Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Friday, November 21, 2008

Miss Moneypenney and her Big Bond Phallus

An example of a character having innate understanding of Lacan's "impossibility of desire" can be found in the James Bond series' Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and her office flirtations with James Bond (various). Come along with me on this structural adventure as we see just how and why.

Note that the regular flirtation of Bond and Moneypenny begins with her feigned anger at him for arriving "late." No matter when Bond arrives, she makes it seem as if he is late and that M is angry at him. But this anger is "pretend" for her and for M - for Bond, the locus of their combined desire, can never be anything but "on" time. M will usually berate him on some minor point before laying out the details of his case. Q also pretends to be annoyed with Bond's childishness, but at the same time, entrusts him with millions of dollars of high-falootin' gadgetry.

Moneypenny sets herself up as an upper-middle class spinster, pining for a secret agent who prefers more exotic (richer), younger women. Moneypenny is his "fall back" gal; he professes to love only her, implying he's sleeping with everyone but her! And if she pushes the issue, he instantly propositions her: "Drinks, my place. Tonight." But she ignores his request; sure that he is not being serious. Between the two of them is an implicit understanding regarding the parameters of their pretend courtship. If she took him seriously, bad blood would instantly erupt. Alas, in our post-PC era, no such parameters can really be established, so the fine art of fake flirting is all but gone. Too bad, because it's great practice... the pair switch role from pursuer to pursued on a regular basis, each claiming they pine for the other, and so forth.

Thus, Moneypenny's desire for James is innately dependent on his withholding of that desire's gratification. Such examples occur throughout cinema as well as in life, but this one is worth noting since it occurs in such ubiquitous regularity. This regularity itself makes it a fine example of the Lacanian phallus. Bond "owns" the phallus, as the ultimate "one who enjoys"-- but Moneypenny is the one who truly owns its lack - as in understanding that having access to the phallus will not prevent its lack, but will in fact destroy the position from within which that lack originates.

Part of this essential dance belongs to M, and his presence on the intercom - he is always listening in... and interjects his "Will you please skip the customary interplay, Miss Moneypenny?" M is the perfect momentary definition of the Big Other, the ultimate signifier for whom the dance is performed.

A telling acknowledgment that her buffering is no accident can be found in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, when Bond dictates his resignation before leaving her office. Moneypenny, instead of typing what he tells her, types that he has requested two weeks leave instead. Thus, she saves the entire triad of her, M and Bond. M even acknowledges this (after Bond has gone of course) by saying (over the intercom of course) "what would I do without you, Miss Moneypenny?"M understands her immaculate mediating between the phallus and its locus of imaginary enjoyment with the Non du pere or "no of the father" represented by the Big Other m.

Indeed, what would any of us do without the Miss Moneypennys of the world, gamely keeping the ball in play by "pretending" to want the phallus, even as they realize they can never have it? The world would resign, and no one would ever get laid. Moneypenny may or may not want to get laid, but her true lay, Bond, would be a disappointment, so she is better off enjoying the wanting of him. If they let themselves, if we let ourselves, we could grow obsessional and mad about it. Don't we all have some secret hidden love? If we don't keep vigilant, this unrequited love could grow to a full-blown obsession, drug addiction, stalking, restraining orders, assault, all follows. By pretending to like that which we actually do like, we save ourselves from having to actually have it. Maybe if we have it, we would just be... disappointed. Isn't that the fate of so many stars with their groupies? No matter how earth-shattering the anonymous sex might or might not be, it can't beat the image. Imagine if they hooked up and Bond had to slink past Moneypenny everytime, in guilty silence, on his way to M's office?

If you can embrace this secret you will be a James Bond yourself! By pretending to be "the one who enjoys" you become an authority on enjoyment itself. Sounds simple, doesn't it? We're all conditioned to act on our wants and desires without thinking, to consider them some kind of holy writ. But be not fooled! Desire is nothing more than the death drive with a fancy dress on. Follow anything too far and you won't find your way back. Lou Reed said it best "You know some people don't have a voice with / that they can even call their own. / So the first thing that they see that allows them the right to be, they follow it. / You know, it's called 'bad luck.'"

And which Bond girl is the one who gets to stay in the picture after the babe du jour has come and gone? Even after Bond himself is replaced, several times over? Lois Maxwell! Moneypenny! This is of course stating the obvious, but if you use your realization of this in yourself as a tool for conscious awakening, you will have the last laugh, every time, just like her.

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