Robin Hood: Men in Tights

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Robin Hood: Men in Tights (PG-1)
48% rotten tomatoes

Is it safe to assume we all know who Mel Brooks is? After the recent traumatic passing of Stan Lee, I’m almost afraid to invoke his name, lest his body remember it’s 92 years old. Just in case any of you are 14 (if you are, please know that this content is not curated for you and is very inappropriate; nevertheless, we love a rebel so hello), Mel Brooks is a titan of film comedy. He is responsible for such classics as Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Life Stinks, History of the World: Part I, and of course, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. As a side note, I, as a lover of people who use grammar and syntax to their full potential, enjoy how many of his titles have colons in them, and how much additional information he’s able to give with just a three word clause. But wordplay is one of his signature motifs, and I am here for it. I dare you to find a five minute stretch of Mel Brooks that doesn’t include a double entendre.

the man, the mensch, the legend

So what perfect alchemy of nature brings forth a comedy savant like Mel Brooks? He was born Melvin Kaminksy in 1926, in Brooklyn NY. And as we all know, the 20’s transitioned right into the 30’s without any kind of hiccup, right? Wait, what? You mean… oh… Oh noooo. We’ll come back to that, yikes.

Back to finding out how to reproduce the conditions that created Mel Brooks (which kind of could be the premise for a Mel Brooks movie). Well, I can’t find any specific details about Brooks’ childhood, but from what I can gather, he grew up poor, but in a very loving home. He was the youngest of four boys, and his father died when he was two. His mother got a job working ten hour days out of the house, and then continued working at home. When his brothers were old enough (12!!) they went to work as well, in addition to going to school. These mid-WW folks are some serious badasses. I’m so soft I complain about my forty hour a week job that pays well and comes with a chair.

look at those lil baby Depression ties!!!

Brooks talks about his experiences as a kid with a lot of brevity and humor. He jokes about running across a particular bridge scared, because if you fell in, none of the other Jews would be able to save you (the implication is that Gentiles wouldn’t WANT to save you), because Jews in his neighborhood couldn’t swim. The only place to swim was in a non-Jewish part of town, and they would be chased away if they tried. Additionally, he recounts a suicide in the neighborhood and being terrified that it was his mother. She had, unbeknownst to him, worked late that night and since there were no telephones in poor areas, much less cell phones, he just had to sit and wait, wondering if she would come home. He wasn’t impervious to the constant near-tragedy of his life, but even from an early age he seemed to develop a “why cry when you can laugh” attitude as a coping mechanism. So maybe that’s it – you get a kid who has the funny gene already, put him or her in some shitty living conditions, but make they have the support of the family. And since we’re heading for a new great depression, let’s take a moment to review, shall we?? We need to be prepared.

Okay, so you know how a meth binge makes you feel like you can do anything and anything you do is the greatest thing ever, but then when it’s done you spend the same amount of time feeling like pure shit? I mean… so I’ve heard. That was pretty much the stock market from the 20’s through the 30’s. The 20’s were just one great big meth party (I assume that’s why it’s called the Roaring Twenties), and then when the economy couldn’t take any more rich old white men taking advantage of it, she crashed. Hard. You know, let me rephrase that – we’re not victim blaming the economy here. Let the record show the guilty party was … yeah rich old white men. Okay fine, they weren’t all old. Here’s how it went down:

All throughout the 20’s, there was a ton of speculating being done. What is speculation? Well if it’s done honestly, it’s just being really good at guessing. You look at a bunch of cheap stocks and think *deeply* about which ones might become valuable stocks one way or another. I really don’t know how people come to these conclusions, and I personally find investing so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to find out. Anyway, I don’t understand everything that happens next (see above: my unwillingness to find out) but I gather that people were speculating on the stock market itself at some point. Like instead of betting on a card game, you bet on the casino winning that night (can’t lose, right?). But when everyone starts betting on the casino and stops betting on the card games, the casino doesn’t make any money. And then instead of trying to regroup by betting moderately on more card games, the bettors pawned their chips off on someone else as fast as they could and ran. Those were the lucky assholes. The unlucky ones were unable to find anyone to buy their chips, so they had to just stand there with their arms full of useless chips while the casino burned to the ground from the chaos and looting that was started by the first wave of panicked rich white guys ditching their chips.

OH BUT IT GETS WORSE. Right before the shit hit the fan, the rich assholes who owned the banks saw that some of the peasants were getting interested in speculation on card games, too. So what do banks do to poor, uneducated people? That’s right – they prey on them. They make it super easy for those peasants to borrow a lot of money. Lord forgive them, they knew not what they signed. Society was telling people everywhere they looked that they could get rich this way. It’s kind of like when everyone was investing in commercial real estate in the 90’s. Or am I the only one who remembers that being a thing. Anyways, banks were offering chips “on margin” which meant that the peasants could put a little bit of their own money towards the card games and borrow the rest. You know. Like how you buy a house. Ahem. So when they saw this demand, the players already at the tables of course increased their bids way higher and also dragged in a shit ton more tables. Inflation. Greed. Good christian values in our good christian country.

And to be fair, things had been really good in the village for the peasants for a long time. They all had jobs and food, and places to live. We’d been post-WWI for about a decade now. The only thing missing was a shitload of cash from winning at the casino. They were soft and coddled. They weren’t afraid of things going badly because things had gone so well for so long… except for farmers, who had been struggling for a while, actually. So anyway, some say that the tipping point was when casino management upped the rates for playing the game (the federal reserve raise the interest rate by 1%). So… the one thing articles skip over is WHAT DOES IT MEAN when the stock market crashes – not contributing factors, not financial climates – what are the events that happen – how do you know the stock market just crashed? Do you know where I actually got the answer I was looking for? WIKIPEDIA.

So here’s the deal. Direct quote: “Stock market crashes are social phenomena where external economic events combine with crowd behavior and psychology in a positive feedback loop where selling by some market participants drives more market participants to sell.”

It’s basically like someone yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. One bettor in the casino was like “Whoa, management just upped these rates, and I’m not even sure what this shit is worth anymore – these companies are making massive amounts of terrible shit. I’m out” and then the player next to him is like “oh man, I’ve heard some things about the drought affecting crops, and the interest rate just went up – I bet that guy knows something I don’t. I’M SELLING OUT, BITCHES” and so on. Then the fucking media sensationalizes the whole thing and it’s turned into a runaway train by this point. A perfect storm of events. So basically, it’s the exactly the same as what caused the surge, but in reverse. It’s Newton’s third law, applied to societal constructs.

♪ It seems no one can help me now / I’m in too deep / There’s no way out ♫

Back to real life. Recap: Everyone’s like “WOOOOOO EASY MONEY!!!!” and then banks were like “HEY PEASANTS, GET IN ON THIS HERE’S SOME MONEY***” and then some cocaine crazed proto-yuppies started screaming “BET IT ALLLLLL” and smashing guitars against the wall and then people were like “uh oh there’s too many people here and it’s not cool anymore” and then no one wanted to play and everyone lost their keys in the club. Onward!

Everyone was in a panic to sell all their stock but no one was buying it, so the value plummeted. I think we have a naive trust in the system – not trust meaning that we think any big system has our best interest at heart, but a kind of trust that it just is what it is. Corn is yellow, the ocean is salty, stocks are based on demonstrable value. NOPE. It’s all made up. The value of stocks are based on demand, or how much people want it. It’s why I do not understand stocks at all. I had always labored under the delusion that valuable stocks were from successful companies, but that’s only half the story since there are people out there gambling on whether a particular business, or industry at large, is going to be successful. I still don’t know how someone plays stock on an entire industry, like solar power. I mean… which companies??? More than half of them are going to suck, right??? Do you just invest in all of them?? ARGH I’M ALREADY SO BORED.

