The world of James Bond

uk 75

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As the movie industry wheels out yet another Bond film I prefer to return to the world of the original, in the pages of Ian Fleming's novels.
For those who do not know what Britain was like for most ordinary families in the 50s and 60s, the glamour of the world described by Fleming in his books may not seem so special.
Flying to the USA or Jamaica on a BOAC Boeing Stratocruiser was as far from our real lives as joining Elon Musk for an orbital jaunt.
The Villiers Vindicator atom bomber or Drax's Moonraker atom bomb rocket on the other hand were straight out of the cutaway drawings in the weekly Eagle comic.
The film's after You only Live Twice have never been able to recreate this lost world.
By the time Sean Connery wearily flies in a Lufthansa 707 to deliver a corpse to Las Vegas or Roger Moore is driven into New York from Kennedy airport viewers know these worlds from various US TV shows and even the odd package holiday in a Monarch Britannia.
The glamour went out of Bond in the 60s and it has never come back. Brosnan could just as easily have been playing Remington Steele, his tuxedoed TV role.
Daniel Craig moves more like a drug dealer in a tight fitting jacket in another gritty TV box set.
Does it matter? Not really. Entertainment is in the eye of the viewer. Enough people like these films to pay good money to see them. End of story.
But for those of us lucky enough to know the kick of the originals it is the same as seeing an old photo of TSR2 or a poster of Concorde in BOAC colours. No amount of remakes can spoil the original.
 

Orionblamblam

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Looking at it from this side of the pond, Britain seems like it was a gray, drab, *dismal* place in the 1950's. Bombed to bits by the Luftwaffe, much of it's manhood expended into two world wars, much of it's treasure burned and sunk, it's Empire gone or going away... very much a culture of malaise. At the same time, the US was *booming.* Flashy new stuff, jetliners, rockets, A-bombs, money, starlets, cash, gold, wealth, goodies... and lots and lots of *power.* That couldn't have helped the British sense of self-worth. So yeah, a British secret agent living a flashy lifestyle of guns and glamor and booze and hot babes, all in the service of a glorious Empire... that had to be a heck of a bright spot.

The malaise is in many ways back (and hitting the US hard now too), but I doubt that a "hurrah, the British Empire is awesome and should be celebrated" movie would be likely to be financed.

Plus: In those early Connery movies, when you saw a set, you knew it was a real set. When you saw an amazing stunt, you knew that someone actually did it. Today... yeah, it's all CGI. Even if it's *not* CGI, you just generally assume it is. And while CGI looks nice... it doesn't have the same impact to when you know it was real.
 

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The strange thing about the world we have now is that it would in some ways seem like a Hollywood fantasy to my nine year old self. I am typing this with my finger on a glass screen the size of a chocolate bar. I am able to see pictures of anything I desire with the dab of my finger
Interesting and amusing people from countries like the US and Australia react almost instantly.
So recreating the world we have described above ought to be pretty dull. My film script would try and do stuff which I know I can't do in real life.
 

jeffb

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Looking at it from this side of the pond, Britain seems like it was a gray, drab, *dismal* place in the 1950's. Bombed to bits by the Luftwaffe, much of it's manhood expended into two world wars, much of it's treasure burned and sunk, it's Empire gone or going away... very much a culture of malaise. At the same time, the US was *booming.* Flashy new stuff, jetliners, rockets, A-bombs, money, starlets, cash, gold, wealth, goodies... and lots and lots of *power.* That couldn't have helped the British sense of self-worth. So yeah, a British secret agent living a flashy lifestyle of guns and glamor and booze and hot babes, all in the service of a glorious Empire... that had to be a heck of a bright spot.

The malaise is in many ways back (and hitting the US hard now too), but I doubt that a "hurrah, the British Empire is awesome and should be celebrated" movie would be likely to be financed.

