Saturday, 20 December 2014

SELLING TICKETS TO BOND'S FUNERAL

Following the Sony Pictures computer hack and renewed rumours that the next James Bond may be played by a Black actor, here is Colin Liddell's article on the same topic from two years ago.



News is starting to filter through that Black actor Idris Ebola is the favourite to be the next Bond, and is in "talks" with the producers. Of course, this could be a little bit of sub-racist marketing to get everybody thinking about the latest Bond release, Skyfall, which is now engaged in major product placement in theatres across the world. As talentless fuckwits Madonna and Kim Kardashian have demonstrated, nothing gets the word out quite as much as teasing people's racial sensibilities just below the heavily-suppressed collective conscious threshold. But, in a world that’s increasingly dedicated to White racial replacement, we shouldn't be overly complacent. A Black Bond could very well be on the cards.

It's also noteworthy if not surprising that Daniel Craig may be ready to throw in the Bond towel already. After all, he's only done three films. Perhaps this is down to the gut-wrenching emotionalism that has been inflicted on the role recently, which means that Craig has to get all Stanislavskian by digging deep into his own relatively impoverished emotional inner-nexus. The poor boy must be drained with looking all bruised, moody, and soulful. Sean and Roger, by contrast, only had to smile smugly at the latest piece of uncomplicated ass, waggle an eyebrow, and throw a bon mot at an expiring enemy.

Daniel Craig as 007:
licensed to well up and sniffle.
Whether the Idris deal is for real or not, the Bond franchise is a good example of the self-destructive proclivities of late-period Western capitalism, with its tendency to hollow itself out and spread itself thin and wide in pursuit of the last mega profit.

But back to the beginning: The fact that the West's most successful fictional spy turned out to be a Scottish-Swiss secret agent, created by an urbane Anglo-Scot, is certainly worthy of comment. Why was neither the character nor his creator American?

For this kind of character to work at all in any sustainable way, elements of irony and detachment were essential. The kind of fascinating and frankly over-the-top scenarios that Bond has typically been involved with are inherently ludicrous. To have played him too straight would have led to unwitting comedy approximating to the effect achieved by James Coburn's Flint movies. The measured archness of Bond – partly derived from him being an employee of a washed-up global power and partly from the subtle irony that once permeated British culture – was an effective way of throwing the inherent absurdity of the stories into soft focus and credibly merging this element with aspects of reality.

In this way a cinematic legend was born. But what was the specific value quotient of this cultural product? What did it deliver to the purchasers above and beyond what any well-produced action/spy movie would have?

The paradox of such movies is that the more overblown the action is, the less realistic it is, with a resultant loss of excitement and the possibility of looking stupid. Bond's character helped to partially circumvent this paradox. Also, not to be underestimated is the fact that in Bond's heyday, the world lay under the shadow of a possible nuclear conflagration. The Bond franchise helped to de-terrorize the prospect of Armageddon by working it through the filmic narrative.

SPECTRE: making Armageddon human and slightly hissable. 
Another value point was that, as we moved into increasingly liberal, progressive, and politically-correct times, Bond also gained value as a repository of traditional masculinity and political incorrectitude. The old-fashioned polished gallantry possible with a "British gentleman" character made this both more possible and more acceptable, while any offensiveness could be dissipated again through the ever present element of irony.

Once established with these favourable background factors, the franchise existed as a kind of steady state capitalist enterprise – involving work, inspiration, and rigorous quality control, but generating stable profits. Because of its uniqueness and unusual features, it was also difficult for rivals to displace it, adding some of the advantages of monopoly to its situation.

Steady state Bond: Roger Moore,(1973-85)
But a cultural product is not like having an endless patent or a shop in the perfect location. It stimulates a taste for novelty that is inherently unstable. For this reason the natural trajectory of the Bond franchise was one of gentle decline. In its early days, the owners realized this and decided to protect the essential characteristics of the product and offset the essential downward trajectory by stretching credulity to its limits and by investing more of the profits in publicity and improving production quality and spectacle.

