On the occasion of the release of my E-Book on the James Bond film series–Bond Forever: A Film Buff’s Cinematic Analysis of the James Bond Series–I thought Breitbart readers would enjoy some thoughts on our expectations of masculinity in mass media, as portrayed by James Bond, who has managed to survive a miserable trend of male feminization.
What is it about Bond? Why does he strike us as an icon of masculinity? What qualities do we identify with in his character, even as portrayed across multiple actors?
We start with the physical. When someone says “James Bond,” what image comes to mind? For me, I see Sean Connery in a suit and tie, confidently leaning against his Aston Martin, parked on the roadside in Goldfinger, hand in one pocket. I also see images of each of the other actors, but it’s this primary image that has import.
A man–a real man–has the characteristics this image employs. Bond owns his physical presence in the world. Connery was a master at body language. It carries through every one of his films.
Daniel Craig is close second. It isn’t just that his Bond is often a bull in a china shop, but how he carries himself, particularly in the quieter scenes. Pay close attention to how he stands in the brief interrogation scene with M in Quantum of Solace. He has what we call “economy of movement,” permitting his presence to speak for him. Body language is everything, and with Bond, the message is “I own the room.”
A more subtle trait of masculinity is one visitors to dating sites will be familiar with, because it is a trait all women seem to request when looking for a man: integrity. What exactly does this mean? Integrity is defined by a man having a code of ethics, a code of honor, or just some kind of personal code, that he sticks to. He can be counted on because of his notion of duty and loyalty, whether it be to the Crown, a friend, a lover, or an innocent.
It’s one reason why Jerry Maguire did well with men and women, as we watched Tom Cruise slowly become a man of integrity.
Bond is a man of integrity. More than one character tries to lure him away from MI6, but he refuses to even consider them and, in fact, even mocked for it (by 006 in GoldenEye and in SkyFall). Bond places only two things above his job–friends and love. He disobeys orders in order to avenge Felix Leiter in License to Kill. He tenders his resignation, twice, for love (with Vesper in Casino Royale, and Tracey in OHMSS).
Indeed, in the unfairly maligned Quantum of Solace, he goes on a revenge-driven rampage to avenge Vesper–and gets himself in deep trouble. Not only does M excoriate him, but the CIA sends in a kill team to take him out. Vengeance does not make a man. He learns this lesson at the conclusion of the film, by leaving Vesper’s treacherous boyfriend alive.
Indeed, his two tragic loves make him all the more likeable–as the man devoted to duty who secretly nurses a twice-broken heart. The wounded warrior, if you will.
Beyond this, I think of Joseph Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey, which reveals all that a man is and can be come. A man has courage. He will face tasks and trials. He will find his untapped sources to face his internal and external demons. He is strong, persevering, and loyal. We see examples countless times throughout the series.
His relationships with men are driven by camaraderie, and arise from a mutual requirement to face down danger. He is driven also by obligation and responsibility to England. These are what separate Bond from a garden-variety thug.
And he loves women, both as gentleman and womanizer. Bond could easily be viewed as callous and misogynist in his seductive moments. While the demands of the genre require Bond to save (and get) the girl, from a character and plot standpoint, there is no reason for Bond to save the Bond girls that he does. Honey Ryder, Solitaire, Agent Amasova (who even swore to kill him after their mission),–he need not rescue any of these women, but he does nonetheless. That’s what a man does.
Ultimately, James Bond embodies the ideal male–both for what men aspire to be, and what women desire.
This is why James Bond truly is … forever.