Plus: In those early Connery movies, when you saw a set, you knew it was a real set. When you saw an amazing stunt, you knew that someone actually did it. Today... yeah, it's all CGI. Even if it's *not* CGI, you just generally assume it is. And while CGI looks nice... it doesn't have the same impact to when you know it was real.

Not to get all political but there were definite reasons why the UK looked like a grey, dismal place in the 50's beyond the ones you point out...
By the end of World War II Britain had amassed an immense debt of £21 billion. Much of this was held in foreign hands, with around £3.4 billion being owed overseas (mainly to creditors in the United States), a sum which represented around one third of annual GDP

...and why the US was all shiny and new and going through a boom...
Eisenhower was a fiscal conservative whose policy views were close to those of Taft— they agreed that a free enterprise economy should run itself. Nonetheless, throughout Eisenhower's presidency, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent—among the highest in American history. When Republicans gained control of both houses of the Congress following the 1952 election, conservatives pressed the president to support tax cuts. Eisenhower however, gave a higher priority to balancing the budget, refusing to cut taxes "until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced." Eisenhower kept the national debt low and inflation near zero; three of his eight budgets had a surplus.

Eisenhower built on the New Deal in a manner that embodied his thoughts on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. He sanctioned a major expansion of Social Security by a self-financed program. He supported such New Deal programs as the minimum wage and public housing—he greatly expanded federal aid to education and built the Interstate Highway system primarily as defense programs (rather than a jobs program).
 

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For those who liked the Fleming books, Sebastian Faulks' 'Devil May Care' is a very good continuation novel. Whilst obviously in the style of Fleming (unsurprising considering that was his brief... ;) ), it is if anything better than Fleming's works.

A modern re-make of Moonraker would be good. All the ingredients are already there - very rich person wishing to donate missile system (launch vehicle?) to the nation. Said rich person something of a celebrity - can do no wrong in the public's eyes. '6' believes otherwise and from there on it almost writes itself. Well, it would if anyone with a shred of talent was still employed as a writer on such productions.
 

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Looking at it from this side of the pond, Britain seems like it was a gray, drab, *dismal* place in the 1950's. Bombed to bits by the Luftwaffe, much of it's manhood expended into two world wars, much of it's treasure burned and sunk, it's Empire gone or going away... very much a culture of malaise. At the same time, the US was *booming.* Flashy new stuff, jetliners, rockets, A-bombs, money, starlets, cash, gold, wealth, goodies... and lots and lots of *power.* That couldn't have helped the British sense of self-worth. So yeah, a British secret agent living a flashy lifestyle of guns and glamor and booze and hot babes, all in the service of a glorious Empire... that had to be a heck of a bright spot.

The malaise is in many ways back (and hitting the US hard now too), but I doubt that a "hurrah, the British Empire is awesome and should be celebrated" movie would be likely to be financed.

Plus: In those early Connery movies, when you saw a set, you knew it was a real set. When you saw an amazing stunt, you knew that someone actually did it. Today... yeah, it's all CGI. Even if it's *not* CGI, you just generally assume it is. And while CGI looks nice... it doesn't have the same impact to when you know it was real.
Your analysis has been perfect. Bond is only a super policeman, instead of an old revolver he has super weapons, instead of small criminals he has super villains and instead of the prostitutes of the neighborhood he has super girls. Every gray official dreams of ascending to a universe where everything is better and bigger.
 

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For those who do not know what Britain was like for most ordinary families in the 50s and 60s, the glamour of the world described by Fleming in his books may not seem so special.
Only for people like Fleming it wasn't glamour but everyday living.
A bit like Noel Coward's attempts to portray working class life, which inevitably resemble Middle England with a few quaint dropped h's in speech.

Even the impact of 1960s counterculture and pop culture is overblown, outside of London most young people were still largely immune to replicating that 'look' in clothes and manners in everyday life. Watch 'Kes' filmed in Barnsley in 1969 which shows no trace of late-era Beatlemania, psychedelia or hippie culture, Neil Armstrong's steps on the moon must have been equally as alien to their everyday life. Ordinary life is pretty drab, the only difference is the media today detests showing the reality of ordinary life so everything is artificial and CGI'd to be perfection - a false hyper reality that always falls flat.

