Roald Dahl and now Ian Fleming. There’s a certain irony to that as the two men were friends, had both worked as spies in D.C., and Dahl took on the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after Fleming’s death. The resulting Dick Van Dyke movie feels a whole lot like Dahl and has little of Fleming in it.
And Fleming, like Dahl, is now a “property” of great worth to a massive global content cartel.
As I wrote in The End of Literature, “Netflix paid an estimated $686 million for the Roald Dahl Story Company. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which already has deals with Netflix and major studios, is considering its own total sale that would probably top $1 billion. Amazon paid $500 million for the rights to make The Rings of Power: a woke pastiche of Tolkien.”
Amazon also bought MGM and the James Bond movies with them. The Fleming Estate, which is responsible for this travesty, has tried to “keep” the novels alive by having other authors do a terrible job of writing their own Bond sequels. It’s hard to say this is even the worst thing they’ve done with them, but, like the case of Dahl, it subjects an author’s work to woke censorship after his death in a curiously selective way.
Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, the company that owns the literary rights to the author’s work, commissioned a review by sensitivity readers of the classic texts under its control.
The Telegraph understands that a disclaimer accompanying the reissued texts will read: “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace.
“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.”
The changes to Fleming’s books result in some depictions of black people being reworked or removed.
And it is just references to black people. Not stuff that would strike people more obviously today.
Dated references to other ethnicities remain, such as Bond’s racial terms for east Asian people and the spy’s disparaging views of Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman.
References to the “sweet tang of rape”, “blithering women” failing to do a “man’s work”, and homosexuality being a “stubborn disability” also remain.
But they’re very careful to remove anything with a hint of negativity toward black people.
In the sensitivity reader-approved version of Live and Let Die, Bond’s assessment that would-be African criminals in the gold and diamond trades are “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought, except when they’ve drunk too much” becomes – “pretty law-abiding chaps I should have thought.”
Black people actually weirdly disappear.
In one example, some criminals escaping from Bond in Dr No become simply “gangsters”. In the same novel, the race of a doctor and an immigration officer now go unmentioned, as does that of a henchman shot by Bond.
The ethnicity of a barman in Thunderball is similarly omitted in new editions. In Quantum of Solace, a butler’s race now also goes unmentioned.
Detail is also removed from Goldfinger, where the race of the drivers in the Second World War logistics unit, the Red Ball Express – which had many black servicemen – is not mentioned, instead referring only to “ex-drivers”.
Whom does this help exactly?
Live and Let Die was a pretty terrible novel. And the blacksploitation angle, popular then, is dated as hell. But that was Fleming’s call to take out. Fleming died a decade after publishing it. There were objections and he had plenty of time to do what Dahl did with Willie Wonka and revise it. He chose not to do it. And the estate should just take things as they are. But the Bond novels, probably more than any other British fictional figure other than Sherlock Holmes, is a property to be pumped for maximum value and which has spawned numerous projects that Fleming would likely have disapproved of. Fleming was overrated as a writer, but he was still a whole lot better than whatever sensitivity experts are going over his work and more importantly, they are his work. Not anyone else’s work.