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Shaken Not Stirred
by Matt Bynum

Movies are capable of being much more than just "entertainment" - they can be used to tell the truth powerfully, but they are often used to construct and maintain falsehoods

"Shaken, not stirred" is how James Bond likes his martinis. But this is not all he likes - adventure, fine automobiles, high tech gadgetry, and ...the ladies. It is what James Bond likes that makes many males wish they were like James Bond.

Bond is not without a measure of noble qualities. He does willingly risk his life doing battle with tyrants. He has some sense of discernment, and is able to enjoy the "finer things" of life. But he also has a serious flaw, in that he treats his many female "companions" like so many glasses of champagne - deftly consumed, and then tossed aside. And even knowing his behavior, his women readily comply, teaching the film's female viewers what is to be expected of them.

The Bond series portrays an unreal world. If the series showed the consequences of the behaviors of Bond and his women, the story would end tragically. But as it is, the series is not merely a fantasy, it is a prevarication.

Then along comes one Austin Powers, who takes hold of the Bond myth and smashes it to bits. Powers is neither suave, nor is he debonair. Next to Bond, Powers is like a gawking adolescent. But Powers has no need for pretense. His behavior is crude and salacious, and yet he is still able to equal Bond's "success" with the ladies. In a sense, Powers does us a favor by exposing the true Bond. But of course, the Powers series does not go far enough. We know that at the end of each film, Powers will be unchanged and unrepentant, and he will continue to fill each of his days, and our cinemas, with debauchery and libidinous behavior.

Who says that a spy film needs to include romantic entanglements? A romantic interlude is one of the ingredients that filmmakers overuse to add "spice" to a story. But is this necessary? What if the interlude has nothing to do with the actual story, the underlying plot, the broad theme?

The story told in Richard Buchan's novel The Thirty Nine Steps (1915) involves a character who stumbles upon evidence of an international spy ring, is falsely accused of a crime, and who must flee across the Scottish moors from police and criminals while he gathers enough clues to prove his innocence (exciting stuff!) The novel's hero Richard Hannay had no female romantic interest, unlike the film adaption made in 1935. And the film involved a bit of "naughty" behavior as comic relief - although nothing like the behavior depicted in films of the 1990's. Was this really necessary? No, these elements were added to give the film an "edge", to appeal to the modern, "sophisticated" movie audience.

We know that films are capable of being much more than just "entertainment" - they can be used to tell the truth powerfully, just as they are now used to construct and maintain falsehoods. "Truth telling" films involve characters who operate in the "real" world - characters whose actions and attitudes lead to definite consequences. The world awaits to hear from filmmakers who will use the medium as it was intended.

Last updated: 12 April 2006
Updated by: Matt Bynum