SPECTRE Movie Review


Finally, I took the time to see the new James Bond film SPECTRE. I understand that I’m a bit more than a week behind the curve when it comes to this movie review, but in the following, I will give you what few reviews on this film have been able to give… a good review. That’s right; I liked this film. It wasn’t the best Bond, but it was a good Bond. In the following, I will give you my brief impression of SPECTRE, but first let me write the obligatory warning: spoilers!

SPECTRE is being touted as the finale of the previous films done with the most recent incarnation of Bond, Daniel Craig, who is also rumored to be departing the role. Throughout his tenure as 007, Craig’s Bond had been fighting the unseen hand of a criminal organization at the heart of all of his adventures. In this current film, that organization is given a name: SPECTRE. Against the backdrop of a new multinational intelligence gathering program going on-line, as well as the impending obsolescence of the double O program, Bond strives to solve the mystery behind the ring he took from terrorists in Mexico, one bearing the symbol of the octopus. His search leads him into a strained relationship with MI6, and also into a strange alliance with an old enemy. As Bond enters the world of SPECTRE, and that of its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he discovers that in this game, the stakes he plays for could never be higher.

In the world of Bond, SPECTRE (which stands for the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) holds the chief role as antagonist, but it wasn’t always the case. When Ian Fleming first began his books, the original heavy was a Soviet organization called SMERSH, which is a reduction of the Russian words that mean “death to spies.” Fleming later developed SPECTRE, a sort of third-party, non-nation-state organization whose focus was profit as opposed to the Marxist ideology of the Soviet SMERSH. Once SPECTRE’s introduction was a success, Fleming apparently saw no more use for SMERSH as they were relegated to mere references in later books. When the movies came out, the producers went a step further and completely substituted SMERSH with SPECTRE at every opportunity, robbing SMERSH of a single cinematic outing even though it figures largely in several well-known Bond stories, such as in From Russia With Love. The new Bond series continues this tradition, making the rogue Le Chiffre from Casino Royale, and all the villains that followed employees of SPECTRE. However, different from the books and the original films, this newest film transforms the back story of SPECTRE’s founder, intimately connecting him to Bond’s childhood as well as making the deaths of the women in Bond’s life over the years as some sort of intentional retribution on the part of Blofeld against Bond. While this was slightly interesting, it ended up feeling a bit forced, less like a master plan put in place back in Casino Royale and more like an afterthought to make the film seem grander.

As a story, SPECTRE holds up well, but you can’t escape that feeling of de je vu that hovers over the film. In watching, I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of ThunderballOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, or even Goldfinger. On prominent display are the Blofeld accoutrements such as his high-collared tunic, volcano (crater) lair, white cat, and facial scar; it’s clear that the producers wanted to pay homage to Bonds previous to the reboot. However, I felt that these homages were welcome friends as opposed to annoying guests. I especially liked the naming of the safe house as “Hildebrand”. For those who are not fans of the Bond books, there are few Bond stories that have not been adapted to film, or at least haven’t lent their name to a Bond film that bears little resemblance to its namesake. One of those stories is that of The Hildebrand Rarity.

SPECTRE has what we’ve come to expect from a Bond film: plenty of intense action, exotic locations, menacing villains, and beautiful women. The film work and editing were very well executed. The opening scene features a sustained steady-cam shot that was quite skillful.  And, of course, the opening credits were very imaginative. And even though there were some moments were you felt like they could have done something more, it was nonetheless satisfying. For those of my audience that are libertarians or conservatives, there were even a few moments of applicability. The surveillance state looms over the plot, with a new spying apparatus created by unprincipled men. There’s even a moment when one of the film’s villains almost mirrors in dialogue President Obama, Hillary, and Rahm Emanuel’s ominous sounding phrase about never failing to take advantage of a crisis. I don’t know if that’s what the film-makers had in mind when they wrote this, and I certainly doubt that they would admit it if it were so, but it certainly works along those lines.

In conclusion, if you like the Bond series, spy thrillers, or merely action movies, SPECTRE is not one to miss on the big screen. I give it three and a half out of five.


