Friday Ephemera

Much Tutting, Bluster

The Guardian’s Theo Hobson tells us why he doesn’t approve of James Bond: 

It feels like breaking rank with modern heterosexual British malehood, to which I more or less belong, but here goes. I hate James Bond. The continuation of his cult disgusts me, embarrasses me, depresses me.

Poor lamb.

Call me Licensed to Killjoy, but it has to be said: this cult hero is a deeply malign cultural presence. He represents a nasty, cowardly part of us that ought to have been killed off long ago.

Er, killed off by whom, and how? A hail of bullets? Laser beams? Or just the weight of tutting and pretentious disapproval?

Of course there is a very serious case to be made against 007 on strictly feminist grounds. The women in the books and films are silly, naughty, flimsy things who need hard male mastery.

It seems Mr Hobson hasn’t seen recent Bond outings – say, any made in the last fifteen years - in which female characters are spies, assassins and fighter pilots and typically portrayed as tenacious, resourceful and absurdly competent, no less so than Bond himself. Hence, perhaps, the continuing popularity of this “malign cultural presence.”

I don't know how offensive this is to women, but it’s offensive to me. Indeed I think the real victims of the Bond cult are men, who are impelled by a vile peer-pressure to worship at the shrine of this lethal lothario… The fact is that James Bond’s sexual career does real harm to the male psyche… I seriously believe that Bond is a big factor in the sexual malfunction of our times; the difficulty we have finding life-long partners, and the normalisation of pornography.

As so often, Guardian commentators are singularly immune to the “vile peer pressure” which presumably controls all other sentient beings. Still, at least we can count on them to direct us in our tastes, i.e. away from amusingly hyperbolical cinema and towards socio-political righteousness. I’m sure it will be good for us, if not exactly fun.

Is my complaint based in jealousy? Do I condemn this Don Juan because I’d like to be him, bedding every attractive woman I encounter, treating the opposite sex like a lovely fleshy playground? Well, sort of, yes – that’s just obvious. But such fantasies ought to be frowned on rather than celebrated. The cunning trick of the Bond phenomenon is its ability to disguise its core appeal, which is soft porn.

I can honestly say I’ve seen every Bond installment with neither an urge to emulate nor the merest flicker of improper titillation. Even when Daniel Craig ripped open his shirt and tried to restart his own heart, or emerged from the waves with a postmodern nod and a slightly comical bathing suit. Now maybe that’s just me, but it does, I think, suggest that “soft porn” may not be the only, or most obvious, reason to enjoy two hours of explosive quality trash. It seems to me that a huge part of Bond’s appeal, as a character and a franchise, is precisely the rejection of many PC assumptions and their petty, emasculating tenor. Unlike many Guardian writers, Bond isn’t prone to disabling fits of quasi-Marxist handwringing. And nor is his boss, ‘M’, played by a pleasingly firm Judi Dench - hardly a “flimsy thing who needs hard male mastery.” Directness has an appeal, especially when writ large. In the world of Bond, bad guys are decidedly bad and recognised as such, and, several set pieces later, they’re typically dispatched with ingenuity and force rather than fretful equivocation. Combine this with diabolical schemes, tight jams and extraordinary stunts and, well, the appeal is pretty obvious.

More obvious, at least, than Hobson’s conviction that,

We ought to have learned by now that combining sex with ironic fun is dodgy. Anyone who fails to see a connection between Playboy bunny girls and paedophilia is culpably blind.