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 Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?

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PostSubject: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:30 am

The James Bond franchise, both the films and novels, have been criticized often over the years. There have been claims that Bond's a sexist, a racist, a homophobe, and a rapist, among other things. Surely, there's some evidence here and there, spread through out the films and novels, that make some of these points valid. There is also plenty of evidence that work against these accusations.

James Bond is, without a doubt, the protagonist of the entire franchise. Any fictional character who goes above and beyond for Queen and country, or even mankind, deserves some commendation, right?

What do you make of James Bond, though? Do you accept the character as a hero, despite his flaws? For me, these make him a lot more interesting than the other secret agents in fiction. The media seems to make Bond out as a character that should be looked up to, giving them reason to shoot him down based on all of his flaws. Some media outlets may even suggest that you shouldn't bother watching the films or reading the novels because of how bad of a person Bond is. But, aren't role models more for younger people? Does a 30-year-old man really need someone to look up to or model their lives off of? And what does that say about the target audiences of these films (more so than the novels)?

Maybe this will lead to some in-depth discussion and an evaluation of the character.

I guess I'll leave this off with Fleming's take on his own novels:
Quote :
What I aim at is a certain disciplined exoticism. I have not reread any of my books to see if they stand up to close examination, but I think you will find that the sun is always shining in my books – a state of affairs which minutely lifts the spirit of the English reader – that most of the settings are in themselves pleasurable, taking the reader to exciting places round the world, and that a strong hedonistic streak is always there to offset the grimmer side of Bond’s adventures.

At this stage, let me pause for a moment and assure you that, while all this sounds devilish crafty, it has only been by endeavouring to analyse the success of my books for the purpose of this essay that I have come to these conclusions. In fact, I write about what pleases and stimulates me.

My plots are fantastic, while being often based upon truth. They go wildly beyond the probable but not, I think, beyond the possible. Even so, they would stick in the gullet of the reader and make him throw the book angrily aside – for a reader particularly hates feeling he’s been hoaxed – but for two technical devices: first, the aforesaid speed of the narrative, which hustles the reader quickly beyond each danger point of mockery and, secondly, the constant use of familiar household names and objects which reassure him that he and the writer have still got their feet on the ground. A Ronson lighter, a 4.5 litre Bentley with an Amherst-Villiers supercharger (please note the solid exactitude), the Ritz Hotel in London, the 21 Club in New York, the exact names of flora and fauna, even Bond’s Sea Island cotton shirts with short sleeves. All these details are points of reference to comfort and reassure the reader on his journey into fantastic adventure.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:54 pm

He's a hero in the sense that he puts his neck on the line to bring down people intent on mass murder and other sorts of criminality. He fights for the greater good.

He's not supposed to be, however, much of a role model for kids. The wowsers need to calm their girdles in that respect. He's flawed and troubled, which makes him more interesting than some kind of squeaky clean, puritanical do-gooder (memo to Jeff Deaver). For those with hair where they didn't have hair before, Bond isn't so much a role model per se, but a sort of fantasy figure who does what we'd like to do if we got to fly around the world and eat fancy food/women at the taxpayers' expense.

Once you accept that Bond inhabits a somewhat more fantastical version of our own world, questions about his suitability as a role model fade away. No one asks if kiddies should be mimicking the actions of Star Wars charatcers.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:00 pm

I think Fleming even said that Bond novels weren't made for schoolboys.

Critics go out of their way to accuse Bond of being this and that, but for what reason? He's a fictional character and you can like him or hate him. He doesn't have to be your hero.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:42 pm

I think the problem arises when people presume to place Bond in the real world, there is a heady pretention these days for grit and realism and the films have capitulated to redraw Bond in a more 'real' universe (though ironically less real than ever on a physical level). There is an anal pedantic and self destructive mood at present to demystify and reconstruct every character, often this ends up normalising said figure making then more generic, less special but alternatively it challenges them to conform to PC values to be the role model they were never mean't to be for people who really aren't mature or bright enough to distinguish between fact and fiction.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:32 pm

^ That's what I found fascinating about Severine ... in these PC times, she seems be one of the Bond series' most blatant examples of a 'Bond girl' being in the movie purely to sleep with Bond and move the plot along, and then die.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Wed May 01, 2013 4:37 am

Fleming wrote the novels as fantasies, but added dark, realistic elements to keep the viewer engaged. One could say that these films aren't purely fantasy then, and Fleming wanted Bond to be a character who would work well in fiction and reality.

