November 12, 2012

When fantasy becomes reality

Sam Smith

Watching the new James Bond movie, it dawned on me one reason why life has become so strange. Years ago people like Walt Disney took reality and turned it into a cartoon fantasy. Now everyone with any influence can take fantasies and turn them into pseudo-authentic realities.  Now the subway train doesn't crash through a brightly colored wall in the upper left hand corner of a comic book, but a real subway crashes through a real wall in a real movie of near perfect sound and precise picture. Daniel Craig isn't simply drawn riding a motorcycle at top speed over rooftops; he actually seems to do it.

When I was 13 and saw it in a comic book I knew it wasn't true. But what do I say now?

Further, as I sat there, I had the eerie sense that this was simply a more dramatic version of the presidential campaign that had ended just a few days earlier, a campaign that for months had turned fantasy into false realism.

And as I looked at the robotic faces of Craig and Judi Dench, I was struck by how similar they were to the artificial expressions of Mitt Romney albeit without his phony smile.

Everything about the movie was false. There was no meaningful plot. There was no grand purpose in the mayhem. If 007 had failed nothing much would have changed and if he won, a few other 007 types would be dead and so what?

The typical MI6 head doesn't mope around some coffins and than then pretentiously announce, "I'm gong to find the man who did this." And you certainly don't sink deep into frozen water and have a manly fight for that long without the chill factor raising its ugly head.

Just how many people had been killed to achieve hardly anything? We don't have the stats for this movie but, according to the Guardian, for all other Bond films the average is 16 people killed by Bond in each movie and 59 by all causes. But then that's far less than have been killed to achieve hardly anything during our reality movie about Iraq or Afghanistan.

Still, like Iraq and Afghanistan, the point is to kill, not to have any reason for it.

And who was the evil one? Not even Osama bin Laden but a barely concealed Julian Asssange. Once again the movie industry has reinforced the fantasy message of our political elite.

And that elite knows what it's up to. In 2004, Ron Suskind, in the New York Times Magazine, wrote of a a Bush aide (later said to be Karl Rove):
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Television and advertising culture have long triumphed over truth and weakened our interest in the latter. Our political campaigns, our wars, our economic policy, our approach to the environment are now all driven by make believe. But until I saw Skyfall it had never occurred to me what a major factor the transformation of the cartoon into reality TV and cinema had become. It is fantasy actually wearing the clothes of authenticity. Just like something created by Karl Rove.

How different that is from the comic books and the radio shows of the pre-television era, when the reader or the listener had to add their own imagination to make them work and which, in a strange way, taught the reader and listener something about the difference between fantasy and truth.

But when you sit in a crowded theater watching scores of people being killed, trucks flipping upside down and country homes exploding in a precise replication of such  events, it is hard to deny their natural participation in our world.

After all, if a movie producer can do it then why not our next president?

And are we the audience or just part of the cast of a new film?


Anonymous said...

Agreed, Sam, that the story and plotting were rubbish. As Eileen Jones points out at, the photography and production design were top-notch, but it's a shame to have those wasted on a non-story.

Bond films used to be a full boat of clever tension and action. Now, instead of 007 cheating death, the audience is cheated. The franchise has become necrophilia.

John Bennett said...

Excellent and right on the money.

The Karl Rove quote is chilling.

And thanks for pinpointing how the film is used to discredit even further, Julian Assange who, I fear, is not long for this world... 007 will bring him down...

Anonymous said...

Right on, Sam. I saw about ten minutes of Craig's earlier Bond film and definitely will not see this one. "History's actors," yep, that's right, but history (i.e., 5000 years of dominator culture) is coming to a close. As James Joyce said, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake," and the good news is, I smell the coffee! Folks worldwide are gradually awakening from the dominator trance and are ready for a paradigm shift not only for quality-of-life reasons, but more urgently for survival reasons because the dominator culture has proved fatally maladaptive evolutionary-wise and is about to pitch humanity into a crevasse--even as the supremely cool, ever unruffled, status-quo James Bond orders "coffee, very hot," and a martini, "shaken, not stirred." Donald O'Donovan

Mary Newbould said...

The movie was so violent that I lost interest - very few opportunities to care about any of the characters. Also, there were a lot of scenes that showed women to be of little or no value. They were very much the pawns in the show.