On James Bond

The Sexual Subtext of 007

By John Cox

Films have subtext. What do I mean by subtext? On the surface Raiders of the Lost Ark is a movie about an archeologist seeking to find the biblical Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do. That’s its text. But is that really what Raiders of the Lost Ark is about? Is this basic “plot” enough to tap into the worldwide public consciousness and produce a phenomenon? No way. What makes Raiders resonate, the reason we find ourselves saying, “That was a really good movie,” is that we are having an unconscious reaction to the film’s subtext. Raiders of the Lost Ark is really about an atheist’s search for God. Now, you’re not necessarily supposed to know this is what the film is about, but you are supposed to feel it. It’s one of the ways movies manipulate you emotionally. And despite what some people will argue, good filmmakers use subtext the way they use lighting. It’s all very specific and intentional but designed to be invisible.

As a rule, subtext is communicated with metaphors. To continue with the Raiders example: In the beginning, when confronted with any mention of spirituality, Indy flatly says he doesn’t believe in “all that hocus-pocus” and even calls the lightning coming from the Ark “the power of God or something” [emphasis mine]. The screenwriters communicate Indy’s disbelief (or at least skepticism) without ever using the word atheist. But the Ark can prove the existence of God; therefore, metaphorically, the Ark is God. By the  …

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