Alphabetical Movie – The Living Daylights
What a difference twenty years makes.
The Living Daylights was made in 1987 and while it doesn’t have the best of Bond villains, I think it is a solid film in the franchise. I’ve already defended Timothy Dalton as Bond so I won’t bother to do that again.
Watching the film now, what I’m struck by is the depiction of the Mujahideen as heroes and freedom fighters.
I’m not making any value judgements on whether or not that is right. Rather, I’m thinking that to a post 9/11 audience, that depiction might not make any sense. I can think of a few reasons why.
First, of course, is the fact that most people have no real concept of how any event in history connects to any other event. We see how things work now and jump to the unreasonable conclusion that there was nothing that happened then that might have had an impact. So right now, we see the Mujahideen as a group that, among other things, once counted Osama Bin Laden as one of its main financiers.
So therefore Mujahideen = Taliban. Because the Mujahideen (with a lot of help) managed to force the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan, they naturally must have become the Taliban, right?
Then there is the fact that the cold war is long over and it is a confusing concept to those who didn’t live through it. The Mujahideen were the good guys in some sense simply because the Soviets were the bad guys.
More specifically, in The Living Daylights, the brutal airfield Soviets were the bad guys. John Rhys Davies was the good guy.
What is really hard for modern audiences to understand is how conflicted we were about the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s. We hated them. But Gorbachev seemed like such a nice guy. But we hated them.
I don’t think we Americans like that kind of conflict. We like to hate other countries or love them. We hate Iran. We like Iraq (a little).
Actually I don’t think most Americans love any country except America. But we sure do love hating other countries. Heck, a lot of Americans hate Canada. And that doesn’t make any sense because Canadians are so nice.
That’s probably why we hate them…
Anyway, ever since 9/11, the Afghans are the bad guys.
Sort of. I mean, the Afghans that aren’t the Taliban are OK. But those Taliban Afghans are still petty awful. Better to just think they’re all awful, right?
That’s so much easier.
Bond films aren’t meant to educate us on the history of the Middle East or, for that matter, the cold war. They are meant to entertain.
But a Bond film that features Afghanistan today would feature a heroic but weak central government fighting the wicked Taliban leader who wants to subjugate the world to his iron will.
He’d also have a shark.
But I digress.
I would imagine most Americans would not understand the difference between that guy and the heroic (and handsome) leader of the Afghan resistance in The Living Daylights.
I guess most Afghans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Americans who didn’t give a shit about them in the 80’s and Americans who don’t give a shit about them now so that’s probably fair.