Term Paper: Transmedia Characters

Pages: 5 (1622 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

James Bond

One of the most pernicious and explicitly oppressive concepts to come out of British imperialism is the notion of extraterritoriality, wherein British nationals were entirely exempt from the local laws governing British colonies, as well as de facto British economic colonies such as China (Cassel 156). Although the British empire and its successors have provided a variety of justifications for extraterritoriality, these justifications ultimately boil down to the belief that foreign judicial systems were insufficiently civilized to subject British citizens to, and thus they should be free from any control at the hands of the colonized peoples. Although some degree of extraterritoriality lives on today in the form of embassies and foreign military bases, the most egregious example of the concept can be seen in the character of James Bond, the British spy with a "license to kill" who need not worry about any local laws except for the rare occasion when he needs help from the British empire's successor on the world stage, the United States. By examining how James Bond's extraterritorial liberty is treated across media and time, one is able to see how the character functions as a kind of imperial wish-fulfillment, acting out the grossest abuses of the British empire at a time when that empire no longer exists.

The centrality of the British empire to the world of James Bond is evident throughout his different incarnations to varying degrees. For example, the beginning of Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever includes a discussion of "the great diamond mines around Sefadu. These are the property of Sierra International, which is part of the powerful mining empire of Afric International, which in turn is a rich capital asset of the British Commonwealth" (Fleming 1). Following World War II, Britain's imperial legacy was quickly reduced to more purely economic forms of imperialism or colonialism, and the plot of Diamonds Are Forever features James Bond traipsing around the world, working to stop a diamond-smuggling ring that, as the above line indicates, threatens Britain's remaining economic power. Thus, almost from the beginning one can see how Bond serves as a sort of encapsulation of the British empire's lost military might, boiled down to a single man running around the world defending the Commonwealth's interests.

Diamonds Are Forever does of course feature examples of Bond acting in an extraterritorial fashion throughout, but to really understand how Bond's extraterritorial actions can be traced back to the racist, xenophobic policies of imperial Britain, it will be more helpful to examine some of the those instances in which Bond exercises his license to kill with impunity in actual former colonies. For example, in the 1965 film Thunderball, the plot takes Bond to the Bahamas, a former British colony which is now part of the Commonwealth of Nations (the euphemistic name given to the former British empire). While Bond's breaking of a number of local laws would simply be par for the course in an action or spy story, what links Bond's activities to the historical practice of extraterritoriality is a scene nearing the climax of the film, when Bond is chased through a Junkanoo celebration.

Junkanoo is a street parade held across the Bahamas, and stems from a time when the British empire maintained vast slave plantations across the islands. Junkanoo was something like Carnival, a day when the slaves were allowed to stop working and celebrate African culture and dance (as opposed to being forced to celebrate Christian holidays and culture). Thus, it presents an immediate connection to the legacy of British imperialism, slavery, and exploitation, but in the film it serves mainly as frantic, colorful setting for Bond to run through. He has no concern for the parade-goers, essentially using them as human shields to hide himself from his pursuers. Furthermore, Thunderball's version of Junkanoo, while convenient to add a little local flavor to the film, actually undercuts the centrality of African culture to the celebration by focusing only on a portion of the parade celebrating the United Nations. Thus, instead of presenting viewers with actual African culture and costumes, the film, like the British imperialist project as whole, diminishes that culture in favor of a celebration of "international," meaning Western, culture.

The chase sequence actually leads one quite naturally to an interesting intersection between Bond's practice of extraterritoriality and one of his ostensibly less-offensive character traits, namely, the ubiquitous presence of his Aston Martin in nearly every platform. While the centrality of a car to Bond's character might at first glance appear to a relatively harmless facet, considering all of the other tropes associated with Bond, in reality his car plays a crucial role in the practice of extraterritoriality. In particular, Bond tends to have no trouble breaking local traffic laws in his pursuit of or flight from villains, and whatever detrimental effects might result from these high-speed chases on the local populace are not explored. Although it might feel trivial to wonder about, for example, the street vender whose cart is destroyed in the course of a chase, the fact is that hit-and-run collisions committed by individuals with extraterritorial liberty is a frequent and oftentimes deadly side-effect of the practice, and one that continues to this day thanks to the extraterritoriality exercised by diplomats and foreign military personnel stationed overseas.

Somewhat tellingly, when the role of Bond is handed over to the player in the form of a videogame, the casual violence and destruction that would otherwise accompany a vehicular chase scene in a James Bond story is extremely sanitized. For example, one of the most successful Bond games in recent history is Everything or Nothing, one of the rare James Bond games to feature its own stand-alone title and plot line (meaning it is not based off a pre-existing story or film). In addition to the traditional third-person shooting sequences, the game features a number of driving sequences wherein the player is given control over Bond's Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. However, when driving the car the player finds city streets completely void of pedestrians, and aside from other vehicles, practically nothing about the physical environments react to being hit by an extremely fast-moving vehicle. This is not because the technology at the time could not render destructible environments or pedestrian collisions, as pre-existing games like Grand Theft Auto 3 demonstrate, but rather because the image of pedestrians being splattered across Bond's windshield would likely have diminished the character's aura as a hyper-competent super spy. However, in sanitizing the driving sequences of a game that otherwise depends on violent death as a central game mechanic, the game is essentially trying to convince the player to ignore the potential unexpected consequences of Bond's extraterritorial liberty while focusing on the "good" violence committed against the villains. In the world of the game, bystanders never get injured, and breaking local laws never inconveniences the wrong people.

Bond's exercise of extraterritorial liberty has permeated his entire existence, but that extraterritoriality has not been expressed with so much disdain for standards of international law and humanitarianism as in the recent film adaptation of Casino Royale. This is because Casino Royale actually features kind of meta-extraterritoriality, as James Bond actually breaks into an embassy (itself an extraterritorial location) in order to kill his victim. Although later in the film Bond receives something of a dressing down for his decision to violate the embassy's sovereignty, he ultimately explains away his violation simply because the seriousness and importance of his job demands it.

Casino Royale marks an interesting shift in the demonstration of British extraterritoriality in Bond stories, because for perhaps the first time in the cross-media series the justification for that extraterritoriality does not depend on implicit assumptions of British legal and cultural superiority over former colonies, but rather deploys the kind of anti-terrorism rhetoric developed… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Transmedia Characters.  (2013, March 26).  Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/transmedia-characters/4163539

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"Transmedia Characters."  Essaytown.com.  March 26, 2013.  Accessed July 22, 2019.