Ryan Thorson

Obama’s in the Wrong Job


This Monday at the G20 summit in Turkey, President Obama gave a press conference where the topic turned to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris organized by Islamo-fascists from ISIS. The President asserted what he believed to be the improper response for America in such times. Obama said, “What I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow in the abstract make America look tough. Or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed and I see a 25 year old kid who is paralyzed or who has lost his limbs and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle.”* The President continued, “But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership, or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with, that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people. And to protect people in the region who are getting killed. And to protect our allies in people like France. I’m too busy for that.”* I’m glad the President has a firm grasp on what he believes he shouldn’t do, but I’d really like to know what he is prepared to do. What Obama doesn’t seem to get, and never has, is that as President, there are a few things that are his responsibility, tasks that he alone is obligated to do. I know he’d rather not be bothered by all this inconvenient death and distraction, especially when he’s busy expanding government, running up the debt, and curtailing the liberties of the regular citizens (that’s some hard work). However, any President with regard for his office greater than their regard for their own ego must not hesitate in doing their Constitutional duty, as unpleasant as it may be. What Obama fails to realize is that as President, the business of “America winning,” even as a slogan, is supposed to be his business.

The most obvious responsibility of the President is his Constitutional obligation as commander-in-chief. He’s responsible for accessing and eliminating immediate threats to our country. Sure, he’s supposed to work with Congress, who writes the checks and to whom he has to justify his military decisions, but he’s the one person in our government that has the authority and means to act, and quickly. You might even say that the President is our country’s primary first responder, and that is really the most important function of a President. And while not every threat warrants a military response, one cannot escape the fact that in this case, Congressional declaration of war or not, ISIS is clearly at war with us and the rest of the Western world. They’ve killed plenty of Americans already and have sworn to kill more, even within our borders. They are clearly a major threat, and one that needs an appropriate response. However, the sum total of military actions that this President has already taken against ISIS has clearly not worked in any significant way. This being evident, a reasonable person would say that it’s time to step things up. So, in the President’s own words, I’d like to know “…what is actually going to work”? Surely, the President doesn’t think that his strategy of death by many pin-pricks is effective, does he? With his current approach being less than successful at even demoralizing (let alone the stated goal of eliminating or isolating) the enemy, is it logical to assume that the President’s ISIS policy so subtly successful that it just looks like failure to the untrained eye, or is it more likely that his heart not really in the task at hand? The latter seems to be the case. Even if one may agree that ramping up hostilities is not the way to handle ISIS, does anyone think for a moment that it is a wise decision to reveal to ISIS and the world that the US has no plans on countering them after they’ve already upped their game? If the President would just keep his mouth shut, that alone would at least not make a bad situation worse, but much like announcing his time-line for troop withdrawals from Iraq, he can’t seem to help himself from revealing intelligence to the enemy. So, what do you think is likely to happen if you don’t make America “look tough”? The obvious answer is that you make America look weak, marking us a target of opportunity. Even if you submit that the drone strikes and getting Jihadi John are evidence that Obama is serious about fighting these guys, try to keep in mind that Obama could end these guys tomorrow if he wanted to… he just doesn’t want to. Furthermore, I would argue that his military campaign against ISIS thus far has been purely for the political optics of looking tough, contrary to what he claimed in Turkey. In this way the President can say, “Look at me, I’m serious about this man-made disaster stuff!” while mostly ignoring the Middle East crisis and instead focusing on his next batch of illegal executive orders. Obama does just enough for show, something to appease an outraged America who demand action even as they watch videos on YouTube of its citizens being executed. And while Obama postures, ISIS expands, murders people by the bushel, ethnically cleanses Christians, and carries out coordinated attacks on allied soil. At the end of the day, all the President’s inaction and his hand-wringing about war make more and more certain that war will come, and not on foreign sands, but in our midst as our civilians are gunned down and our cities bombed, and all to the cadence of “Allah akbar!”

A big part of the job of the President is to be the nation’s primary representative and rhetorical defender. Obama evidently is uncomfortable with this, and so, true to his word, don’t expect many slogans out of him (at least ones that are positive about America). As an America-critic, Obama is in his natural community-organizer element, but as a cheerleader-in-chief for the nation, he’s out of his depth. The world judges us by his conduct and words. However, those same words he uses to describe us equally apply to him in the eyes of the world. I don’t think he considers this reality as his critique of the USA seems to flow so effortlessly from his lips. So pervasive is his criticism, at times, I even wonder if he even likes the country at all, outside of what he wants to shape out of it. So, instead of showcasing indomitable American resolution while on foreign soil, he instead shows the world an American leader who will not act, making the situation that much more favorable for an implacable enemy that simply wants to kill us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the President is an ally of the Islamo-fascists. I’m perfectly willing to accept that he’s merely misguided by his warped progressive ideology and is incompetent to boot. Nevertheless, with results like these, with a world on fire, does it really matter what his motivations are?