So, what do you folks make of the racism and sexism in the novels? Particularly when he comments on pansies and Koreans in "Goldfinger". And how about his thoughts on Gala Brand at the end of "Moonraker" (which seem to contradict his ways of dealing with women through out the novels)?

I'm not taking any side here and just offering these points to fire-up a discussion. However, I do find the bit about Koreans to be pretty funny, just because of how ridiculous and baseless it is. Maybe Fleming did this intentionally? Or maybe he really despised those people? Who knows.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Wed May 01, 2013 6:59 am

Heroes are often not very nice people. Douglas Bader was an arrogant pain in the arse, according to someone I knew who knew him well. Charles Lindberg was a rabid anti-Semite, anti-Anglo sexist, racist bigot. But doesn't mean they weren't heroes.

I suppose we should just be a little more understanding that - saints or sinners, heroes or villains - people are just human.

Flaws are what make characters interesting. There's a lot more shades of grey than just black and white.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Wed May 01, 2013 9:58 am

The underlying controversy to me is the changing zeitgeist. Take a look at Bulldog Drummond, to all intents and purposes a stark raving racist and anti-semite. Like today's racists he would likely have felt deeply offended for being called what he is, for the simple reason he doesn't see anything wrong with his mindset. He just lacks the mental faculty necessary to question his own predilections. Drummond would have asked what's wrong with being racist.

And yet such a character, xenophobic to the point of caricature, used to be one of Bond's more obvious forerunners and quite popular in his time, even a little beyond that. Not for reasons of obscurity, no. Because he was in line with how most people viewed the world, how they felt a vague unease about foreigners, and yes, around 1920 about Jews, too. That may be disturbing, but it also brings a certain perspective as to how last century's horrors became possible in the first place.

Fast forward almost 100 years, anti-semitism has become strictly a no-no, xenophobia will take an extra century or two, depending on how successful the restoring-our-lack-of-humour movement will be with its efforts. Sadly, that means also the end to Drummond's fame, because those elements were pretty central to his personality. But that's not so surprising after close to a hundred years of social progress. It would have been much more curious if the passage of time hadn't meant also a shift in general convictions.

Bond's case is a little different because his 'birth' wasn't so long ago, a bare sixty years. That's nearly three generations, depending on how you define the interval between generations. But that's not all that discerns him from Drummond and his set. While Bond has a number of obvious attitudes that don't gel well with today's attitudes he could never simply be reduced to those zeitgeist-racist attitudes. Bond defies being merely labelled 'racist' or 'imperialist' or 'misogynist' or 'capitalist' for the simple reason that he wasn't. The prejudices appear sure enough in Bond's musings, but his behaviour quickly enough contradicts such narrow-mindedness in nearly every single case in the books. For almost every 'women clutter up everything with their hurt feelings' and 'youths are all lazy worthless vagabonds' there comes a scene when Bond acts downright chivalrous towards a girl or chats on par with a young guy he only dismissed a page ago.

Moreover Bond isn't just the sum of his (or Fleming's) opinions about whatever. Bond's appeal lies in the more basic nature of his qualities: human courage, a sense of justice and duty, a dedication to the better side of human nature and a natural sympathy for the underdog. Stripped of all the modern attitudes (affairs with married women, drugs, alcohol and general extravagance) Bond is remarkably oldfashioned to the point of being quixotic, a knight in light-worsted armour.

