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Cleopatra Jones: 007

by Chris Norton -- page 5 of 5
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The Interplay of the Texts
Considering how fast Hollywood can integrate successful formulas into ongoing productions, it is reasonable to assert that Live and Let Die sought to capitalize on the ongoing success of blaxploitation. But the appropriated material in Live and Let Die also works as a form of response to the very co-optation of Bond found in the Cleo films, just as co-optation in both Cleopatra Jones films serves to facilitate criticism of the texts of Bond.

Speaking about the role of women in The Spy Who Loved Me Bennett and Woollacott write, "The main ideological work thus accomplished in the unfolding of the narrative is that of a 'putting-back-into-place' of women who carry their independence and liberation 'too far' or into 'inappropriate' fields of activity" (39). I would extend this statement to Live and Let Die's treatment of blacks. The films responds to blaxploitation going "too far" through its portrayal of whiteness as evil and "'inappropriate' fields of activity" such as black characters sleeping with white women. This "response" is rooted in the white desires and fantasies detailed above. Live and Let Die is responding to black militancy and the refusal to submit to hegemony, the underlying concern of nearly every blaxploitation film. Live and Let Die allows white spectators to assert their desires and fantasies of white power that have been toppled in blaxploitation. Live and Let Die's response is to call up the world of blaxploitation (the site of contestation) through co-optation and set white hegemony back in order on the screen. Therefore, co-optation functions as a method of interrogation and subversion of oppositional voices.

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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You can move through the article by selecting "next page," or you can go to a specific section of the article by using the links below. In addition, you can check out our selection of links for blaxploitation Web sites.
The Emergence of Blaxploitation 

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The Emergence of Blaxploitation

Cleopatra Jones: Black, Beautiful, and Bond

Page 3
Cleopatra Jones:
Black, Beautiful, and Bond

Live and Let Die: Bring On the Black Guys

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Live and Let Die:
Bring On the Black Guys

Interplay of the Texts

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The Interplay of the Texts

Interplay of the Texts

Blaxploitation Web Links


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



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