Talking About James Bond (007): You Only Live Twice, and a reminder

First, a reminder: I have assigned two films to you to watch outside of class. The first one, El Sistema, has apparently stopped playing in the cinema. Your second film is a movie called 방가방가, which I’m told is  screening in a number of cinemas across Seoul.Last time, we watched the James Bond (007) film You Only Live Twice. Here are some questions or ideas to consider for our in-class discussion on 15 October 2010.

  • How does the film You Only Live Twice relate to the themes from the reading I asked you to do?  (Sheridan Prasso, The Asian Mystique) Besides the direct mentions of the film in the text, how else do they relate?
  • Is it possible to separate racism and sexism in the film, or are they inextricably tied together?
  • A friend once commented to me that the James Bond books (by Ian Fleming) read as if they were written to fulfill the wildest fantasies of traveling salesmen. What does the popularity of the James Bond series of films tell us about its audience?
  • Were the James Bond films famous or popular in Korea at the time of their original release? What was the first James Bond film screened in Korea, and when was it screened? How was it received by the public?
  • Are there similar issues of sexism, racism, or a mixture of the two in the Korean film industry? Can you think of examples? (Consider, for example, Welcome to Dongmakgol or Please Teach Me English.)
  • As an Asian viewer of a Western film, to what degree does the narrative logic of the film “work” for you? That is: Western viewers are supposed to see Japan, and the East in general (including the scene in Hong Kong at the beginning of the film) as “exotic” and “sensual” — but how do you experience this? Is the “white man’s fantasy of Asia” apparent to you, and when watching a film like this for enjoyment do you simply take it as given, or resist it, or ignore it?
  • What do you think about the political undercurrent of the film? What significance does the idea of Japan being a “third power” rising to threaten the USA/USSR bipolar political world of the Cold War? Is there a similar sense today, if not of Japan, then of some other country posing a similar threat to the unipolar American-dominated status quo? And as a nation affected deeply by the Cold War, what place does Korea have in that conflict? (In other words, if the movie were being made today, where would it be set, and where would you imagine Korean sympathies would go?)
  • Is the James Bond franchise essentially cinema “for men” or can women enjoy it too? What about James Bond might appeal to women?
  • How would you feel about showing James Bond to your own child someday — and would it matter if your child was male or female?

That should be plenty for kickstarting a discussion on Friday. See you then!

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