There is always the long-running saga of people saying James Bond is an anachronism, maybe he is, but like any iconic figure he endures as a money making vehicle. If he didn't exist Hollywood would have invented him. The world Bond came from is history (indeed his original backstory would probably make him about 90 today). Its hard to see how a modern 007 would have had the necessary formative years to earn '00' status, or at least have the same kind of character.
 

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...and why the US was all shiny and new and going through a boom...
Eisenhower was a fiscal conservative whose policy views were close to those of Taft— they agreed that a free enterprise economy should run itself. Nonetheless, throughout Eisenhower's presidency, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent—among the highest in American history.

That only goes to show that you can have a booming economy *and* one based on corruption all at the same time. Nobody paid that 91%; if you were smart enough to get into to top tax bracket, you were smart enough to hire accountants who could find you the loopholes. And it only applied to households making more than $200,000, which meant 10,000 households or fewer, and then only on the income *above* $200,000.

Average-Effective-Tax-Rate-on-the-Top-1-Percent-of-U.S.-Households.png


People love to tout that 91%, yet ignore the fact that when Kennedy came in and slashed the top tax rates, actual tax *revenues* increased. Same thing happened when Reagan did it. The causes of the US economic boom of the late 40's and early 50's were not due to high taxes, but due to our international competitors having been bombed into gravel, improved industrial methods and new technologies, a hopeful and optimistic culture. It took a while, but eventually Germany and Japan rebuilt their infrastructure and began to kick our ass... not because *they* had better tax policies, but because their industrial infrastructure was rebuilt from scratch, brand-new, better, more efficient. The US infrastructure was *not* rebuilt, because it didn't seem to need to be. It just kept creaking along. So the 1940's infrastructure that served the US so well in the 50's started to look anemic in the 60's and was downright awful in the 70s and began to collapse in the 80s. And today we have Gary and Detroit. Perhaps we might have generated our own James Bond out of that, but unlike Britain of the 1950's American culture has *somehow* been convinced to see itself as unworthy of having self respect.
 

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That sort of glamour was so compelling then because people had fewer channels to see it, so every new Bond film was a revelation. Now with a saturation of media images of high style and a plethora of publications like GQ, brand itself is product (Hell, I have a Bentley paperweight). That glamour may still be out of reach for most people, but it's imagery is as ubiquitous as wallpaper - and that's what it's always been, imagery.

Mad Men managed seven seasons in an imagined version of the 60s and audiences found it addictive. Atomic Blonde set itself firmly in an imaginary version of the 80s, mixing neon and grime and cranking up the nostalgia ('99 Luftballons' and 'Blue Monday' anyone?). I loved the retrofuturistic aesthetic of Gattaca where you could see the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and classic Citroen DS's. Maybe the future of Bond is to drop all pretense at contemporary realism and inhabit an entirely fantastic world of no fixed time with highly stylised cinematography.
 
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Justo Miranda

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Bond has no future because political correctness has whitewashed Spectra, before they threatened to conquer the world, now they rig elections.
 

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I think some missed the point: if you can sell luxurious cars, expensive outfits or alcohol brands on screen, you can't do it for a space station or mini-submarines... James Bond is now a franchise that adverts saleable goods for money. Hence the reason for reinventing a character more in line with the targeted audience and their aspirational power buy.

Frankly, I do like most episodes. They often put a good show and, to me, it's often entertaining to occasionally visit the (touristic - notice) places where the most dramatic scenes in an episode are shots.
 
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drejr

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I think some missed the point: if you can sell luxurious cars, expensive outfits or alcohol brands on screen, you can't do it for a space station or mini-submarines... James Bond is now a franchise that adverts saleable goods for money.