One of the key features of Bond has always been the distance that exists between him and the audience due to the fact that he is a cold-blooded killer who hides his true feelings – if any – behind a stylish façade. This creates mystery and lessens the need for psychological realism, making the character more believable in the fantastic storylines in which he exists. By turning him into a kind of cipher of masculinity rather than a psychologically textured individual, it also makes him easier to identify with, even if the identification is superficial. This is the essence of Bond, and the engine of this cultural phenomenon.

But this absence of a warm, wet psychological inner story also represents a piece of prime, undeveloped real estate lying at the core of the phenomenon. As such, it has also represented a quick cash-in opportunity, something that can be cannibalized for short-term gain, with the character's feelings and emotions providing novelty value and interest at the expense of longer-term functionality. This road also offers the prospect of greater appeal for female audiences, and indeed the producer of the franchise is now firmly in the hands of a middle-aged woman.

Bond girl: present producer Barbara Broccoli
In the past, despite his blatant sexism, women had a grudging respect for Bond, because he was an enormously successful cultural über-male with pronounced alpha-consumerist tendencies, but their interest was largely limited to passing interest or tolerance. Daniel Craig's more emotional, feely, and vulnerable Bond has reached out to them and expanded the Bond demographic. But it has only been able to do this by essentially damaging, dismantling, and diluting the essence of the true Bond. Earlier incarnations flirted with this dangerous alchemy – Lazenby and Dalton – but the fact that these were the two least successful Bonds is significant.

A focus on Bond as an emotional being immediately undermines the balance between the realism and ridiculousness of the situations that he exists in. To avoid the contradiction, Bond either reverts back to being true Bond – Sean Connery stepped in to repair the damage after Lazenby as Pierce Brosnan did after "the Welsh Bond" Timothy Dalton – or else the psychological and character issues become more dominant, which is the way Daniel Craig's Bond is going. This is essentially a self-destructive spiral for Bond.

One reason why the Black Bond notion is credible is because it would be a culmination of a long process of politically correct intrusions that have seen white and male roles in the film given over to ethnics and women, most notably Judi Dench's abysmal M. On the surface, the franchise seems more popular than ever. But although acceptance of Bond has never been wider, his popularity has never been shallower. This is a façade of popularity temporarily purchased by hollowing out the essence of Bond and by appealing to unnatural demographics, such as women and anti-White ethnic groups.

Felix Leiter – WTF?!
The real question is whether those running the Bond franchise are aware of this end game. After all they are the ones who have ripped up the decking to provide the fuel to keep the boilers running. More than star-struck media functionaries, they should be aware that Bond, stripped of its defining qualities, can now be bettered by almost any well-written and well-funded spy/action start up. All it really has is its name and this will increasingly become a drag.

If they do realize, the appointment of the first Black Bond would signal an attempt to squeeze out the last bit of profit. Any mighty vehicle, once it has reached the end of the road, still has an enormous scrap value if it is sent to the right scrap yard.

Having a Black actor in the role would destroy the last vestiges of British reserve and irony that have survived Daniel Craig's overwrought onslaught on the character. As for the once subtle mix of fantasy and reality, a Black Bond may as well employ the services of Mini-Me, Doctor Evil, and Fat Bastard, as it would be a farce on a par with Austin Powers.

But attempting to keep Bond going in the traditional way will not work either. Pierce Brosnan's tenure (1995-2002) was a last, brave attempt to do so. British society and culture have changed too much to make that even vaguely tenable. So, there is a kind of terrible logic in having a Black Bond. Although such a politically-correct freak show would be a major cultural car crash, it would also temporarily enthral the media and give the franchise one last, gruesome spurt of life, with rubbernecking punters rolling in before losing all interest. A Black Bond would be like selling tickets to a funeral.


A podcast Andy and Colin recorded with Richard Spencer around the time of this article. Image: Moneypenny (now Black) has "empowered woman" intimacy with Bond.

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