Okay, let’s flash forward just a little bit. The market has entered refraction (hee hee hee). People have lost their fortunes and their jobs. Companies have lost their investors and shut down, or shut down because all these newly broke people didn’t have money to buy their unnecessary shit anymore. People who worked there have lost their jobs and couldn’t pay back the banks for the stock game money they borrowed. If you had money to get in the bank, banks couldn’t give it to you, cause guess what. They invested it in the stock market. And they couldn’t make their money back on loans, cause… oh right. Unemployment. Just a big circle jerk of misery.

Oh wait – there’s more. In 1931 or thereabouts, we get the Dust Bowl. Did you think to yourself “well why don’t I just pack up and move to the Midwest, where I’ll become a farmer? At least we’ll have plenty to eat!” EEEEHHHHHHH. So sorry, the American Midwest has decided to stop raining. Here’s some dust wind, though! Now, there were dumbasses who didn’t know how to farm trying to farm long before the market crashed. The government used to hand out grants to people to settle the huge tracts of land they stole, so of course immigrants and fourth sons and what not took advantage. I mean, why would you not? You figure it’s one of those things you’ll just pick up as you go along.

My point is, the Dust Bowl was bad enough on its own, but the Midwest had been only settled by these folks for the past 70 years or so, and they weren’t the most experienced at it. If you stay in a historically continually populated place like France, and there’s a drought or something like that, the collective knowledge about how to weather the season and get as much as you can out of your fields is going to be greater than what we had going on in the Midwest and southern plains. We had people, plenty of whom may not have come from farming families (at least originally), and who didn’t have a lengthy knowledge of the land. Keep in mind, we’d already driven out the First Nations populations, and I feel they’d likely have been disinclined to help us anyway.

So there’s a money shortage, and now there’s also a food shortage.

By 1933, the unemployment rate was 25%. The Great Depression officially lasted from 1929-1939, but for many families, this would shape an entire generation. Heading back east, we have had the great industrialization of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries exploding populations in cities and the surrounding areas, and then suddenly it all comes to a halt. There are now tons of people in crisis, all in a generally small vicinity.

This seems like a good time to briefly recap early 20th century history:

  • 1914-1918 we have Sandbox Scuffle I – 15-19 million people killed
  • 1920’s are pretty decent tbh, even though Prohibition is enacted in 1920; constraints can be freeing and folks get creative
  • 1922 – Stan Lee is born in Manhattan
  • 1926 – Mel Brooks is born in Brooklyn
  • 1929 – Stock market crash
  • 1931 – Dust Bowl
  • 1933 – Record Unemployment, but bonus! No more Prohibition!
  • 1939 – Great Depression unofficially ends, butttttttt… Sandbox Scuffle II kicks off, resulting in 50-80 million deaths by the time it ends in 1945.

You know, for being called the silent generation, these folks ^ sure made some loud history.

Can you imagine growing up in this kind of environment? Can you imagine being a WOMAN in this environment? The ban on birth control (Comstock Act) wasn’t lifted until 1938, and the birth control pill wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1960 AND STILL WASN’T LEGAL FOR UNMARRIED WOMEN UNTIL 1972!!!!!! PS – this was only shortly before the Vietnam war ended. I image that for a very long time, women felt like they were bringing children into the world just to starve or die in war. I can’t fathom trying to raise four boys on my own – mother of shout outs to the titanic fortitude of Mel Brook’s mother. And they were Jewish, to boot, so also racism in the mix!

this shit is too depressing, so here’s a happy dog with happy flowers

Okay, so onto more fun stuff. Mel was a soldier in Sandbox Scuffle II (at 17 years old, mind). He did some camp shows during this time and really got to flex his showman muscles, and after his time in the war was done, he bounced around until he found

In an interview done by Playboy in 1975, Brooks responded to allegations that his comedy is undisciplined and “anarchic,” which he waves away with a joke. This is definitely what I appreciate about him the most. He does things you’re not supposed to do. The fourth wall breaks, the actors break character, the jokes are often in poor taste, but in the charmingest way. Brooks’ movies are nothing if not full of mirth and whimsy, and self deprecation, and exploiting ridiculous things. It’s fun in the way that kids have fun – it doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to reduce him to just a product of his environment, but I can’t see what about real life would make sense to a boy that grew up in the 30’s. So why not turn everything into a parody – especially things that people have decided to take very, very seriously. Like space operas. And Shakespeare. And gothic horror. And Robin Hood.

In an article in the Atlantic, the author points out that he has an “endless fascination with such primal experiences as fear and cruelty, accident and death.” It’s not an uncommon fascination to be sure, but how Brooks manifests it is so unique and somehow light-hearted. Rob Reiner once asked him how he differentiates between tragedy and comedy – Brooks said, “If I’ll cut my finger, that’s tragedy. … Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die,” and then denied bastardizing the David Hume quote. Classic Mel.

So – on to Robin Hood. What do we know about him? He probably wasn’t a real dude. He might have been the Tooth Fairy, but for grownups. That belief we have that someone else is going to come and solve our problems; make the bad guys go away. (spoiler alert: that shit is the pipiest of dreams. Vote, mutherfuckers).

The legend seem to originate at the tail end of the medieval period, in the 13th century. You might say he was the original anarchist, but he probably wasn’t. We love a good political rebel, though. William Wallace, Pancho Villa, pirates, Spartacus, Boudica, the American colonies, dudes who wear socks with sandals. The latter excepted, we like people who break stupid rules. Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men robbed and murdered rich assholes, and redistributed the wealth to poor people. Was it wrong? Legally, yes, but they were rebelling against a legal system that was never going to be beneficial for the poor. Was it wrong morally? If you take out the murder, then I don’t see the big deal. Yes they were stealing, but if you take the “laws” out of the equation, the money taken from peasants did not represent a fair return on investment. And guess what happened in 1381?? A Peasant’s Revolt! See, the peasants felt they were being unfairly taxed, among other things. Why is every organized government since the dawn of time convinced that overtaxing the poorest population is a solution? I mean, I understand the greed, but I just don’t see how they think, “oh, but this time it’ll work!” Ugh. Anyway.

Later stories liked to portray Hood as being a nobleman himself, but I prefer the idea that he was a commoner who tried to take the reins of destiny. Power to the people and all that. It feels more honest to me if it’s a man of the people. When it’s a lord who’s lost his home to the same dirty leaders that have been abusing the peasants for years, and it’s only then that he looks around and goes “huh – this is fucked up” it feels too selfish. Don’t tell me you’re doing it for justice, Robin. You’re doing it for your old feather bed and 2,000 acres. So in this way, Mel Brooks has given us the standard post-medieval version of the Robin Hood story – good little nobleman breaks bad.


But put yourself in some medieval shoes. The forest would have been the most valuable resource after water. You gots wood to make your houses and tools, li’l animals to eat, weird plants to munch on and use as medicine, shelter for outlaws on the lam. You know, the necessities. But usually these kinds of laws were meant to keep huge areas of undeveloped land EMPTY so the king or regional leader and his cronies could go hunt without any peasants getting in the way or reducing the game population (cause they like everything to be easy; more deer = less effort). It’s the theme of greed and powers – the convenience of the few is more important than the survival of the many.

