Tamara Dobson in
Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold.
By overcoming black figures in the film, Bond has reclaimed his identity, which was co-opted in espionage blaxploitation, and returned it to a site firmly rooted in white hegemony. The film has used precisely the same strategy as both Cleopatra Jones films. Its appropriation of blaxploitation aesthetics and themes serves to direct its "response" to its target. As Cleo has displayed her "separateness" from Bond so as not to be fused with his racism, Bond has separated himself from black militant characters by reversing the black/white binaries set up in blaxploitation. Live and Let Die surrounds Bond with the elements of blaxploitation (i.e. pimps, drugs, Harlem) but always keeps him separate from them through the details listed above. The text of Live and Let Die co-opts blaxploitation, but Bond, the character, does not. While both Cleo and Bond surround themselves with each other's tropes, they both rely on their unquestioned whiteness and blackness to keep their "responses" to each other's perceived threat on track.
Both espionage blaxploitation and Live and Let Die are involved in a reciprocal relationship of co-optation. However, while in part an economic strategy aimed at appropriating successful formulas, this reciprocal co-optation functions at a much deeper level. It directly speaks to racial tensions in this country and sets up battle lines where Black Power and white hegemony fight for supremacy. In this, co-optation serves as its own form of espionage. The use of co-optation in blaxploitation has slipped into the ideological structures of Bond and sought to disrupt its power structures. Likewise, the use of co-optation in Live and Let Die has infiltrated blaxploitation and sought to disrupt its quest for power through black militancy and an oppositional voice. By using co-optation as their "agent," these films have used the "cover" of financial gain to undermine each other's ideological structures. In this "mission," co-optation succeeds as a secret agent more than either Bond or Cleo could ever hope
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Sources for "Cleopatra Jones: 007."
Chris Norton received his B.A. in English and Film Studies from Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan and an M.A. from New York University in the Department of Cinema Studies. Chris welcomes comments or questions about his article. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.