Like many poms with a strong sense of post-colonial entitlement, I took a long hard look at Canada before I decided to emigrate to Australia. I’ve sometimes asked myself what my life would have been like if I’d bought the cheaper ticket, and until recently my answer has never gone beyond the word ‘Colder’. But that won’t wash any more. While it’s true that Canadian winters still stubbornly refuse to comply with global warming predictions, the fact is that all Canadian homes have central heating systems, and Canadian energy prices have never been a bar to switching them on. Today the average cost of electricity in Ontario, the most populous province, is around 9c per kw/h. That’s less than a third of what most Australians pay, and less than a quarter of what it costs to boil a kettle in South Australia. And Canada does not need a National Energy Guarantee to keep electricity affordable because like Australia it is rich in fossil fuels, but unlike Australia does not plan to stop taking them out of the ground. It also has the world’s second largest uranium deposits — but unlike Australia, which has the largest, it actually uses them. But abundant nuclear and hydro notwithstanding, Canada’s telegenic young Prime Minister’s promises to meet Paris Agreement emissions targets are just as insincere as those made by the leader of any other Western country, and just as unrealistic as his government’s expectations that anyone will comply with the country’s ludicrous new gender pronoun laws.
There’s been a tendency in the media to depict the #MeToo movement as Hollywood’s long-overdue fillip to female empowerment. But in truth it’s just the most conspicuous manifestation of a much longer-running campaign by the entertainment industry to signal its commitment to all forms of diversity. And audiences have gone along with most of it uncomplainingly. The prospect of a black actor, Idris Elba, becoming the next James Bond, for example, won’t upset or surprise many fans of the franchise. Partly because it has the virtue of being credible: the British intelligence services of today, unlike the one that employed Ian Fleming, don’t have a racist, sexist, class-based recruitment policy. But mainly because the PC writing has been on the fictional MI6 wall since 1995, the year that Judi Dench got the M guernsey (the same Ms Dench who, some years prior to becoming an outspoken #MeToo advocate said she’d had Harvey Weinstein’s initials tattooed on her bottom). Prior to that, the majority of female Bond film characters were almost entirely decorative, the exception being Spectre agent Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love. And the only reason she was impervious to Sean Connery’s hairy-backed charms is that, thanks to the skills of the wardrobe and make-up department, she’s even more of a cartoon lesbian in the film than she was in the book it’s based on.
But you have to hand it to those Pinewood guys; in a little over three decades a film franchise conceived as an unapologetic bastion of sexism, ethnic stereotyping and Empire nostalgia has adapted itself to changing social values almost as successfully as that other great British entertainment export, the House of Windsor, aka Kardashians with Corgis. And anyone who thinks that a female 007 would be one step too far should consider the recently discovered gender fluidity of another immortal pommy screen icon. Production has already begun on the next Dr Who series, and this time round everybody’s favourite time lord is scheduled to step out of the Tardis in a frock and lippy.
The only Bond casting brief which will never change is the one for lead baddie, who, to avoid incurring the displeasure of digitally empowered minorities, will presumably continue to be white, middle-aged and male for as long as there is evil in the world. Another thing we can be sure of is that whoever plays the lead, Bond scripts will always include several scenes where James (or Jamie) is obliged to undress prior to exercising his (or her) Licence to Thrill. My enjoyment of such scenes has always been compromised by the ad man in me, who sees them primarily as fantastic product placement opportunities for an iconic Australian underwear brand.
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