You can see why a figure like Robin Hood would be appealing. Hell, it’s appealing now. It’s kind of like how we’re all hoping Anonymous is going to swoop in and save the day. So when there are historical records of outlaws in Northern England using a surname from the Robin Hood legends it’s tempting to jump to conclusions. But this doesn’t mean that they’re likely the real Robin Hood or his descendants, but it’s more likely a wishful Dread Pirate Roberts situation. These men were desperate, and taking his surname was a way they could convey that their actions were not done in malice, but in service to the ideology of Robin Hood. This is not to say there wasn’t an actual Robin Hood, but it makes it even more complicated to try and figure out what’s what. Like that one part in The Dark Knight Rises where all those hockey dads kept dressing up like Batman.

There is one possibility, apparently. There was a Robert Hod held as prisoner in 1225. He had lived in York, which is indeed in the North of England. The timeline, proposed by John Major in 1521, states that this Robert Hod was Robin Hooding in the 1190’s, had become a proper outlaw by 1225, and died in 1247 (there’s a grave that supposed to Robin Hood’s in the place where the legend says he died). Also helpful is that the legends usually mention King Richard and Prince John. That would be King Richard the Lionheart (ruled 1189-1199). He was a great warrior, but an absent king. He was off templaring with the knights on crusades more than he was at home being king. Prince John ended up being King John (ruled 1199-1216) and he sucked in the opposite direction, and was also much less handsome. John did try to steal the throne before he “earned” it, which is often a big part of his character’s political machinations in the stories. He was a real asshole as a king, more so than a normal king. He like… invented red tape and bureaucracy for medieval England. There was great record keeping, but come the fuck on. He also micromanaged everything. They kind of go together. As does a fee schedule for getting out of military service, or for getting expedited legal services and shit. Oh, and he cared more about creating revenue for military adventures than he did about his people being able to eat. Not like – we’re at war, but like, I really want this territory. But it’s cool. He got excommunicated, he never took those territories he wanted, his court rebelled against him (his northern courtiers, I should mention), and he died of dysentery. This seems like the perfect set up for Mel Brooks. A scheming schmuck, an unlikely hero, and a disgruntled populace. Just throw in some love triangles and some visual puns (as well as verbal puns) and you’ve got a comedy.

So. There are a lot of movies out there about him. I looked it up on Wikipedia and counted 79. That’s just movies and dedicated TV shows – that’s not including Robin Hood themed episodes of stuff. And there are at least half a dozen projects currently in development. What is it that makes this story so enduring, and if it’s relatability, how are we no better off than we were 800 years ago? The details are a little different, but the resources are still being horded by a small but powerful percent of the population. We rebelled and made our own country to get England to quit it, and we’re getting right back to where we started. The majority of our country isn’t represented in our government, so maybe we all need to tap into the Robin Hood that lives in our hearts.

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

39. Die Hard

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Christmas joy! Nikki and Sher discuss the boom of the working woman in the 80’s and 90’s, whether Die Hard really is a Christmas movie, and also get sloshed on wassail.

Favorite quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” – Hans Gruber

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36. Sleepy Hollow

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Nikki and Sher explore Tim Burton’s beautiful world of horrific ignorance and bad parenting! JOIN US!

Favorite quote: “Villainy wears many masks, none of which so dangerous as virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

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35. Alien

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Nikki and Sher talk about alien fetishes, an Alien/Predator/Bladerunner universe, Predator sex, Klingon sex, Battlestar Galactica, and suspended animation. Also, there are some spoilers for Passenger.

IT’S STILL HOT HERE, so there’s a little background noise from the air conditioner. It’s hot, y’all. Enjoy!

Favorite quote: “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathies.” – Ash

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Speed (R)
93% rotten tomatoes

Li’l baby Keanu was 30 years old when this movie was made. LOOK AT HIS LI’L BABY FACE AND HIS LI’L BABY BUZZCUT!


Ack, okay down to business.

1994 and thereabouts is a special time in movie history. This is kind of the last time we get movies without a major CGI component. All of the effects here are just standard trickery and deceit.


CGI was definitely a thing by 1994, but it wasn’t extensively used like it is now. In fact, Jurassic Park was the first physically textured CGI, and that was in 1993. What is physically textured CGI you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s Level Three computer magic. 2D computer animation is Level One (beginning in 1972), 3D computer graphics is Level Two (beginning in 1976). That is the extent of my knowledge. Okay, okay. I can’t find a really good description of the processes, but from what I can understand of what I did read, computer graphics prior to Jurassic Park were just kind of layered over whatever was shot on film. The difference in the physical texturing is the use of green scenes to implant the computer images into the final product.

Some additional landmarks – Toy Story was the first full-length CGI film (1995). Starship Troopers had the first big ol’ CGI battle scenes (1997). Fight Club first used something called photogrammetry, which is using photographs to measure things (1999). Perception/timing alteration – The Matrix (1999). First use of motion capture GOLLUM from LOTR: The Two Towers (2002).

The point is – all the action in the old action movies has a different kind of feel to it, prior to all the CGI. I’m not saying CGI is bad – it’s great, but it’s different, that’s all. Two things can be different but still equally lovable.

A note on the script – the characters in this movie are all unexpectedly well-developed. Well guess who wrote the dialogue for the movie? JOSS WHEDON. You know he has a great talent for inter-character relationships. Buffy. Firefly. All have casts with crackling chemistry and very believable human interaction.

Okay, so let’s do a short plot recap. Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels are super cops. Not like Robocop, but since they’re the focus of the movie, we’re led to believe they’re better than other cops. Even the other SWAT cops. And we’re right, obviously. The movie starts out with them foiling a disgruntled ex-bomb squad guy’s plan to extort money by trapping hostages in an elevator.


Side note – being trapped with a random selection of people inside an elevator in peril is an excellent way to see someone’s true colors. It’s a good first date idea. Keep that in mind.

Okay, so ex-bomb guy is like, oh yeah? How about I DIDN’T actually blow myself up like you thought – I escaped, because I’m an evil genius. And by the way – if that wasn’t elaborate enough for you WATCH THIS. I’m going to blow up a random bus when it’s right in front of you, just to get your attention so I can tell you that I’ve rigged a random city bus with a BOMB. But not just any bomb, oohhhhh no. This is an extra special, needlessly intricate, super dramatic bomb. It’s just going to chill under this bus. BUT – once the bus gets up to 50 mph, then it’s ARMED. And once it’s ARMED, the bomb will go off if you let that bus get BELOW 50 mph.


So our super cop Jack finds a way to get on that bus dammit, because that’s the only place he can solve the problem. Using a walkie-talkie (cell phones were neither widely available nor affordable in 1994), he can communicate with other super cops and make all the right turns to avoid LA traffic so they won’t slow down and explode. Here comes a series of obstacles: panicked guy shoots the driver. A panicked woman tries to get off the bus with the injured driver and oh ho ho – ex-bomb squad guy thought of everything because he already has a tiny bomb under the bus stairs for just such an occasion. He explodes the stairs and panic lady gets crushed under the bus because that’s the punishment for panicking.

Jack, because he’s so young and level-headed, decides he’s going to get under that bus, goddammit. So that’s what he does. And what does he find??? A FAKE BOMB. The peasants rejoice. But then finds the MUCH BIGGER REAL BOMB. The peasants despair. But what’s this??? A clue??? A shitty gold watch OMG THE BOMBER MUST BE EX-POLICE BECAUSE THIS IS EXACTLY THE SHITTY GOLD WATCHES WE GIVE TO COPS ON THEIR WAY OUT. So based on this and other context clues, I guess, they figure out this guy used to be on the Atlanta bomb squad. No word on why he’s in LA. I guess because at the time Atlanta wasn’t a big filming destination, and he couldn’t be from LA because then the cops would have known who he was.

