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"The Spy Who Respected Me" is James Bond for the #MeToo era

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founding
Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023

Dr written consent must be given before engaging in sexual intercourse and be otherwise not revoked

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Dr No is a Sentence

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Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023Liked by Ed West

What I find annoying about the present cultural situation is not merely that so much modern fiction (in books, on television, in the cinema) is insistently, assertively politicised. There is, after all, great political art in the world.

No, the problem is that so much of what passes for fiction today is so painfully inartistic. To judge from the extracts quoted in Niall Gooch's amusing article, one would assume that the author of the new Bond is unaware that there is a difference between literature and journalism at all. Higson is entitled to create a Bond with a modern outlook; what he isn't entitled to do is to imbue him with thought processes that sound like a column in The Guardian. Above all, they shouldn't sound so damn second-hand. An author who can talk about "the crude but effective nationalist playbook", or the "age-old lure of the strong man to those who felt left behind and bewildered by change", is an author who has lost the war against cliche. He's also lost sight of the possibility that there might be validity in more than one ideological position, and that the purpose of fiction is to seek to understand rather than to judge.

I spent part of this summer travelling around Bulgaria, and (since I like to theme my holiday reading nationally) took with me Anton Donchev's Time of Parting, a historical novel about the Ottoman authorities trying to convert the Christian population of a valley in the Rhodopes to Islam. The book was published in 1964, i.e., during Communist rule in Bulgaria. Yet Donchev seems genuinely interested in exploring the thought processes of a Christian priest, a Muslim zealot, and a freethinking Frankish knight who has converted unwillingly from the former to the latter without really believing in either. What's remarkable is that, Communism notwithstanding, the cultural circumstances of the time and place in which he was writing apparently gave him at least some latitude to do so.

By contrast, so much "woke" art consists merely of the dogmatic reiteration of contemporary pieties. Writers of this school have a slogan ready for every circumstance. The people they invent are categorised rather than characterised. Humanity is divided neatly into heroes and villains; no shades of grey can be permitted to muddy binary divisions. The constricting impact of this philosophy on the creative imagination seems in some respects only comparable to the contortions undergone by artists in Stalinist Russia or in Maoist China. This is not merely art that has to be careful about what it says. It is art that has to be careful about what it dares to think.

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“categorised rather than characterised”

Superb summary. New films/books have no nuance whatsoever and are generally boring and predictable, with hackneyed and stilted dialogue. I seriously expect some characters (white males, usually) to burst into maniacal laughter - “You want fairness and understanding? Fools! You do not know just how evil I truly am - mwhahahhahaha!!!” At best, you’ll get some sort of childhood abuse abuse background which is how and why the baddies became the way they are - always some derivation of an abusive bigoted loser without genuine talent, natch.

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DEI Another Day

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founding
Sep 5, 2023·edited Sep 5, 2023

This Summer, James Bond as you've never seen him before.

M: We're sending you on a little course, 007.

Bond: A course? Explosives? Firearms? Surveillance?

M: No, 007. Workplace sexual harassment sensitivity training.

Bond faces his toughest opponent yet: The HR Department.

Q: You've a licence to kill, 007, not to make suggestive comments to female colleagues during work hours.

Bond: Good evening Moneypenny. I'd comment on that blouse you're wearing, but that would be...inappropriate?

Moneypenny: That's better, James.

James Bond makes his explosive return in:

Dr. No Means No.

*James Bond Chord twangs*

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founding

That one scorched. So many good lines,

"It is because of our civilisational upheaval that we see the increasing focus on diversity in the 007 films and speculation about making the next Bond black or female but conquering religions always absorb and recast figures from the old faith. "

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author

thank you!

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Sep 5, 2023Liked by Ed West

In Quantum of Solace (the Fleming short story, not the excrable film), Bond is in the Caribbean, having bombed a boat belonging to the Cuban opposition, even though Bond supports the rebels, so left wing Bond has always been around.

Having said that, in 2018 Gemma Arterton, greatest living Englishwoman and underwritten star of Quantum of Solace, rewrote he character's story in a short appearing in a book edited by Scarlett Curtis, daughter of Richard Curtis, and the Fleming estate wouldn't let them use the name Bond, so they obviously keep a tight rein on how the name is used and won't touch anything they think will harm the brand.

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"Yet to detractors, to continue the Bond series, either on the screen or in novels, while changing his essential worldview makes no more sense than writing a new Flashman book where he works for an international hunger charity."

In fairness, done correctly the latter could be very very funny.

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true! if he kept his character and, as Jimmy Nicholls says, considering some of the revelations, could be darkly funny.

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Given some of the scandals at certain relief charities, the ample supply of young idealistic women in the field and the promise of plaudits at home, this actually seems like exactly what Flashman's descendants might be up to today.

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Check out the OSS 117 French films with Jean Dujardin. Parodies of the James Bond type out of step with the times.

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That would be like Boris Johnson living the life of Rory Stewart.

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That was a heartfelt essay because it's been a while since I read anything that encapsulated the tug of war feelings in the complex entity that is the human mind.

I'll admit there is probably slightly more in common between the correct-thinking modern woke bureaucrat that is the latest bond and some of his correct-thinking Foreign Office official of, say, the 1890s. The values may be different, but the adherence and loyalty to the institutional power structure is of primacy. Both persons would be impeccably behaved, courteous, respectful, and utterly correct in their thinking as per the morally superior value system of the day.

It does make you wonder how much of people's embracing of the value system is driven by attraction to power? It makes you think long and hard about how truly free-thinking and independent even educated people can be in the liberal democracies and is it human nature to gravitate and defer to those who hold power as also those who are the most moral and virtuous?