GEKIDBx.jpg


Bond has no future because political correctness has whitewashed Spectra, before they threatened to conquer the world, now they rig elections.

Have you ever seen a Bond movie? SPECTRE never tried to conquer the world. Their goals were always silly.
 
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uk 75

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I think some missed the point: if you can sell luxurious cars, expensive outfits or alcohol brands on screen, you can't do it for a space station or mini-submarines... James Bond is now a franchise that adverts saleable goods for money.

GEKIDBx.jpg


Bond has no future because political correctness has whitewashed Spectra, before they threatened to conquer the world, now they rig elections.

Have you ever seen a Bond movie? SPECTRE never tried to conquer the world. Their goals were always silly.
Gents you may find the Wiki entry worth a read
The initials spell out their criminal aims which include terror, extortion and revenge but mainly moneeee!
 

Justo Miranda

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I think some missed the point: if you can sell luxurious cars, expensive outfits or alcohol brands on screen, you can't do it for a space station or mini-submarines... James Bond is now a franchise that adverts saleable goods for money.

GEKIDBx.jpg


Bond has no future because political correctness has whitewashed Spectra, before they threatened to conquer the world, now they rig elections.

Have you ever seen a Bond movie? SPECTRE never tried to conquer the world. Their goals were always silly.


At that time money was the way to conquer the world, until the dollar-gold ratio was canceled in 1972, now it is disinformation.
 
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edwest2

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Watching James Bond movies in the 1960s worked along with the social atmosphere present in the U.S. at the time. The average person lived in a modest home surrounded by others in the same situation. A lot of boys and teens looked at the suave, debonair Sean Connery on screen and it was action-adventure. The women were there but not too blatant. This was nothing more than entertainment. The car, the gadgets and the countries depicted were places most would never see. Yet there was this air of plausibility. The enemy was clearly defined.

Most viewers could care less about real politics or the reality of the Soviet threat. Most of us had a great time in the 1960s even though we knew that Russian ICBMs were out there and there were Civil Defense signs on some buildings to remind us. Was it perfect? No. But it was a >> lot << better than the present. A lot better.
 

drejr

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Most of us had a great time in the 1960s

Yes, it's easy to have a great time when you're young. Of course things were better.

At that time money was the way to conquer the world, until the dollar-gold ratio was canceled in 1972, now it is disinformation.

Perhaps that's why SPECTRE asked for its $100 million ransom in worthless diamonds. They should have just made a James Bond movie - a lot less trouble than nuclear blackmail.

Really most Bond villains had quite banal goals except for the utter loons like Stromberg and Drax.
 

edwest2

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Most of us had a great time in the 1960s

Yes, it's easy to have a great time when you're young. Of course things were better.

At that time money was the way to conquer the world, until the dollar-gold ratio was canceled in 1972, now it is disinformation.

Perhaps that's why SPECTRE asked for its $100 million ransom in worthless diamonds. They should have just made a James Bond movie - a lot less trouble than nuclear blackmail.

Really most Bond villains had quite banal goals except for the utter loons like Stromberg and Drax.

When you're young? That had nothing to do with it. We saw adults, our neighbors and parents and those who were older. The 1960s were a time of general prosperity in the U.S. A time when most mothers stayed home and took care of their own children as opposed to the 1970s where children were given a key and left to the television until one parent came home.
 

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Most viewers could care less about real politics or the reality of the Soviet threat. Most of us had a great time in the 1960s even though we knew that Russian ICBMs were out there and there were Civil Defense signs on some buildings to remind us. Was it perfect? No. But it was a >> lot << better than the present. A lot better.

The past was always better. Except, of course, it usually wasn't. When you're young, unless your circumstances well and truly suck, you tend to see the world through rose colored glasses; as you age and you see more and more of the scum and villainy of the reailities of life, you become more realistic (i.e. "cynical" or "pessimistic"). But that earlier positive view of the world remains, because that's how it got burned into your brain.