So Jack’s beloved partner goes on a raid to dude’s house and – I have to pause here for a moment. This fella has been blowing stuff up all over the city, right? So you’re gonna just walk up in his house. Cool – so they get blown up, and now Jack is devastated that his partner has been blowed up. So of course he’s going to redouble his efforts, because REVENGE.

Buncha stuff happens, but let’s skip forward to – the end. Everyone is off the bus now except for Jack and Annie. They couldn’t get off because of reasons. So they find a pipe laying around, jam it on the pedal, hurl themselves off the bus, and watch it crash into a plane and explode. I assume the plane was empty.

Now Jack has to chase down the money they left for Atlanta guy, but Atlanta guy is so far ahead of them – he’s anticipated every move (because he’s an ex-cop and he knows how they think, ya know), so he’s gotten the money away, but he RESURFACES AND KIDNAPS ANNIE because women is bait, y’all. So he puts a suit made of bombs on her and takes her as a human shield to the subway, then handcuffs her to the subway.

He’s making his getaway on the subway when he decides it’s time to fondle that sweet dough. There’s a dye pack in there though, and it explodes in his face, and makes him super mad. He hears Jack stomping around on top of the subway car and goes up there to finish off that meddling kid. But instead he gets decapitated.

So now Jack and Annie are in a runaway subway car that’s going too fast and being conducted by NO ONE. He takes off her suit made of bombs but can’t manage the handcuffs. (?) So he derails the subway car on purpose, which results in it being jettisoned out onto the street where it turns on its side and all the windows break and Annie is THROWN on top of Jack (lucky) and also they kiss. The end.

So what is the point of all this, you ask? Good question. A good action movie has to have a good bad guy motivation, otherwise it just drowns in its own preposterousness. On the surface, Howard Payne is pissed because his thumb got blown off and he was forced to retire. But… you have know when you join a bomb squad that you might get maimed. It seems like it’s probably on the job application. I’m not sure why the amount of money he wanted was 3.7 million, but it’s possible I just missed it hidden somewhere in the dialogue. I think the reason this movie doesn’t feel ridiculous and contrived, even though it is, is not so much Payne’s motivation, but rather his dedication. This fool is very determined to get his money, and the elaborateness is him giving a big “fuck you” to the career that spurned him. As someone who appreciates vengeance, I can fully buy into this villain.


As you may know, Speed has been called “Die Hard on a bus” and I am inclined to agree. Why you ask? There’s lots of broken glass in this movie. So many explosions. Underground tunneling. Bomb complications. Hero embroiled in a situation far more intense than he’s trained for. Villain always three steps ahead, and has complex plans – in short, he’s a respectable equal to the hero, instead of a bumbling brute. Villain kidnaps the hero’s woman. Villain dies a grisly death. Speed is Die Hard on a bus.

Okay, enough gushing. Let’s get to poking holes. The scene where the bus jumps the gap in the road. We all know that’s physically impossible, yes? Let’s explore.

I got details from a couple of physics focused websites.

Here are some physics basics – gravity has no horizontal effect, so as soon as the bus leaves the road, it is falling. It’s completely up to its horizontal velocity as to where it’s going to end up.

SO – the gap is 50 feet, or 15 meters. The road from which they jump appears to be mostly flat, about a 5 degree incline. The bus launched into the air traveling 67/68 mph. In reality, the front bumper of the bus would have smacked onto the other side of the jump, and then would have plummeted to the ground, killing everyone, unless the bomb went off first, which would also have killed everyone.


Just install some hydraulics to give your bus that extra lift before charging over certain death

In order for this jump to have worked, the following changes would have to take place: The bus would have to be travelling at 78.3 mph, and would have to take off from a 30 degree incline. That’s quite a bit different than what was depicted.

But let’s talk about physics some more, shall we? What always bugged me as a kid – while the bus is mid-air, there is no friction against those spinning wheel, yes? So what would the speedometer actually read? Would it drop or spike up? Does it matter if she kept her foot on the gas? What happens when you touch back down if you have it floored in midair? Then I realized I actually have no clue how a speedometer works, so INTERNET.

Let’s find out how speedometers work, shall we? Speed is just how long it takes you to go a certain distance, which sounds like it’s measured after the fact, right? What your speedometer tells you is your instantaneous speed – how fast you’re going right now. We know the basic car mechanics, right? Fuel combusts, pistons pump, engine turns over, which engages the driveshaft, and then the wheels go.

So apparently, there’s a li’l speedometer cable attached the driveshaft (it can also show up in other places). The speedometer cable spins a magnet inside something called a speed cup, which creates eddy currents in the cup that spins it as it tries to keep up with the magnet. There’s a hair spring on the drive shaft between the magnet and the speed cup, and it tightens, which keeps the the cup from turning all the way. The pointer on your speedometer is based on how far the hair spring lets that cup turn. Which leads me to wonder how do we ever know how fast we’re actually going.

Electronic speedometers use magnets positioned to pass each other on the drive shaft and create a little current. A circuit measures the time between those pulses and converts it to a speed reading, just FYI.

Okay, so this is all good to know but it doesn’t really answer my question, so the next obvious step is consult an expert car guy. Enter James – ex-Marine, current mechanic, all-around cool dude.

He told me that in addition to this sensor system, some newer cars will have a GPS mechanism to read speed. I don’t think that applies in 1994, so we’ll stick with the mechanical system.

Whilst in the air, the speedometer would have shown higher than their actual instantaneous speed because of the reduced load on the drive train due to the absence of friction on the tires. This makes sense now. Additionally, he says the bus would have slowed down in reality, yes, because the drive train has nothing to push against. So as long as the bus didn’t slow down to under 50 during it’s descent, and was able to keep moving swiftly once it was on the other side of the road, it’s plausible that the bomb wouldn’t go off – ASSUMING – he says, that the bomb was wired to the speedometer, and not something weird that would measure the actual speed of the bus. In which case kablooey.

Apparently, people who worked on this movie thought it was going to be an epic failure, but it turned out to be rousing success, as well as other movies like it. I feel like it was a changing of the guard of sorts. We’re moving out of the 80’s action movies that were very campy, and so sweaty. Die Hard came out at the end of the 80’s, in 1988, so it acts as the vanguard for change.

Let’s review. The 80’s were full of movies starring jacked dudes just tearing shit up. Terminator, Robocop, Predator, Rambo, Commando, Mad Max, Conan, Escape from New York, Road House, Bloodsport, Lethal Weapon, etc. The big names were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Segal, Chuck Norris. I will admit I’m being a little selective. I’m not including horror/sci-fi or adventure movies, like Alien and Indiana Jones. I’m focusing on the manly action movies.

To be fair, a lot of these guys were still kicking around in the next decade, but additionally, the 90’s were full of movies starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean Claude, Tom Cruise. The new class of action heroes were still buff, but not on steroids. The fighting shifted from brute strength and huge machine guns to very skilled combat. We looked for action stars to not only be physically capable, but mentally agile and cool under pressure as well. We’ve got a lot of movies where an average guy gets caught up in some crazy stuff – Point Break, The Fugitive, Independence Day, Con Air, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, Face/Off, Desperado, Cliffhanger I guess, Universal Soldier, etc. That’s not to say these things were absent in other decades, but the concentrations were shifting.

