Where I Stood

The Bechdel Test, if you are not already aware of it, is quite significant for many women in popular culture. In its simplest form? Bechdel ‘asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.’ Here, it transpires, is one the simplest forms of judging gender equality, and it works. When creating your work of written/spoken art, whatever it might be, giving your characters something to do other than fret about the opposite sex isn’t just sensible, it is often essential if you can’t write women well to begin with. Because good stories, despite what Black Lace might tell you, aren’t just about sex. Writing as I am right now with someone else’s characters as inspiration, it occurs to me that the current crop of Bond women are actually quite tough. However, there aren’t ever two Bond girls ever in a room at the same time, and if there were? Well, DUH, all they’re gonna talk about is how great Bond was in bed before (presumably) having a cat fight with pillows in slow motion and soft focus.

Actually, that’s probably not far off the truth in the Universe anyway.

monica

It took half a century for Bond to kop off with a woman effectively his own age. Expecting the franchise to come up with empowering female storylines is not exactly high on the priority list, but it would be a lie to try and pretend there wasn’t at least some effort made in Spectre. Moneypenny’s got a guy in bed, for starters, when Bond phones in from Rome for intelligence, thought I’d have given Bond more marks for interrupting her on the job. There’s at least a concessionary nod here to a real world and actual lives outside of Whitehall. But when it’s all but brief and you feel like only lip service is being offered? That’s where I am, but I’m in something of a quandary right now, because my female protagonist’s having quite a hard time reconciling her professional and personal attachments to 007. Having relationships isn’t wrong or bad, without them the human race ceases to exist. However, when you find your character unable to separate the professional and the personal and increasingly not worrying about consequence?

Does it matter what truly motivates you to be what you are?

This song has become quite a significant part of my process as a result, mostly because of the following section of lyrics:

And I won’t be far from where you are if ever you should call
You meant more to me than anyone I ever loved at all
But you taught me how to trust myself and so I say to you
This is what I have to do

These four lines are at the crux of what I’m trying to explain: you can care deeply and emotionally about someone, yet not be with them. A person can understand that they’re in love with someone else and yet know that this is not what is required to either survive and progress. Popular culture pushes onto us the notion that relationships are only worthwhile if they come with a satisfactory and (presumably) long-term conclusion, but that’s not true at all. Sometimes, things have to fail so you can get better. More often than not, sacrifices need to be made in order to expedite the progression of your existence. Except, in the world of Bond, there is rarely (if ever) an exploration of this. Since Casino Royale there has, at the franchise’s core, been at least some attempt to address this shortfall, and when you see Bond locate Vesper Lynd’s interrogation tape from L’Americaine in Spectre? That story is at an end. This 007 finally closes that chapter of his life and moves on.

The fact this is never discussed further and simply implied makes me sad beyond words.

bond_xmas

So here I am, making sure that my heroine doesn’t simply grasp her feelings, but she actually understands and learns from them. It’s a tough ask to stretch it out over an extended narrative, but I have the flashpoints all mapped out. I’ve also very deliberately included as little Bond as I can conceivably get away with, because to make this work he can’t be the motivation in the frame. The problem with an all-encompassing ‘hero’ is that sometimes, you don’t want to know their story. Spectre tries and largely fails to give depth to a world that has never been about everybody, because that’s not how Fleming wrote 007. When the franchise reboots (and I am confident you’ll hear something by the end of the year on that front) I can only hope that maybe, just maybe, the success of all these ‘extended Universe’ outings in cinemas will make the Eon people consider that perhaps it is time to not just make Bond all there is to see. However, why I watch a Bond movie is a long way from what I’d consider to be the ‘target’ audience.

In the meantime? Wish fulfilment will have to do.

The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret

This man saved my life in the week. Not literally, you understand, but in a purely metaphorical manner, and not the actor I might add but the character that he plays. Have I confused you enough yet? That’s Gareth Mallory, current head of MI6 in Eon Productions ‘James Bond 007’ Universe and he turned up in my head on Tuesday night to pull me out of a writing corner I didn’t think I was going to be able to escape from. Amazingly, not only did he save me, he’s sent my new Bond narrative off on a COMPLETELY different direction. I am not complaining at all about this, because what this allows me to do is use a cast that were criminally underused in Spectre because, like it or not, people go to watch Daniel Craig. That’s never really a problem, right up until the point when you don’t actually give him something to do that’s actually believable. For all the brilliantly engineered Mendes set pieces? I realise I’d rather have a story at this point about teamwork, so I’m gonna write one myself.

Sorry, Sam.

Miss_Moneypenny_by_Naomie_Harris

I still don’t forgive the writers of Spectre for keeping Moneypenny behind a desk: it began in Skyfall and pretty much destroyed that movie too, which is a shame, because apart from this that piece of cinema is damn near perfect. So I feel the need to redress the balance, without escaping from the inevitable desire to create something that I think could still be legitimate as a Bond ‘story.’ In my mind there has never truly been an ensemble piece: Spectre does actually try, setting up the relationships between Bond and his ‘team’ in the first act, but it never really gets used to its best advantage, because what these movies demand is the main man in set pieces where shit blows up and women are saved. So, I’m gonna fuck with the trope a bit. No, who am I kidding, that’s going out the window. Don’t get me wrong, Bond still very much matters, but not at the expense of other players in the frame.

Ben_Whishaw_as_Q

Here is where I think the franchise could evolve moving forward. Drop the tropes, stop making the ‘tech’ people the defacto geeks, and allow the true evolution of espionage and technology take centre stage. Use everybody with fairness, not just focus on the obvious. Mostly, I’d like to think there’s a viable alternative to the same old predictable paths that seem to be taken time and again.

I’m currently 30k words in. I’d bet that when I’m done it’ll be closer to 100k, because there’s a lot to pack in and as yet none of it is unnecessary. Needless to say, I am acutely aware off what is at stake in my own mind if I screw this up. So I won’t. This will finally put my wish fulfilment to bed, once and for all. I’m really not concerned at what happens now with the franchise, because I will with this prove in my own mind, once and for all, you can have a woman take centre stage and still maintain the essence of the canon.

Watch this space to see if I pull it off or not.

The Heart Wants what it Wants

I have a problem. Ever since I finished my Bond ‘fiction’ before SPECTRE was released, there’s been a coda in my head. Mostly, it has a lot to do with me getting the right hump with the return of an organisation I’d have dearly liked to have seen remain dead and buried. However, as I’m not an Oscar winner, I didn’t get that choice, so I’m going to be forced into a fairly significant piece of wish fulfilment in order to assuage my own brain. Mostly however, this is about putting ‘my’ Bond to bed, as I know only full well that the version of events I want isn’t ever coming to pass.

So, once I get done with watching the movie this week, there’ll be a sequel started.

Now its written down, there’s no escaping the inevitable :D