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What can we learn from 007? page 2
Stephen B. Tippins Jr.'s op-ed column on James Bond.

 Fifty years ago, James Bond was first portrayed in film by Sean Connery in 'Dr. No.'
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Date published: 11/18/2012


But other than that, and some similar peripherals, the only extent to which Bond has ever been accused of being political has been the occasional complaint from the enlightened left that the world of espionage entails a far greater moral ambiguity than all the girls, gadgets, and martinis suggest. (Which is fine. But Jason Bourne is still a whiny bore.)

This doesn't mean that there isn't any political appeal to James Bond. In fact, the more I revisit the world of Bond, the more I find that there is a consistently recurring political subtext to Fleming's novels and the soon-to-be 23 films. Kingsley Amis thought so, too. In his extended essay "The James Bond Dossier" he wrote:

The England for which Bond is prepared to die, like the reasons why he's prepared to die for it, is largely taken for granted. This differentiates it, to its advantage, from the England of most Englishmen. Negative virtues are even more important in escapist than in enlightening literature, and not the least of the blessings enjoyed by Mr. Fleming's reader is his absolute confidence that whatever any given new Bond may contain, it will not contain bitter protests or biting satire or even witty commentary about the state of the nation. We can get all of that at home.

Politically, Bond's England is substantially right of center. As the title of the 11th volume uninhibitedly proclaims, royalty is at the head of things. An unwontedly emotional passage near the end of "Doctor No" shows Bond conferring in the office of the Governor of Jamaica and thinking of home. "His mind drifted into a world of tennis courts and lily pads and kings and queens, of London, of people being photographed with pigeons on their heads in Trafalgar Square "

The films largely share this trait, portraying Bond as "Her Majesty's loyal terrier, defender of the so-called faith." But why is royalty at the head of all things? British institutions, after all, don't matter so much to real-life Britons. Consider the Queen's Jubilee earlier this year. All pomp, but what of the circumstance? What the Queen timelessly stands for--empire, class, obligation, responsibility, and even Britannia herself--are things today's British, unlike Bond, reject.


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Stephen B. Tippins Jr. is an attorney in Buford, Ga. This column is reprinted with the permission of The American Conservative, in which it first appeared.