In conclusion, here are some rippling forearms:


What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

28. Predator

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IT’S OUR ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY PODCAST, WHICH IS SLIGHTLY LATE!!! To commemorate such a momentous occasion, our podcast topic is PREDATOR – our first viewing of which was essentially a distillation of our friendship, for reasons that will be explained during the show.

We give you the deets on all that super cool Predator tech, why it makes sense that Dutch’s entire team was buff af, and how it’s super (not) weird that Predator is sexy.

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

Favorite quote: “This stuff will make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me.” – Blain

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Legend (PG)
42% rotten tomatoes

Here we are with hell and devils again. It’s kind of like when you’re searching for a new trashy romance novel and want something different, but all the ones without demons and shit are super boring and annoying. That’s life without Tim Curry – boring and annoying.

The man is a god among men. His face, his voice, his physicality – all flawless in any role he’s ever done. Ever. Here he is in all of your favorite movies/shows:

Dr. Frank-n-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Wadsworth in Clue
Dr. Petrov in The Hunt for the Red October
Pennywise in It
Captain Hook in Peter Pan and the Pirates
The voice of Hexxus in Fern Gully
The voice of Taurus Bulba in Darkwing Duck
The evil concierge in Home Alone 2
Sir Gawain in The Legend of Prince Valiant
He played a family (yes, a family) in an episode of Tale from the Crypt
Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers
He played several characters on Dinosaurs
He was MAL on Captain Planet and the Planeteers
He was Dr. Anton Sevarius on Gargoyles
Major Vladikov in McHale’s Navy
He was several voices on Aaahh!! Real Monsters
Gomez Addams in Addams Family Reunion
Big Brother on Johnny Bravo
A voice in an episode of Samurai Jack
Voices on Batman Beyond and Voltron: The Third Dimension
He was even on a couple episodes of Roseanne, Monk, Will & Grace, and a bunch more shows, either as an visual actor or a voice actor
Annnnnnd Darkness, in Legend

He has also done quite a few albums and plays. Looking at his body of work, I don’t think he’s ever taken a day off. His youth was spent traveling and moving around a lot, and though he was very young for much of it, I wonder if the experiences didn’t affect him in some way and aid his impressive characterizations. Also, he apparently didn’t have television until he was 10; up to that point he only had radio, which he credits for his fondness of voice acting.

The point is – he’s done everything that’s cool and awesome. Or he’s MADE everything he’s been in cool and awesome, at least as much as possible. If we’re being honest, he’s the only good thing about Legend besides the unicorns (I know, I know). An article from The Guardian, written by Toby Moses, points out that this movie, directed by Ridley Scott, btw, was an epic failure, and tells us exactly why: Jack has absolutely no depth and is impossible to empathize with, and Lili is very stupid and they make awful decisions in order to advance the plot; in other words the movie has terrible character development and very bad writing. BUT DARKNESS. He’s the bright spot in this movie, ironic since he wants endless night. From the first moment we see him on screen, we’re captivated. We know we want the happy streams and trees to survive, but as Moses points out, we kind of feel like Jack and Lili deserve annihilation, and Curry is so god damn compelling that we root for him instead because at least he’s not flat and empty.

Now I would like to point out here Toby Moses is a man. I assume. We recently had an in-depth discussion of why we women love bad guys, and also what exactly that means, so we don’t need to rehash that here. You can go listen to our episode on Hellboy for all the juicy deets. In that episode though, we never considered the effect of the bad guy on the male viewers. In this article, Moses is telling us how he not only looked to Darkness for a role model, but also General Zod, and Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys, and Christian Slater in Heathers. So it seems the gentlemenz aren’t immune to the pull either, which makes me think it has more to do with human nature and societal pressure.

He points out the same things we’ve noticed – the villains get the best lines. The villains seem to have the most realistic perspective. The villains generally look more badass. In good movies, the villains also make the most sense. In legend, the villain is just despotically trying to destroy day forever I guess because he’s Evil? I don’t see a motivation or driving backstory for Darkness, but since he looks the way he does I assume we’re supposed to just assume that he’s out to ruin everyone’s good time. The 80’s: the pinnacle of stereotyping people by their looks.

In a better version of this movie, Darkness would have some only slightly skewed reason for wanting perpetual night, something that would force us to confront our own morality constructs. This is what I love about the rebooted comic book universes. All of the villains have been elevated from cartoonish stand-ins for wartime enemies or personifications of socially immoral proclivities to surprisingly cogent guerrilla reformers.

Okay, The Telegraph did this whole thing on Legend. I’m not sure it’s the greatest source, however, because the article describes Ridley Scott as moving away from sci-fi and fantasy after Legend… and going on to direct Alien and Blade Runner… now I’m no genre expert, but…

Okay okay okay, but according to The Telegraph, Legend was the final nail in the coffin of sword and sorcery movies. The articles says that Legend, following such FAILURES (ugh, really???) as Conan the Barbarian, The Dark Crystal reinforced the idea that this kind of thing had no place in the movies – it brought an end to the era of 80’s fantasy. It wasn’t until Peter Jackson hit mega-success with the LOTR trilogy that this idea was overturned (the first of which came out in 2001, so that’s 15 bleak years). I spent some time racking my brain to see if this was true, and I can’t think of anything to refute it. I feel like the 80’s and 90’s were full of science fiction, and some magic, but usually witchy stuff or curses and hexes. Like board games that take on a life of their own.

Was it really that bad? I have always had – and will always have – a ‘weird kid’ sensibility, so I’m probably not the best judge. I loved Xena Warrior Princess and Hercules, I loved Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts and the Adventures of Pete and Pete. I love Star Trek and Disney movies – I kind of loved everything except the popular stuff. I didn’t get into John Hughes movies until I was in college. I didn’t get all the teen romances – I just didn’t understand the dynamics and the politics in those. The prime directive is super easy to understand. Going on a quest to save humanity is a very understandable motive. A teen boy trying to get laid who has the whole community behind him is very confusing. And I was too young to truly appreciate 80’s action movies.

Let’s take a break from this upsetting allegation  and talk about genre terminology. Here is the nerd trifecta: sci-fi, fantasy, and sword and sorcery.

Science Fiction:

  • Heavily features technology and scientific understanding, computers, robots, machines, space/time travel, aliens, genetic manipulation. Can include fantasy elements. Can be plausible or wildly imaginative. Many sub genres: Apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, Hard sci fi, soft sci fi, space opera (space-faring lifestyle), Punk/cyberpunk/postcyberpunk/retropunk/dieselpunk/steampunk/clockpunk/biopunk ETC.


  • Uses magic or supernatural forces feature heavily. Can include sci fi elements as well, especially if it’s a modern setting. Subgenres – urban fantasy (fantasy in an urban setting), dark fantasy (elements of horror), fables, fairy tales, epic/high fantasy (highly developed – like LOTR), heroic fantasy (King Arthur), science fantasy (scientifically explainable magical elements (equal hybrid of sci fi and fantasy)
    • Sword and sorcery – subgenre of fantasy, blends heroic fantasy, adventure, and some light horror. Usually has a barbarian warrior pitted against supernatural and human adversaries

Back to this guy’s review. Here is a direct quote: “…something in the way [Jack] elongates his words suggests a fleeting intimacy with the English language. Throw in unicorns, wisecracking goblins, tittering fairies and a chair that bleeds black puss and the result is a carnival of queasiness.”

I don’t get it. All of that sounds awesome to me. AND APPARENTLY – we didn’t even get the best version of the movie. The original vision Scott had for Legend was even more sexually charged. Here’s another quote: “In the first draft, one of the unicorns is shot with a crossbow – it jumps up and scratches the princess on the shoulder…later, she notices hair sprouting out of this nasty wound in the shoulder. She wanders to a pond and sees her reflection in the moonlight. She turns into a beast. Darkness looms behind her and basically seduces her. They are coupling frantically when Jack and the fairies break in to save her.

