To start with I want to confess that I love James Bond. My affection towards the character has been consistent since I was a child watching Roger Moore on the Eiffel Tower. No matter which actor plays him, or how strong the plot-line is, there’s something about the character of James Bond that makes every single film watchable.
Some of course are better than others and everyone will have their favourites but given that Skyfall is the 25th Bond film in the 50th year since the first, there is no other franchise that has gone anywhere near the sustained success that 007 has enjoyed. Why?? Men want to be him and women want to be with him. What is it about him that stays relevant 60 years after Ian Fleming wrote the first book?
Maybe we need to go back to Ian Fleming to understand it. Fleming went to Eton from a privileged background, worked as a Naval Intelligence Officer in the Second World War and wrote Casino Royale (the first book) to take his mind off his upcoming nuptials to his future wife, Ann Charteris, because to think of getting married scared him. He wrote every Bond book from his home in Jamaica and had close friends like Noel Coward.
Ian Fleming wrote a character very close to his own life but exaggerated the good bits that he enjoyed the most. Bond is archaic nowadays in his behaviour and values but still he’s relevant. He’s sexist, a gambler, a drinker, a smoker, a womaniser, finds it hard to show emotion and brutally violent. All of these traits were aspirational to men in the fifties, in post-war society, however men have had to adjust especially in the last thirty years. Men have changed but Bond hasn’t.
However, Bond couples all of these vices with charm, sophistication, class, expensive taste, worldly knowledge, exotic locations, and a timeless elegance that means he gets away with it. He is able to sleep with evil women, intellectual women, and innocent women alike. They all succumb to his smile and wink. As well as all of this he has gadgets and nice cars.
Every proper man, even in this day and age, wants to be James Bond. He has the perfect combination. He’s the best of lovers and the best of fighters all rolled into one. He drives cars that we’re all jealous of, he has watches that do things we can only dream of and he hardly breaks into a sweat.
But just as potent as his aspirational qualities for men are his attractive qualities for women. The actors that have been Bond have a big part to play in this. The main ones; Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig; I doubt that any of them have had any problem with loneliness in the past. For interest, Fleming’s original view of Bond was Hoagy Carmichael, a musician and band leader from the forties and fifties.
Why is Bond’s character so consistently popular when most other characters from the fifties have aged into obscurity? I think it’s because he doesn’t appear to have any flaws because the flaws he does have are paraded as strengths. He gets to do the things that most men would like to do, in the manner they would like to do them. Once upon a time his character spoke to men as a better version of themselves and now it harks back to a simpler time when men weren’t meant to cry, or be at a baby’s birth, and it offers an escape.
He is the perfect fictional character because he is all things to all people. He is gentle when he’s being rough, and he’s rough when he’s being gentle, all wrapped up in that old-school charm. It is impossible for someone to exist like that in reality, there are too many contradictions, and this is why it’s the perfect escape.
What do you think of Bond? Love it or hate it?