Moonraker and the ‘guilty pleasure’

A "guilty pleasure" for some 007 fans

A “guilty pleasure” for some 007 fans

Over the past 40 years, the term “guilty pleasure” has become chic. In a James Bond context, some fans will cite the extravagant 1979 Moonraker as a guilty pleasure.

What does the term mean exactly? Wikipedia defines it as “something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. The “guilt” involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one’s lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.”

The term was popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, in which the two Very Serious Film Critics (R) acknowledged they like some schlock on occasion. In 1979 and 1987, they came up with their lists of “guilty pleasures,” including such movies as The Greek Tycoon and The Fury.

Moonraker was the only Bond movie where 007 went into space. Before that happened, a space shuttle was hijacked, Bond fell out of a plane without a parachute, a boat chase took place in Venice, Bond fought Jaws (Richard Kiel) on top of a cable car in Rio, etc., etc. Nothing was done in a small way. There were clearly silly moments, including a double taking pigeon and Jaws finding true love.

In other words, nothing very subtle. It was a huge hit in its day. It even got a rave review in THE NEW YORK TIMES. Nevertheless, Eon Productions immediately decided Bond should come back down to earth both figuratively and literally in his next film adventure, For Your Eyes Only.

When Bond fans say Moonraker is a “guilty pleasure,” they’re putting some distance between themselves and the movie. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ll lose their “street cred” with other Bond fans. After all, in the 21st century, Bond is Serious Art deserving of Academy Award nominations.

To be fair, it should be noted that opinions of people change over time. They can like something initially, decide it really was awful, then eventually come back and decide it was good or at least not as bad as they thought. What’s more, in the case of Moonraker, some fans will tell you they hated it then, they hate it now. That group is being consistent.

Still, if you like a movie, maybe should own it and not worry about your “street cred.” In the case of 007 films, just because you like a lighter Bond entry doesn’t preclude from enjoying a more serious film also.

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3 Responses

  1. For many years Moonraker was my least favourite Bond film, but after watching it again recently after buying the box set I thought it held together quite well. Aside from the rampant silliness there were some interesting moments that you’d expect from a Lewis Gilbert film. The angelic/aryan women luring Bond to the Edenic pyramids where he has a tussle with Drax’s pet python ‘I discovered he had a crush on me’ is memorable. Another Biblical reference is the Noah’s Ark side to Drax’s operation ‘the animals went in two by two.’ The assured staging of the sci-fi finale accompanied by John Barry’s wondrous Space Shuttle Ballet made me think that Moonraker was a risk that just about paid off.

  2. I like steve powell’s comment’s rampant silliness, and then he said
    the film held together quite well. I totally agree with him. over the years
    I even felt embarrassed admitting that I enjoyed watching the silliness
    and the over extravagant action scenes.
    but who cares it’s a bond film, lewis gilbert who directed it is in my
    book is a genius at his craft, the other two bond films he directed
    in my opinion we’re awesome.

  3. I’ve never hated “Moonraker”, but it was never a big favorite of mine. I agree with Roger Moore’s description of the film – it’s pretty decent, until the movie’s setting shifts to outer space.

    As for the movie’s rampant silliness, see – “GOLDFINGER”, “YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE”, “LIVE AND LET DIE”, “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN” and especially “DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”.

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