… THAT SOUNDS LIKE A WAY BETTER MOVIE. A frigging producer nixed it. Clearly they don’t know what they think they know about the female demographic. AND ALSO in the US, Fox cut an amazing orchestral soundtrack for a frigging LSD sounding hippie band – Tangerine Dream. Also a really big important set burned down before they were done using it, so… it’s safe to say that this is not the movie that Ridley Scott first envisioned. Our movie is 89 minutes – there’s a directors cut out there that’s 114 minutes. Supposedly all that was cut was by the production company and made little sense to people actually working on the film.

But you know what – lots of movies from the 80’s that were critically dissed have become nerd canon. So poo poo. And I think it’s hard to make a serious fairy tale movie. Disney is aiming for kids – that’s different. But look at Alice in Wonderland – Red Riding Hood – Snow White and the Huntsman – Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters – Jack the Giant Slayer – Cinderella etc. All not great.

So now for something really, really exciting…. IT’S SUPPOSEDLY THE INSPIRATION FOR THE LEGEND OF ZELDA – NO WONDER I LOVE IT SO MUCH and the first Zelda game was released in 1986, so that’s totally plausible.

Le sigh… so much world-saving to do… so little time…

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

27. Legend

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Nikki and Sher discuss yet more devil imagery, and really intend to stay on track, but get distracted by comic books villains and also Zelda. It’s all related!

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

Favorite quote: “The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity.” – Darkness

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26. Outlander 1.8 – Both Sides Now

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

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Episode 1.7 “The Wedding” – original air date September 27, 2014

Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with the beginning, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher ask for forgiveness for not doing Legend as planned, then bash the Masters and criticize Jamie and Claire’s foreplay.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Turn away from the darkness that beckons you, and go back into the light.” – Reverend Wakefield

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!


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Goldfinger (PG)
97% Rotten Tomatoes

It’s a Bond movie, but it’s also a HEIST movie! <Stefan voice> This Bond has everything, gambling, body paint murder, a midget who castrates people with lasers, a golden Pussy…

Sean Connery was 34 in this movie. My age. He looks like an adult, in a way I don’t think I ever will. He looks like he has a stock portfolio, a budding wine collection, and maybe a second property on a lake somewhere. Did you know – Sean Connery had a one-year-old at the time this movie came out, and that son ended up being married to Mia Sara for a while, who played Sloane in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? And they have a kid named Dashiell? Which is the coolest name ever? And he’s 21? Which is closer to the age Sean Connery was when he made this movie than Sean Connery is now?

Okay so you know how Bond villains names are either ridiculous or badass? This guy’s name is Auric Goldfinger. Auric being an adjective that describes something as gold. As in: “the dragon’s cave full of hoarded treasure let off an auric glow.” This is also the movie that features Pussy Galore. I think Ian Fleming was just phoning it in on “name the characters” day. Or maybe it was partially a grudge. But first! Some backstory on our intrepid author!

Ian Fleming was a rich kid, and in the early 20th century, as it does today, this meant that he got an excellent education and many opportunities to meet future leaders and captains of industry. Apparently Fleming’s school performance was unremarkable, and he wasn’t overly fond of the experience. After school, he bounced around aimlessly for a while before being recruited as assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence. He excelled at military administrative work. The man he worked for was not friendly at all, and so Fleming would be sent in as proxy to liaison between different agencies, and he was good at it. I think this is where the eventual James Bond charm began to bloom.

Being a personal assistant in the military was not the same as being a secretary now. Fleming held a naval reserve commission as a commander, and seemed to have some autonomy in planning and scheming, something his imagination no doubt aided. He referenced a book written by a man with a career path similar to his, with a suggestion (from that book) that they essentially borrow a corpse from a field hospital, stick fake messages in its pockets, and then drop it from a plane. No one questions dead bodies in a war zone, right?

At least one operation he was involved in would go on to bestow its name to one of his books: Operation Goldeneye. He’s very inconsistent – Goldeneye is quite lyrical for a military operation, but then there’s Operation Ruthless which seems to be just starkly descriptive, in the more expected military style.

So – using his very exciting military experience (which essentially consisted mostly of sitting in an office and scheming up ways for other people to creatively risk their lives in the field – not to disparage him; he was good at it, and held himself accountable for doing a good job, but it’s interesting that he chose to write the field agent rather than the orchestrator), he decided to finally write the spy novel he’d wanted to for some time. Thus, Casino Royale was born.

Here’s the frustrating thing about the Bond-iverse: you can’t really watch them in chronological book order without a few jarring transitions. The movies tend to be episodic rather than serialized, so it doesn’t really matter what order you watch them in, but the Daniel Craig era changed all that. There have been some off-canon shakeups that I’m not sure I’m 100% behind. It makes everything exciting in a Bourne Identity kind of way, but part of the charm of Bond was that cartoonish circularity, where everything was the same at the end as it was at the beginning, minus some coerced young woman’s virtue, but who cares about that? Hahahahaha!

So here is the order of publication (of the novels Fleming wrote):

  1. Casino Royale
  2. Live and Let Die
  3. Moonraker
  4. Diamond are Forever
  5. From Russia with Love
  6. Doctor No
  7. Goldfinger
  8. For Your Eyes Only
  9. Thunderball
  10. The Spy Who Loved Me
  11. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  12. You Only Live Twice
  13. The Man with the Golden Gun
  14. Octopussy and the Living Daylights

Here is the order of movies:

  1. Dr. No (1962) (Connery)
  2. From Russia with Love (1963) (Connery)
  3. Goldfinger (1964) (Connery)
  4. Thunderball (1965) (Connery)
  5. You Only Live Twice (1967) (Connery)
  6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) (Lazenby)
  7. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) (Connery)
  8. Live and Let Die (1973) (Moore)
  9. The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) (Moore)
  10. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) (Moore)
  11. Moonraker (1979) (Moore)
  12. For Your Eyes Only (1981) (Moore)
  13. Octopussy (1983) (Moore)
  14. Never Say Never Again (1983) (Connery)
  15. A View to a Kill (1985) (Moore)
  16. The Living Daylights (1987) (Dalton)
  17. License to Kill (1989) (Dalton)
  18. Goldeneye (1995) (Brosnan)
  19. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) (Brosnan)
  20. The World is Not Enough (1999) (Brosnan)
  21. Die Another Day (2002) (Brosnan)
  22. Casino Royale (2006) (Craig)
  23. …etc

We would get a very modern Craig, and then some Moore, then some Connery, then Moore, then Connery, then Lazenby, then Connery again… very hard to keep track of what spy tools the technology affords Bond. Although, Q aside, some of the lasting charm of Bond is his ability to get by with just about anything.

Let’s talk about funny British names, shall we? We all get the giggles for Percy, and Basil, and Cecil, but our friends across the pond have a true talent for naming things. Here are some names of real people that Fleming drew from for his books:

  • Hoagy Carmichael, who inspired much of Bond’s described looks (actor/singer)
  • Biffy Dunderdale, who inspired some of his style (spy)
  • Scaramanga (man with golden gun villain) was the name of an school enemy
  • Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax had the Moonraker villain named after him (Navy bigwig)
  • Boofy Kidd had one of the bad guys in Diamonds are Forever named after him (a friend of his)
  • Goldfinger was a real architect who Fleming hated (more on that later, also he’s not British)
  • One of the producers was a man named Albert (Cubby) Broccoli.

