So, the new James Bond film - No Time To Die - seems to have animated a section of my community, due to its apparent 'wokeness'. And this has given me pause and intrigued me.
To begin with, let's define what wokeness actually means. The term woke was officially accepted into the English dictionary in 2007, and refers to a well-informed awareness of social discrimination, injustice and inequality; issues like racism, sexism and homophobia. It then took a stronger hold in the (largely American) public consciousness in 2012, following the wrongful death of Trayvon Martin, where the hashtag #StayWoke was used by Black Lives Matter to help raise awareness for this, and equally abhorrant, racial injustices. You can read more about the emergence and definition of woke in this article .
I have now seen No Time To Die and, as a once ardent Bond fan [more for the Aston Martins than the franchise itself, if I'm honest - that and the intense and unapologetic crush I once had on Pierce Brosnan - but let's sweep that under the carpet and never speak of it again], it's with great regret that I must confess I didn't like it; for innumerable reasons besides its apparent wokeness. Obviously I can't divulge what those reasons are, because I promised you a spoiler-free blog, but there was so much wrong with it, when I was expecting to love it. As my daughter would say (tongue-in-cheek): my disappointment was immeasureable and my day was ruined!
The complaints I've heard from those around me tend to focus squarely on Lashana Lynch's 007 character, Nomi. Shock and horror, brace yourselves because Nomi is... gasp... a BLACK WOMAN, and 007 can't possibly be a Black woman, according to the purists. Whilst they clutch their white pearls and reach for the smelling salts, I will call BS, as the film handles the whys and wherefores of Nomi's codename promotion perfectly well, plus Lashana Lynch was, in my opinion, a breath of fresh nuanced air, who aquitted herself expertly in the role.
Then there are the peripheral issues of Bond displaying a softer, more tender side of his character (which Connery's Bond would never do), Ben Wishaw's Q being openly gay, there not being enough gadgets or scantily clad Bond girls, and definately not enough screen time for the Aston Martin DBS [okay, okay, that last one was just me] - and that's before we get to the controversial ending!
All the way back in 1995's GoldenEye, Judi Dench's M told Bond she thought him a "... sexist misogynistic dinosaur...", to which Brosnan's Bond responded: "Point taken". Now the cries from the cheap seats complain about Bond's wokeness, but I would argue that, whilst I hated this movie on many levels, its wokeness didn't even register for me. Quite frankly, I enjoyed witnessing Bond's evolution from misogynistic dinosaur to Craig's more woke portrayal, as I had feared that Bond would eventually devolve into a caricature of an antiquated relic (of the cold war). If we were to be constantly fed a 20th century Bond in our 21st century world, wouldn't it end up serving only as nostalgia for a few Boomers, rather than rampant entertainment for the masses? Therefore, Bond himself must surely evolve with the times, yes? As Will Rogers says: Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
PROGRESS NEVER SLEEPS
The purists (racists and misogynists) who scream that e.g.: Idris Elba cannot possibly be James Bond, or Gillian Anderson must never, ev-ver incarnate a Jane Bond, all hungrily devour the technologically advanced gadgets, weaponry and vehicles. So why can't they embrace an evolving Bond in the same vein, as he's arguably the greatest weapon against tyranny of them all? Well, may I suggest that despite the purists' devotion to historical times, when men were men and women were barefoot and pregnant, a working title for the next Bond film might be Adapt or Die, or Progress Never Sleeps - because if Bond and the franchise didn't adapt to the 21st century - and the audience's evolving social awareness and wokeness - then there would most certainly be time to die... as all relics of history have died before them.
Of course there's space for an appreciation of the historic. Dammit, the vast majority of my playlist could be considered historic, but we as a species crave novel advancement in every aspect of our lives, and in no area more so than our entertainment streams. Would we ever accept the exact same stunt sequences movie in, movie out? No, we want to see something groundbreaking. Would we accept the same intro, bridge and chorus styles in our playlist? No, we want delicious variety, always. You get the gist. The purists want change but only on their narrow guage nostalgic terms, but change has never been so selectively accommodating; either everything Bond updates, or none of it does - how would a half and half even work? Their demands to keep Bond himself locked in the 1960s, whilst his adversaries, weaponry and technology advance, are therefore unreasonable.
