A while ago I finally got around to watching Cowboy Bebop, a great 1990s Japanese anime tv show about a group of intergalactic mercenaries. What prompted me was an essay Aaron Clarey wrote celebrating its 20th anniversary. In it he laments that the show ended too soon, something I also felt when the final episode concluded. While some tv shows like the Simpsons have gone on for 30 years, Cowboy Bebop had just one season and a film.
However, Cappy added that this was perhaps for the best.
I was thinking about that when news about the latest James Bond film came out in which “James Bond” will be retiring as 007, to be replaced by a woman. The tired tropes of how anyone opposed to this is sexist just falls on deaf ears with me. Underlying the whole issue is that those who enjoyed Goldfinger or a film as recent as Casino Royale should watch whatever trash is tossed at them with the label “007.” To paraphrase Trevelyan from Goldeneye, they’re insisting “why can’t you just be a good boy and give us money?”
The fact is Bond is a specific creature with specific traits and qualities. When you remove them, he is no longer Bond. And when you remove or replace Bond entirely, then what is the point of the film series at all?
I’m not terribly upset about the news. It’s not just that I refuse to get outraged anymore at anything I see or hear. I saw it coming for a while. This was the inevitable conclusion.
At the same time, it could have been avoided. All the filmmakers had to do was know when to quit. As Bond villain Sanchez notes in the 1989 film License to Kill, “a good gambler knows when his luck has run out.”
The Bond series went on for too long. It has no contextual meaning in today’s world. The current manifestation of Bond would be totally foreign to its creator, Ian Fleming. Fleming was in many ways the epitome of political incorrectness; he was white, British, a womanizer, and smoked and drank heavily. Fleming grew up during an era in which the British Empire was at its height of power, and the Bond he created reflected that.
To get an idea of how un-P.C. he was, consider this passage from the novel Goldfinger:
Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterton was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and ‘sex equality.’ As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy sexual misfits–barren and full of frustrations, the women wanting to dominate and the men to be nannied. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.
But this isn’t really just about Bond. This is more about what happens when something is kept alive for too long. It’s also about why you have to let go of something when its time has come.
We all probably have real life examples of relatives, friends or loved ones whose mind goes well before their body. They have no memory of you. They aren’t the same person you’ve known for years. It’s as though their spirit is gone, even though they are able to move around and technically are alive. It’s a painful ordeal, and if it drags on for too long and their behavior sufficiently deteriorates, it can ruin your memories of the good times. I’ve always said I want my body to give out before my mind, or my spirit.
Unfortunately, this did not happen with Bond, nor with other franchises we love. But it’s clear if they are not retired, if they are not allowed to “pass away,” they will be kept alive and corrupted by the same kind of ideologues as those involved in the Bond film. Lord of the Rings was a fantastic series, but who knows what Amazon will do to it. The Marvel Comic universe films were mostly good, but Endgame had fracture points appearing, and it’s evident any new films will be tainted.
Just as we see Disney resurrect old animated classics as live-action versions, we could see older franchises brought back to life, pumped full of agitprop and then sold to you packaged as a nostalgic trip to your childhood memories or some-such.
That’s how they get you. They either create or take a good product, then corrupt it and sell it to you in the hopes you’re too lazy or stupid to notice it’s not the same thing anymore. I saw this with numerous films where it was known in advance the story contained political propaganda or the stars promoted it on tour. After all the hand-wringing and complaining, fanboys got down on their knees and paid tribute to the corporate gods who rule their hearts. But it’s also because they can’t come to terms with the fact that something they hold dear is dead. They won’t get beyond the grieving stage and move on.
I’ve long passed that point. I assume everything and anything I care about has been converged. That’s why I really don’t go to theaters anymore, even if it’s a film I’m particularly interested in. I can watch them later, if I want to. I also have a century’s worth of other entertainment that doesn’t convey hate towards me or mine.
In the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones is dangling off a cliff. His dad (Sean Connery, the original Bond) is the only thing preventing him from falling. Rather than try to save himself, Indiana keeps trying to rescue the Holy Grail trapped on a small ledge. This is despite the fact that just moments before his “badgirl” Nazi collaborator fell to her death trying to do the same thing.
Eventually his dad tells him “let it go.”
That is the beauty of things that ended when they should have. We can always go back to them. When the next converged Star Wars or Marvel films arrives and everyone whines and moans and wails about this and that, I’ll be rewatching Cowboy Bebop or listening to an old episode of Bold Venture.
Or I’ll sit back and read from my complete collection of Fleming’s original Bond novels.