Hello all! James Bond has indeed returned, this time in Human Bondage‘s discussion of The Man With the Golden Gun, where Roger Moore, armed only with a Walther PPK, spurs with Christopher Lee’s third nipple. Elliot Chapman is our guest this month, and as always he’s dazzling and charming and enchanting, and bafflingly willing to put up with our nonsense. We’ve got a great show for you, as always, and as always HUMAN BONDAGE WILL RETURN.…
Apologies for taking so long to update this show. We’ve been having some technical difficulties and life difficulties largely caused by lockdown. Such is life (and death I suppose). Dead men record no podcasts with the exception of Chris Cantwell.
Anyway, Of Human Bondage, the podcast where Kit Power, Sam Maleski, and myself watch and analyze the Eon series of James Bond 007 films, has returned. This month we’re discussing From Russia With Love, the first true classic Bond movie, for all the polysemic pregnancy of that phrase. And for the first time, we’re joined by a guest, the brilliant Chris O’Leary, author of the (ostensibly) now completed and sublime David Bowie blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame, its two-part book adaptation Rebel Rebel and Ashes to Ashes, and currently, the delightfully sprawling blog 64 Quartets, which is exactly what you think it is. He’s a great addition to our little entourage, and we expect we’ll speak to him again down the line (about a much worse movie, per Chris’ request).
It’s a great time. Sam, Kit, and I always walk away from recording sessions feeling elated after laughing and commiserating together for two hours. I can vouch for it being the most fun I’ve ever had on a podcast as well as some of the most fulfilling creative work I’ve ever participated in. You should listen to it, sans the content warning letting you know that it’s not for you (we’re talking about James Bond, after all). See you next month, when Of Human Bondage will return in: Goldfinger!…
There was a fair amount of media chin-scratching last year about a supposed glumness and seriousness creeping into popular movies. The real trend, I think, is not towards the ‘serious’ but towards the reactionary.
For one thing, there’s recently been a spate of popular, lauded films and TV shows re-inflating Islamophobia (again) in a ‘nuanced’ form acceptable to liberals as well as to outright bigots. The much-lauded Argo depicts a heroic CIA rescue of American hostages in Iran. Always handy, being able to demonise Iran. (Modern Iran’s origin is, of course, a long and complex story, and does not present ‘the West’ in a good light… which is why nobody balanced and objective ever mentions it.) The much-lauded Zero Dark Thirty depicts torture as being both effective and morally conscionable, with the only negative consequence in sight being the discomfort of the torturers. It misrepresents ‘enhanced interrogation’ as being a valuable technique leading directly to the location of Osama and, by means of ambivalence and ambiguity (disingenuously used as a defence by the director), it effectively sides with the torturers. To be neutral about torture is to be effectively pro-torture. The enmeshing of the torture within a legalistic framework of neutrality and supposed utilitarianism is both very apt – the quintessential facet of torture as it is practiced by modern democracies is that it is steeped in punctilious legality – and very normalising.
These new liberal/Islamophobic popular movies, which also appeal to the criterati and the awards-boards, have come just as the American empire (and its allies) has beeing stepping up its rhetoric about the evils of Iran in particular, and the possibility of intervening in struggles in the Arab world. Clearly, part and parcel of the imperium’s cultural reactlash to/against the Arab Spring. This isn’t anything new. The previous round of mainstream liberal-inflected movies about the ‘War on Terror’ and Iraq were similarly punctual in their ideological addresses; as with the Vietnam movies of the late-70s and 80s, they served as an ostentatious display of American culture in the throws of ‘painful self-examination’ and ‘angst’ about a military adventure held in increasing public opprobrium. The Hurt Locker was more prompt than The Deer Hunter, but essentially peddled the same assumptions and the same normalising effects.
The buzz lately has been about two big movies from big directors, both tackling the issue of slavery. Spielberg’s Lincoln and Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Lincoln makes the destruction of slavery seem like the accomplishment of old white guys in government offices. It’s not actually that much better than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration.) Lincoln nods in the direction of black soldiers and black resistance, but the essential story being told is the one long since abandoned by most historians: the story of the abolition of slavery being a legal coup handed down from Washington. The reality is that Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was a recognition of something happening ‘on the ground’ as the slaves of the South rebelled in enormous numbers, stealing themselves from their owners and joining the Union armies. …