I have one friend who adores the Aston Martin DB5. Fine, it's a beautiful car, but he balks at the DBS, the lack of gadgets [I'm with him on that] and scantily clad Bond girls. Hmmm. So, in his mind he'd have a 1960s Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 fighting and outrunning the manifestations of 21st century tyranny, weaponry and a modern day DBS? That's like starting a race between a 1960s Formula One car and a modern day Formula One car. As beautful, inspiring and technologically advanced as the vintage cars were in their day, the world has moved on and there is simply no contest between them and all things modern, now. That's what we do as a species, we evolve, and if Bond has to be somehow aspirationally relatable to the audience - enough at least for us to pay and watch his exploits - then we're going to have to see something of ourselves in those characters. In all seriousness, how relatable are the 1960s Dr No characters to us now, especially to the Gen X-ers and beyond; aka the key demographics?
If the purists believe modern day Bond has strayed too far from the spirit of Fleming's novels, perhaps they should have refrained from watching the films when the books ran out, stopped the clocks and taken to the attic in their wedding gowns? The rest of us however accept the bargain that we're now watching Fleming-lite Bond, which includes his personal evolution as well as that of his cars, weaponry and meglomaniac du jour. If we would accept his modern style stunts and fighting techniques, then we must equally accept a modern, feeling, evolving Bond - otherwise the misogynistic dinsosaur is doomed to make like all other dinosaurs, and die from his inability to adapt. This, it has to be said from my Life Coach's point of view, is true for us all.
Think of the job James Bond has been trained to do, what his purpose is, and the skill he must demonstrate to do it well. It's one of the reasons he's licenced to kill: to be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, with lethal force if necessary, based solely on his evolving judgment, during the frenetic development of events. He is trusted to make quick, astute, and adaptive decisions for Queen and country, adopting whatever persona, attire or credentials necessary to get the job done. How exactly is he expected to do this if his mindset is stuck like a stylus on a scratched record [aka vinyl to you Millenials, Gen Zs and As]? Amongst other things, Mr Bond can seemingly fly or drive anything, fight and win against any adversary, whilst escaping everywhere (well, almost everywhere). This prowess is only achieveable from a growth and open mindset, combined with a willingness and ability to adapt.
We must wake up to James Bond's wokeness and embrace it, along with all the other 21st century values it represents, because the alternative is to condemn him to the dusty pages of history. As we must evolve as a human species and shed the hideous attitudes and prejudices of the past, so must Bond, simply because they are unresourceful relics of a bygone era, and helpful to no one. Sure, enthusiasts can reminisce about 'the good old days' when e.g.: Fangio won in an Alfetta 159, but that antiquated car is not going to win a damn thing these days, but in fairness it doesn't need to because its legacy lives on in its pedigree. Ditto James Bond of 1962, reminisce if you wish, but he couldn't hold a candle to Bond 2021.
Another argument against e.g.: Idris Elba playing Bond is this: "It's like Russell Brand playing Nelson Mandela in a biopic". No, no it's not, because Nelson Mandela was a real person and Bond is a fictional character. Admittedly whilst race isn't the issue in this context, how close a match was Tom Cruise for the part Jack Reacher, or Nicole Kidman for the part of Lucille Ball [don't get me started on that]? You see, we can suspend our disbelief when we want to.
And one last big and important thing. Toxic masculinity is real and it's dangerous. Perpetuating the myth that 'real men' are tough, fearless, hazardously stoic and unfeeling is unravelling everything we (society) are trying to establish in our support of men's mental health these days. I know that I am raising my son, and supporting my clients, to acknowledge and accept their true selves, as opposed to acquiescing to other people's (outdated) expectations of them, and this Bond issue doesn't help that. We don't teach people how to human enough as it is, without dispersing this unnecessary and mythical BS in the direction of men for shits, giggles and profit. So I say, as you were Mr Bond, but if the next movie sucks as badly as No Time To Die did, and Henry Cavill isn't the new Bond, I'm going to point my gigantic "las-er" towards Earth and demand one million dollars by way of ransom, mwahaha.
No, wait, that's a different movie, isn't it?
Seriously though, boy's and men's mental health is no joke and we have to wake up to the dangers of toxic masculinity. I've been up close and personal to someone who has buckled and collapsed mentally from the poisonous rhetoric and expectations of others, and I'm on a mission to support others going through it, and to stop the rot, especially with my son's generation going forwards.
T. H. I. N. K.
Please think before you speak, and maybe re-evaluate how resourceful your opinions are before making noise shaped air for others to hear, like we all have an obligation to internalise what you say. Words are powerful, they can hurt and breed (generational) misinformation. Apply the T. H. I. N. K. principle: Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? Because if it's not all of those things (and your opinions aren't facts BTW), then please either evolve and join the 21st century, or move out of the way of progress. As quietly as you can. Thank you.