The Many Layers of Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die is a film that has garnered its fair share of controversy over the years. Accusations of racism, cultural insensitivity, and gender stereotypes have plagued the eighth installment of the James Bond franchise.
It was the first Bond film to have a non-white lead villain, he was a drug dealer, the black henchmen were all working together against the white man who was onto them etcetera…
However, a closer examination of the film reveals that there’s more to Live and Let Die than meets the eye. While acknowledging its flaws, we can also appreciate the positive aspects of the movie and use it as a learning opportunity to promote growth and progress within the franchise.
Contextualizing the Film’s Depiction of Race and Culture
The Blaxploitation genre emerged in the early 1970s as a response to the lack of representation and opportunities for Black actors in mainstream cinema. Though the genre has been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes, it was an important stepping stone for black representation in film.
When analyzing Live and Let Die, therefore, it’s essential to consider the historical context in which it was made and the influence of the Blaxploitation genre on its narrative and characterizations.
The Blaxploitation films of the 1970s often focused on anti-heroes and morally complex characters. Live and Let Die attempted to incorporate elements of this genre, but the end result was a film that presented a majority of its Black characters as antagonists.
This outcome highlights the importance of understanding the nuances and complexities of the Blaxploitation genre, but then again it is a Bond film and the hero part isn’t up for the taking. Sure, they could have gotten a black, Solitaire instead of Jane Seymour, but this is arguably the only character that could be changed.
Appreciating the Positive Aspects of Live and Let Die
Roger Moore’s portrayal of James Bond brought a fresh perspective to the role, infusing the character with a more empathetic and accessible demeanour. His performance offered a new dimension to the iconic spy and demonstrated the potential for Bond to evolve as a character.
Moore’s performance as Bond highlighted the importance of having heroes who are capable of expressing a wider range of emotions and connecting with audiences on a deeper level. This aspect of his portrayal has been praised by many viewers.
Live and Let Die features breathtaking scenery, showcasing the natural beauty of Jamaica, the reality of 1970s Harlem and New Orleans that is adorned with colonial beauty and voodoo. These stunning visuals serve as a backdrop to the film’s exciting story and contribute to the overall enjoyment of the movie.
The film’s action sequences, while influenced by previous Bond films, manage to feel distinct and engaging. The unique choreography and inventive interactions between Bond and Dr. Kananga demonstrate the creativity and skill behind the film’s production.
The Potential for Growth and Learning
While it is important to recognize and critique the problematic elements of Live and Let Die, it’s also essential to acknowledge the film’s potential as a learning opportunity. By examining the film’s shortcomings, filmmakers and audiences alike can work towards more inclusive and respectful representation in future productions.
The James Bond franchise has shown progress from the early days, with more diverse casting and stronger, more complex female characters, and in Jeffrey Wright, a black actor to play Felix Leiter. One of the leading contenders for the next actors to play James Bond was Idris Elba, but he has since ruled himself out.
Live and Let Die – A Stereotype but Far From Racist
Live and Let Die has its fair share of problematic elements, but it would be an oversimplification to label it as a racist film. Instead, the film’s issues should be understood in the context of its historical period and its connection to the Blaxploitation genre.
By recognizing the film’s shortcomings and addressing them, we can use it as a catalyst for progress, both in terms of representation and storytelling. The producers have, as is seen by the more progressive female roles. Miss Moneypenny is now played by a black actress and in No time To Die, 007 was a black woman.
Ultimately, the legacy of Live and Let Die should be one of critical reflection and learning, not condemnation. Sure enough, there are stereotypes in the film, but the Bond franchise is full of stereotypes of all genders and colours.