Positively shocking: Film season issues caution for ‘outdated’ language in James Bond films

Film watchers are being warned about potentially offensive content ahead of new retrospective

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 04 January 2024 16:51 GMT
Shirley Bassey performs Goldfinger at James Bond’s 60th anniversary concert

A film season that includes two James Bond films has come with trigger warnings due to “outdated” language and stereotypes.

One year after Ian Fleming’s 007 books were revised to omit offensive references, cautions are being made about two Bond outings as part of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) retrospective John Barry: Soundtracking Bond and Beyond, which places the spotlight on the features the composer scored.

The disclaimer has been issued on behalf of all films featured in the season, with those buying tickets being warned that they “contain language, images or other content that reflect views prevalent in its time, but will cause offence today (as they did then)”.

BFI’s website reads: “The titles are included here for historical, cultural or aesthetic reasons and these views are in no way endorsed by the BFI or its partners.”

The season’s films include Sean Connery’s Bond films Goldfinger (1964) and You Only Live Twice (1967), the latter of which has an additional standalone disclaimer warning of “outdated racial stereotypes”.

Other films that have been programmed as part of the Barry season include The Ipcress File (1965), starring Michael Caine, as well as Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy (1969), which the BFI notes features “homophobic language and sexual violence”.

Meanwhile, Petulia, the 1968 drama starring Julie Christie and George C Scott, has a trigger warning for scenes of “domestic violence”.

The Independent has contacted the BFI for comment, but a spokesperson told The Guardian: “As a cultural charity with responsibility for the preservation of film and moving image work and presenting it to audiences, we continuously face and deal with challenges presented by the history of film and television programmes and how they reflect views prevalent to their time.

“Whilst we have a responsibility to preserve films as close to their contemporaneous accuracy as possible, even where they contain language or depiction which we categorically reject, we also have a responsibility in how we present them to our audiences. The trigger warnings/content warnings that we provide in all of our exhibition spaces and online platforms act as guidance that a film or work reflects views of the time in which they were made and which may cause offence.

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Sean Connery and Honor Blackman in ‘Goldfinger’ (Eon productions)

“We continuously review our processes around the presentation of film and moving image work to make improvements and support audience trust. We listen to customer feedback and also continue to work closely with the BBFC and their classifications to give appropriate guidance. This work is by its nature on-going.”

This is not the first time Bond has received the trigger warning treatment. In February 2023, it was announced that author Ian Fleming’s 007 books had been revised to omit racist language and a number of racial references.

In a statement posted to the Ian Fleming website on Tuesday, his estate wrote that the decision to rewrite the novels was made with “guidance from the author himself”, citing Fleming’s previous thoughts on making such revisions.

Modern day reprints of Fleming’s Bond novels now come with a disclaimer stating: “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.”

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