Lastly, it is the President’s responsibility to order our military into battle. I can understand why the President it reticent to do this. I certainly would think less of him if he didn’t weigh the cost in troop lives against any objective. Still, that is his burden to bear; he wanted to be President, and so he’ll have to live with the mental encumbrance that he may send soldiers to their death and disfigurement. This because sometimes, a military response is the only way you can deal with a threat to the lives of our citizens. And when Obama uses our wounded warriors as a reason for not committing soldiers to battle when there is so much at stake, that’s tantamount to saying, “I won’t send firemen to fight that fire because they might get hurt!” It’s great that he cares about first-responder lives, but in the meantime the holocaust spreads. Diplomacy is ideal, if it works, if you are dealing with a some-what reasonable adversary that is not totally depraved, but I’m afraid that he is not going to be able to appeal to our common humanity with ISIS because they are an Islamic death-cult who are fanatically devoted to the idea of Islamic world domination, and also that killing infidels (e.g. you and me) is a holy thing that will bring reward in heaven to the faithful that die in such a cause. Since there is no price that they will not pay to perform their self-believed sacred mission, how can you expect to reason with them? How do you negotiate with such desperate hate staring at you from across the table? What can you offer the man who just wants you to die? Somebody tell the President that when there’s a fire that needs extinguishing, he needs to let the professionals handle it. Additionally, assure him not to worry too much about our fighting men and the sacrifices they make. As a former military man, I knew that when I took that oath and signed on the dotted line that I might have to die in service to my country. However, I also believed that such a sacrifice would be a good one if it meant keeping the monsters from my family and countrymen. All I wanted from my President is to know that he had my back as I accomplished my mission. I knew this, our men and women in the military know this, so Obama need’s to stop using our wounded warriors as human shields to protect his political ends and let our troops do what they’ve trained to do before the monsters get here.

In examining the career of Obama, it is a struggle to find confirmation in action or in word that he understands or believes that the office he holds or the laws that he’s supposed to uphold are bigger than him. Often, a President must set his personal ideology aside and, for the safety and well-being of our country, make the difficult choice that is his sworn duty. However, because the duties of a military commander are either too uninteresting or too difficult for Obama, he seems to continually avoid them. Trump recently commented on our current President, saying, “I mean, personally, I don’t think he was meant for this job, if you want to know the truth.” ** I agree. Obama seems unmotivated and ill-equipped to deal with the hard choices that the President must make. If this task is such a burden to Obama, I would suggest that he retire and get some other job where he could be happier, turning over the reins of power to someone who doesn’t have his variety of dangerous impotency, or must we wait until 120 people are killed on US soil before he acts… if he ever does?

Ryan Thorson

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below.



** http://www.examiner.com/article/trump-obama-is-an-embarrassment-for-the-country-and-not-cut-out-to-be-pres

Mizzou Screams Privatize State Universities

The Mizzou Columns – Jay Buffington

Allegations of lone wolves distributing drunken racial abuse from cars, a fecal swastika smeared on a dorm bathroom wall, and screaming students with claims of systemic racism at the University of Missouri; these are the stories from a national press that is all too anxious to showcase evidence of a congenitally racist American society. The only problem is that these claims are light in the validation department. Even with the release of the photo of a poop-stika (the only corroboration offered so far), evidence seems almost non-existent or open to alternative interpretations other than the ones offered us. For instance, does anyone really think that turd-swastika is an authentic prop of racial intimidation? A reasonable person would assume that a genuine Nazi drawing a swastika in feces would be a little bit like a Catholic urinating in the sign of the cross, both being irreverent to their own beliefs, highly unlikely, and more probable to be either juvenile transgressivism or the latest example of left-wing agitation and grievance mongering on a campus that is, by most accounts, a very liberal University. Anyway, assuming for the moment that these singular events are real (after all, absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, or something like that), does that justify the mob rule that seems to reign supreme on this university and the other state-run schools who seem keen on joining in? Does it justify the intimidation and abuse, splashed across YouTube, of all those who stand in the way of the social justice warriors? Do these one-off events, that did little more than hurt a few feelings and that are so random and so rare that nobody has any idea of how to prevent them, justify the denial of due process to the recently forced out university leadership? Should this event necessitate the further corroding of what’s left of free speech on American college campuses? No, clearly not. In fact, the thing that seems clear in all of this madness is that the student body is out of control in universities of America. And far from a reality of systemic racism being visited upon Mizzou, the one thing that is clearly systemic is that for decades, rather than teaching young people the skills they’ll need to become employed in real life (you know, that thing that necessarily happens outside of university safe-spaces), the public university systems of this country have instead been feeding their students a steady diet useless progressive-ism that seems more adept at extending adolescence than hastening their maturation.

