Bondmania is back! Everyone loves Bond, especially since the franchise’s gritty 2006 reboot, fronted by a brooding, steely-eyed Daniel Craig. As with recent Bond films, Quantum Of Solace is being used to sell various lifestyle products. Big name brands pay handsomely to be associated with Bond, and Quantum Of Solace has racked up £50 million pounds for product placement. Let’s take a look at what the film is selling.
Promotional tie-ins for Quantum of Solace include Heineken lager, Smirnoff vodka, Coca-Cola, Ford cars, Virgin Atlantic airline, Sony TVs, National Lottery Scratchcards and The Sun newspaper. Launching a new perfume, Avon claims that “through this unique partnership, every woman can feel like a Bond Girl – smart, empowered, confident, and sexy,” while package holiday company Orbitz tells us “you can’t do it better than Bond, but you can certainly travel like him.”
If some of those promotions make you feel slightly queasy, hold on; the best is yet to come. The new Bond films feature product placements for, yes, you guessed it, Heckler & Koch firearms. In Casino Royale, Bond defeats the villainous Mr White with a H&K UMP9 submachine gun – a weapon that he carries on using in Quantum of Solace.
But why would Heckler & Koch spend money widely promoting a weapon that is only available to military and police forces? Perhaps because H&K also sells guns to civilians in the USA and Germany, including one based on the UMP.
The US civilian firearms market is huge: A staggering 4.5 million new firearms are legally sold in the US every year. Naturally H&K wants to maximise its profit from this lucrative market, but US and German gun laws prevent the company from selling the fully automatic UMP to the public. To get around the laws, the company designed a semi-automatic version called the USC.
Since the Bush administration failed to renew the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, private owners have been able to legally convert the USC to the UMP by switching to a larger magazine and a shorter barrel, thus making the weapon less accurate but easier to conceal.
Bond’s iconic use of the UMP9 has undoubtedly stoked consumer demand. The weapon is discussed on various online gun enthusiast forums, with one contributor saying “I’ve wanted to build one out of a USC ever since I saw Casino Royale.” Wannabe 007s can pay for a USC to UMP conversion, and if they can’t afford that they can buy a conversion kit and follow the instructions on YouTube.
So far so bad, but Bond films are not unique in this regard. Heckler & Koch weapons have appeared in many other films and TV shows, including Independence Day, Bad Boys II, Terminator 3, Die Hard 4.0 and V For Vendetta. The Interbrand movie product placement database lists half a dozen other films under Heckler & Koch, with a link to Amazon.com, where loyal customers can by H&K books, T-shirts, gun accessories and knives.
But there is something else that Bond is selling – something more insidious than cars, phones and guns: Since his first film in 1962, James Bond has been selling the UK Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6.
The Real James Bond
The fictional Commander Bond is by far the world’s best known SIS agent. His glamorous adventures driving sleek sports cars, seducing beautiful women, and dispatching diabolical villains are the best propaganda the British establishment and its secret service could ever dream of. The SIS exploits 007’s recruiting potential on its website: “Staff who join SIS can look forward to a career that will have moments when the gap [between truth and fiction] narrows just a little and the certainty of a stimulating and rewarding career which, like Bond’s, will be in the service of their country.” So just how wide is that gap? Let’s take a look at the real MI6.
James Bond has battled a series of megalomaniacs wielding stolen nukes or laser satellites, but for the real SIS the biggest enemy has been socialism. Driven by a fear of the Red Menace, the SIS has a long history of supporting right-wing politics and undermining the left. In 1924 agents forged the Zinoviev Letter, which was instrumental in ending the UK’s first Labour government and restoring power to the Conservative Party.
After World War II, the SIS helped Nazi war criminals to escape justice in order to recruit them, including Walter Rauff, the inventor of mobile gas chambers, and Horst Kopkow, who was responsible for hundreds of executions. In Albania the SIS recruited Nazi collaborators for its plan to overthrow the communist government, and in Germany the SIS employed the leader of the country’s most notorious post-war neo-Nazi party.
In the 1950s the agency plotted to overthrow or assassinate leaders of countries that dared to nationalise their assets out of British control. The SIS tried to kill Egypt’s President Gamal Nasser in retaliation for nationalising the Suez Canal, and collaborated with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in order to keep the country’s oil in the hands of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP).
Throughout the Cold War the SIS helped the CIA to overthrow left-wing governments around the world. They replaced the Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister with dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who went on to become the most corrupt African leader ever. And in Indonesia the SIS armed insurgents in order to oust President Sukarno, thus paving the way for the military dictatorship of Suharto, who immediately set about slaughtering a million suspected communists.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the SIS was left purposeless, without an arch-enemy… until the War On Terror that is! In order to shift public opinion in favour of invading Iraq, the SIS planted exaggerated stories about Saddam Hussein’s WMD in the British media. The agency has since been implicated in the abduction, torture and “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects around the world, as well as the use of “intelligence” obtained through torture.
This then is the work of the real secret agents of MI6. Perhaps a more authentic movie could show James Bond feeding pro-war propaganda to the press, or wiretapping, kidnapping and beating Muslim radicals before handing them over to the CIA to be flown to Guantánamo Bay.
Of course Quantum Of Solace is an entertaining film, and many people will take no more from it than that. However, those who want to see the film may want to find a way to do so without paying, so as to avoid supporting a global marketing platform for some very dodgy brands.