Thursday, January 18, 2018

As their Weemsy takes them

A follow-on to the previous post:

Female-Driven WWII Spy Thriller in the Works From 'Equity,' 'Queen of Katwe' Producers (Exclusive)

The real-life drama will center on Vera Atkins, the British intelligence officer who recruited for Winston Churchill and oversaw the secret agents who parachuted into France to sabotage the Nazis.

The spy recruiter is at the heart of a new female-driven World War II spy thriller, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. Sarah Megan Thomas who created, produced and starred in the story of last year's Wall Street thriller Equity wrote the project's script and will produce the real-life drama with Lydia Dean Pilcher, who will direct. Casting is currently underway, and principal photography is set to begin in the spring.

Based on true events, the as-yet untitled pic tells the story of Atkins, known for recruiting, training and supervising the British secret agents who parachuted into France to sabotage the Nazis during World War II. She was widely believed to have inspired the James Bond character of Miss Moneypenny.

The film centers on Atkins as a crafty spy recruiter with a secret of her own, as she selects two of the first women of the Special Operations Executive, also known as Winston Churchill’s "secret army" a pacifist of Indian descent and a daring American who is challenged, but undaunted, by a disability. These civilian women form an unlikely sisterhood while entangled in dangerous missions to turn the tide of the war.
The SOE field agents were unquestionably brave. As for the rest of this PR copy, well, it’s PR copy: lies told in pursuit of profit.

It is especially galling to see Vera Atkins included in this roll call of heroes. She was no lion; she was one of the blundering donkeys who squandered their lives. Vera Atkins did not drop into Occupied France to fight Nazis; she was behind a desk in London.

She was also a manipulative liar who may have compromised or betrayed SOE operations as she pursued her own, still-murky agenda.

What we do know is that Atkins was not a British citizen when she went to work for SOE. She was born in Romania which made her an enemy alien when that country joined the Axis in November 1940. By law she should have been in an internment camp instead of working in a secret intelligence organization. We also know that she had contact with both Nazi and Soviet intelligence operatives during the war. Finally, we know that as she worked diligently to hide the true story of SOE’s failings she also worked to hide her own past and actions from historians and journalists.

So why present her as some sort of super spy?

Part of the reason is the shared interest of our Intellectual-Yet-Idiots and the popular press. Both groups want “news” that creates a sensation. For the MSM, Atkin’s story is irresistible. What editor can reject a story that can be headlined “The Real Life Miss Moneypenny Who Defeated Hitler” or “Meet the Women Who Helped Win D-Day”?

The press is highly-attuned to our prevailing sensibilities. We desperately want to believe that the virtuous, solely because they are virtuous, will triumph over evil. We work hard to ignore the key lesson of World War Two:

Moral righteousness alone does not win battles. Evil causes do not necessarily carry the seeds of their own destruction. Once engaged, even just wars have to be won-- or lost-- on the battlefield
Murray and Millet, A War to be Won
The male and female officers of SOE were undoubtedly patriotic and were heart-breakingly brave. Nevertheless, Sir John Keegan’s verdict still stands:

SOE was inefficient as an organization, unnecessarily dangerous to work for, ineffective in its pursuit of its aims, and counter-productive in the results achieved
For the IYI’s sensation comes from the transgressive and the critical. A good story is one that upends conventional narratives or which undermines any of the traditional centers of authority. Vera Atkins ceases to be a historical figure with a factual biography and instead becomes an improvised weapon to crush the Patriarchy and Destroy Sexists.

“Dear Bros: James Bond wasn’t real, but Miss Moneypenny was … and she was more badass than you can Imagine.”

Atkins is also IYI bait because she can be portrayed as a victim of anti-semitism, of xenophobia, of sexism, and of Cold War paranoia.

The perfect icon for the Salon crowd in the #MeToo era.

What no one inside the Bubble seems to notice is that their IYI-approved popular history ends up looking a lot like the stories of Parson Weems.

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