The liberal university created this authoritarian-progressive monster, known as the student body, and now that the monster has returned to its creator, Frankenstein-like, to wreak havoc, a small part of me enjoys the ironic wrath visited upon the liberal faculty that filled all these empty heads with bad-brains: an education in victim identification and entitlement. It seems very clear that government-run education has failed. And while the wild-eyed protesters expand their racial grievance protest to include demands that they, these very privileged young people, become even more privileged by receiving debt forgiveness, free tuition, and $15 an hour for campus work (all without a real plan to pay for the trillions of dollars needed), I have a very different reform proposal. My suggestion is one that will solve all our problems, including the main problem of giant, huge, whiny man-children on college campuses. It’s time that the tax payers divest themselves from being on the hook for this state run insanity… It’s time that the state system was privatized.
Now, I don’t have a comprehensive plan to regulate all the minutiae that is needed in attending to such a huge shift, unless they’d like to hire me as a consultant (leave comment with phone number), but I would just like to outline some benefits that would come from such a reform. These remunerations would aid not only the tax-payers, but also the universities, and the students themselves. For instance, with privatization, the Universities will most likely benefit from an administration that could throw out ineffectual professors and programs without adherence to tenure, and thus bring down the cost of education. I personally would be glad to see the end of such obnoxious, quasi-religious, naval-gazing courses such as gender studies, queer theory, the joy of Marx, etc. and all those political courses that seem less focused on helping a students get a job rather than converting the student to one or more of the plethora of leftist theories that have little practical application when not executing counter-revolutionaries against a wall. Think of the untold millions of dollars that could be saved on pensions and books, and not to mention the mercy given to untold thousands of students that won’t have to sit through this tripe.

Additionally, a private administration will be unlikely put up with the lawlessness that we’ve seen showcased on Mizzou. Think about it; when was the last time you heard of such chaos run rampant on a private campus, and I mean a real private institution and not one that’s up to it’s eyeballs in state and federal funds? I don’t know either, and that’s because, by and large, private universities don’t put up with it. If you don’t show up to class and miss a test, you fail it. If you try to threaten or intimidate students and faculty, you’re expelled. If you try to take over college property, you are removed and charges are filed. If you demand free tuition with no skills to trade, they laugh. In fact, if privatization was to take place, the universities would find themselves well-suited to de-program their students from all those years of being taught that insidious belief: everyone-is-special-ism. Rather than keeping young adults infantile and expecting that they should be given everything they want because… they want it, private universities would prepare their students for life as an adult in a world that isn’t impressed with their self-esteem, but with what skills and knowledge they have to trade in.

Lastly, with real standards and real consequences in place, not only would the students receive better and more deserved grades, but peace would return to the campus. With a new-emphasis on performance, knowing that they could very well lose their shot in life by being expelled for bad behavior, the students would likely be far too busy studying to congregate in loud and filthy mobs. Also, if a university team football player, with a free-ride and hopes of making in in the NFL, knew that they would certainly be cut and expelled for non-compliance with their contract if they didn’t show up to games in order to further the political ends of the dubious, it would be unlikely that they would be so willing to threaten to ditch, and even less likely that their team-mates would support their hasty decision.

