A cold, quiet day circa June 1985. I’m bored to death by the inertia of winter. There’s nothing to do so I creep into my older cousin Peter’s room to have a root around. Under his bed is a stack of magazines and a few books. One of them catches my attention. It’s vividly blue and illustrated with the drawing of a luscious woman whose back is emblazoned with octopus-shaped stencilling.
I reach for it, my 11-year-old heart beating with a mix of fear of being caught (my cousin is playing soccer outside) and the forbidden pleasure of reading a M+ rated book.
From page one, the words are riveting. The story, based at the end of WW2, follows a retired English major who once had a fine career in military intelligence but made a terrible decision. He’s visited at his Jamaican home by a mystery man named Bond who makes the major pay for his mistake.
Before the last chapter of ‘Octupussy’, I’m hooked, becoming a life long fan of Commander Sir James Bond, the fictional spy agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS; commonly known as MI6). Created in January 1952 by British journalist Ian Fleming while on holiday at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye, the character’s name was the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name Fleming could find. “James Bond was much better than something more interesting, like ‘Peregrine Carruthers.’ Exotic things would happen to and around him, but he would be a neutral figure — an anonymous, blunt instrument wielded by a government department.”
Nevertheless, speculation abounds about real spies or other covert agents after whom James Bond might have been modelled or named, such as Sidney Reilly or William Stephenson, best-known by his wartime intelligence codename of Intrepid. Although they are similar to Bond, Fleming confirmed none as the source figure.
A self-styled Bond
Most researchers agree that James Bond is a romanticised version of Ian Fleming, himself a jet-setting womaniser. Both Fleming and Bond attended the same schools, preferred the same foods (scrambled eggs, and coffee), maintained the same habits (drinking, smoking, wearing short-sleeve shirts), shared the same notions of the perfect woman in looks and style, and had similar naval career paths (both rising to the rank of naval Commander). They also shared similar height, hairstyle, and eye colour. Some suggest that Bond’s suave and sophisticated persona is based on that of a young Hoagy Carmichael. In Casino Royale, the heroine Vesper Lynd remarks, “Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless.” Likewise, in Moonraker, Special Branch Officer Gala Brand thinks that Bond is “certainly good-looking . . . Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold.”
The images that have come to define the James Bond phenomenon:
Bond, James Bond
Aston Martin 1964 DB5 driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Thunderball was one of only two original “007” DB5s featured on screen. For the films it was factory fitted with operational “Q-Branch” gadgets including machine guns, bullet-proof shield, revolving number plates, oil slick sprayer, smoke screen, nail spreader, tracking device and a removable roof panel.[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-brosnan.jpg]20Pierce Brosnan
In 1986, Pierce Brosnan was asked to play the role of 007 but couldn’t because of his conflicting engagement on TV series Remington Steele. Pierce was given another opportunity in 1995 and this time it was a success. He went on to play James Bond four times in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day.[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-connery.jpg]30Sean Connery
In 1962, the first Bond adaptation Dr. No was made, which featured Sean Connery as 007. Moody, sultry and a lady killer, Connery established and came to embody the devil-may-care cad-like character of Bond that was seared into the memories of men and women around the world. Connery starred in six more films after his initial portrayal (including 1983's Never Say Never Again).[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-craig.jpg]20Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig brought Bond to life again in Casino Royale (2006). There were mixed feelings for Daniel Craig before the film was released. Some people even went as far as creating sites and petitions against the "blond bond". However, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all came forward to give their support. On Casino Royale's release, the negativity all went away, and the huge success of its sequel ‘Quantum of Solace’, has established Daniel as a firm favourite with fans, coming second only to Sean Connery in my eyes. [img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-halle.jpg]30Halle Berry - Jinx (Die Aother Day)
In 'Die Another Day', Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson is an NSA agent played by Halle Berry, who joins Bond to spy on Zao and look into his ties with Gustav Graves. In discussing her character, Berry said Jinx is "fashion-forward modern and the next step in the evolution of women in the Bond movies". [img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-history.jpg]30The pictoral history of the James Bond Franchise
[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-m.jpg]30'M' - Played today by Dame Judi Dench
‘M’ is apparently based on Admiral John Godfrey, Fleming's superior in British Naval Intelligence during World War II. In 1966, biographer John Pearson hypothesised that M reflects memories of Fleming's mother. "There is reason for thinking that a more telling lead to the real identity of M lies in the fact that as a boy Fleming often called his mother M. [...] While Fleming was young, his mother was certainly one of the few people he was frightened of, and her sternness toward him, her unexplained demands, and her remorseless insistence on success find a curious and constant echo in the way M handles that hard-ridden, hard-killing agent, 007." [img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-moore-poster.jpg]60The classic Bond Poster
Q - head of Q Branch, the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service, was often annoyed by Bond's seemingly playful lack of respect for the equipment the Q branch developed. Desmond Llewelyn portrayed the character in every film after (except Live and Let Die. "Never say Never Again") until 1999 in which he is shown to retire and be replaced by John Cleese in The World is Not Enough. Q has no appeared in Casino Royale nor Quantum of Solace. [img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-shadow.jpg]30Couldn't help myself!
