September 8, 2011

Queer Review: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever
Director: Guy Hamilton
Writer: Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. Based upon the novel Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming.
Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Bruce Cabot

The iconic spy extraordinaire, James Bond, finds himself battling his arch nemisis Ernst Stavro Blofeld over diamond trading in this classic from 1971. An otherwise excellent adventure, Diamonds Are Forever suffers from one major problem, the homophobic portrayal of the main villains.

After apparently dispatching the evil megalomaniac Blofeld, James Bond (Sean Connery) is called in by the British Intelligence Agency to investigate a diamond smuggling operation. This takes him to Amsterdam, working with Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) who is involved with the operation. After an attempt on Bond's life, it's off to America, where Bond finds himself uncovering a much larger conspiracy involving the stolen diamonds, a mysterious research operation, and a reclusive playboy.

The Queering
On one hand, I found this seventh outing for James Bond to be rather entertaining, at least outside of a snooze inducing car chase during the final half. On the other hand, I cannot ignore the overt homophobia embedded in the characterization of the two evil henchman Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint. Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are obviously intended to be a gay couple, even going so far to hold hands at one point. Even Blofeld gets in on the act by crossdressing briefly for one scene and for no apparent reason to boot.

The message is pretty clear, being gay or gender non-conforming is something done only by evil sociopaths. James Bond - whose position as the hero makes him the example all guys should exemplify - is a womanising paragon of rampant masculinity. Of course this was a normal practise for Hollywood, until Cruising came along and set such a bad example. However, this does not make the sin excusable.

This is unfortunate, as Diamonds Are Forever is one of the better entries into the James Bond franchise. I enjoyed it a lot more then when watching the critically acclaimed Casino Royale (whose dark and gritty tone made for a strong entry, but I hated the ending). However the blatant homophobia, and brief instance of transphobia, cause the whole project to sink faster than an exploding oil rig.

While an entertaining movie, this is no diamond in the rough, so feel free to keep on putting this off for forever.

The Rating


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