Monday, September 18, 2017

Equal Opportunities Offender

Apparently I did SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld a disservice when, in the previous post, I dismissed the characters of Wint and Kidd in Diamonds Are Forever as 'appalling gay stereotypes'.  It has been pointed out to me that their presence in the film is an indication of how enlightened an employer SPECTRE were, decades ahead of other organisations in their equal opportunities hiring policies. Which is fair enough.  After all, where else in the early seventies could you find anyone else employing a pair of openly gay men as assassins?  Certainly not in Her Majesty's Secret Service, the CIA or KGB.  Indeed, in any of those organisations being gay would have been grounds for dismissal, as having an 'abnormal' sexual orientation was considered a security risk.  But the international crime consortium headed by Blofeld seems to have had a far more positive approach, as, by the early seventies, at least, Wint and Kidd appear to be their most trusted killers.

But when one thinks about it, SPECTRE's attitude toward the employment of openly gay hit men shouldn't come as a surprise.  Throughout the sixties they had already been blazing a trail with their employment of women in prominent positions.  Who could forget the forceful presence of Irma Bundt as Blofeld's right hand in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, for instance?  No man could best her, not even 007.  In contrast to many of the other women portrayed in the series, she is sensibly immune to the agent's shallow charms.  Similarly, Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, obviously frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement in the KGB, joined SPECTRE and was entrusted with running one of its most important operations.  Then there were Helga Brandt in You Only Live Twice and Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, both top SPECTRE killers playing major roles in their operations.  Honourable mention here should also be made of Goldfinger, who was happy to employ the lesbian Pussy Galore in his organisation (even if she did fall at the final hurdle and swap sides, in every sense).

And where was MI6 in all of this?  Certainly not practicing equal opportunities for women, that's for sure.  Miss Moneypenny was the most prominent woman they employed and she was just a secretary, entrusted only with the typing and flirting with Bond.  Damn it, they were even doing better when it came to employing minorities - let's not forget that they had Quarell on the pay roll in the sixties and his son in the seventies.  No, as far as the old school tie brigade running the Secret Intelligence Service in those days was concerned, women existed solely for the purpose of being imperiled by villains and seduced by friendly agents.  Even the KGB, by the seventies, was ahead of the game in this respect, with their top licenced to kill agent, Triple X, revealed to be a woman in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Like the female assassins employed by SPECTRE, she was treated with respect by her colleagues, recognised for her professionalism and skill.  (Except when they fouled up, when they could find themselves being fed to piranha fish - but male employees who underperformed could expect the same treatment.  Equal opportunities in action at SPECTRE once more).  OK, I know that MI6 eventually had a female M, but, in my opinion, it was too little, too late to dispel its image as a bastion of institutionalised sexism.



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