The name’s Bond…James Bond: 007 at 60

Published on 9 August 2020 at 19:09


With 25 official films, 3 unofficial, 14 Ian Fleming produced novels, James Bond is one of the most iconic figures in pop culture and somewhat of a British national treasure approaching 60 years on film.


In both cinematic and literary outings, James Bond 007 is a seemingly cool-headed British government tool, with misogynistic attitudes with the veil of anti-intellectualism.


He is both a cold-hearted agent and a tortured soul who needs alcohol and pills to keep his nerves in check. With a License to Kill, Mr Bond's adventures take us to exotic locations for espionage adventures where Britain fights global terrorists since the fall of the Soviet Union.


In April of this year, Daniel Craig spoke on the charter of James Bond, saying the latest instalment, No Time To Die, will look at 007's flaws in a world of changing attitudes. From the earlier depictions of Sean Connery's rough handling of women to Roger Moore's sexual one-liners. Craig's outings have slowly moved away from the established gender roles in the movies.


In the late 1980s, Timothy Dalton played the role of James Bond and prepared for the role by reading the novels. His two outings received criticism for their lack of 'sex.' Dalton's Bond was something of a precursor to Craig, Bond had a slow-moving relationship with one woman, did not bed anything he laid eyes on. The movie was more orientated towards action, dark story beats with a touch of realism. License to Kill (1989) suffered a backlash due to subverting audience expectations of a womanizing Bond and portraying him as a cold-hearted killer. 


Many instalments of the James Bond franchise have moved with the times. As a form of self-satire, most notably in GoldenEye (1995). M, now played by a woman (Judi Dench), dishes out her opinion on Bond as a cold war relic, misogynist, and sexist dinosaur. With many cinematic instalments in the 60s & 70s having a sexual tone and questionable swooning methods by Bond. In Live & Let Die (1973), Bond beds Solitaire after fixing a deck of cards, replacing all cards with The Lovers. Playing on her belief in Tarot cards. Or the problematic 'corrective' rape of lesbian Pussy Galore in the novel, Goldfinger.


There is usually one female per book to join in on his adventure. Not multiple women as per the films, but it is explicitly gathered from the novels that Bond is indifferent towards women. He may hate them and fall in love with one.


A man who smokes 70 cigarettes a day and goes to sleep after checking all his improvised security measures in whatever exotic location he finds himself. It is in the character's inner monologue and those tales from his perspective that we get to see his world view as written at the beginning of the Cold War.


If James Bond's perspective and outlook make him one of the more unique fictional charters in the action-adventure genre, even if it has a certain demographic appeal. What makes James Bond stand out is indeed his attitudes, his fictional context as a British tool, and the Cold War background to his tales.  

Considering similar movies such as Fast & Furious and the Mission Impossible series are both box office hits and the Impossible series garnering critical praise means there is more than enough room and demand for 007. 


Many recent pieces detailing the James Bond arc always reflect upon his place in the modern world. His outdated personal attitudes, representation of imperialism, defender of capitalism, masculine persona, etc. These are all meta-commentary on the fictional character, in which many wish to see him reflect today's current world view. But is there a possible value in knowing Bond's outdated attitudes are part of his unique character? 


If 007 continues his outdated beliefs, could these not be part of a character arc? The upcoming film promises to such a thing.

James Bond's unique perspective and outlook make him a unique fictional charter in the action-adventure genre, and maybe we should just enjoy the films for what they are, popcorn fun.

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