I should warn you, the reader, that I actually like Roger Moore. Most people like Connery the best, and I agree, but I think Moore made a great James Bond for his time. Sure, the stunt scenes look ridiculous with his footage intercut in, but he brought a sense of humor and camp sensibility to Bond that I thought did the series a lot of favors at that point in its history.
|You can really see how stressed Roger Moore looks…|
|… while his stunt double does this.|
Bond & Egypt
The Egyptian government worried themselves quite a bit over their country’s depiction in this film even before its creation. The government only allowed shooting in Egypt after approving the script. A government representative remained on the set throughout shooting to make sure the film depicted Egypt in a flattering light. From a cinematographic perspective, Egypt looks gorgeous in the film. Material-wise, as the government undoubtedly concluded, I didn’t find much to offend me as an Arab.
|Hosein, the most prominent “Arab” in the film, totally doesn’t look at all like an Aryan Englishman who dresses in a dimly-lit thrift shop. Nope. No siree Bob.|
The Egyptian people served largely the same purpose as the native people in any of the various lands Bond visits throughout the films. The women indulge his predatory pick-up-artistry. The men arrogantly play both sides of the Iron Curtain. They give Bond information or they die. Often both.
The Egyptians in this film stood out to me mostly for their abject sexism. Most of the Egyptian women serve as mute servants in the background. Only one utters any scripted words on-screen and she turns out to work for the enemy. Nevertheless, calling characters in a Bond film sexist feels a bit like calling someone in AA an alcoholic. Considering Bond seems to occasionally forget that women can vote now, any friend of a his would probably take “sexist” as a compliment. As someone who’s seen a lot (but not all) of the series, I didn’t really find anything about Egypt’s sexism more offensive than the usual Bond-movie sexism.
|Let’s not get me wrong; I find this offensive.|
But the entire series treats women as hotel amenities, so this by itself doesn’t exactly stand out.
|Of course, Bond ignores the hordes of Egyptian extras who don’t inexplicably want in his pants.|
|If I really wanted to feel offended, Max Kalba here has a surname very close to “كلبة,” which means “bitch.”|
Public vs. Private
Some people watch Bond films for the cars, others for the girls, and others to look at the gadgets and all the disparate ways in which the writers didn’t think of smartphones.
|This still looks more appealing than the Apple Watch.|
|Also, I suppose we all like to see Q sass it up while he fails to anticipate the Internet.|
|Even animated, just look at this badass and tell me you don’t want to buy his action figure off eBay!|
In the characterization of the villains, The Spy Who Loved Me stands out as unusually progressive and autocritical for a Bond film. The film’s very plot calls for Russia and the west to put aside their differences and fight a common enemy: privatization.
|You can always spot a lair of evil by how much it looks like a spider.|
|I know evil when I see it, especially when it looks this much like Rupert Murdoch.|
|Like many of the 1%, Jaws also tries cutting-edge medical techniques to address his iron deficiency.|
|Partway through the film, Jaws realizes he always wanted a convertible.|
In another example of plutocracy run amok, Stromberg employs an entire private military—with officers and enlisted ranks and everything—to act out his orders. This private armed force feels like a precursor to Blackwater, soldiers in a military with a lot more money and a lot fewer rules. We see these soldiers participate in (at worst) or condone (at best) kidnapping, murder, and treason. Again, the film sends the same message: the state—which has to please the people on some level or risk revolution—has, by its very nature, a level of accountability for which the private sector has no use.
The film depicts the Soviet Union with surprising sympathy. The film seems to advance the idea that extreme privatization affects both sides of the Cold War enough to put it on hold.
|The conversation of an ancient tomb into a base also strikes me as a tacit admission of first- and second-world imperialism.|
Sex & Sexism
News sources recently reported that infamously abusive, greedy megachurch potentate and accomplished piece of shit Mark Driscoll once referred to women as “penis houses.” In a display of the sort of loyalty and rectitude typical of organized religion, his Mars Hill church only recently started acknowledging this and distancing themselves from Driscoll after they noticed Driscoll’s detrimental effects on their fundraising. I bring that up here because Driscoll’s sort of misogyny seems like the exact kind of attitude one would acquire from watching too many James Bond movies in childhood.
We all know James Bond films have a reputation for sexism. It often seems remarkable that a series that never (intentionally) does nude scenesi can so consistently depict women as objects deficient of free will. But for a pre-Judi Dench Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me actually comes closer to shining a light on its own sexism than most. The film achieves this by giving Bond a foil, a Russian (near) equal and opposite. You’d never know it from the name, but Bond meets his match in… Agent XXX.
Barbara Bach plays Agent XXX, Major Anya Amasova. Bach’s Russian accent could have really used a little work, but other than that, I really liked her character. She possesses a level of training and proficiency relatively close to Bond’s. Several times, Bond underestimates her and to his own humiliation. Unlike virtually every other character in Bond history, she succeeds in striking a nerve with him when she mentions his dead wife. She actually plays an active, relevant role in the story, with a motive that makes her part-friend, part-enemy.
|Their mutual distrust goes a long way toward making the characterization appealing.|
|Her method of delivering knockout gas also teaches a valuable lesson about dating smokers.|
|See what happens to even the most progressive Bond girls?|
|As much as I like this shot, I could do without Amasova always walking several steps behind Bond.|
|Frankly, behaving like this, he deserves it.|
|More often than not, in a Bond film you can look at a character and know when s/he will die.|
i I consider myself a feminist and I find America’s female breast taboo antiquated, sexist, and irrational. But I have needs, Broccoli family! I’d have a much easier time sitting through these 2+-hour Bond movies if they’d at least throw me a nipple or two! 23 nipple-less movies now?! Come on!