The screenwriter of one of the best-reviewed James Bond films of the last 50 years is worried that Amazon will turn the beloved franchise into an “inoffensive shadow” of its former self if regulators allow the company to purchase MGM.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday, John Logan, a three-time Oscar nominee who co-wrote 2012’s “Skyfall” and 2015’s “Spectre” said he experienced “chills” when he heard about the deal:
The reason we’re still watching Bond movies after more than 50 years is that the family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the character through the thickets of moviemaking and changing public tastes. Corporate partners come and go, but James Bond endures. He endures precisely because he is being protected by people who love him…
What happens if a bruising corporation like Amazon begins to demand a voice in the process? What happens to the comradeship and quality control if there’s an Amazonian overlord with analytics parsing every decision? What happens when focus groups report they don’t like Bond drinking martinis? Or killing quite so many people? And that English accent’s a bit alienating, so could we have more Americans in the story for marketability?
Logan went on to say that when global tech companies like Amazon become involved in the creative process, “everything gets watered down to the most anodyne and easily consumable version of itself … There are no more rough edges … The fire and passion are gradually drained away as original ideas and voices are subsumed by commercial concerns, corporate oversight and polling data.”
Logan is right to worry. Amazon has demonstrated it has no qualms suppressing speech and stifling creativity. And it will now control films like “The Silence of the Lambs” and older entries in the James Bond franchise that are already under fire from feminists and trans activists.
GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Representation, Nick Adams, recently told Forbes that CBS invited him to meet with writers for “Lambs” spinoff series, “Clarice,” to “discuss how trans people have been impacted by Hollywood’s history of portraying trans people as psychopathic killers.” Adams said that after the discussion, the show brought in other trans activists to “help craft a storyline that would address this issue.”
Similarly, in 2019, a screenwriter for the upcoming “No Time to Die,” told Deadline she plans to help Bond “evolve” and start to “treat women properly.”
Amazon’s poor record of providing content to the public while under pressure from special interests suggests not only that it won’t balk at transforming classic franchises, but there’s every reason to expect it will censor older films.
For example, The Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Association estimate Amazon accounts for as much as 70 to 80 percent of U.S. book sales. As literary agent Rick Pascocello told The Wall Street Journal, “They aren’t gaming the system, they own the system.” And how has the retail giant used that power? It has censored books that fall afoul of LGBTQ orthodoxy.
In July 2019, Amazon quietly began removing titles that advocate therapeutic or spiritual practices for dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction from its cyber shelves. Books from ex-gay authors were also scrubbed. Then, in June 2020, it blocked publisher Regnery from purchasing ads for Abigail Shrier’s book, “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” Two months later, without explanation and after nearly four years without incident, it stopped selling the book “Health Hazards of Homosexuality.”
Finally, in a move that made major headlines, the company scrubbed Ryan T. Anderson’s bestseller “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment” from its main retail site and its subsidiary outlet, Abe Books. It even prevented third parties from selling used copies of the book on the site.
Echoing Pascocello, Anderson pointed out in an interview with World Magazine that Amazon’s dominance over the book market has become so complete, it now has the power to artificially distort it.
“Amazon controls a huge market share in the United States. And they can now pressure publishers into not publishing controversial books,” Anderson said. “If you are a publisher, you might say, ‘If we publish this and Amazon yanks it, are we ever going to sell enough books to recoup our costs?’ So this could have a stifling effect on the entire market of book writing, book publishing, and book buying.”
And it’s not just books. The company has already used its limited influence over screens big and small to silence conservative filmmakers.
During Black History Month, Amazon removed “Created Equal,” a documentary on the life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that aired on PBS, without warning while continuing to make historically-dubious films critical of Thomas available to Prime subscribers. The movie is still not listed on Prime, and Amazon has never offered an explanation despite scathing op-eds from outlets like The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.
Thomas isn’t the only black voice Amazon has muffled. Hoover Institution fellow Shelby Steele’s resumé boasts screenwriting credits even Hollywood heavy hitters would envy, including a National Book Critics Circle Award, a National Humanities Award, a Writers Guild Award, and an Emmy Award for a documentary he co-wrote, produced, and narrated for the PBS news.
Yet when Steele submitted his documentary “What Killed Michael Brown” to the self-publishing arm of Amazon’s video-on-demand service, the tech giant replied: “Unfortunately, we have found that your title doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations and is not eligible for publishing on the service at this time. We will not be accepting resubmission of this title, and this decision may not be appealed.”
Amazon eventually relented following a barrage of bad press. But its behavior with past books and films — not to mention its decision to de-platform conservative friendly social media site, Parler — doesn’t bode well for Bond’s future.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.