In the end, privatization will be the wave of the future, unless we don’t want to save these massive institutions from collapsing under the weight of civic unrest or insolvency due to the creation of yet another entitlement that we can’t in any conceivable way pay for, sustain-ably. Sure, it doesn’t fix everything, such as addressing public pride in having a state university system (or at least a football team) or what to do with the billions of dollars in endowments that have accumulated inexplicably alongside the hikes in university tuition, but those details can all be worked out in the best and most legal ways possible. And even if the Universities don’t improve under private hands, at least the tax payer would be free from subsidizing a Bizarro world mental institution where the sane enter and insane are discharged.

Ryan Thorson

It Was a Very Debatey Night

A couple nights ago, Fox Business showed CNBC that doing a serious debate about business and the economy was possible, though perhaps not as exciting as asking questions like, “Kasich, Trump called you a little girl, do you agree?”

A couple quick notes on the debate are as follows:

Trump – The Don was very reserved, and his only real one-liner was directed at Fiorina, which won’t help his image. He did a good job framing the immigration debate as an economic and legal issue, but he’s clearly holding ground and not advancing.

Carson – Carson did OK, but didn’t really do anything different to enlarge his franchise. His one memorable moment was his joke thanking Neil for not asking him what he said in the 10th grade.

Rubio – Marco consistently does well at these debates, explaining his positions simply and with empathy and humor. Rubio definitely helped himself in this debate, but only the polls will tell to what degree.

Cruz – There’s a reason that Ted was a national debate champion in college, and the previous night’s performance was no exception, even if you include his attempt at listing of five government departments that he would eliminate where he listed only three for elimination and one, commerce, for extermination with extreme prejudice. His big moments were in addressing the illegal immigration crisis and defense. Cruz’s stock will definitely rise.

Paul – Rand did better than normal. He was able to shake his image of a scolding school matron and added substantively to the debate. However his attempt at defining a conservative along his own libertarian beliefs of military non-intervention back-fired. Paul lives to fight another day.

Fiorina – Carly sounded fine, as she usually does, but had no real break-out moment. She also survives until the next round.

Bush – Jeb was better than awful. He fumbled a little, failed at scoring points on the illegal immigration issue, and ultimately failed at convincing anybody that he’s the guy. As he won’t quit, it seems that we will all have to watch as his political corpse bleeds out on live TV.

Kasich – John came off as his usual obnoxious self, putting himself in the role of GOP critic rather than party member. Watching his debate performance is like watching slow-motion car-wreck; you know he’s going to crash and burn, but it seems to be taking a lot longer than it should. I think he’s about to hit the wall.

About the under-card debate, the only candidate worth mentioning was Christie, who clearly dominated it. He was so good, that I could almost forgive him for helping Obama get a second term… almost.

Ryan Thorson

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below.

How Media Scrutiny Might Help the GOP


By now, many of you are aware of the recent allegations made against the GOP front-runner, Ben Carson. It seems that Politico and other media organizations are challenging claims that Carson has made about youthful violence he committed and also about being informally offered a scholarship to West Point by General Westmoreland. Where the former seems a little obsessive (I mean, are they trying to prove that he’s even nicer than he claims?), the latter might have a bit to it. While it is demonstrably false (to anyone with a search engine) to claim that West Point doesn’t offer scholarships, * the allegation that Westmoreland’s records indicate that he was not in Detroit on the date in question ** might have some legs. We’ll have to wait and see how Carson responds and weathers this gale.

It is true that Carson is under some unfair scrutiny that the media routinely doesn’t apply, or at least half-heatedly applies, to Democrat candidates. I certainly don’t recall the media pouring through Obama’s memoirs, hounding him (at least before he was safely elected) about his “composite” girlfriend *** or the girl he supposedly bullied in school **** or any number of apocryphal stories contained in his autobiographies like they seem to be doing with Carson. However, before we storm the battlements of fortress media, we should consider treading very carefully in how we go to Carson’s aid. I know it’s tempting to repay the left and the left-wing media for treating as racist all those honest disagreeing arguments we made against the policies, beliefs, and dubious background of Barack Obama. Even as emotionally satisfying as it would be to give the media a taste of their own medicine and throw our own denouncements at the media for appearing prejudice, I’m not sure that the time for that is now. Additionally, I have no doubts that the media wants to destroy the eventual GOP candidate and Ben Carson in particular. As a black conservative, Carson poses a unique threat to the left-wing establishment, as they believe that they alone own minorities and their issues, and certainly don’t want a Carson, Cruz, or Fiorina front and center as a powerful example to show minorities and women that you can have different opinions other than the ones allowed them by patronizing Democrats and the media. Also, it is probable that the progressive elites see GOP minorities as traitors, and as such, they occasionally give themselves dispensation to deal with them in ways that, under normal circumstances, they would have called racist (i.e. The Young Turks calling a Black GOP candidate an “Uncle Tom” *****). I understand all that. However, in this case, all we have is the media aggressively pursuing a presidential candidate and the veracity of his claims. But, isn’t that what we want? Don’t we want a dogged media?

