.

It’s no wonder we won’t get an announcement on Bond 25 until next year. In the current climate, I’m not sure there’s a future for him at all.

[*] He might still take it, but part of me really hopes he walks away and never looks back.