This underlying quality is what keeps Bond from becoming obsolete without his more obscure opinions. Bond remains Bond even without musing about the bestial smell of that race or patting the behind of a woman. Those were not why I became a fan, nor I daresay most others.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Wed May 01, 2013 2:10 pm

To me this whole "Bond is such a bad person" type stuff seems to only pop up right when a Bond film comes out, like clockwork. They're just trying to get attention. Bond is easier because of nastier habits than other characters and that he's lasted on the screen longer than any other iconic character. Sometimes though, there are those who genuinely do find his character disgusting but will go over the top on condemning him. I remember one of the articles said something like "I felt so bad about Pussy Galore being raped by Bond like that", ignoring that Galore is participating in a crime that will kill over a ten thousand men women and children. laugh Maybe they're right and that Bond wanting to stick his penis in women is a bigger crime than mass murder.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Thu May 02, 2013 7:33 am

Python wrote:
I remember one of the articles said something like "I felt so bad about Pussy Galore being raped by Bond like that", ignoring that Galore is participating in a crime that will kill over a ten thousand men women and children. laugh Maybe they're right and that Bond wanting to stick his penis in women is a bigger crime than mass murder.

Not that that justifies rape, but he doesn't rape her, anyway. In another thread, Dr. Khan wisely stated: "...It stems from the au courant view that heterosexual sex is rape." These types of arguments are really stretched out by critics. Using their logic, Bond rigging Solitaire's cards in LALD, in order to have sex with her, would be considered rape. laugh

I don't think much racism exists in the films. I've read arguments that point at Bond's Japanese transformation in YOLT as being racist. Apparently, Bond telling Quarrel to "fetch his shoes" in DN is also racist. And then there was some line said by Bond at the Piz Gloria dinner table in OHMSS, which I can't remember. Apparently he said something racist, but was also posing as Sir Hillary Bray, and not James Bond.

As for sexism... well. We could all be considered sexists, to a certain extent.

No one's obligated to like Bond, though. His flaws and contradictory traits make him a brilliant literary and film character.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Thu May 02, 2013 7:53 am

Control wrote:
Bond rigging Solitaire's cards in LALD, in order to have sex with her, would be considered rape. laugh


Hold your laughter. That card trick was there to hush up the fact Bond was doing a virgin, serious business at the time. They were really concerned that would not sit well with the audience.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Thu May 02, 2013 10:20 pm

It is a curious and sad aspect of human behaviour that often burdens our heroes with the additional requirement that they become a wholly aspirational figure - it's not enough to save the world apparently you have to be a kind and socially aware individual, careful not to upset one group or another, PC aware and child friendly at all times.

In the real world an act of heroism is often an instance and situation, it can be presented to anyone but it is how they respond that makes the difference. What I like about Bond, something nu-Bond actually tries to ignore/downplay amid its desperation for personalisation, is that he has made a life choice to put his life on the line for his country - in Fleming's universe this is generally a good and noble act, but once the jaded and politically pretentious film makers start to grab a hold that is no longer valid or even possible.....and in turn the whole wretched inflection of human prejudice and doubt and uncertainty burden the character almost to the point of implosion, if we are not careful we de-construct and regulate till there is nothing left that is individual or unique.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Fri May 03, 2013 10:32 am

No less a personage than Daniel Craig himself has pondered: "is Bond a good guy, or just a bad guy who happens to work for the good guys?"

Who better to fight a war in the shadows, where all cats are grey?

I'm glad he's on our side - just be careful about to whom you toss your car keys.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Fri May 03, 2013 12:54 pm