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I think power attracts people who are either ambitious or conformist or sometimes agreeable. A lot of the latter just adopt the current political ideology because it seems both nice and unstoppable. but there's definitely been a change in the personality types attracted to centre-left politics as it's become more dominant. Just as happened in 4th century Rome. the tug is that modern progressives have a self-image as rebels when they often really like rules and hate rule-breakers (I think a lot of that came out in lockdown when it was not following the rules, rather than endangering people, that riled many journalists, although that's for another day(

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Agree. Probably the oddest thing to have witnessed in our lifetime is to see the progressive left go from rule breakers to rule enforcers and the conservative right go from rule enforcers to rule breakers. Both feel distinctly uncomfortable with their newfound roles, which does make no sense given what left and right are supposed to be about. And thus all the unease everywhere.

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It's not odd if you start from the (libertarian) assumption that everyone and every group wants power. The out of power group will always tend towards subversive behavior, and the in-power group will always try to promote the status quo.

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And then throw in a healthy dose of amour propre, one of the few things Rousseau got right.

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Oh no A.N. Owen, I have been surprised at how quickly and indeed with gusto that the progressive left have seized upon power and wielded it without restraint.

I would agree that the conservatives have been left largely at a loss as to how to proceed, they tend to assume that rules must be followed even if you disagree with them, and that the institutions that have been converged and assimilated remain respectable and should be protected/defended even as they are being mercilessly slandered and attacked by those same institutions.

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Dr Who did it for me. I no longer watch it.

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I have heard others saying it (haven't really watched since as a kid except one Eccleston episode I happen to watch recently which was great)

Haven't managed to do Rings of Power, just can't really face it.

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RoP is very amusing if you consider how much it cost to produce such an incredibly poor product. Almost tragic.

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The fact is that Sauron, Gandalf and several other shock reveals were obvious from the first moment they appeared in episodes 1 and 2. The writers *think* they are stupendously clever, but frankly it’s the sort of thing a fan-fic writer of very modest talents would come with. In fact, I’ve read better fan-fic for LotR than the RoP will ever be.

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founding

Yeah same here. I don't mind them cramming wokeness into silly shit like Bond or Star Wars but I draw the line at The Silmarillion.

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Who always tended to veer left. Then the writers would get a tax bill and come back to their senses- See the Sunmakers which is a dig at the 1970s Labour Government . Two things seem to have happened- Dr Who seems to have historically a Gay fan base. Which Russell T Davis comes from- Dr Who is being sold to the US and is competing against Trek.

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Ah, that explains a lot and is probably why the storylines, not just the characters are increasingly unbelievable!

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As i don't have Netflix, Amazon, or any of the other gazillion streaming services I have no idea what any of the latest 'versions' or adaptations or follow-ons might be like - I suspect I'd be very disappointed.

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". . . a character who is inherently quite misogynistic"

misogyny n. Hatred of or hostility towards women

I don't think this describes James Bond at all. I don't know about the books, but in all the films I've watched, he appears to enjoy the company of women. He even makes Stacy Sutton a quiche in View to a Kill.

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Blunt, Burgess, and Mclean....

I did read your exchange I was quite amused by it

I think where Charlie is going wrong- is that if Bond is too of the moment it will date Bond. Instead of having Bond in an idealized swinging London- and occasionally showing a nasty incident outside a Mayfair club before Bond takes a BOAC DC 10 to Bogota- Where he sits behind with Bobby Moore and Jeff Astle.

Sending Bond to the place where people get their rear molars extracted, and go for last minute holidays is going to kill the suspension of disbelief. A Bond novel written in the 1990s might have a Gun Fight in Split. Which is where you went last year for your bank holiday.

This is why good SF has people playing chess and listening to Beethoven and not playing Super Atari and listening to Gareth Gates.

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60s period Bond is the ideal.

I was hoping the next film would just go back to that but its sounds like they're dragging it on.

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founding

Perhaps tempered by growing anxiety that they might kill the brand with audiences rebelling against diversity by not turning up

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Such an easy win. If they want to do the feminist angle too. You could have Julie Dench's M as a young woman in the service. Watching someone playing Connery as Connery

It is a soft reboot

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In the South Bank Show on Simon Raven, Raven says that on leaving Cambridge he would have become an MI6 spy (in the late 1940s), were it not for the fact that you had to be left-wing and homosexual which ruled him out as a conservative bisexual.

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founding

Great piece, Ed. Also thanks for linking to that Gooch review, which was hilarious.

He's wrong about how there will inevitably be a backlash against this stuff though. I mean there will be eventually but it's going like a century from now. Things are going to be like this for a very long time.

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A fine tightrope to walk: not being horrid to Charlie Higson while seething that he is part of the progressive movement hijacking our culture. A case of hate the sin, not the sinner.

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"...makes no more sense than writing a new Flashman book where he works for an international hunger charity."

Actually I think that's the perfect modern equivalent of the Victorian British Army! Please write it, someone.

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author

I’m going to try chatGPT and see what it comes up with!

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Make sure you're tough & specific with the prompt, eg "write a comic masterpiece with no woke nonsense or special pleading for pitbulls...." Probably less effort to just write it yourself.

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"Those books go out of copyright in 2034 . . ."

Now that lots of dead authors like Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse are having their books re-written by the publishers who own their rights, why aren't conservatives pushing to reduce copyright lengths? If we had the same copyright law we had before joining the EU, these authors would already be out of copyright. If nothing is done, I expect C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien will be next.

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Oh, it's all part of the grand rewriting of history. If publishers can't retain their control of copyrights, how else can we convince future generations that Miss Marple is really a non-binary transgender lesbian girlboss raging against racist village society for, as we now know, St. Mary Mead was actually always at least 40% black ever since time immemorial.

(note that I did not mention class. Somehow I've a feeling the new progressive generation isn't quite as opposed to class as long as they themselves occupy the upper regions).

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