Auric Goldfinger was named after and inspired by an architect named Erno Goldfinger. Side note – he has living descendants who reportedly suffer from a lot of prank calls. Fleming despised him. Goldfinger was a communist (the bad kind), and a bully. He got a lot of prank calls himself after the movie came out, and he ended up suing Fleming. But supposedly the real reason Fleming disliked Goldfinger was a matter of aesthetics. He didn’t Goldfinger’s style. Fleming’s publisher paid Goldfinger’s court costs and put a note that all characters were fictitious in future editions. Fleming then wanted to change the name of the character to Goldprick (which Mike Myers essentially did in Goldmember), but the movie production had already advanced too far.

Critics did not care for Fleming’s books, and as we know, critics always have their fingers on the pulse of the people. Fleming’s books never caught on and Hollywood saw no reason to make movies out of them. The end.

Just kidding, critics are jerks who spend their time ripping things apart because they can’t make their own. If you’re in the mood for a historical hissy-fit, look up Paul Johnson’s review of Dr. No. I might have written the same thing if I was in his time, because concerns about Bond are valid, and he makes digs at the fact that Bond and Fleming are both part of the Establishment. Here are some selected excerpts:

“I have just finished what is without a doubt the nastiest book I have ever read.”

“There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill, the construction of the book is chaotic, the entire incidents and situations are inserted, and then forgotton[sic], in a haphazard manner.”

“I have summarised the plot, perhaps at some wearisome length, because a bare recital of its details describes, better than I can, how Fleming deliberately and systematically excites, and then satisfies the very worst instincts of his readers.”

“…the social appeal of the dual Bond-Fleming personality has added an additional flavour to his brew of sex and sadism.”

I kind of don’t disagree with Johnson, but I will still watch Bond, even with all its misogyny, rape, and racism. That’s the mirror you have to look in when you want to enjoy entertainment from a bygone era. You have to be able to suspend your disgust, and pretend you’re a resourced white man who’s entitled to whatever he wants, and who could have it too, if it wasn’t for the goddamn feminists. Just make sure you take those goggles off when you’re done.

Ian Fleming died pretty early – he was not yet 56. But he was a very heavy drinker, and a heavy smoker, and had heart disease as a result of that lifestyle. More Bond books came after Ian Fleming’s written by Raymond Benson.

So should we talk about PTSD?

So of course I found myself on a PSA type website for transitioning soldiers that featured short videos of veterans telling the story of how they started recovering, or how they struggled alone, or how they discovered an underlying issue. They’re very good and give faces to this war that we keep churning.

I think that the ‘public we’ has misconceptions about soldiers and consequences of wartime trauma. Most of us have only a framework of understanding, presented to us by the media we consume. Some of us have more experience if we’ve had friends or family deployed to war zones. Some of us have lived it as soldiers. It’s impossible to really understand it unless you live it. That’s why good veteran therapy is run by veterans. One man says that, “Just because you’ve left the combat zone, it doesn’t mean your war is over.”

I gather from this site that the transition out of the combat zone might be harder than the transition in. One man explains it like this: “Getting out of the military is scary. You have this whole life that you learned. I was in an infantry unit and I have to all of a sudden go be a civilian.” He talked about being alienated, and feeling like he had nothing in common with people. He talks about the intensity that he would pour into ordinary situations, because that was an attribute that made him a successful soldier – taking everything as life-or-death serious. This is a man who had nearly been blown up many times, but he was sure he didn’t have PTSD because he couldn’t think of one specific event, something that would give him nightmares, that would signal to him that he had an issue. Recurring nightmares are often depicted as a PTSD symptom in movies and TV. He said he wasn’t turning his house into a bunker and sandbagging it waiting for an air raid. This is also a common media depiction of people with PTSD. PTSD kind of gets all the attention, and that’s the only thing he was assessing as a risk. But what he actually had was a traumatic brain injury from all the nearly-being-blown-up events. Once he was diagnosed, he was able to start recovery through therapies.

Another veteran talked about the difficulty of switching off certain parts of your brain that get activated. Being in a combat zone is so high stakes. One bad decision and your squad is dead or close to it. This mindset carries over when you go home. He talked about how hard it was to drive; how everything he saw in the road immediately presented to him as a potential explosive. Simultaneously, his friends and family just wanted him to be normal, and so he felt very isolated. Instead of his family being a source of comfort, he felt like a burden. I got the feeling this was an especially hard blow, especially after being part of such a tight brotherhood, where everyone was in the same situation.

Now, I don’t know from personal experience, but I think that the experience of a soldier in the combat zone is different from a high level decision maker who stays clear for the most part. I can’t say that one is harder than the other, but I think they’re probably different. It would have to be, right? In one scenario you carry a lot of risk of personal injury, and in one you don’t. On the ground, you’re looking people in the eye on a daily basis, and you’re all responsible for each other’s lives, really. One person fucks up, and you’re all goners. High level muckety mucks may never see the chess pieces they’re moving around, but they are responsible for a whole lot of lives. I’m sure there are some cold robots out there, but I have to assume the majority of these people know that they’re putting humans on the line, humans that have value, and humans with families and friends who love them.

So here’s what I find a little concerning – the Bond movies, and I assume the books, from which the tone of the movies is taken, has a nostalgic sort of soft spot for World War II. Here’s the paradox of good men who find out they’re good at, and enjoy doing, dastardly deeds. This is a theme that comes up often in movies and tv, but usually it’s confronted more directly. Fleming seems to lack any self-awareness of the circumstances he’s glorifying.

Let’s take a look at the facts – Fleming was not an in-the-trenches soldier; he was running ops from headquarters and thinking up clever spy tricks to gain intelligence or plant false intelligence. These are not socially acceptable activities except for very specific situations, and so not many people have the opportunity to discover that it’s a talent of theirs.


As I said, this theme comes up. If you’ve been watching The Punisher, you might remember the scene where Frank Castle tells his frenemy Micro that he was good at being a Marine and sometimes he’d rather be in battle than with his family. That’s a hard truth to reconcile. How do you abhor the necessity of war – the concept of it, but also take pleasure in the execution of it? I don’t think we see enough of this nuance, but I may not be the best judge because I don’t watch a lot of war movies – I have a hard time with them.

We have a lot of depictions of the reluctant soldier, or the honorable military man who dutifully serves with the idealist goal of ending a war, or the sadist who uses the military for opportunities to be cruel. I don’t think we see, or at least I haven’t seen, the soldier who is passionate about his work and loves what he or she does. That is a goldmine of conflict, both internal and external, with really rich contexts. Most of the time though, we get Jason Bourne, who was essentially job-raped. He’s incredibly talented, but he’s trying desperately to get out of the game. I want to see more characters who are incredibly talented and love what they do. So maybe what I’m saying is that this is some of the appeal of James Bond, and he might be how Fleming channeled his zest and talent for war games into something productive after the war was over.

HOWEVER, and this is something that I can’t really speak to with a lot of competence, is that the Bond world seems to be, at least pre-Craig, kind of a low stakes environment. It’s very black and white – the bad guys are bad, and the “love” interest is playing a double-cross 75% of the time. The reality of soldier or government agent activities, I imagine, is a lot murkier. But Bond remains so glib, and so unaffected. And it’s so very popular, which I think does a disservice to people who are routinely given orders that have them hurting or killing other humans. He’s pushed as the pinnacle of manly representation, which sets an expectation, conscious or not, for how a man is supposed to deal with the very natural and real turmoil involved with being a soldier, whether you like or not. It encourages the idea that a “real man” can go to war and come home and be fine, because they don’t have feelings or give it a second thought. That prejudice still keeps people from getting treatment if they need it. Us ladies have got G.I. Jane, which maybe isn’t a ton better, but still. As I said, the Craig era movies have an added depth to them, which is good. But he’s still a horndog.