*Some* things were better in the past. 1980's music was better than modern music: fight me. 1980's blockbuster movies are better than modern blockbuster movies... Raiders and Back to the Future and Ghostbusters will live forever, but Avengers and Avatar? Meh. That said: I'll take 2020's antibiotics over 1980's antibiotics. 1980's techo-optimism - SDI and Orient Express and the like - seem better than 2020's techno-meh, but I'll take the reality of SpaceX over the failed nothings of 1980's proposals and plans. And then there's politics: but at that point the moment I say something truthful someone will clutch their pearls and stab the report button.
 

drejr

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When you're young? That had nothing to do with it. We saw adults, our neighbors and parents and those who were older. The 1960s were a time of general prosperity in the U.S. A time when most mothers stayed home and took care of their own children as opposed to the 1970s where children were given a key and left to the television until one parent came home.

My grandparents said the 30s and 40s were better.

The psychology of this, especially as it relates to art and entertainment, is fairly complicated and interesting.
 

edwest2

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When you're young? That had nothing to do with it. We saw adults, our neighbors and parents and those who were older. The 1960s were a time of general prosperity in the U.S. A time when most mothers stayed home and took care of their own children as opposed to the 1970s where children were given a key and left to the television until one parent came home.

My grandparents said the 30s and 40s were better.

The psychology of this, especially as it relates to art and entertainment, is fairly complicated and interesting.

As a professional researcher working in the media, with contacts in Hollywood, I understand the psychology. My time in college and penciling and lettering for an independent comic book I partly owned has provided a great deal of perspective between then and now. The historical record is quite clear.
 

drejr

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I have contacts in Hollywood but I don't like their movies that much. Don't tell them.

It seems to me that James Bond wouldn't be very relevant if he was just some suave and debonair spy living a foreign lifestyle or just entertainment for happy economically prosperous people.

I suspect its just the opposite. You see the same social anxieties in Bond that you do in other cultural phenomena of the time like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Night of the Living Dead, The Prisoner, classics like Cool Hand Luke, or even Warhol, and in fact he has a lot in common with the audience.

James Bond is a bland and simple hero, a stock character who's able to triumph over these fears (represented by entities like SPECTRE) in a very formulaic and predictable manner. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's what makes him great and why efforts to make him more complicated may make us uneasy.
 
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Orionblamblam

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James Bond is a bland and simple hero, a stock character who's able to triumph over these fears (represented by entities like SPECTRE) in a very formulaic and predictable manner. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's what makes him great and why efforts to make him more complicated may make us uneasy.

What made Bond popular was that he was an archetype: he was the kind of Guy that Guys wanted to be. He was self-assured. He was a badass. The ladies threw themselves at him. He was very, very competent.

Bond was unrealistic, but then, so's Superman. There are patterns for each to follow: Superman can fly, bullets bounce off him, he's moral, he's generally cheerful, he respects the law, he does what's right. Deviate much from those and the fans get annoyed. Do it right, as with, say, "Superman and Lois," and the fans are happy. Deviate much from the Bond archetype, and the fans will become unhappy. A female Bond, or a gay Bond, or a broken Bond, or a wussified Bond, or a Bond who doesn't drink/gamble/bang the hotties, makes that Bond in name only.
 

uk 75

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The success of any franchise from Bond to Star Trek lies in the re-invention for a new generation.
I recall reading that Ian Fleming disliked the casting of Sean Connery as James Bond. He had described Bond as looking like this chap
Each of the Bond actors (even Lazenby and Dalton) have their supporters.
 

uk 75

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That said...
Fraid mine was more like this, pethaps thats why we liked Bond.
Spacex is pretty dull compared with the dream Space of this album. I didnt know then that it had already been canned....
On the whole though I am happier living in 2021 than 1971.
 

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jeffb

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What made Bond popular was that he was an archetype: he was the kind of Guy that Guys wanted to be. He was self-assured. He was a badass. The ladies threw themselves at him. He was very, very competent.