Of course, when it comes to the media, what conservatives often complain about most is that there is very little parity between how they treat the people and issues that they agree with and how they treat the ones they don’t, and that certainly is a fair argument. We don’t want the press to be super-friendly to the GOP, but rather have them deal as harshly with the Democrats as they do Republicans. Personally, I’m confident that Hillary would be out of the race today, and probably in jail, if the media would apply the same Woodward and Bernstein style relentless pursuit of the truth on her as they did with Nixon. Yet, even with this imbalance, we want the media to be tough, don’t we? Don’t you think it’s good if Carson is treated as a candidate rather than a coddled minority-candidate? Shouldn’t he be treated like an adult, a grown man, and not like Obama who, much like a spoiled child, seemed to get fawning praise from all the media fan-boys, even before trying to do anything? If Carson is going to be our nominee, don’t we want him exposed to an aggressive media now, his mistakes vetted in the primary, leaving him a much better prepared candidate, with an exhibited toughness, and without any October surprises in the general election? I know I do. Additionally, I enjoyed hearing Carson fight back at his press conference ******; it made him sound more forceful than he has seemed up until now.

So, don’t worry too much about the way the media treats GOP candidates now, because, in all probability, this may help us. Yes, our candidates will have to fight tooth and nail and use every ethical and creative way that they can to get their message past the information guardians in the media while the Democrats encounter only token resistance. However, just think about how prepared our side will be, and then think about Hillary and the Democrats. While the media may be able to imply prevarication in Ben Carson’s story of a childhood scrap or in being offered a scholarship to West Point, on the other hand we have Hillary’s e-mails showing that she absolutely did lie to the American people, and repeatedly, about the circumstances surrounding the murder of our ambassador while at the same time she told her family and other officials the truth that very day. *******  Hillary and her partners in the press have done as much as they can to avoid tackling this and the other allegations of her committing felonies. Consider how much that’s going to hurt them when the real case is laid out before the American people in the general election.

Ryan Thorson

* http://www.christianpost.com/news/ben-carson-rips-politicos-bold-faced-lie-149535/


*** http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/05/04/meet-barack-obamas-real-first-girlfriend/

**** http://www.ihatethemedia.com/young-obama-bullied-a-girl-classmate

***** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwqJGByHJHs

****** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3khhgf7k764

******* http://www.redstate.com/2015/10/22/hillary-lied-benghazi-terror-attack/

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below.

Let Bond be Bond!

Sir Roger Moore as James Bond 007.

I recently read an article in People Magazine with Roger Moore. For those of you who are too young to remember, Moore was the actor who, after Sean Connery, was most famous for playing the fictional British secret agent James Bond. In the article, Moore addressed the latest buzz about recasting Bond due to Daniel Craig’s imminent departure from the role, particularly about the murmurs that say that 007 should be recast, not merely the actor, but the character itself, as either black, a woman, or gay, or some combination of the three. In response, Moore said, “I have heard people talk about how there should be a lady Bond or a gay Bond, but they wouldn’t be Bond for the simple reason that wasn’t what Ian Fleming wrote.” * I have to admit that this is pretty gutsy of Moore to come out and say in light of the current intolerant PC climate that we seem to live in that seems all too eager to pounce on any perceived heretics. Most venues I’ve seen discussing this issue won’t say anything but praise for any of these propositions, either because they agree with them or just don’t want to be forced out of their jobs by a cascade of angry e-mails and posts from internet trolls demanding that they go. So, while the offense industry explodes at Sir Roger in their usual pearl-clutching condemnation, perhaps we should take a few moments and just consider this before we all take to our keyboards and march into cyber-battle with the rest of the social-justice warriors. Let’s see if we can find an answer to the question, “Why or why not let Bond be Bond?”

