Brexit fallout

How will James Bond deal with Brexit? New director Danny Boyle will need to find a way

Will 007 will once again restore unity to a fractured Brexit Britain?

Much has been made of Danny Boyle’s appointment as director of Bond 25, the next outing for Daniel Craig’s 007, slated for a 2019 release. Both Bond and Boyle have longstanding interests in a thriving United Kingdom; the former being bound to serve the country as an elite spy, and the latter, as a director known for his creative portrayals of British culture.

Since its gritty reboot in Casino Royale (2006), the Bond films have been praised, in part, for rejecting the gadgetry of previous films, instead prioritising depth of character and staging a vulnerable Bond prone to introspection. Coupled with greater awareness of real-life political issues in the films – big banks and money laundering, playing politics with natural resources in developing countries – Craig’s Bond has been asking himself why and for whom he serves.

In his 25th movie outing, Bond will have an extra political issue to address: Brexit. Bond’s remit is to protect British society and interests from abroad. Given Britain’s changing politics, the spy will likely have a new set of international dynamics to negotiate.

Boyle, too, will need to pay close attention to the political landscape. He will be directing a franchise film for the first time – one funded by Hollywood dollars that plays on the kitsch British pound – and will be selling the goods to the global movie market.

But what will this mean for potential storylines? Look back to Sam Mendes’s Skyfall (2012) and you’ll see inspiration taken from the 7/7 bombings of London’s transport network. Skyfall dramatises a self-questioning Britain, no longer trustful of the international model of espionage. When M (Judi Dench) attends a parliamentary inquiry into the running of MI6, she explains to the chair: “Our enemies are no longer known to us. They don’t exist on a map. They’re not nations. They’re individuals.”

Skyfall is all about saving the UK from its own, and rescuing it in the face of supranationalist political terrorism. It focuses on restoring unity to the UK’s nations, while rejecting internationalist politics. Towards the beginning of the film, during a psychometric test, Bond’s own trigger-word response to “country” is “England”. The UK, like Bond himself, is fractured.

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Skyfall (2012).

The only other represented part of the UK is Scotland, where Bond grew up. It represents a younger, more innocent Bond, before he fell into the world of spying and sin. When Bond finally kills cyberterrorist Raoul Silva in a bid to save the country (albeit at the cost of the Britannia-esque matriarch, M) he simultaneously prepares the way for Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) to assume his tenure as head of MI6, tasked with keeping the UK safe long into the future.

This narrative of protecting the nation was cemented during the “opening ceremony” of London’s 2012 Olympics. Bond seemingly retrieved the Queen from Buckingham Palace and brought her to the Olympic stadium by helicopter, where she leapt out. Evoking Roger Moore’s scene in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), a union jack flag adorned Her Majesty’s parachute.

Fittingly, the director of the ceremony was Boyle. His “Isles of Wonder” was a vision of Britain that sought to bring together the country’s voices and histories as a harmonious whole in which the British nations are sutured together invisibly; borders largely erased and difference easily overcome. It was a Utopian vision of concord and camaraderie.

Boyle’s vision of Britain hasn’t always been the most optimistic, however. His most feted film – 1996’s Trainspotting – thought about the UK in starkly different terms. Based on Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel, Trainspotting documents the tribulations of a handful of Scottish addicts, whose tipples range from alcohol to violence to heroin. Set during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, the Leith area of Edinburgh in the film is underfunded and forgotten by the neo-conservative society that Thatcher cultivated. Trainspotting’s Scotland is splintered off from the coherent UK.

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Trainspotting (1996).

By the time Boyle’s Bond film is released, Britain will have exited the European Union. The new internationalist arrangement between the UK and its continental counterparts will potentially be a throwback to the pre-Thatcher UK, when nations were primary drivers in politics. Though there is no saving Trainspotting’s disintegrated UK, Boyle’s Bond offering will come up against the backdrop of a “saved” nation – at least in terms of its own national identity, that is.

In the Bond films, Britain has long had a foil for solving international disputes, and a figure whose commercial appeal outweighs, on average, the current GDP of over 150 countries. But Boyle brings something new to the Bond universe, and his Trainspotting version of Britain where individualism thrives against a conception of a coherent UK is something Bond has rarely encountered. Now, however, the only question that remains is whether Bond will once again be able to save the Queen Olympics-style, as it were, and restore unity to a fractured Brexit Britain.

Nick Taylor-Collins, Lecturer in English Literature, Swansea University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.