Golden Bondage

At the end of the day James Bond is just a civil servant, a British Babu. Given all his politically outdated idiosyncrasies, that the cinematic persona of James Bond has survived intact for half a century is a testament to its adaptive resilience.

An Ian Fleming creation of the cold war era, the character was conceptualized in the novel Casino Royale (1953) and was based on the author’s own observations while serving in the Naval Intelligence Division during the Second World War. During this period the cliched Red Russian threat was bigger than global warming and mutating viruses and Bond was projected as a guardian of western democratic ideals and individualism.

Ian Fleming…

.. and his alter ego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bond archetype can be securely placed between the intrepid, gambling gunslinger of the Wild West and the hard drinking, misogynistic private eye of the pulp fiction, film-noir variety – a hybrid of John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart. Tough, swaggering and dangerous, mythic in construction, unruffled in demeanor and primal in execution, his attraction emanates from being above the banal niceties of social conventions and hypocritical hyperbole.Making his film debut in Dr. No (1962) with the Scotsman Sean Connery essaying the role that immortalized him, the dry wit and ironic humor was specially crafted for Bond’s screen avatar and the one-liners have acquired a legendary status.

The quintessential template of the Bond film has boasted a consistent structure. Assigned a mission by M and armed with toys from the Q department, he travels to exotic locales, introduces as “Bond, James Bond”, defeats a megalomania-cal villain harboring delusions of global supremacy and saves us all by savoring a vodka martini. It is smart, clever, engaging and never boring. The purists would be horrified but this seeming simplicity closely follows and patterns itself on Joseph Campbell’s fabled book where men crave to be heroes.

After the collapse of the communist agents, the Bond’s rogue gallery has included billionaire oligarchs, media barons, North Korean despots and diamond merchants with the underlying minimum qualification, the desire for world domination.

The Bond rogues gallery

Radical millennial shift was giving the chauvinist spy a female boss in Goldeneye (1995). They have gradually settled into an uneasy but workable calm of studied respect, like a wife acquiring a new wayward, adult stepson.

From Bernard Lee’s ‘M’..

.. to Judy Dench’s fe(M)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bond girl has grown to be a cultural icon almost an archetype by herself; slick, slutty and smart by turns. She is usually meant to end up dead or in his bed or if her luck truly runs out, dead in his bed. And Bond’s guilt is assuaged by the fact that she belonged to the enemy camp and held steadfast till she was seduced by him to ‘turn over’.

The Bond beauties gallery

 

Falling deeply in love with Vesper on his first mission in Casino Royale and later getting married to Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, violent death claims both his women thereby cauterizing his emotional nerve to any further romantic liaisons. Perhaps the love for a woman is neatly substituted by love for country as a way of filling a void within and to seem human to oneself.

Love dies twice;
Tracy, the wife…

… and Vesper,
the first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undeniably the most admirable quality that Bond has in a grossly corrupted world is loyalty; to Queen, country and the cause. Going out on a limb on the crummy official salary of an MI6 agent, the man’s got to have serious feelings for his country.

Bond Save the Queen.

His patriotism is not up for auction, though his arch enemies can’t be blamed for lack of trying. His methods have been questioned but never his motives which even in a purely commercial realm of popular cinema seem to have a quiet nobility of its own.

His nature though flawed is incorruptible. Despite personal losses and physical pain, his deep rooted loyalty does not have a sale price or an expiry date unlike the scam tainted politicians and Babus we know of.

The Sky may fall someday but Bond never will.

Bond 23 – Skyfall.

 

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