First of all, I want to concede that in the world of art (and I suppose that movies qualify) you can pretty much do whatever you want. If a film-maker wants to make a (insert preferred people-group here)-James Bond, there’s little to stop them. For me, this is a matter of personal taste rather than morality. However, if it is permissible artistic license to recast 007 as a gay-black-differently-abled-trans-gendered-female, then that would also means that if you want James Bond to stay as he was created, or Spider-man to stay a cisgendered heterosexual, or even Little Orphan Annie to remain a pupil-less red head, that should also be fine. I see no compelling reason to attribute good motives to one and bad motives to the other, unless somebody has some compelling evidence. Yet, in cases such as these, evidence is rarely offered nor thought necessary. For the evidence needed by the perpetually offended to justify their demands or their condemnation of the secret motives of those that disagree is the evidence of their beliefs, e.g. it’s true because they believe in their hearts that it is. But even, for instance, if the director of a hypothetical Austin Powers reboot dislikes albino midgets and recasts Mini-Me with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then so what? It’s just a movie, right? However, for any film-maker preparing to make radical changes to an established popular fictional character, they would be wise to contemplate any possible ramifications that might interfere with their film being a success.

Worth consideration before one reinvents the wheel is respect for the original creator’s work. At the heart of Moore’s issue with re-molding James Bond was that it would be different than the creation of Ian Fleming. I myself am a very big fan of the Fleming novels, having read all of them once and some twice. If I had my way, TV would produce a miniseries remake of all the original novels, done in the period of the 1950’s and 1960’s, embracing James Bond for what he is, warts and all. Too bad that seems unlikely. What Fleming did with inventing his anti-hero James Bond was proverbially catching lightning in a bottle. Bond is a Scotch-English descendant of landed gentry, an unromantic and amoral assassin who does his country’s dirty deeds, not because he has some belief in the UK’s moral superiority over the Eastern block socialist nations or organization such as the Soviet SMERSH or Blofeld’s SPECTRE, but rather because that’s what he was trained to do. And when it comes to his occupational specialty, Bond is the best. James Bond is not pleasant, sensitive, or giving. Rather, he is a fatalistic and caddish snob that lives it up whenever possible, with assurance that he will most likely die young. Some would make the case that Bond is homophobic, racist, and misogynist, but those critics would be missing a very important point that explains why he may read that way… he simply doesn’t care. Bond is too focused on the task of espionage to make room in his life for philosophical musings or emotional entanglements. Bond is not Dudley Do-Right, he is, in the words of Ian Fleming, a “blunt instrument,” ** with a license to kill. Nonetheless, so evocative is this character to fans around the world that, to this day, Hollywood continues to draw from Fleming’s well. James Bond is still around because, in effect, he works. And if it’s not broke, one should wonder, “Why fix it?”

Also worth considering is the attachment that many have to such a popular character as James Bond is. In the current and successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of Nick Fury is played by black veteran actor Samuel L. Jackson. However, it may come as a surprise to some of you that the original comic book version of Nick Fury was that of cigar chomping, silver-streak haired, white man. I was aware of this modification when the movies started to come out, but didn’t particularly care, because I, and probably most of the MCU’s audience, hadn’t really followed the Nick Fury comics and had no special affection for the character. There’s only one example that I am aware of where this was not accepted: my African-American mother-in-law was a little miffed that Marvel changed her Nick Fury. However, this change was largely successful, probably because most theater goers had a bigger attachment to Sam Jackson than to the Nick Fury of the comics. However, if filmmakers took an iconic and well-seasoned character such as Superman and had given him green skin (let alone black), do you think audiences would accept it and still come out in droves to see his movie? Taking such liberties with such a well know property is inherently dangerous because it might seem like a gimmicky distraction from the story and the characters that audiences already like. For example, consider Superman from his latest film incarnation, Man of Steel. With this version, we had a dark and moody remake that audiences were somewhat disappointed in. Being used to the optimistic and incorruptible hero of their youth, many were somewhat shocked at the 911-esque destruction on display, with very little of the traditional heroics associated with Superman. There’s even a point were Superman, a character that is renowned for not killing his adversaries, brutally snaps the neck of the villain General Zod in an attempt to save the lives of some innocents that Zod was trying to murder. There is certainly justification for this change within the established story for Superman to make what was clearly a hard choice, but many were put-off by this departure from the canon, expecting Superman to take this diseased maniac to prison rather than the morgue. Because of this, Man of Steel was arguably less successful at the box office than it could have been.

