A note on James Bond as a model for men

Something I wrote recently on Facebook, stimulated by my re-reading Dr No by Ian Fleming, which became the first of the main series of James Bond movies, although it was not the first Bond novel published:

“There is a tremendous physicality to his writing. I notice that he is now receiving respectful treatment as a writer with a recent book on his life in Jamaica being positively reviewed in a couple of places I saw. [For example, there is rather luxuriant spread in the September 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine.]

I find his descriptions of spy life not terribly believable, not like John Le Carre who really gets the bureaucratic side of it right. Fleming is so hard to believe, even when one knows he apparently had worked in that line himself.

Of course, his language and attitudes are often no longer “acceptable” but I suppose being brought up at Eton and Sandhurst would give one great confidence in one’s place in the scheme of things.

There are some interesting minor differences from the film in the novel Dr No. The arthropod that threatens to kill Bond is a centipede in the book but a tarantula in the film (as far as I know, since I am not sure I have seen the entire film). Honey Rider appears basically naked from the surf in the book but has a bikini on in the movie. She has a broken nose in the book but Ursula Andress had no such deformity in the film of course.

I read most of the [Bond] novels as a boy. A teacher at school said they could warp a young man’s mind, and I do know what he meant. Fleming had a rather nasty mind and it keeps showing. That said, if I were asked how like life they are, I would say that there are things in life that Fleming’s worldview might prepare you for, or at least warn you about.”

I am not aware that anyone in the Manosphere has written much specifically on the character of James Bond from a “red pill” or “Game” perspective.

I distinctly remember reading this edition of You Only Live Twice and the arresting description of the poisonous plants in the “suicide garden”, at the start of the novel:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!12080

ADDENDUM: It is difficult to explain what I mean about the value of reading “James Bond”. There has been much criticism, right from when the films became very popular, and the books before them I imagine, along the lines that the books are bad for forming the character of young men. That they might give them unhealthy ideas about life and about women in particular.

I am not sure whether I would be quite so quick to agree with these criticisms as I once was.

The literary depiction of the world has certainly changed dramatically since the days in which the Bond novels were written. On the one hand, few men reading them today would take seriously remarks such as those in Dr No about “Chinegroes, Chinese Negroes, an unusual combination of bloods … with the cleverness of the Chinese and the bad habits of the Negro” (I paraphrase).

On the other hand, read with a smidgen of irony, there may be something for men to learn from these books. Not only about men and women, but about the dangers of life. Few men then, and even fewer now, live a life of adventure like Bond; but I would say now, from the vantage point of turning 60 this week, that a surprising amount of life can be challenging; and occasionally, even in a quiet life, there are moments of remarkable danger and importance.

It used to be said that later in life you will realise that the “copybook maxims” are true. I would agree, but I would say that a young man might also be wise to at least dip into books like the Bond novels. Even if he never wants to live, even for a moment, like Bond, other men may well desire to. And it is good to know how they might be thinking.

It is almost banal to say that in Fleming’s novels Bond exhibits the “dark traits” that some people in the Manosphere claim are what women secretly find attractive. In the movies, he tends to be more charming and less sinister, although Daniel Craig has of course brought back a touch of psychopathy to the character. (Interestingly, one of the most ruthless and “psychopathic” characters in the novel Dr No is Bond’s secret service boss “M”.)

“I would ask you if you could remain emotionally detached … but I don’t think that’s your problem, is it Bond?”

As I have said several times before, it is easy to forget how very recently men were still given “red pill” versions of the world, not just in men’s fiction like the Bond books, but in ordinary television programming for example. Masculine attitudes were explicitly as well as implicitly presented as being positive in relationships until only a couple of decades ago.

There were quite a few similar series of novels for men in the days when Fleming was writing. I remember my mother I think it was, bringing me a copy of Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers when I was in hospital as a teenager. I doubt she knew what was in it. It had some exceedingly colourful metaphors and themes.

Ironically, the novel series which has both revived, and gone well beyond, the hierarchical and sadistic mentality of Fleming and Robbins has been written by a woman. I refer of course to EL James and her “Fifty Shades” series. Reading them, even Ian Fleming would have been both shaken and stirred.

FURTHER ADDENDUM: I cannot resist a couple of minor points I have observed as I now watch the full movie of Dr No for possibly the first time.

It seems that Dr No is mining bauxite on Crab Key in the film. In the book it is guano (bird dung) for use as fertiliser. Bond tests a geiger counter on the luminous dial of his watch. I used to have an old watch with a luminous dial – presumably from radium paint – which was very “hot” radioactively. Lastly, there is a pretty Jamaican freelance photographer in the film (played by Marguerite LeWars) who takes pictures of Bond using a flash. She can be seen briefly licking the flash bulb bases to improve the electrical connection:

########################################################################################################################################################freelance

This action must puzzle modern audiences, if they notice it. Here is an amusing modern reference to this old practice:

“We would always wet the bulb with a quick lick before putting it in the flash. fwiw. And you cannot, repeat, cannot, use this outfit with flash unless you wear brogans, baggy, pleated sharkskin slacks, and a fedora with a PRESS card stuck in the hat band.”

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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] I recently wrote “A note on James Bond as a model for men“. […]

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  2. Posted by Julian O'Dea on August 11, 2015 at 1:33 am

    I have been meaning to add a couple of points on “James Bond”.

    One is that the famous phrase “Bond. James Bond” gets its start in Dr No when a woman at a casino asks him for his name, “Mr … ?” she prompts. So it is natural for him to say “Bond” first and then “James Bond”.

    The other is that the surname Bond, which has a rather superior sound, is actually one of the most lowly of all English surnames, sometimes said to mean a peasant “bonded” to a lord. Here is some discussion:

    http://www.ancestry.com.au/name-origin?surname=bond

    “In England after the Norman Conquest the word sank in status and became associated with the notion of bound servitude.”

    I have sometimes wondered if Ian Fleming knew this, and gave his character the surname Bond to emphasise his servitude to the establishment.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Julian O'Dea on September 10, 2015 at 4:59 am

    Some discussion on Bond at the Dalrock blog, including my comment here:

    https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/moral-progress/#comment-188374

    I just wanted to add that every single Bond movie seems to have promised a “modern, independent woman this time around”. That was always part of the point, the Sixties ideal of the woman as companion and equal in bed and out of it. It is a bit like how every modern female marrying into the British monarchical family has been going to be a “modern woman with a mind and career of her own”, with predictably lamentable results.

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  4. […] A note on James Bond as a model for men. […]

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  5. […] have referred previously to this scene, in which she plays a “freelance photographer”. She is seen here licking […]

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