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Not Quite The James Bond I Remember
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12 Apr 2018 03:36 PM EST


-by David Cantor, Staff Writer; Image: James Bond Poster (Image Source:Gazzenda) 


Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions and policy of Allmediany and related companies 

As I delve deeper into my new career as a part-time babysitter for a seven-year-old boy, I am becoming more and more familiar with the fact that many of the nostalgic classics that I was familiar with at his age just sort-of don’t work anymore. Not to say these are all bad; He-Man’s animation is still fantastic, the Batman animated series maintains its high pedestal and the O.G. Star Trek series totally holds up. However I’m starting to realize a lot of the small nuances and political undertones from those eras that aren’t exactly what some may call “politically correct.”

Case and Point: James Bond’s “You Only Live Twice.” This has to be, without a doubt, my favorite James Bond movie from when I was a kid. Sean Connery faking his own death and taking on an army of ninjas? Sign me up. It’s a classic 1967 Spy movie with Connery at the height of his portrayal of this iconic character, with all the classy British tropes and gimmicks we’ve come to expect. But when I decided to put it on for said seven-year-old boy under my care, I realized that the film had some parts that I didn’t remember as a kid. Some parts that I don’t think have aged very well.

For those unfamiliar with the plot: James Bond fakes his own death after a failed assassination attempt in order to seek revenge on his attackers by going undercover in… a full-blown Yellow-Face Japanese disguise to infiltrate an evil cult using an army of ninjas. You cannot make this up. I know what your probably thinking: Bond in Yellow-Face? I’m sure that was an awkward scene. However I assure you, that is not one scene, but the plot of the movie.

The film doesn’t miss one chance to embarrass itself either. From a visit to Q-Branch where his gadget-wizard explains the full-body prosthetics and skin dyes, to Sean Connery prancing around in Japanese attire saying “Konichiwa” in his heavy Scottish accent, to (yes, obviously) Bond seducing a Japanese woman who claims he is a better-looking Asian than most Japanese men. The film doesn’t skip a beat indulging every bone-headed attempt at representing Japanese culture.

To be fair, the movie is totally awesome. Bond gets to fly a cool attack-chopper, the cold-opening involving a space shuttle hijacking was famously parodied in Austin Power’s “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” and the climactic battle where an army of ninjas invade a military arsenal is pretty much everything a pre-pubescent youngster could ask for. Plus it’s got its fair share of the classic Bond-ism’s; bedding beautiful women while drinking martinis in exotic locations and willfully inflicting violence on an exotically colorful cast of Cold-War villains owning elaborate deathtraps. In honesty, there’s more than enough fun and silliness to make up for it’s more dated plot-points.

I definitely wouldn’t call the movie racist. In fact, the ridiculousness of the screenplay’s total ignorance to its own cultural misunderstanding somewhat contributes to its overall explosive and hyper-masculine tone. “Darling, I give you the very best duck,” says Bond’s Chinese mistress, before trapping him in a post-coital bed and unleashing a gang of hitmen with an assaulting hail of gunfire, all before the credits even hit. You Only Live Twice provides the old-timey, care-free cultural blindness you don’t get to see in movies anymore, including sumo-wrestling henchmen, sexy geisha’s who can’t resist Bond’s charm and classic one-liners such as “In Japan, men come first. Women come second.”

It seems as though everything about You Only Live Twice now comes with a question mark. Even the smaller behind-the-scenes details. Nancy Sinatra’s theme song uses a bizarre, Eastern-inspired guitar melody attempting to evoke a Japanese flair and the screenplay was written by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl (yes, THAT Roald Dahl). Yet although my favorite installment in the Bond series hasn’t aged as well as I had hoped, there is still much fun to be had. Much like your conservative grandparents at Thanksgiving, you need to take their old-fashioned points of view with a chuckle and a smile. We’ve come a long way since wearing Yellow-Face in movies and treating women like objects, but watching a film that includes these shortcomings shouldn’t form your opinion on it. James Bond is awesome and always will be, even though some of his methods and outlooks haven’t always been the most “politically correct.”

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