Which is weird because the Bond character is actually a textbook psychopath. He certainly displays all the traits of one: he's charming and confident, highly intelligent but deeply anti-social and dangerous, with zero empathy for others.

They often fail to create any emotional connection with other people, will run after enticements and seek to fulfill them in any way and easily get angered to the fullest.

Careful what you wish for I guess.
 

Orionblamblam

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What made Bond popular was that he was an archetype: he was the kind of Guy that Guys wanted to be. He was self-assured. He was a badass. The ladies threw themselves at him. He was very, very competent.

Which is weird because the Bond character is actually a textbook psychopath. He certainly displays all the traits of one: he's charming and confident, highly intelligent but deeply anti-social and dangerous, with zero empathy for others.


What's weird about it? Psychos are popular, both in fiction and reality. Shoot, women of a certain variety line up around the block to slobber over psycho killers on death row. Plus, your description of a psychopath also describes your more successful actors, activists and politicians to a T, and they are by definition popular. Humans are drawn to the trappings of evil.
 

drejr

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Careful what you wish for I guess.

The movie Bond (at least Connery and Brosnan, who was just a Terminator with a British accent) is quite different than the book Bond, who occasionally gets turned down by women, doubts himself, and even cries. The book Bond also falls apart when he doesn't have external motivation, which seems to be more major depression than anything else. Dalton and Craig are closest to the books (Casino Royale is closest to the books by far), but I suppose it's fairly shocking to see a previously invulnerable film hero pulped on screen.
 

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I would say that James Bond, when he left the classic framework of the world of pure espionage and the dark scenarios of the alleys of Berlin, Rome or Moscow, the hero lost his black hat of a spy lurking in the shadows waiting for a contact to use information and undo a critical situation. The metamorphosis of the hero in the cinema is introduced from movie to movie in the pseudo-fiction of a hero who activates in the real, for me when I look at one of the new James Bond I don't tolerate anymore this jump in the SF. If I want to look at pure SF I jump directly through Stargate to project me in DC Comics or Marvels Universe but not of these James Bond 2.0 of the SF like Inspector Gadget.
 

drejr

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I would say that James Bond, when he left the classic framework of the world of pure espionage and the dark scenarios of the alleys of Berlin, Rome or Moscow

That pretty much confines you to Octopussy :(
 

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What made Bond popular was that he was an archetype: he was the kind of Guy that Guys wanted to be. He was self-assured. He was a badass. The ladies threw themselves at him. He was very, very competent.

Which is weird because the Bond character is actually a textbook psychopath. He certainly displays all the traits of one: he's charming and confident, highly intelligent but deeply anti-social and dangerous, with zero empathy for others.


What's weird about it? Psychos are popular, both in fiction and reality. Shoot, women of a certain variety line up around the block to slobber over psycho killers on death row. Plus, your description of a psychopath also describes your more successful actors, activists and politicians to a T, and they are by definition popular. Humans are drawn to the trappings of evil.

Seems a little unkind to describe "successful actors, activists and politicians" as deeply anti-social beings with zero empathy. :D

Careful what you wish for I guess.

The movie Bond (at least Connery and Brosnan, who was just a Terminator with a British accent) is quite different than the book Bond, who occasionally gets turned down by women, doubts himself, and even cries. The book Bond also falls apart when he doesn't have external motivation, which seems to be more major depression than anything else. Dalton and Craig are closest to the books (Casino Royale is closest to the books by far), but I suppose it's fairly shocking to see a previously invulnerable film hero pulped on screen.


I don't mind them softening up the character as they have considerably with Craig, but the result is that a Bond that isn't a psychopath has to eventually come to pieces. You don't leave a wake of human destruction the way that guy does without it leaving a mark.
Which kind of conveniently explains why they have to get a new guy every few years. :D

For those upset with the pic above of Craig riding pillion, you're obviously forgetting that, from that position, it's much easier to karate chop her neck and then dump her into the gutter. :D
 

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