A Queer Art Canon: Justin Miller and James Bond

Let’s make a canon! And let’s fill it with queer art, or queer-ish art, or art that has no idea how queer it is. Queer art is often secret art: black-market, whispered-about, read-between-the-lines art. And since secret art can be hard to find, let’s shine a light on a few of our favourite things so all our friends can see them.

We’ll call it a canon, because it sounds Weighty and Important and Serious, but we also won’t be too serious about it. We won’t make The Canon, just a canon. Each edition, we’ll chat with a different queer-about-town and ask them to submit something to the canon. And they’ll tell us what that book or play or movie or TV episode or sculpture or poem or dance piece or opera or photograph or painting or performance art piece or anything else means to them and why they think it deserves a spot in our illustrious canon. 

This time, we get shaken (not stirred) with writer-performer Justin Miller (aka Pearle Harbour) in a discussion about all things 007.

Let’s get into it. Why James Bond?

Women want him. Men want to be him… men also want him! Plus, fabulous camp villains, nude women writhing to Shirley Bassey theme songs…

On trampolines.

On trampolines, no less!

When did you get into James Bond? When did you jump into the pool?

I didn’t jump into the pool, I sorta jumped into the hottub, because it was Austin Powers first. I remember watching that as a 7-year-old and thinking it was so funny, and then backtracking from there to actually understanding what it was parodying.

Austin Powers follows the tropes pretty specifically and clearly.

The Femme Fatale. The henchman with the weird fighting style or particular idiosyncrasy. The gadgets. The parody spells out what it’s supposed to be referencing.

I started watching James Bond really young. I saw GoldenEye in the theatres, but I was already a Bond Kid and had seen Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever and a few other fun ones. And now Bond was back and he was Pierce Brosnan and I was thrilled. So, by the time I saw Austin Powers, I’d already seen most of the Bond movies and also the original Casino Royale. I was prepped.

You were a very well-cultured child!In this one specific area! It was work, though! I had to get my parents to drive me to all the video stores in Etobicoke to find Never Say Never Again or The Spy Who Loved Me. I watched them all out of order based on whichever VHS I could track down! I remember one time being at a sleepover party in grade five—all the other boys wanted to rent Candyman from Blockbuster, and I just went to Andrew Marciniak’s mother and said “Look, I straight up cannot handle this type of film, you need to help me out.” So, she rented me Diamonds Are Forever, and I went up to her bedroom and watched that by myself while all those boys watched their horror movies. That was a great night for me!

You have the suspicious homosexuals in Diamonds Are Forever. Blofeld in drag. And it’s heavy drag! It’s bad, heavy drag. What do you remember most about that movie?

Bambi and Thumper really stuck out for me.

The ninja-jujitsu Playmates in matching bikinis?

Who I feel like are maybe also a gay couple?

They seemed like power lesbians.

And those other assassins are also a couple.

Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.

Oh my god. Icons! The way that they would skip off holding hands…

That’s their first introduction, they skip off into the sunset, literally, holding hands. And they’re just so delighted with the mischief they’re sowing in the world.

Have you seen other Sean Connery era Bonds?

Yes. Sean Connery is who I think of as Bond, that very masculine archetype.

The originator.

If you put him in a harness, he would be a Tom of Finland posterboy.

Roger Moore was much more of a pretty boy.

Yes, Roger Moore had a lot more flare.

George Lazenby was not great. Timothy Dalton had some edge.

Timothy Dalton was Daniel Craig ahead of his time.

We weren’t ready for Timothy Dalton!

But Pierce Brosnan struck the right chord.

Oof, did he ever!

Yeah. He’s got both the kind of camp swish that Roger Moore had and all of the archetypical strength of Sean Connery.

He’s the most beautiful Bond.

Oh my god, I just told you a whole damn lie, though, because I think GoldenEye was the first one I watched! I remember loving Boris, as played by Alan Cumming.

Of course! “I am invincible!”

I taught myself how to spin my pen obnoxiously and click it. I actually didn’t have retractable, clickable pens, but I asked my mum to buy me some from Staples so that I could pretend I was Boris.

I think Alan would be delighted to know that. Also, let’s talk about Famke Janssen being introduced to world! And how!

Orgasmically ripping off men’s heads!

I love that she just loves murdering people so much. She cums every time!

Everybody’s got their thing.

You’ve also got your first Judi Dench appearance in a James Bond film.

That’s right! They give her a tasty little monologue!

There’s obviously the Tina Turner song. Which I feel like was really going for a 90s version of what a Shirley Bassey song would be.

Everybody is inevitably compared to Shirley Bassey, and rightly so.

“Goldfinger” and “Diamonds are Forever” are such excellent themes. “Moonraker” gets the job done. How do you feel about Minnie Driver as the Russian girlfriend singing Tammy Wynette in a karaoke bar?

Oh, right! “Stand by your man!”

That was something else I remembered so strongly from childhood.

And I struggled to remember it right now, so it affected us differently.

It was a cameo appearance by a 90s leading lady, I wasn’t about to let it slip by! Does Minnie Driver get to say that she’s a Bond Girl for that?

I don’t think so…

Does Bond have to fuck you?

Bond has to fuck you to be a Bond Girl! Although, Judi Dench flipped the script on that rule again, because she’s arguably the Bond Girl of Skyfall

She totally is! After Bérénice Marlohe gets shot in the face, there’s no other female character in the movie! I love that she transcends the eras of Bond. Like, you get to the end of Pierce Brosnan, and they’re like “We’re throwing it all out, we’re starting from scratch…. Except we still would like you, Dame Judi.”

And if you look at her performance in GoldenEye, it’s identical to her performance in Skyfall; she has always maintained that no-nonsense dignity.

Why reinvent the wheel? They kept her around because she was Judi Dench.

In Dench we trust!

So, what did you learn through this James Bond Odyssey? Is James Bond queer?

I’ve learned that my place in the world as a queer person lets me look on things with a light, and find all sorts of delightful little treats and jokes that feel like they’re just for me, and just for us, and just for our community. And maybe some of it was intentional. Maybe sometimes they don’t realize what they’re stepping in. But I think it’s a really cool little ability we have, a little gadget that we have—we can flip on this light and see all these nasty, dirty, campy, queer details.

Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker is a writer of many plays, a hoster of many burlesques, and a maker of many jokes. Follow him on twitter @handsomejohnnie

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