[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-ursula-dr-no.jpg]70Ursula Andress - 'Honey Ryder' (Dr. No)
Ursula Andress was born in Switzerland, but later moved to Rome, getting minor roles in Italian films. She then moved to America, and got the biggest break of her life, getting the role of leading Bond girl Honey Ryder in Dr. No in 1962. The iconic scene where she walks out of the sea in a white bikini has remained one of the most recognized scenes of the series.[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-vesper-lynd.jpg]70Eva Green - Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)
In Eva Green's portrayal of Vesper Lynd it is easy to see why James Bond would fall for her dark, enigmatic beauty and when James Bond orders a very particular martini made with Gordon's gin, vodka and Kina Lillet it is little surprise that he eventually decides to name it after her. While this drink may have been a surprise to many casual Bond fans, diehard fans knew that this drink was exactly as it appeared in Ian Fleming's novel. Her wit, repartee and tragic end are all reasons why Vesper is the best Bond girl in years.[img src=http://www.menstylepower.com/wp-content/flagallery/bond-james-bond/thumbs/thumbs_bond-villains.jpg]30The bad, very bad villains
The villains: Auric Goldfinger, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. Julius No, Francisco Scaramanga, Emilio Largo, Elliot Carver, Mr. White, Alec Trevelyan, Mr. Big/ Dr. Kananga, Rosa Klebb.
The Lure of James Bond
How could any man not want to be Bond? First of all there’s the cars – the V8 Vantage (80s), V12 Vanquish and DBS (00s); the Lotus Esprit; the BMW Z3, BMW 750iL and the BMW Z8. Bond’s most famous car is the silver grey Aston Martin DB5, first seen in Goldfinger; it later features in Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Casino Royale.
Then there are the women – the innocent Ursula Andress (‘Honey Ryder’ in Dr. No), the alluring Eva Green (Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale), the exotic Halle Berry (Jinx in Die Another Day), the je-sais-se-quoi of Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies), the sultry Jane Seymour (Solitaire in Live and Let Die) and the stunning Olga Kurylenko (Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace).
Let’s not forget the lifestyle: exotic locations, hi-rolling casinos, the lush five star hotels, the wine, martinis and cigars, the endless wads of British tax payers cash, the gadgets and the glam, the spectacular edge-of-the-seat car chases, the explosions and things that go bang. Bond is a man who never fails and who always gets the girl in the end. It’s a comic book in 3D – and we all know how much men like comic books.
However, Bond is an equal opportunity hero – women love his flawed “not easily shaken, not hardly stirred” cool character and the fact that he’s rogue who still has the capacity to make as well as fall in love; he fights for justice and he always, almost always protect his ‘woman du jour’ in the process. Bond lives on the wild side, and because all women secretly want the lone wolf in their lives, they pine away for the covert spy with as much passion as their men.
Bond and Modern Masculinity
In the 60’s, Sean Connery brought to James Bond an image of charismatic machismo, a womanising, hairy-chested, hard drinking, constantly smoking representation of the man’s man of the time. Of the several representations of James Bond in film, Doug Brode, professor of television, radio and film has said, “Sean Connery emphasized the macho.”
Sean Connery’s Bond carried with him a great deal of the chauvinistic menace of Fleming’s Bond. However, he also softened the overt misogyny that the Bond of the novels projected. This Bond merely saw women as playthings, albeit potentially dangerous playthings.
Roger Moore, who came into the role in 1973’s Live and Let Die, was a distinctly different Bond. Rather than projecting the unyielding machismo of Sean Connery, Moore presented a more polished and sophisticated Bond. According to Alexander Walker, “Moore looked like such a nice lad; Connery had brought with him a faint hint of Macho relish.”
Roger Moore depicted a character than was more polished, more sophisticated than Connery’s Bond. While still a womanizer, he respects the skills of the women he encounters, and presents for the viewers far less of the blatant chauvinism Sean Connery did. In comparing the two actors, critic Alison Gilmore has said, “Moore was basically a clothes-hanger, excelling at sophisticated insouciance but lacking any sense of macho menace, especially in the twilight years of the 1980s.”
Pierce Brosnan was a Bond for the late 90’s and the new millennium. With feminism firmly entrenched – women were filling the corporate world, even in Bond’s world – and homosexuality challenging societies concepts of manhood and masculinity, this was a new Bond for a new world. Chapman discusses how the film GoldenEye addresses Bond’s place in our changing world, “In the most-quoted line of the film, M makes it clear to Bond that she regards him as an anachronism, telling him to his face that he is ‘a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.'”
In 2006’s Casino Royale, things seem to have come full circle, with the new Bond, played by Daniel Craig, serving to reboot the franchise. Portraying James Bond on his first mission as a 00-agent, he is rough, violent, and in many ways, far closer to Fleming’s Bond than any other portrayal in film.
At one point, Bond is asked if he is bothered by the killing required in his position. His response is cold and savage, “Well, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if it did, now would I?”
At the same time, he is distinctly different. Where, in the novel of Casino Royale, Bond beds Vesper Lynd out of selfish desires, he does so now out of love, at one point leaving MI6 to live a life with her. This Bond is not the misogynist of the 50’s. Though certainly a womanizer, we begin to see that, in this incarnation, his actions stem from severe personal loss, making this a far more relatable character.
In today’s Bond world, his immediate superior is a woman. He is paired with a woman agent. This is certainly a Bond for today. He is unmistakably male, portraying a very rough image of masculinity, but never threatened by femininity. He is comfortable in a very integrated world.
Despite being cast against strong female characters, Bond continues to be popular, demonstrating the level of change in male/female relationships in society. The changes in these films show that, even in a male dominated, testosterone drenched format, masculinity has been redefined, and society as well.
With a lifespan already stretching beyond 50 years and a potential continued cultural presence for 50 more, James Bond shows us and will continue to show – we’ve come a long way baby!!
Skyfall, Bond’s new film opens in November 2012. View the official site here.
Brian Westover – A Look at How James Bond Reflects Changing Views of Masculinity (January 16, 2007)