As far as the current James Bond movies go, I can say this for them: they’ve stayed mostly faithful to the character of Bond, if not to the actual page and chapter of the novels. This is probably why they’ve been around for so long. James Bond is undeniably one of those characters that remain an icon, having been beloved since the 1950’s. If, like the afore-mentioned Superman, you are going to make a significant change to that character in your film adaptation, you’d better be able to justify those changes, perhaps even drawing from Fleming’s works, if you don’t want them to come off as trendy and pretentious and (most of all) if you want your film to be a success. I know that reboots, remakes, and sequelae have been all the rage for the reason that name recognition is the only tool that the old studios have left with which to compete against the plethora of entertainment choices that are available today. However, if Hollywood want’s to bank on Bond’s popularity while discarding key elements of that property, the audience (you know, the people you want to lay their money down to see this thing) may very well say, “This isn’t James Bond.” If that happens, then you’ve got a flop on your hands, making the current and probably next iteration of Bond less of a sure money-maker. And once done, I think you’ll find undoing it as next to impossible. If you thought reactions might be bad with a major re-imagining of Bond, wait and see what shrill outrage you’ll get from the few but loud voices that thrive on such emoting if you to try to go back to the old money-making formula after having created, for instance, a black Bond.

Lastly, Hollywood should consider that the likely audience of a James Bond film is there to enjoy a little thrilling escapism and probably not to learn moral lessons that Hollywood thinks will make them better people. If James Bond is to be rechristened as a trans-minority of some manner, then it’s likely that they either think that such a change will be profitable for them or that making money is not the important factor in such a decision. If the latter is true, then the only explanation left is that the Film-makers are trying to sermonize their audience. I don’t know about you, but as for me, when I go to a movie, I want to be entertained and not be ontologically or ethically challenged by a film-maker who thinks they’re the Billy Graham of celluloid. I’ll go to church if I need a good message, not the movies. And what would be the lesson of such a cinematic sermon? Would it be that there’s something wrong with being white, heterosexual, Scotch-English, or liking a character that is all those things? Would the lesson be that if you don’t like the racial or other changes made to Bond, then you are a bad person? Call me crazy, but it seems to me certain that you aren’t going to convince many people to fill those theater seats while promising them a healthy serving of shame with a side of condemnation. No. If the focus of the film shifts from adventure to the pulpit, people will just not come, the movie will bomb, and the film-makers will have to comfort themselves in their failure with how good they believe they are for what they did while blaming their audience for not being as evolved as they. That seems to me to be inadequate consolation.

From Hercules to Luke Skywalker, many of the characters and stories that we have most enjoyed have stayed with us because they, their struggles, and the rich heritage that birthed them spoke to our shared humanity and experience. Every culture has their heroes and stories to cherish, and it is a testament to their power when they are appreciated cross-culturally. Nevertheless, when you start mucking about with those same characters to make them more to your liking, you will likely end up with something completely different, merely bearing the same name. And in the rush to make these often politically motivated changes, you might not even notice that you jettisoned part of the cocktail (shaken, not stirred) of what made them so powerful to so many in the first place. James Bond is white and heterosexual. And as strange as it is that I should even have to say it, there’s nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, there is really no credible motivation for why Bond shouldn’t remain as he ever has been, that English gentlemen spy who fights in her majesty’s secret service against over-the-top villains in volcano lairs. In responding to a similar controversy about the MCU’s decision to continue with their newest cinematic Spider-Man as the character he was created to be (white, straight, etc.), Stan Lee made comments that really summed up the heart of this debate, and I think they are appropriate to end on in a discussion of a new Bond. Lee said, “Latino characters should stay Latino. The Black Panther should certainly not be Swiss. I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself.”**** ‘Nuff said.

Ryan Thorson

* http://www.people.com/article/roger-moore-james-bond-woman-gay

** http://www.universalexports.net/00FlemVision.shtml

*** http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jun/23/stan-lee-spider-man-should-stay-white-and-straight


Jeremiah 6:16

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