6of1 wrote:
Bond defies being merely labelled 'racist' or 'imperialist' or 'misogynist' or 'capitalist' for the simple reason that he wasn't. The prejudices appear sure enough in Bond's musings, but his behaviour quickly enough contradicts such narrow-mindedness in nearly every single case in the books. For almost every 'women clutter up everything with their hurt feelings' and 'youths are all lazy worthless vagabonds' there comes a scene when Bond acts downright chivalrous towards a girl or chats on par with a young guy he only dismissed a page ago.
6of1. Very well put old bean, as was your entire learned missive. Fleming himself I'm sure would nod approvingly. My own two cents: any of us can muse a lot of nonsense, depending on who our audience might be, or how well imbibed we might be. Such brazen musings though can often help to suss things out. Frank and provocative discussion is often more helpful in getting to the heart of a manner, than careful and timid discussion.
Bond is a good egg. He is quite heroic in that he is quite willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, king and country, the needs of others etc. The fact that he is also quite human, and thus by definition has foibles and weakness, even moments of doubt, is hardly revealing. We are all human, maybe especially the heroic among us. The anti-hero by contrast, I would suggest is not motivated by selfless intent, even if their more selfish intentions and actions do sometimes have the bonus benefit of also improving the lot of others.
lachesis wrote:
What I like about Bond, something nu-Bond actually tries to ignore/downplay amid its desperation for personalisation, is that he has made a life choice to put his life on the line for his country - in Fleming's universe this is generally a good and noble act, but once the jaded and politically pretentious film makers start to grab a hold that is no longer valid or even possible.....and in turn the whole wretched inflection of human prejudice and doubt and uncertainty burden the character almost to the point of implosion, if we are not careful we de-construct and regulate till there is nothing left that is individual or unique.
This is a valid concern. Nu-bond does seem rather confused at times. Can't say I relate either.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Fri May 03, 2013 11:21 pm

Hmmm ... in QOS Bond says that he's 'motivated by my duty', and then of course there's the closing 'I never left' in response to M's 'I need you back'. Plus his 'You forgot my 'pathetic' love of country' in response to Silva's mockery of his 'old-fashioned' approach in Skyfall.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Sat May 04, 2013 1:10 am

Blunt Instrument wrote:
Hmmm ... in QOS Bond says that he's 'motivated by my duty', and then of course there's the closing 'I never left' in response to M's 'I need you back'. Plus his 'You forgot my 'pathetic' love of country' in response to Silva's mockery of his 'old-fashioned' approach in Skyfall.

The problem with QOS is that imo words and actions do not say the same thing and actions generally speak louder, moreover it seeds real doubt as to the integrity of those directing Bond and the overall tone is one of 'one against the system'.

Skyfall does seem to redress that however and I feel is all the better for it.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Sat May 04, 2013 10:08 am

Yes, Skyfall wears its 'Britishness' absolutely on its sleeve :) .
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Sat May 04, 2013 12:40 pm

Indeed, a refreshing change from the tiresome self-doubt injected into QOS. I mean, even in the malaise that gripped the Western world (Britain moreso than others arguably) in the late 70's, Bond still had a Union Flag parachute as a symbol of naked patriotism.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Sun May 05, 2013 1:39 pm

Control wrote:
Using their logic, Bond rigging Solitaire's cards in LALD, in order to have sex with her, would be considered rape. laugh
I wouldn't say rape but it isn't exactly honest either. He did take advantage if her beliefs, essentially manipulated her, and that isn't right. IDK, it's been a while since I've watched LALD. But it's important to remember that Bond is kind of a dick. He isn't a role model and shouldn't he held up as one.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Sun May 05, 2013 7:36 pm

I never saw 007 as a kind of a sexual rolemodel even if his encounter with the opposote sex are darn close to the fantastic.

His stories are adventures with a bit of woman thrown in for extra entertainment and are basicly stories for boys.. The movies have made the women even more glorious and beautifull which is one of its selling points to the general audience. I think the average Joe or Helen does recognise that aspect and is fine with it. And I think the actresses accepting the part are fine with it too as they know what they are in for.
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PostSubject: Re: Are audiences/readers supposed to accept James Bond for what he is?   Mon May 06, 2013 3:04 am

Yes, I never saw anything violent in the Pussy Galore scene, but Solitaire left me feeling like Bond needed a kick in the bollards. Bit of a extra cold bastard there, I thought.

Still, it's a dirty job. ;)
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