Though he is a British secret agent, one of the most defining American film figures is James Bond. His character exudes manly swagger, womanizing allure and the epitome of class. He likes his martinis “shaken, not stirred” and never ceases to come out on top. But is Bond, the man every woman wants and every man wants to be, compatible with the incredible promotion of diversity pervading popular culture for this new generation?
Bond graces the silver screen once again in the latest Bond installation Spectre, starring Daniel Craig as Bond and Monica Bellucci (beautiful, of course, as all Bond girls are) as Lucia Sciarra. The film’s release date in the United States is set for Nov. 6, 2015. It is the most expensive Bond movie produced with a whopping estimated $300 million dollar budget. It has received a score of 7.9 out of 10 on Imdb, demonstrating that the majority of viewers are still swooned by the spell Bond alone can cast on an audience.
The movie, however, has received some negative press because of its star actor, Craig, who spoke out against his character, asserting that James Bond has nothing to teach. Craig said to Time in early October he would, “rather slash [his] wrists” than do another James Bond film after Spectre.
He went on to say, “Let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist…A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long.”
Craig’s statement might seem exaggerated, considering he is only playing the role of Bond and not adopting it himself. However, his personal abhorrence of Bond’s actions raises questions about the film industry and the power actors have to influence society when taking on the role of particular characters.
Additionally, Sir Roger Moore, who played Bond in seven movies during the ’70s and early ’80s, has received criticism for his remark that Bond can never be played by someone who is black, female or gay. He reportedly said, “That wasn’t what Ian Fleming wrote. It’s not about being homophobic, or racist, it’s about being true to the character.”
Piers Morgan agrees with Moore, commenting that, “Bond’s fifty-year brand has been built on a clear, definable platform of him being a ruthless, womanizing assassin. And it’s been one of the most enduring, successful brands in the history of cinema.”
Morgan remarked that Bond’s appeal comes from his timeless character while “all about us changes and evolves.” The journalist and television star believes that film should be separate from the people who sit eagerly with their popcorn.
The distinction between the two groups seems a bit archaic in the midst of such progress, but Morgan does make an interesting case with his comparison of a gay James Bond to George Michael, who “duped” his audiences when he came out: “Then his record sales fell off a cliff. It wasn’t his sexuality that was the problem. It was the fact that he’d misled millions of adoring female fans for years into thinking he was a straight guy who wanted to bed them.” He finishes off the article by stating that the only thing to change about Bond is his skin color.
Morgan is not the only faithful fan of the classic Bond — according to BBC, Spectre was chosen as the annual Royal Film Performance. On the other hand, Charles Moore of The Telegraph reported that writer Paul Johnson said of Ian Fleming’s novel that created the character of James Bond: “[the novel contains] the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude snob-cravings of a suburban adult.” Moore commented that he does not see the third component Johnson describes, thus making Bond, “look like a security guard, not a man who moves easily at the highest levels of society.”
This alteration of such a prominent character does not emulate the timelessness Morgan sees in Bond; Bond’s character, in a way, regresses while society advances. Moore concludes, “that Bond, for all his bad behaviour, is a member of the Establishment, a fact that adds to his aura of power.”
Whether or not James Bond is still the epitome of a gentleman, he has certainly influenced popular culture. Spectre is coming out and regardless of what the audience thinks of the legend himself, they know him to be Bond — James Bond.