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Word is Bond

March 26, 2009

The following item seems to have come to my attention a little late. I can only surmise that the hitherto omniscient gaze I once cast over pop-culture and the world of entertainment is in decline. The reasons for this are partly related to living in Korea and likely related to being at the threshold of one’s 30’s, suddenly filling one’s time with concerns over home furnishings and houseplants.

Hollywood star Damon

Hollywood star Damon

Hollywood star, activist and all-round hunk, Matt Damon apparently indulged in a scathing attack on James Bond whilst promoting The Bourne Ultimatum. (I know, happened about 18 months prior to the time of this writing…but I heard about it last week.) Speaking in London, at the UK premiere of the third Bourne film, Damon is reported to have said:

“The Bond character will always be anchored in the 1960s and in the values of the 1960s.”

“Bond is an imperialist and a misogynist who kills people and laughs about it, and drinks Martinis and cracks jokes,”

This prompted angry responses from peeved Bond fans and an assortment of full-time Damon critics, many of whom launched counter-attacks on what they saw as the comparatively glum and stiff character of Jason Bourne.  I’ve enjoyed both the Bourne movies and the recently revived Bond franchise and, in fact, see both franchises as being locked in an almost symbiotic relationship that furthers their mutual success. Bourne was inspired by Bond; appealed to fans of spy adventure/thrillers in the same way. Bond (struggling for 21st century relevance) then took its cues from the more modern Bourne and was reinvented, or ‘rebooted’, as they like to say.

Matt Damon seems to be trying to assert that the fictional espionage-movie franchise that he is involved with is in possession of far more socio-political righteousness than the long-running and massively successful series of James Bond films. That may well be true but what strikes me about the criticism Damon made above is that it’s akin to launching an attack on Tarzan, strongly objecting to the character on the grounds that he was probably a man who fucked chimps and threw his faeces around. It’s like lashing out at the Jedi Knights for being religiously fanatical elitists who spout New Age bullshit and assume a right to power based on genetic inheritance.

Tarzan....chimpfucker?

Tarzan....chimpfucker?

James Bond is a misogynist and an imperialist? Possibly, but more immediately and pressingly, he’s a fictional super spy that battles evildoers and risks his life thwarting their plans for global domination. In other words, trashy, disposable fun. It’s also worth pointing out that the question of Bond’s misogyny has been addressed on screen since at least Pierce Brosnan’s first outing in Goldeneye and has been countered with a plethora of strong, capable and equally dangerous female characters, including Bond’s superior M, played by the formidable Judi Dench. As for Bond’s perceived “imperialism”, granted Damon made these comments a year before the release of Quantum Of Solace, but the most recent Bond flick showed the protagonist battling against a shadow empire in the form of the clandestine Quantum organisation, a powerful global group seeking total control of the world’s resources. Rather than doing this on behalf of his own (presumably British) empire, James Bond is considered by his superiors in British and American intelligence to have gone rogue. His motives are shown as being based on personal revenge, not “imperialism”. The charge laid by Damon, however, is not at all surprising given the frequent and illegitimate manner in which the word “imperialism” is thrown around these days. No great cause for concern. Celebrity politics (of which Matt Damon’s comments have the distinct whiff) are like action/adventure movies about super spies; mostly harmless and distracting, disposable fun.

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