‘Spectre’ is little more than an orientalist cliché

In ‘Spectre’, James Bond is presented with a vitabiotic smoothie. “Do me a favour, throw that in the toilet – cut out the middle man” he quips. Cue laughs. James Bond does not like healthy green smoothies, nor does he like water. None of the recommended 8 glasses a day for him – instead, a diet of hard liquor only. Presumably he also takes issue with green veg, because Real Men don’t have time for diets, for fads, or for politically correct personal views. James Bond is the ultimate poster boy for this brand of masculinity – a brand that has fallen out of favour in the modern world – because the Bond franchise is a product of its time.
Ian Fleming’s original incarnation was written in the 1950s with Britain at the height of Empire, and with his slick fitted suits, public school education and military prowess, Bond is a model colonial gentleman.
In ‘Spectre’ we see Bond pitted against an evil organization attempting worldwide surveillance, the brainchild of new head of British Intelligence and double agent C, who ignores his code-name and in the manner of a slimy PR executive, insists, ‘call me Max’. However, there is a nod to post-war attitudes, as the members of ‘Spectre’ that gather to discuss global domination in a shadowy conference room are comprised of mysterious foreigners, unlike our good British Bond.
The man in question must defeat this evil modern computer with a good old-fashioned bit of spy work, and he subsequently minces around the globe, waving his masculinity about at any given opportunity. He attempts to sleep with every woman in sight – regardless of whether he has just murdered her husband. Just in case we might miss it, the opening credits drum in this rampant sexism, as a parade of naked women caress Bond and gyrate with a phallic octopus, in scenes that call to mind Hentai tentacle porn.
In this colonial vision, there is no room for a nuanced depiction of Africa. Instead, Morocco is merely a backdrop for more white exploits. Fleeting market frames are replaced by vast desert landscapes. The aptly name ‘L’American’ hotel is a get-away for rich Westerners like Bond-girl Madeline’s parents, who continued to go there ‘after the divorce’, doing little to dispel the colonial vision of Africa as a den of sexual deviancy. There are few African characters to note, apart from the desert chauffeur – who of course drives a classic British car, a Rolls-Royce.
The real hero of the film is technological wizard Q, who prevents the new surveillance system from going live. But Q is – obviously – a geek, and is thus given only a sad cat man backstory, while Bond gets the last laugh. After a standoff with Christoph Waltz’s villain, Bond gets the girl and drives off into the hopeful future of the privileged white man.
But at the end of the day, this is James Bond, a franchise that is completely self-aware of the vision it is pedaling – Daniel Craig himself conceded that Bond is “actually a misogynist”. And so the franchise will survive to entertain us, flaws and all.

Image: Glyn Love

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