We expect, in our heroes, the ability to last. They last from generation to generation, fighting the good fight, no matter if that good fight completely changes from now to then. As the times progress, so must our heroes. Their methods grow more modern. Their attitudes fit our own. Their morals reflect what we expect in a good person.
James Bond has been around, in one form or another, since the early 1950’s. The world is an extremely different place since he first stepped onto the stage. The Soviets are no longer around. Communism is not perceived as a threat. And we worry less about nukes and more about religious zealots with some simple explosive and the will to use it.
He has, however, managed to stay relevant for over six decades. His creator has died. The actors who played him at first are beyond the age where they could play him now. Six men have played him (not including the movies made by other studios), numerous authors have written him and who he is as a person has changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes drastic ways.
But, at heart, he remains the same. He is a lover, who will not let any harm come to his woman, but he will also not stay with them very long. He is a killer, but only kills when it is necessary to survive or necessary for the greater good, not for pleasure or sport. He is tough, intelligent and charismatic.
He has money, but not enough too much money. He likes nice things and appreciates good drinks and fine foods. He has a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips and is always interested and invested in learning more. He is curious, brave and determined to see matters through.
If one wanted to see a perfect, masculine ideal, a facet of the ideal, you would do no better than to see the evolution of James Bond. Or, perhaps, you would do no better than to see how James Bond has influenced a perfect masculine ideal.
The movies continually and routinely do well at the box office, even at their low points, it was never enough to kill the series. They keep making the movies and writing the novels, which means he appeals to the popular culture, which means he means something to the popular culture. He is, for a large number of people, an ideal.
This is how our culture defines a hero. He is British in a lot of ways, but also American (independent, takes law into own hands, almost a vigilante, in spite of his government agent status, see the number of times he is at odds with law enforcement and his own agency to see the vigilante aspects of his character).
A society’s heroes (and their villains) define them.
What does James Bond say about us?
What does his appeal say about us?
He has lasted 60 years as a relevant, pop culture icon, while remaining much the same in a majority of ways (assassin, drinker, womanizer, violent, sensitive, charmer, vicious), what does that say about our culture that promotes such a creature as our hero?
If you cast the light in a different way, you could make him a monster; a sociopath who destroys lives, a government robot so heartless that he will have sex and murder within the same hour. He is so controlling that his drink must be the same and made the same way every time.
You look to a culture’s heroes and you learn so much about them.
What does James Bond say about us?
4 thoughts on “One Dry, Vodka Martini”
well, personally, when i see 007, i am reminded of myself.
I think it is telling that JFK loved the James Bond books.
I don’t think you make enough of his physicality–he has amazing reflexes, agility, and strength. His moral code is loose, yet rigid in some areas. And he has a sense of humor–some Bonds are willing to make fun of themselves.
I don’t care how gauche it is, a vodka martini with a twist is the BEST.