The rapey feel of the Bondiverse. Let’s just take this movie, for right now. James Bond straight up sexually assaults Pussy. They’re in a barn, for reasons, I guess, and they exchange some sassy quips. (Sassy quips are part of Bond canon. Can’t have a Bond movie without them flying around.) She tries to leave, and he grabs her and stops her, several times. Then she starts doing spy moves on him, flipping him around, so he reciprocates. This continues for an absurdly long time, likely because it arouses him that she’s strong enough to get the edge on him. So of course the scene ends with him flipping her onto her back and falling on her like a pig, while she tries unsuccessfully to push him off. He puts his face closer to hers, and she turns away. SHE’S NOT INTO IT. Then he forces his mouth onto hers, and she stops struggling and starts kissing him back. Very unrealistic, very engineered for the male fantasy. I don’t want to say sexual fantasy has no place in movies, but… at the very least, she could be consenting. It’s not manly to have to conquer a woman to get her to love you. It’s a good way to get stabbed while you’re sleeping, though.

Now here’s the thing – I totally get the appeal of this world to a man. 100%. I get it. You may think women have an easier time attracting companions than men do, but I think you’re mistaken. Attractive people have an easier time attracting companions. Why do you think Tarzan was such a popular movie? It was terrible. But it was amazing. We allll use movies to see our sexual fantasies played out by more attractive people, but the thing that strikes me about “female” perspective love arcs is that usually in our fantasies, the guy is REALLY into us. Like, slightly TOO into us. Look at Twilight. Very unhealthy. Look at all those romantic comedies from the 80’s and 90’s where the guy would finally come to the realization that he couldn’t live without Meg Ryan, and do some over-the-top gesture to prove how big his love for her was.

But it’s always like Bond is proving a point, right? It would get boring if the women just fell into his lap all the time. Sometimes you have to remind everyone why you’re The Man, I guess. Again, I don’t think there needs to be some regulatory ethics board that judges movies. Leave that to the internet. But these movies are just so POPULAR. And since it’s rated PG, we can assume a lot of younger viewers out there, male and female, watched this exchange between Bond and Pussy and seeing how much the women love Bond, and how much the men want to act like him, and start to develop ideas about appropriate sexual signals. If these kids had good parents who teach them how to be good humans, it’s probably not a problem, but that not a realistic expectation. Especially for the ‘60’s.

In a Refinery29 article, Lauren Le Vine points out that the Bond girls names often “signal their intended utility and utmost purpose. One need not be a Mensa member to discern what Pussy Galore has to offer the world.” She’s right. Other Bond Girl names: Xenia Onatopp, Holly Goodhead, Honey Ryder, Plenty O’Toole, Mary Goodnight, May Day, Molly Warmflash??? She goes on to give Daniel Craig credit for emphasizing in interviews that Bond is fictional, and his attitude toward women is not to be admired. I’m quoting a quote here: ““Many men admire Bond for his way with the ladies,” the interviewer began (gracelessly). “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Craig replied. “A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long.””

The article goes on to say that the interviewer tried to back-pedal and said that Bond has become more chivalrous, to which Craig said that’s because the female roles have been written better, and they push back. You guys should really read this article because it’s great. I can’t really do anything but keep quoting it because I can’t say these things any better than Le Vine has. She also brings up how Craig himself has been harassed and sexualized in interviews. The Bond-iverse is a horny teenager with word vomit, I guess. But I think part of her point is that the media needs to take responsibility (I mean for soooooo many things but let’s keep this limited in scope) for gluttonously feeding off low-hanging fruit that appeals to people’s basest natures. There’s so much opportunity in this universe – this man, and the team around him, are so highly specialized and talented. They have access to incredible technology, they travel everywhere, but he’s usually reduced to a caricature of Inspector Gadget if he was a sex tourist. With guns. I do think the movies since Casino Royale have taken him more seriously, and tried to make a meal out of the movies instead of just giving us junk food.

Though the movies are improving, they’re still very problematic, but that has not stopped us from eating them up.

Matthew Mokhefi-Ashton writes that it’s the formula we love. He says that people are comfortable getting more of what they know, and we know James Bond brings us “a cocktail of girls, gadgets, violence, and exotic locations.” He says the reason that the films have failed to change the Bond girl trope, as they have been promising since the 70’s, is that they haven’t yet been moved from plot device to actual character. They don’t add anything to the movies except exposition, or function as damsels in distress; no matter how competent they are, they need saving by 007, and when he fails, his motivation for getting the bad guy is recharged. Also, Mokhefi-Ashton says, stealing the bad guy’s girl emphasizes his superior sex appeal.

Jumping off from his article, I wonder what Bond movies would look like if he had a female partner over a number of movies. We know what this COULD look like – Mr. and Mrs. Smith had two great spies, who were both great characters, and had a relationship, to boot. The focus of that movie was more relationship based obviously, but it was very popular, and so it’s not a matter of us needing to see such a masculine dominance in spy movies. I think it’s just the industry’s unwillingness to try something new with Bond. It’s easy to just keep churning out more of the same.

Moving on!

Goldfinger is the third Bond movie, but really the first one that enjoyed widespread success. Coincidentally (maybe), it’s also the first one that featured a lot of gadgetry. Apparently the crew had a lot to do with the gadgets in the car itself, an Astin Martin DB5. It took six weeks to trick it out, if you’re interested in a DIY project, which we do not recommend.

Another change was the laser. When the book was written (1959) lasers weren’t a thing, and Goldfinger’s murder attempt involved a circular saw. Lasers were cool and new during filming however, so they switched it out with the help of some Harvard nerds consulting. That’s how new lasers were – they needed smarty pants consultants.

Other production tidbits – Goldfinger surrounds himself with many variations on gold, including women, who are mostly blonde. There’s a lot of yellow and metallic gold in the costumes as well. One woman is even murdered with gold skin paint; supposedly the paint clogged her pores so her skin couldn’t breathe. However, it’s unlikely this would have killed her unless she was in a situation where she could overheat; since she wouldn’t be able to sweat, she wouldn’t be able to regulate her body temperature. So, that would be an appropriately stupid and needlessly theatrical way for a villain to commit murder in the genre! I dig it.

So we said that Goldfinger was the first Bond hit. Accounting for inflation, it grossed around $850 million worldwide. There was a lot of hype and marketing surrounding the release. One of the producers orchestrated pictures of the actress who played Pussy with Prince Philip, so they could get her name out of the way. The film (back when we used real film, kids) was packaged in gold canisters, and delivered by models wearing gold outfits (hey, human trophies! I mean women!). Honor Blackman, who played Pussy, wore a gold finger on her pinkie. People ate that shit up then, just like they do today.

We talked earlier about this film’s relationship to architecture. WELL I HAVE BIG, AND COINCIDENTALLY TIMELY NEWS. A futuristic home designed by the real Goldfinger is up for sale, and The Sun claims that it reeks of Bond villain, due to the nearby golf course (a very common rich asshole hobby), and glass windows, convenient for spying on neighbors and checking your perimeter. It’s duly private as well, with greenery keeping others away. If you check out the pictures of it, it does look very Bond villain-esque – it’s very modern, and has a bunch of extra shit that’s not necessary.

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!