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Do James Bond books need to be rewritten?
During the 70th anniversary year of the publication of Casino Royale, the debut novel of the James Bond literary franchise, the 14 novels will undergo a sensitivity review.
An independent review commissioned by Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, the company that retains the literary rights to the 007 series, an iconic British spy agent, will eliminate some racially offensive language and outdated stereotypes from Ian Fleming’s works. However, depictions of other ethnic minorities, such as a Korean character named Oddjob in Goldfinger, the seventh book, will remain.
According to The Telegraph, the new editions will be published alongside an accompanying disclaimer that reads: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.” This disclaimer mirrors those put in place by streaming services like Disney+, which added warnings before content with racist depictions such as The Jungle Book.
“A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set,” it adds. But critics say that despite the proposed refresh for contemporary readers, many references to gendered violence and sexual assault will remain in the texts.
What racist content has been removed from Fleming’s novels?
According to The Telegraph, most of the revisions pertain to the way Black people are described. One such instance is Bond’s assertion that suspected African criminals are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much,” which has now been shortened to “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”
The novels were also littered with well-known racial slurs for Black people, which have been changed in the new editions to “black person” or “black man” where relevant.
While some readers may welcome the removal of racial slurs and stereotypes, the franchise also has a reputation for outdated, one-dimensional gender roles, as well as female characters with sexual innuendos for names.
References to the “sweet tang of rape,” “blithering women,” and failing to do a “man’s work” will reportedly not be removed from the books. Additionally, homophobic statements including the idea that homosexuality is a “stubborn disability” will reportedly remain.
This selective approach to updating the text is deliberate, says Australian author Clementine Ford, who has written about the sexism behind on-screen Bond girls, of which there have been over 75 so far. “It seems to me that the reason a sensitivity edit is being sought for racially charged language is not just to retroactively erase the racism of the Bond universe, but to ensure Bond remains both admirable and popular in a modern climate,” she said.
Source: Time Magazine